Dear Readers,

December, 2005


The year 2005 was a year of remembrance. We commemorated the end of World War II and the liberation of the concentration camps sixty years ago; Austria’s independence and its membership in the United Nations fifty years ago; and ten years of Austria’s European Union membership.

This year would be incomplete, however, without the symbolic compensation which Austria’s General Settlement Fund is now starting to pay out to the victims of the NS Regime and their heirs. You will find some articles on this topic in the current issue, including personal stories and interviews with people who were involved in one way or another, such as Ludwig Steiner, Richard Wotava, and others.

The death of Simon Wiesenthal in September has been widely covered by the Austrian media. His relentless efforts and life-long contributions to bringing Nazi perpetrators to justice have been honored by numerous dignitaries. His work will be continued by the head of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Ephraim Zuroff. He said: We will remain true to his spiritual testament and continue the fight with the same decisiveness.

You will also find an interesting article on a lecture given by French Cardinal Lustiger at a conference organized by the Coordinating Committee for Christian-Jewish Cooperation. The conference was prompted by the 40th anniversary of the "Nostra Aetate" of the 2nd Vatican Council which in 1965 had brought a new comprehensive reappraisal of Judaism by the Roman Catholic Church.

Happy Hannukah,

 

Christoph Meran
Director
Austrian Press and Information Service
www.austria.org

NS Restitution: First One Hundred Letters to Be Sent Out Today

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (12/02/05)


Vienna - With the conclusion of the Commemorative Year 2005, the first payments will be made from the General Settlement Fund, the core of the restitution agreement reached between the governments of Austria and the United States, and the representatives of victims’ organizations. The first one hundred letters to victims will be sent out today, Thursday. Until the end of the year this number will rise to 921. Since 2001 a total of 19,300 applications have been filed, two thirds of which are from survivors. Restitution will be made for seven categories of losses and damages during the NS regime within the borders of current-day Austria.

Out of the 19,300 applications, 3,500 were declared as officially definitive this week. Preference is given to the oldest applicants. Payments cannot be made yet to about half of the 3,500 cases, mostly due to missing documents such as inheritance paperwork in the cases of deceased applicants. Some 1,700 cases can be regarded as completed; of those, 200 were denied, 600 are below the minimum threshold of USD 500, leaving 900 which can expect payments before the end of the year. The quotas for prepayments will be announced this afternoon by the Board.

Prepayments of 10% are planned for categories including businesses and business assets, real estate (if no natural restitution has been granted), bank accounts, stocks, mortgages, movable assets, and other losses and damages. Prepayments of 15% will be made for insurance policies, as well as education and career-related losses that can be traced back to the NS Regime in Austria. The final quota for payments can be determined after all 19,300 applications have been determined. But prepayments are expected to cover most of the total amounts awarded. Awards under USD 500 will not be paid, as the maximum threshold is set at USD 2 million.

Originally, all payments were to begin after all cases had been determined. Due to the length of the suit, however, which has been going on for years, and the advanced age of many applicants, the possibility of prepayments became an option. The deadline for applications was May 2003. Start of payments was also dependent on legal peace between Austria and the United States which means that there are no pending lawsuits against Austria in the U.S. The money for the Fund, which totals USD 210 million, is coming from the Austrian Federal Government (USD 60 million), the City of Vienna (35 million), banks (45 million), insurance companies (25 million), industry (10 million), the Chamber of Commerce (15 million), and the ÖIAG (32 million).

The General Settlement Fund, which is managed by the National Fund, is not the only means by which victims have been or will be indemnified. Most measures have been negotiated in January 2001 between the governments of Austria and the United States, with the inclusion of victims’ representatives. A separate restitution fund has been established for former slave laborers during the NS Regime. The Versöhnungsfonds (Reconciliation Fund) made payments totaling 352 Million Euros to 131, 578 individuals and will stop its activities at the end of the year.

