Menu JTA Search

Austrian Cabinet Discusses Reparations Negotiations with Jews

Jewish leaders here today expressed the hope that reparations talks between officials of the Austrian Government and representatives of Jewish organizations abroad will soon start in Vienna. This subject was discussed by the Cabinet this week.

It was learned here that the Cabinet devoted a special meeting to the question of arranging reparations discussions with experts of the four major Jewish organizations-Jewish Agency, American Jewish Committee, Joint Distribution Committee and World Jewish Congress. Representatives of these organizations are expected to arrive here soon after the Jewish groups receive invitations from the Austrian Government.

It is believed here that the Austrian Government is anxious to achieve some settlement with the Jews on the reparations issue prior to the re-opening of Parliament. It is admitted by high Austrian officials that the adoption several weeks ago by Parliament of amnesty laws favoring former members of the Nazi Party was “badly timed.” The laws, opposed by Jews and vetoed by the Allied powers in Austria, may be re-introduced in Parliament after an agreement is reached with the Jewish groups on Austrian payment of reparations for Nazi-looted property.

In government circles here the opinion was expressed that opposition to the amnesty laws will be displayed neither by Jews nor by the democratic powers if the problem of reparations to Jews is settled. Leaders of the Vienna Jewish Community indicated that they have no objection to the restoration of “lesser” Nazis to full citizenship rights, providing the government first does justice to the Jews, who were the greatest victims of Nazis. Similar sentiments were expressed by U.S. representatives here.

AUSTRIAN MINISTER CRITIZES U.S. VETO OF AMNESTY LAWS

Austrian Foreign Minister Dr. Karl Gruber, addressing the Industrial League in the city of Linz, last night criticized the American occupation authorities for vetoing the amnesty laws after they have been passed by the Austrian Parliament. “We cannot agree with the Americans’ objections to the amnesty laws because they contradict the declaration of their own statesmen recognizing Austria’s sovereignty,” he declared.

Dr. Gruber and other members of the Austrian Cabinet are of the opinion that former minor members of the Nazi Party can no longer be classified as Nazis now, seven years after the fall of the Nazi regime. Therefore, they should not be placed forever in a category of second-class citizens, he told a representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He added that should some of them turn out to be active Nazis after their rights are restored, the authorities will be in a position to deal with them.

Behind the government’s determination to restore former Nazis to full rights lies the fact that these former members of the Nazi Party plus their families constitute a potential of about 500,000 votes in the forthcoming elections. Both the Social Democratic Party and the Catholic Party which together form the present coalition Cabinet are anxious to keep these votes from being cast for neo-Nazi groups which conduct their campaign against the government on the issue of the “second-class citizenship” of the “lesser” Nazis.

NEXT STORY