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The Schmooze

Holocaust Survivors Sue Austria for $21 Billion

Claiming that a symbolic compensation agreement signed by the governments of the United States and Austria ten years ago is inadequate, a group of Austrian-born Israeli Holocaust survivors is suing Austria for $21 billion. That is the value of the property taken from Austrian Jews during the Nazi era, according to calculations by historians.

The 2001 agreement stated that Austria had to pay Holocaust survivors and their children a total of $210 million — only 10% of what the families claim is owed to them. According to Ynet, the then-conservative Austrian national government was eager to use the agreement as a way of overcoming the international isolation it was suffering at the time. It also took advantage of the Austrian Jewish community, getting its approval for the deal when it was in a desperate economic situation and facing bankruptcy.

Doron Weisbrot, a second generation member of the plaintiff group, claimed that “People signed because they had no choice…When they received the [inadequate] compensation, they were forced to sign documents relinquishing any additional claims.”

Angry that Austria got rich off the assets stolen from them, the survivors are determined to recover the full value of all their pre-WWII properties and businesses.

It is too early to know how the suit will end up, and it is hoped that the case will wend its way through the legal system quickly enough so that the survivors will still be around to see its outcome.

In the meantime, the group has received a letter of support from an Austrian parliament member from the Green Party. Eva Glawischnig wrote, “No real effort has been made to compensate for the damages caused to Jewish property during the Nazi era…It was clear to all those involved that the sum transferred to the survivors would hardly cover the property damages.”


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