Furthermore, there are plans to return real estate, which was confiscated during the NS regime and now is owned by public entities (Restitution in rem). The application deadline for this type of restitution has been extended until the end of 2006. A social welfare package for Holocaust survivors has also been negotiated. And, finally, the government pledged to rebuild the Jewish sports club Hakoah, to restore and maintain Jewish cemeteries in Austria, and to continue art restitution.

Jewish Community in Vienna Protests Against Iran’s President

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/02/05)

Indignation over Ahmadinejad’s statements on Israel
Israelite Religious Community addresses letter of protest to Teheran’s Ambassador


Vienna The Israelite Religious Community protested against the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a patent letter, the official representatives of the Vienna Jewish Community expressed their indignation of Ahmadinejad’s statement, to wipe Israel off the map. Today a protest before the Iranian Embassy in Vienna 1030, Jauresgasse/Reisnerstraße is planned to take place at 6 p.m.

While Arabic and Muslim countries worldwide are giving way to fundamentally re-evaluating their relationship with Israel, while Israelis and Palestinians are finally entering a promising dialogue, the irresponsible call for obliterating Israel deliberately breaches the UN Charta and ostracizes a country belonging to the family of nations in this world, states the letter of protest directed to the Iranian ambassador. The letter was signed by President of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) Ariel Muzicant, Vice Presidents Renate Erbst and Esther Fritsch as well as Secretary General Avshalom Hodik.

The representatives demanded that Ahmadinejad officially revoke his declaration, to cease the support of global terror and stop the secret program of developing nuclear weapons.

At the protest in front of the Iranian Embassy, Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg, IKG President Muzicant and the delegate to the Green Party in the National Council of the Austrian Parliament, Terezija Stoisits, announced that they will give speeches during the rally.

Plassnik Welcomes Designation of January 27 As Holocaust Remembrance Day

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/03/05)

Education as the prerequisite for the Holocaust never happening again

Vienna Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik welcomes the declaration by the United Nation’s (UN) General Assembly of January 27 as an international day in commemoration of the Holocaust victims. With this resolution, the international community has given an important signal for the future. Commemoration of the Holocaust and the education of our young generation are the prerequisites that the atrocities of the Holocaust are never repeated.

Knowledge and awareness of crimes of the past together with teaching tolerance are the prerequisites for assuring that every individual can live in freedom and security. In this respect, Austria remains an active member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, said Plassnik. Governments and organizations have committed themselves to implementing national programs of support for education and research in the area of the Holocaust and its commemoration.

Plassnik recalled the words spoken by Simon Wiesenthal before the UN General Assembly on the occasion of the Year of Tolerance in 1995: Hatred is the evil alternative to tolerance – it leads to radical words which are then followed by radical actions. It was Wiesenthal who emphasized the importance of educating our youth.

With the unanimous acceptance of the resolution, the UN General Assembly designated the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27 as the day of commemoration. Austria was among those countries that supports the resolution initiated by Israel asking for the creation of educational programs and condemns the denial of the Holocaust as well as all forms of religious and ethnic intolerance. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was requested to take all measures possible to mobilize civil society on topics regarding the Holocaust.

Heinz Fischer Awards Simon Wiesenthal the Grand Order of Merit in Gold for Service to the Republic of Austria

OTS (06/09/05)

On June 9, 2005, Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer awarded Simon Wiesenthal the Grand Order of Merit in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria. One of the reasons stated for granting him the award was that Wiesenthal had made a major contribution by tracking down some of the most notorious Nazi criminals from their post-war hiding places and by bringing them to justice.

According to a press release by the Federal President’s presiding office, Holocaust survivor Wiesenthal, who became known as a Nazi hunter after the end of WW II, had done a great service in denouncing the most severe crimes at a time when his work in Austria was not always made easy. Under the motto, justice not vengeance, Wiesenthal had demonstrated trust in a democratic post-war Austria, a country governed by the rule of law. He had contributed to Austria’s confrontation with its NS past and reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews. The award was presented by Dr. Heinz Fischer during a ceremony at the private apartment of the ninety-six year-old Wiesenthal in Vienna.

