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Austria Criticized for Refusing to Negotiate Jewish Claims

Criticism of the Austrian Government for refusing to pay claims for heirless Jewish property left by families who were annihilated by the Nazis in Austria was voiced in an editorial in the Washington Post. Pointing out that compensation for heirless property is “a moral obligation,” the editorial says.

“Although Austria was never quite so Nazified as Germany and was, in fact, an occupied country throughout the war, it had its full share of Nazi barbarians; one-third of the Jewish population of Austria died before Nazism was subdued. As a result of this hideous pogrom, a substantial mass of the property belonging to Jewish victims went into the Austrian economy.

“It is possible to effect restoration or restitution of property to which there are living, identifiable heirs. With respect to confiscated property to which there are no surviving heirs, however, the only just and appropriate solution seems to be to place it in a general fund to be used for the relief and rehabilitation of needy survivors. This is the solution which the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria has sought to bring about and on which it has been negotiating with the Austrian Government since last June.

“Unfortunately these negotiations now seem to have reached a deadlock. The Austrian Government has come to a sudden determination that the claims cannot be discussed until six months after an Austrian peace treaty has been signed. This position seems an extremely legalistic one which ignores not only the pressing needs of many of the Jews who suffered and survived Nazi persecution but overlooks the important moral values involved.

“The Germans set a healthy example in the agreement regarding restitution of heirless property made with the Israeli Government some months ago. Such restitution is a moral obligation. The more speedily it is acknowledged and discharged, the more suitably it will serve to help persecutees and to make amends for a shameful record.”

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