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More Holocaust Victims Eligible for Austrian Government Pensions

The number of Jewish Holocaust victims eligible for Austrian government pensions has been enlarged, under a revision of the national insurance regulations adopted by Parliament last month.

Starting July 1, Holocaust survivors from Austria who were born between May 10, 1930 and Dec. 31, 1932 will become eligible for pensions. Jewish victims of the Nazis who were born before that date could already claim pensions under the existing social insurance legislation.

Though not the full-fledged reparations sought of Austria by some Jewish groups, the increase in number of those receiving pension money was welcomed by the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria.

“We are pleased that our intensive efforts to enlarge the number of Jewish Nazi victims from Austria who will be entitled to obtain pensions were successful,” said Rabbi Israel Miller of New York, who is president of the committee.

Negotiations over the measure had been going on since March 1991 between Jewish officials and representatives of the Austrian Social Affairs and Finance ministries. The Jewish team was headed by Paul Grosz, president of the Jewish community of Austria, and by Miller and Saul Kagan of the claims committee in New York.

“There are some small details yet, which still have to be adjusted, but otherwise these new regulations are an obvious achievement for the persons concerned,” said Grosz.

The changes came as a result of one additional paragraph in the 51st amendment to the Austrian social insurance law, which was adopted in the Austrian Parliament on April 21.

The amendment now takes into account that Jewish citizens who were 6 years old at the time of the Anschluss could not finish their schooling here because they emigrated or were deported.

If they could have spent their working life here as normal citizens, they would have naturally been included in the Austrian social security system. But the Nazi takeover made that impossible.

The wording of the law has also been changed so that humanitarian aspects will be a factor in deciding who is entitled to the pension money, rather than a strict reading of the juridical points of the social security legislation.

The new law says that people claiming pension rights do not have to prove prior social insurance membership. The only condition is residence in Austria in March 1938.

Neither the Austrian authorities nor the Jewish community has any idea about the number of victims still alive to claim the new benefits.

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