NS Restitution: Experts Against “Considering it Finished”

Der Standard (03/22/2007)

Presentation of the book series, “Looting and Return – Austria 1938 until Today” in Parliament

Vienna – Restitution in Austria should in no way be considered over with. That was the unanimous tone of a podium discussion in Vienna’s parliament on the occasion of a book presentation of the four-volume series entitled, “Looting and Return – Austria from 1938 until Today.” Hosting the event, President of the National Council Barbara Prammer said that the concept of “considering finished” has already “had its day” in Austria in terms of coming to terms with the NS past. It should, however, never be considered “finished,” but rather one must continue to actively work on confronting the past.

Scholz: The Need for Harmony
Others invited by the Evangelical Academy to participate in the podium discussion of the topic, “Finished? The History of the Restitution,” argued similarly. Former head of the Historical Commission and current-day President of the Supreme Administrative Court, Clemens Jabloner, believed that as long as there is a call for “considering it finished,” a final line has still not been drawn.

Vienna’s delegate for restitution matters, Kurt Scholz, understands the call for an end to the debate, but considers it wrong. The “Austrians’ need for harmony” must not lead to such a step. Moreover, we should aim to have the largest possible number of individual restitution cases. In any case, regarding the question of restitution, there is “nothing to cheer about.” Restitution is simply “restoring a state of normality” and came sixty years too late. One can merely cheer individual people such as the authors of the book series.

Stoisits: “Provocation”
Terezija Stoisits, delegate representing the Green Party, and also member of the board of trustees on the National Fund responsible for NS restitution, sees it differently: no one here can cheer because it is the work of politicians as well as of historians to come to terms with this issue. Every statement calling for “Considering it finished” is a provocation. The year 2008, marking the 70th anniversary of Austria’s Anschluss by Hitler Germany, must be used as an occasion for confronting history, claimed Stoisits.

Historian Gerhard Baumgartner was surprised by the discussion about “considering it finished.” He pointed out the situation of the Roma and Sinti, for which establishing justice has just really begun. Of the some 11,000 Roma, less than 1,000 survived the NS regime, said Baumgartner. There are no longer any applicants for a great portion of the assets. The Republic of Austria has the responsibility of finding a mechanism for restitution for the Roma. The head of the advisory council for the ethnic group of the Roma, Rudolf Sarközi, sitting in the audience, expressed his gratitude for Baumgartner’s dedication.

A Book Series
Because of the large number of people wishing to attend, the event which took place in Palais Epstein was relocated to the Parliament. Prammer, who is also head of the National Fund’s board of trustees, honored the work by the editors Verena Palowsky and Harald Wendelin. The two historians wanted, the essential results of the final report submitted by the Historical Commission presented in an understandable form. One was, however, aware of avoiding simplification despite the simple presentation.

Volume 1 of the series deals with the role of the Second Republic in regards to “legacy” of the NS era. Volume 2 goes into the aryanization of the economy. The third volume concerns restitution of art works and volume 4 is involved with the disfranchisement of entire ethnic groups such as the Jews or Roma or also homosexuals.