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.