Simon Wiesenthal was born in Buczacz in Galicia (now Ukraine) on December 31, 1908. He attended school and studied architecture in Lvov, Vienna and Prague. In 1941, he was arrested by the Germans. Surviving a total of twelve concentration camps, he was liberated from Mauthausen in 1945 by U.S. troops.

Mourning Simon Wiesenthal

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (09/20/05)

Ninety-six year-old Nazi hunter died in Vienna


Vienna Mourning Simon Wiesenthal: The Nazi hunter died early in the morning on Tuesday from multiple organ failure in his Viennese apartment at the age of ninety-six. An official farewell will take place tomorrow at Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof and then the body will be transferred to Israel where the funeral will take place on Friday. Wiesenthal, marked by illness over the last few years, lived a secluded life in his apartment. The news of his death sparked sadness and cut across all camps at home and abroad.

Wiesenthal helped bring more than 1,100 presumably Nazi criminals to justice. They were not all convicted. His greatest find was that of Adolf Eichmann who organized the Endlösung (the final solution) or massive death of the Jewish people. Eichmann was tracked down in Argentina in 1961 and then received the death penalty in Israel. Apart from Eichmann, the most spectacular cases involved Karl Silberbauer, discovered in Vienna in 1963, who had arrested the fourteen-year-old Anne Frank in Amsterdam; Franz Stangl, found in Vienna in 1967, commandant of the concentration camp in Treblinka; and Josef Schwammberger, arrested in South America in 1987, who was the former commandant of the Przemysl Ghetto.

In each case the motto, justice, not revenge, was the focus of Wiesenthal’s search and eventually became the title of his memoirs published in 1988. Probably his most important legacy was the establishment of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 1977 in Los Angeles with numerous satellites in various cities. These centers have not only focused on the pursuit of Nazi war criminals but also have served as a reminder of the Holocaust and the fight against problems in society such as racism, anti-Semitism and terrorism.

The head of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Ephraim Zuroff, who took over Wiesenthal’s work, announced: We will remain true to his spiritual testament and continue the fight with the same decisiveness, Also Wiesenthal’s extensive archive on the Holocaust - the names of the perpetrators and victims which he kept in his files in his Viennese residence - should continue to be used. Various organizations want to establish a ‘Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies’ with access to his collection.

Federal President Heinz Fischer praised Wiesenthal as a part of our modern day history. Atoning for crimes as a contribution to never repeat them has been an important motive behind his work. Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel characterized him as an indefatigable fighter for remembrance. Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach praised his noble sense of justice. President of the National Council Andreas Khol expressed that with Wiesenthal’s death an important voice of remembrance and humanity has been stifled.

Head of the Austrian Socialist Party Alfred Gusenbauer said that Wiesenthal stands like no other for the most important victory over the Nazi past. Federal Spokesman of the Green Party Alexander Van der Bellen honored Wiesenthal as a great Austrian and as an immeasurable figure of remembrance. The conscience of the Holocaust was the reference made to him by the Austrian Trade Union’s (ÖGB) President Fritz Verzetnitsch.

The only critical reaction came from the head of the Austrian Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, who pointed out that there has always been criticism directed toward Wiesenthal’s work. Governor of Kärnten and head of Austria’s Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) Jörg Haider refrained from giving any official statement.

Vienna’s Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said that the efforts made toward getting at the truth and coming to terms with the horror of the past belong undoubtedly to the immense service for which he was not always found to be pleasant. President of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG), Ariel Muzicant, said that truth, justice and reconciliation were the core pillars of his work. He was the symbol of an entire generation which experienced and suffered from the Shoah and, nonetheless, tried to live a normal life, said Muzicant.

Never Been So Blatantly Voiced Since Hitler

Die Presse (10/31/05)

By Anne-Catherine Simon



Theology. French Cardinal Lustiger on the Relationship of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Astonishing was the reaction of French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger to the words uttered by the Iranian President that Israel must be wiped off the map. One has not heard that kind of bold rhetoric for over sixty years - since Hitler, said the former Archbishop of Paris over the weekend during his talks with the press in Vienna. But perhaps it served its purpose in that the leaders of the Muslim countries should now express how they stand to this blatant statement.

