On the eve of the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria, or Anschluss, Holocaust survivors in Israel are calling on Vienna to provide reparations for Austrians whose property was confiscated when the country was under Nazi rule.
In 2001, the US government and representatives of Jewish organizations signed a deal with Austria for the symbolic reparation of Jewish property. To this end, a $210 million fund was established.
However, $1.5 billion in property is believed to have been plundered from the Jewish community, which up until the war was one of the wealthiest and most important in Europe. In accordance with this agreement, Austria paid its survivors and their descendants what amounted to a mere 14 percent of the total value of their property.
Austrian Holocaust survivors in Israel have now decided to renew their efforts to receive appropriate reparations.
Dr. Haim Galon from the Committee for Compensation from Austria was born in Austria following the Anschluss or annexation. His father owned a cigarette factory in Vienna. On March 13, 1938, one day after the annexation, a Nazi official entered the factory and began to confiscate property. Although the factory was estimated to be worth $100,000, Galon only received $10,000 in reparations.
“It was a mockery,” said Galon. “Luckily, my father, who died at a young age, was not around to see it. One must expect Chancellor [Sebastian] Kurz will convey Austria’s responsibility to the victims by means of full compensation. The 80th anniversary of Anschluss is an opportunity to prove they don’t just make promises.”
While Austria expected to receive 100,000 claims for reparations, only 21,000 were submitted, as some families were entirely wiped out in the Holocaust, and there was no one to submit claims in their name.
Doron Weisbrod, another committee member emphasized that “in other countries, interest was also paid because of the time [that has passed]. Countries like France, Norway and Belgium — not to mention Germany — granted much larger reparations.”