LONDON (Dec. 20)
Speaking for 22 major Jewish organizations in the free world and the Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, at a press conference here this week-end, announced that in his letter to Chancellor Julius Raab of Austria he expressed his “distinct shock” over the Austrian Government’s “sharp reversal” of policy on Jewish claims.
Negotiations on these claims began last June in Vienna. At his press conference, Dr. Goldmann emphasized that as soon as the Austrian Government has indicated that it is ready to continue discussions on both the legislative program for surviving persecutees and the heirless property problem, the Jewish organizations would be ready to resume negotiations.
The crisis between the Austrian Government and the Jewish groups developed over the sudden refusal of the Austrian Government recently to continue discussions on heirless Jewish property claims. Chancellor Raab, in a letter to the Joint Executive Board for Jewish Claims on Austria, suggested that discussion of these claims cannot be undertaken until six months after an Austrian peace treaty has been signed. “This certainly was not the view of the Austrian Government as communicated to us by the Chancellor and his government when we began negotiations, ” Dr. Goldmann stated.
JEWISH GROUPS OBJECT STRONGLY TO AUSTRIA’S ARGUMENTS
The Jewish organizations take strong exception to Chancellor Raab’s attempt to link the settlement of heirless property claims to an Austrian peace treaty. “Although it is hoped by all that a peace treaty with Austria will come into effect, ” Dr. Goldmann said, “the treaty is not a complete draft. It may never be completed. It is not in force. It may never be in force. It has no present validity.
“Moreover, support for the objective of a mutually satisfactory agreement between Austria and the Jewish groups has been several times stated by the Allied governments, and we believe these views to be known to the Austrian Government, ” Dr. Goldmann continued. “The principles on which we base our claims have been recognized by many nations and are embodied in international agreements. “
Dr. Goldmann recalled at his press conference that the Austrian Government persists in its efforts to restore property and legal status to former leading Nazis. “The deadlock in the present negotiations seems to indicate, ” he said, “that the Austrian Government does not share the universal view that measures for the benefit of the victims of Nazism must precede action in favor of incriminated Nazis. “
NO STATE SHOULD BE BENEFICIARY OF MURDER OF ITS CITIZENS
Dr. Goldmann stated that the Jewish organizations have demonstrated that substantial portions of heirless Jewish property, traceable and untraceable, remain in the Austrian economy and benefit it to this day. “The Austrian Government is no less aware of these facts than we are, ” he said, “and knows full well that there are factories in Austria, now operating, which were either built or rehabilitated with Jewish slave labor. ” He expressed the hope that no state will wish to be the beneficiary of the murder of its citizens and residents.
Dr. Goldmann, who had successfully negotiated the $822, 000, 000 Bonn-Israel agreement last year, expressed to the press representatives his indignation over Finance Minister Kamitz’ apparent allegation in the Austrian Parliament that the Joint Executive Board for Jewish Claims on Austria seeks discriminatory treatment in favor of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
“To put it charitably, nothing could be further from the truth,” Dr. Goldmann said. “Nothing would be more repugnant to those who have themselves suffered from discrimination, than that they should suggest favored treatment for persecutees of one particular kind. This is known to the Austrian Government.”
“It is a fact that in legislation, any arrangements with respect to heirless assets, which might be made, whether by the Austrian Government, or the German Federal Republic, or by the U.S. or other Allied nations, will chiefly affect Jewish victims,” Dr. Goldmann stated. “This cannot be blamed on a desire of Jewish organizations for discrimination in their favor. Rather it is a reflection of the tragic fact that the Jews were the main victims of National Socialist persecution and that, as a result, 6,000,000 Jews perished under National Socialism.
“The Austrian Government well knows, although Dr. Kamitz strangely makes no mention of it in his lengthy statement, that over a third of the entire pre-war Jewish population of Austria perished. Out of these executions on a wholesale scale arises the present claim for heirless assets. That the vast preponderance of persecutees under the Nazis were Jews is bitterly obvious. The fact is internationally recognized,” Dr. Goldmann emphasized during his press conference.