Lustiger has been considered for years as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, and due to his Jewish heritage it would have been a particular sensation. The popular as well as contentious church leader never failed to take decisive positions regarding political issues for example, when he used religion as an instrument for sharply criticizing the Iraqi war. To the question of the Christian foundation of the European Union, he responded by stating that Europe is not a religious entity. Therefore, the entry of Turkey is also possible, if that is what is wished for. Nonetheless, we cannot say that reason alone is sufficient enough to harbor a decision since memories of the past still play a role. The most important thing is to cleanse one’s memory.

Does Judaism Equal Israel?
The European Union connects Jews and Christians, says Lustiger. Frankly, Jews can identify themselves much better with the Europe of today which is no longer defined as purely Christian than with the Europe of the past. What he sees as a real problem is equating Judaism with Israel. The Jewish state and the universality of the mission: This tension is not resolvable.

Lustiger, who always confessed to his Jewish heritage (I am a Jew, and I will remain so), has committed himself for decades to dialogue between the two religions despite meeting with hostility from both sides. To Lustiger it is fully understandable that Pope Bendict XVI didn’t apologize in the Cologne synagogue for past injustices, as many had expected. That is something that has already happened. Dialogue has taken us already one step further. Now there is trust, respect, security and the freedom to say what one thinks as a believer. The Church has proven to the Jews that it is entirely honest.

Lustiger lectured at a conference Sunday on the Catholic Church and Judaism, organized by the Coordinating Committee for Christian-Jewish Cooperation and supported by the foundation, Pro Oriente. The conference was prompted by the 40th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate of the 2nd Vatican Council. In 1965 it brought a new comprehensive reappraisal of Judaism by the Roman Catholic Church. Among other things, the lasting bond with Judaism is honored, the condemnation of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus on the cross was repudiated and every form of anti-Semitism condemned. Is the relationship between Jews and Christians thus written out in full? The Cardinal doesn’t believe so: It is still a beginning.

On Lustiger: Jean Marie Lustiger was born in Paris in 1926 as the son of Polish Jews. His mother died in Auschwitz and he was raised by a Christian family in Orléans, France. In 1940 he converted to Catholicism. He became Archbishop of Orléans in 1979 and, two years later, Archbishop of Paris. In 1983 he was made Cardinal. In 1995 Lustiger was excluded from the celebrations commemorating the Holocaust because, as a christened Jew, he was perceived as a bad example for the Jewish youth and as a symbol of spiritual destruction of Judaism.

Finding Refuge in Books

Kurier (12/16/05)

NS Restitution: Erwin Rennert, one of the first to receive payments


Books point the way to finding the married couple, the Rennerts. High bookshelves make the tiny one-bedroom apartment in the retirement home in Schönbrunn seem even smaller. It was through books that Erwin Rennert found his way in life. From the time he was young, he read; that is, when his parents weren’t the ones reading to him. That was, until the Anschluss. The Rennerts were a Jewish family.

The eighty year-old man will be one of the first to receive payments from the Austrian General Settlement Fund. In October 1939, two months after the start of WW II, thirteen year-old Erwin and sixteen year-old Silvia were forced to leave. Lea and Pinkas Rennert sent their children to a place of safety. Equipped with transit visas, they escaped via Trieste in order to stay with distant relatives in the U.S. Their parents had no other choice but to stay behind.

America
As a youth in the U.S., Erwin found refuge in libraries. He seemed to have found comfort in books, comfort robbed him by the Nazis. The parents continued to write him until 1942; then the letters stopped.

At the age of sixteen, Erwin ran away from his new home. More than twenty years later, he learned that around the same time his parents had had to leave their home as well. They had been deported from Vienna to Minsk and then murdered. Shortly before the United States entered the war, the eighteen year-old high school drop out was drafted into the army. He was sent to Europe, just in time to meet the right girl in Mannheim, Erwin smiled. His wife, Ruth, smiles back at him lovingly.

