NEW YORK (Dec. 2)
Art objects which were confiscated by the Nazis and are now in the custody of the Austrian government can be claimed by surviving owners or their heirs under an agreement the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria reached with Austrian Chancellor Fred Sinowatz last January, it was announced here today by Dr. Israel Miller, president of the Committee.
He and four other officials of the Committee and the World Jewish Congress met this morning with Austrian Finance Minister Dr. Franz Vranitzky to discuss the implementation of the understanding.
Vranitzky told the delegation — Saul Kagan, executive director of the Committee, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, WJC vice president, Israel Singer, WJC executive director, and Elan Steinberg, WJC-American Section executive director — that the Austrian government has just introduced legislation under which individuals will be able to file claims for any of the art objects. This legislation, Vranitzky added, will also commit the Austrian government to use the proceeds from unclaimed properties for the benefit of victims of Nazi persecution.
DATE FOR FILING CLAIMS
Miller said that claims may be filed until September 30, 1986 with the Austrian Ministry of Finance, Postfach 2000 (Mauerbach), A1015 Vienna, Austria.
Miller welcomed this “first significant step” in carrying out the understanding with Sinowatz. In implementing the agreement, the Austrian authorities prepared a list of the art objects, copies of which are available in Austrian diplomatic and consular offices throughout the world, Miller said.
There are an estimated 8,000 items, according to the Austrian government, including more than 600 paintings, 250 drawings, some 3,000 coins and medals, and 3,000 books, magazines and other documents. The art objects are presently stored in Mauerbach, a former Carthusian monastery near Vienna.
Following reports in December 1984 that several thousand art objects confiscated by the Nazis may be placed on auction by the Austrian government, the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria urged Sinowatz to abstain from auctioning these objects, give former owners a new opportunity to claim their lost properties and make available the unclaimed objects for programs benefitting surviving Jews persecuted by the Nazis in Austria. An understanding concerning the disposition of these objects was reached with Sinowatz last January.