The Austrian government has vowed to pay the first 100 beneficiaries of a national fund for Jewish victims of the Nazis by Christmas.
The vow was reported by Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.
The claimants will receive a one-time payment of $7,000 each from the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for the Victims of National Socialism.
Austria officially established the $50 million fund June 1 in connection with the 50th anniversary of the re-establishment of the republic.
Steinberg said in an interview Tuesday that he was pleased with the Austrian commitment, but that “everyone should be paid out tomorrow,” not just the first 100 applicants.
About 25,000 to 30,000 former Jews of Austria are alive from the World War II period, according to the WJC.
He added that the fund was “too little, too late,” because the applicants are elderly, some of them as old as 101.
Although the fund was initially “intended as a hardship fund,” the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria “succeeded in persuading the Austrian government to provide a payment to every surviving Austrian Jew,” according to Israel Miller, president of the committee.
Miller said that even though the committee “is pleased with the establishment of the fund, we continue to press the Austrian government to increase the basic benefit.”
In a letter to the WJC earlier this year, Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky said, “What happened between 1938 and 1945 cannot be mended. Nobody can make the inexpressible suffering and the losses undone or give back the lost days of life.”
The chancellor continued: “This reaching out by the Austria of today to those Austrians who were forced to leave by National Socialism is first and foremost a gesture of humanity, warmth and welcome.”
Miller, meanwhile, called on Jewish victims from Austria to register for claims, if they have not yet done so.
The committee said people are eligible for the fund if they: * were citizens of Austria and living in Austria as of March 13, 1938; * had been permanently living in Austria for a period of 10 years as of March 13, 1938, or were born as children of such persons in Austria within that period; * before March 13, 1938, lost their Austrian citizenship or their place of residence of at least 10 years because they left the country due to the imminent march of the German armed forces into Austria; or * were born before May 9, 1945, as children of such persons in concentration camps or under comparable circumstances.
Eligible applicants can contact their local Austrian Consulate or contact the Austria Consulate in New York, Attn: Irith Jawetz, 31 E. 69th St., New York, N.Y. 10021. The phone number for the N.Y. consulate is (212) 737-6400.
Applications also can be sent to: Dr. Heinz Fischer, President of the Austrian Nationalrat, Parliament, A-1017, Vienna, Austria.