Life got better for both of them from there on. They returned to the U.S. in 1947; pretty Ruth convinced her husband to complete high school. He then studied literature and taught at a university. Together they have six sons, and the last one was born in Vienna. They returned because the political climate in the U.S. had worsened: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War and the nuclear arms race.

"I don’t mean to simplify things, but life was just better in Austria; there was no threat of war, and the country was not a NATO member." It was a pragmatic decision. Times had been bad for his family in Austria, but after he returned, they were better.

Rennert sees payment from the General Settlement Fund as a symbolic gesture, that is, as far as that is possible. " Everybody has lost something or someone. My parents were murdered, and those remain my wounds."

He has tried to ease the pain by writing books about life with his parents and about his years in America.

Waiting for Legal Closure

Der Standard (12/12/2005)

By Karin Moser



While the General Settlement Fund is starting with its first payments, the Reconciliation Fund is concluding its activities. Around 132,000 applications by former slave and forced laborers have been dealt with and settled. The following is an interview with Richard Wotava.

Standard: What will happen with the remaining money after the dissolution of the Fund?
Wotava: Two new institutions will be created: The Scholarship Foundation and the Fund for the Future.

Standard: What will the Fund for the Future do?
Wotava: This Fund will take care of the applications of former forced and slave laborers or their heirs which haven’t yet been handled and also continue the humanitarian projects, especially in the field of medicine. This Fund shall also produce scientific research. There is a controversy between the government coalition parties and the opposition. The government parties want the Fund to research not only the NS Regime, but also other forms of dictatorships. The opposition parties want to restrict the Fund to researching the NS Regime.

Standard: What makes more sense?
Wotava: We see a strong link between the NS Regime and Stalin’s dictatorship via the former slave and forced laborers of the Soviet Union, especially those who worked in industries, because they have been transferred from NS slave labor into a penal camp in Siberia or elsewhere after intense interrogation by the Soviet secret police. There is great interest in conducting scientific research of the fate and whereabouts of former slave and forced laborers of the Soviet Union. The work we have done in the Reconciliation Fund should not be lost.

Standard: Can there ever be Reconciliation on the basis of financial compensation?
Wotava: We have made some very interesting experiences with that, especially because we have personally completed a whole series of payments in several countries. We have worked on about 132,000 applications from 60 countries. The feedback in our meetings with the applicants was very positive. They were not only thankful but also very impressed by the fact that we had done all this on a voluntary basis. Besides the financial aspect which brought about a complete change in their lives, many told us: "Do you know what for us is at least as important? You are the first organization which recognizes us as NS victims."

Standard: But it took a long time until this voluntary work became possible. What do you have to say about the many discussions year after year, before the Reconciliation Fund was established?
Wotava: The first twenty years after WW II Austria wouldn’t have been able to pay because the money wasn’t there. After that, it could have been done. Many discussions took place, but nothing concrete came out of them.

Standard: But even after the establishment of the Fund, many of the people were told: Please wait!
Wotava: Yes, we were blocked for seven months because of the lack of legal peace.

Standard: But unlike the General Settlement Fund, the money for the Reconciliation Fund was already there before. Was it difficult to secure the financing?
Wotava: The economy paid into the Fund without any hesitation. We had to intervene in some cases, but in sum, it went very well. The Minister of Finance first paid 100 million Shillings in seed capital, followed by 3.6 billion. He was only willing to pay this second amount following the establishment of legal peace. I remember the day exactly, July 31, 2001. I received a letter from our Federal Chancellor stating that we had achieved legal peace with the dismissal of the last class action suit in New York. Payments could start. We, of course, had many of the lists ready and had verified the names on them. So I could start the same day to have Postsparkasse make transfers in 20,388 cases.

Standard: Why was a prompt payment so important for you?
Wotava: We had already heard doubts about whether we would ever pay, along the lines, ‘We’ll probably get nothing anyway.’ And I understand this skepticism absolutely. We have been waiting for legal peace because it’s not funny to have to act in a vacuum.

Ambassador Wotava (72) has been Secretary General of the Reconciliation Fund since 2000.

