Austria can prepare to close its fund for victims of the Nazis

BERLIN (JTA) – The president of the Austrian parliament announced that the country can prepare to close its General Settle Fund for Victims of Nazi Socialism.

The independent body announced this week that it had completed its review of 20,702 claims applications in its 11 years of existence. Of these, 18,154 applicants were awarded compensation for 103,333 material claims, which were actually worth $1.5 billion.

About 56,000 claims or losses were not recognized because they did not meet the requirements for consideration.

But compared to the amount of Jewish-owned property stolen, confiscated or otherwise appropriated, the accomplishment is merely “a late gesture of reconciliation,” said Sir Franklin Berman, chair of the three-member Claims Committee.

Not more than 20 percent of the actual losses could be compensated with the $210 million available, said Berman, whose co-panelists are Jonathan Greenwald of the United States and Kurt Hofmann of Austria.

Nonetheless, “preparations for the closure of the General Settlement Fund can commence,” according to Barbara Prammer, president of the Austrian parliament.

The Claims Committee noted that outstanding issues include that in about 2,200 cases there is still the possibility of lodging an appeal or a petition for the reopening of proceedings. In addition, the Claims Committee is still seeking the heirs of approximately 1,000 applicants who died before receiving the closing payment from fund.

To locate the heirs, the fund is planning to work with the Austrian Pension Insurance Institution and Austrian embassies as well as to use social networking tools such as Facebook, a Claiims Committee spokesperson told JTA.

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