A Stolen Life

Kurier (11/16/05)

Today, the National Council of the Austrian Parliament has decided upon advance payments to NS victims from the General Settlement Fund. Historians and lawyers are examining 20,000 individual claims

Silvia wanted to attend Gymnasium but was not allowed to. Silvia wanted to become a tailor, but failed to receive permission. The young woman was not lacking intelligence or ambition; instead, she was lacking a father. He died in 1938. His legacy became her pitfall because he was a Jew. The Nazis classified the girl as a "Grade-1 crossbreed." " As half-Jewish, I was not allowed to take my graduating exam," explained the eighty-two year-old to members of the National Fund.

Rapprochement
Now colleagues of the General Settlement Fund are looking into her case. The old lady filed an application for restitution. She completed page 23 in the section on "Professional and Education-Related Losses." " Many of our applicants are filing under this section, explains the Deputy Secretary General of the General Settlement Fund, Christine Schwab." Her professional career would have been different had she been allowed to complete certain schools. Silvia became a certified tailor, but only after the war. "Restitution can only be a rapprochement, but never true compensation," says Schwab.

By May 2003, some 19,364 applications had been filed with the General Settlement Fund which consisted of 200,000 individual claims ranging from real estate, bank accounts, to insurance policies and professional- and education-related losses. About 16,000 cases have been either researched and completed, or are being processed. A total of 142 employees, lawyers, historians and political scientists are trying to complete the cases as quickly and accurately as possible. Partly it is a race against death since of the seventy percent of all applicants directly affected, only a few are younger than age sixty.

210 million US Dollars are waiting to be paid. Payments can only begin once legal peace has been established and all pending lawsuits against Austria have been dropped. The last suit pending against Austria is about to be rejected.

To disburse payments to the victims as quickly as possible, the Austrian Parliament will confirm today, Wednesday, the possibility of advance payments. Otherwise, it will take even longer until payments can be disbursed because all of the cases need to be clarified. Thus, the total sum will be estimated and a quota calculated. The Chairman of the General Settlement Fund, Andreas Khol, puts the total sum of the claims at 800 Million US dollars. Currently 210 Million US dollars are available, allowing for each applicant to receive approximately a quarter of the claim.

Secretary General of the National Fund Hannah Lessing does not wish to settle for a specific sum just yet: "It is clear that it will be a percentage of the claim."

In the meanwhile, a lot remains to be done. Historians have found applicants having widespread families. The files of twenty-two related applicants spread into claims amounting to one hundred NS victims.

Another case is simpler: Two Jewish sisters were able to escape to Australia via England at the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Their parents had been murdered and their clothing store located at Victor-Adler-Markt liquidated. In addition, the family owned stock and real estate. The historians of the fund successfully located material in the state archive; the Nazis were meticulous bookkeepers and kept track of Jewish property. Ironically, the ones benefiting from that today are the victims seeking justice sixty years later.

High Russian Honors Awarded Heads of Austrian Reconciliation Fund

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (10/17/05)

Ludwig Steiner and Richard Wotava received awards of honor, the first ever to be presented to foreigners, by the Russian government . Schüssel recommended for Nobel Peace Prize

Vienna Exceptional honor was bestowed upon the heads of the Austrian Slave and Forced Labor Fund (http://www.claimscon.org/index.asp?url=austria/forced_labor): Ludwig Steiner (83), Committee Chairman and Richard Wotava (72), Secretary General of the Reconciliation Fund, received the "Award of Honor of the Government of the Russian Federation," in the Russian Embassy in Vienna. Former Russian Minister of Labor and Director of the Board of the Russian Foundation, "Understanding and Reconciliation," Alexander Potschnick, who traveled to Vienna to present the awards, emphasized that they are the first foreigners ever to receive them.

Steiner, one of the most distinguished politicians of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), diplomat and former State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Wotava, Austrian diplomatic representative to various countries and international organizations, were authorized in December 2000 to manage the Fund with an endowment of 436 million euros. The Fund disbursed restitution to former slaved and forced laborers who suffered from the NS regimes which occupied the territory considered current-day Austria. Over the past five years, 131,578 people have received restitution from the " Austrian Fund for Reconciliation, Peace and Cooperation."

The choice of Steiner and Wotava was "a wise decision" by the government, said Potschinok to the two laureates, and he reported that Moscow has recommended Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel as initiator of the Fund to receive the next Nobel Peace Prize.

Steiner and Wotava expressed happiness not only over having been recipients of the award but also over having brought the challenging task to a successful conclusion. "It went well," said Steiner. The numerous letters of former forced laborers revealed "that for the first time people really received something tangible." Wotava said that that the remaining funds will flow into a "future fund" and will be used as humanitarian means for the benefit of former forced laborers.

Vienna Bestows Award of Distinction upon Ludwig Steiner

OTS (09/26/05)

Vienna. Ludwig Steiner, Ambassador Emeritus and Retired State Secretary, received the "Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver for Services to Vienna"


Vienna’s City Councillor for Cultural Affairs, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, characterized Ludwig Steiner as a personality who has done a great deal for public affairs (res publica). "Ludwig Steiner committed his life, heart and soul to Austria’s rebirth," said Mailath, recognizing Ludwig Steiner as a resistance fighter who joined the Tiroler Resistance Group 05 toward the end of the war. Ludwig Steiner’s entire life embodies that of remembrance. As head of the Reconciliation Fund, he commemorates the people, their fate along with their suffering.

"Ludwig Steiner is an outstanding Austrian, a personality who has made his mark on history," claimed Kurt Scholz, Municipal Director for Restitution Affairs of the City of Vienna. After the war, Ludwig Steiner became "lawyer of social and political reconciliation;" he was instrumental in concluding the State Treaty and dedicated himself to finding a political solution to South Tyrol. Today one speaks of Ludwig Steiner respectfully as "Grand Seigneur of Austrian Foreign Policy."

Biography Ludwig Steiner

Ludwig Steiner was born in 1922 in Innsbruck. He attended the Trade Academy in Innsbruck, founded a Catholic youth organization and, toward the end of the war, joined the resistance group surrounding Karl Gruber. He participated in the political takeover in Innsbruck before the arrival of the U.S. Army.

In 1945, Steiner began his studies at the University of Innsbruck and received his Ph.D. in 1948. In November 1948 he joined the diplomatic corps and was posted to the Austrian Embassy in Paris. Negotiations involving South Tyrol in 1952 called him back to Innsbruck where he became head of the Foreign Affairs branch office of the Federal Chancellery. The same year Foreign Minister Gruber summoned him to Vienna to become his personal assistant. During 1953-58 he was Chief of Cabinet of Federal Chancellor Julius Raab. While serving in this position, he was also a member of the Austrian delegation during the decisive Moscow negotiations in April of 1955 which led to the Moscow Memorandum and finally to the conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty in May of 1955.

Finally he served in the diplomatic corps as Chargé d’Affaires in Sofia (1958-61), in Greece and in Cyprus (1964-1972). His main duties as State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs involved the negotiations concluded between Austria and Italy that led to a solution of the problem of Southern Tirol.

From 1979 to 1990 he was delegate to the National Council and Foreign Policy Spokesman of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). Moreover, from 1990 until 1996 he acted as President of the Political Academy (Politische Akademie) of the ÖVP.

Since December 2000 Ludwig Steiner directs the Austrian Fund for Reconciliation, Peace and Cooperation (http://www.reconciliationfund.at/index.php). The task of the fund is to offer payments as restitution for forced labor under the NS regime. Since 1994 he is Vice President of the Documentation Archives of Austrian Resistance (DÖW). Furthermore, he is member of the administrative council of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

A Conversation with German Survivor Gerald Schwab

Gedenkdienst (No. 2/2005)


"I wanted to be sent to Europe to participate in the struggle against the Nazis."


For several years Gerald Schwab worked as a volunteer in the Division of Senior Historians at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Gerry has his friends and colleagues call him, was born in Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany and given the name Gerd. Only when his military papers were drawn up during the course of naturalization in 1944 did he have his first name changed to Gerald. Together with his family, who originally came from Breisach on the Rhine, Gerald move to Basel, Switzerland in 1933 for a short time. His father was a businessman by profession and was active in various countries. Gerald’s family then lived for a time in France - in Saint Louis to be exact - a small town on the Swiss border where young Gerald attended school until mid-1935 when the family moved back to Lörrach in Germany.

In response to the massive anti-Semitic pogrom in 1938 known as Kristallnacht, Switzerland agreed to admit three hundred Jewish children. At this time, the german government did not object to the emigration of children. In April of 1939, at the age of fourteen, Gerd was sent to live with a farming family in Mönchaltsdorf and then lived in Hütten o Wädenswill on Lake Zürich. His parents were not permitted to either leave Germany or to enter Switzerland and had to remain behind in Lörrach. The family maintained regular contact. In May 1940, Gerd returned to Germany in order to prepare his emigration from Europe. His family had already been approved to receive immigration papers from the American Consulate in Stuttgart. They received their papers on the very day Germany invaded the Netherlands and Belgium (May 10, 1940).

On week later, the entire family made its way to America. They made the long journey to New York by sea on the George Washington via Genoa, Italy. One month later, this journey would have been impossible after Italy joined the war as Germany’s ally.

The émigré family settled in Long Branch, New Jersey, after a short stay in New York. At first Gerry’s father worked as a chauffeur and gardener and his mother as a domestic servant for a well-to-do family. In 1941, the family acquired a chicken farm with the help of the Jewish Agricultural Society. Gerry had to help out on the farm while he was going to school. At the beginning of 1944, Gerald Schwab volunteered for the military and, after thirteen weeks of basic training in Florida, was sent back to Europe as an infantryman.

Training there was very hard because it didn’t take place in the part of Florida you know from your holidays. Boot camp was located in the north, in a region of sand, swamp and snakes. After that training, he had two options: the units in the Pacific or those in Europe.

Gerry lapses into thought for a few moments and then continues: "I wanted to be sent to Europe to participate in the struggle against the Nazis." He smiles and adds: "It’s interesting to know how it happened: all the soldiers who wore glasses were required to have also a spare paid, and at this time, it was not so easy to get glasses. I had to wait for my spare pair. For this reason, I was not sent with the unit with which I was trained. The unit was sent to France and participated in the Battle of the Bulge, the last big battle of World War II. Two weeks after the departure of my comrades, I was deployed to Naples in November 1944. From there I went to Caserta and then further north in Italy with the 10th Mountain Division, which, incidentally, was the only existing American mountain division. A short while ago I was asked: "What were you doing on May 8, 1945, the day World War II officially ended?"

I was sleeping because at that point in time the war had already been over for us for a few days. We were tired and thought that we would shortly be transferred to the Pacific. My buddies were shipped back to the States in order to be transferred to the Far East. I, however, was directed to the headquarters of the 5th Army in Europe because it needed interpreters and translators.

Headquarters was at the Gardone Riviera on Lake Gardia where I served for the next two months. Then I was needed in Gmunden, Austria, and in May 1946 I resigned from the Army in Vienna. After the war Gerry worked in Germany for another year. For six months he was an interpreter and translator for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and then another six months as a research analyst in Berlin at the Ministry of Justice preparing documentation for the Nuremberg trials. At this time he had access to documentation about the Kristallnacht. He later wrote a book based in part on these materials. After that, Gerald returned to the United States and attended the University of Chicago, the only major university to accept incoming students without high school diplomas. After three years there he continued at Stanford and George Washington universities. After graduating in 1951, Gerald worked for the State Department, first in American and then in the Foreign Service. From 1955 to 1957 he worked in Vienna. Later he worked in several countries including Togo and Sierra Leone. Today Gerry lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and volunteers for the Division of Senior Historians, carrying out a variety of research tasks.

This text was written originally in German by Stefan Stoev, a young Austrian who served as a Gedenkdiener at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.