July 23, 2003
The past few weeks have been filled with dynamic developments and informative cultural events, highlighted in this issue. We hope you will find the reportage compelling.
Three articles concentrate on a symposium on Austria and National Socialism held at the University of Vienna in June, including an interview with the Nobel Prize winner for Medicine, Eric Kandel.
Those who are interested in the complex issues concerning the financial problems of the Israelite Religious Community in Vienna will find a collection of five articles published in Austria during the last six weeks at the end of the newsletter.
With our best wishes for a relaxing and a most enjoyable summer!
Austrian Press and Information Service
Frederic Morton Receives Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and the Arts
Austrian Press Agency (06/25/03)
Vienna - The author, Frederic Morton, was presented with the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and the Arts 1st Class by Federal President Thomas Klestil."Accept this as thanks from the old home country not only for your accomplishments, but also for your loyalty and trust in our beautiful Austria," said Klestil, who emphasized that the refugee from Vienna "never broke the ties with his native home." His book, "The Forever Street " ("Ewigkeitsgasse") which appeared in 1984 "elevated him to some extent to the nobility status of literature. There is no more nobility in Austria, so I am pleased to decorate you wholeheartedly republican," concluded Klestil.
"The Forever Street" was translated into twenty-three languages. The previous year, 100,000 complimentary copies were distributed in Vienna. President Klestil honored the "novel of a family, with tinges of the autobiographic," which "brings alive the life of Vienna at the turn of the century, the years between the two world wars, and the period giving rise to National Socialism." The President added: "Morever, never has the Jewish contribution to the cultural life of Austria been so expressively represented" as in this book.
Morton, born as Fritz Mandelbaum in Vienna in 1924 and immigrated to the USA via England, gave thanks also to his second home, America. Today, I feel as a human being and philosopher and increasingly again as refugee - this time, however, in the opposite direction. "Because I am searching for asylum in exactly those dimensions of Austrian life which today are proscribed as outdated, namely the provincial, slackness, and the attitude of muddling through." To the contrary, the word "provincial' can be understood not only as "small-minded' but also as a particular awareness of one’s origins which is a remedy against the progressive alienation brought on by globalization. A touch of slackness could also preserve one from unsparing efficiency which turns the soul into a computer. The ice cold digital scheduling of every minute of the day could be tempered by turning one’s talents to muddling through, that creative spontaneity know as improvization.
Morton’s writings are also an "attempt to confront the 21st century neurosis of self-obsession and fear of the future," which points out the dark aspects increasingly affecting America and the rest of the world. This has nothing to do with militarism, but with the "unrestrained individualism" which recognizes no limits and is being globally exported." The "pressure to succeed" dominates the collective "we,' which gets lost.
"Also a form of Terror"
by Günther Baumann
Joshua Sobol on Israel, Palestine and his theater piece about Jägerstätter
Tel Aviv - "I believe that this piece could set off a heated discussion at a time in which there is hardly any political theater in Israel, said Joshua Sobol. In his new drama "iWitness," the Israeli star author treats the case of Franz Jägerstätter who was executed by the Nazis in 1943.
The material contains an explosive, real dimension of everyday life in Israel today. Sobol forms a bridge to the socalled "refuseniks"- Israeli soldiers who refuse to participate in the deployments in occupied areas. On June 23, 2003 "iWitness," staged by the Viennese Director, Paulus Manker, premiered at the New Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv.
Kurier: What caused you to take up the case of Jägerstätter for telling a story about Israel?
Sobol: For the past two years there has been controversy over the "refuseniks." These soldiers are not pacifists but they object to entering the territories. That is a difficult topic. On the one hand, I believe that we have to be able to rely on our army, but on the other hand, I stand in total opposition to oppressing the Palestinians. There is no justification for the terror used against the Israeli civilians. Nonetheless, many of the innocent lose their lives from the attacks directed by our army, and that is also a form of terrorism.
Kurier: But couldn’t it come across as being provocative that you selected a topic particularly from the times of Nazi dictatorship?
Sobol: During the previews to the premiere the echo was great. It is a fact that we are unaware of the resistance displayed against the Nazis. Over 10,000 German and Austrians refused to serve in the Wehrmacht. Half of them disappeared in concentration camps and 1,600 were executed.
Kurier: Franz Jägerstätter is hardly portrayed in "iWitness" as a silent martyr.
Sobol: I have read much about him and what called my attention to this man is the fact that he was quite a rowdy during his youth - a womanizer, a motorcyclist, and leader of a gang. He refused to serve in the army because he witnessed the mortal fear of handicapped children being transported away. During imprisonment he had acquired a high degree of theological thinking, higher than many philosophers who had formally studied philosophy and religion. Seen in this light of things, he appeared to me to be a very telling figure, somewhat perhaps today on the level of Eminem.
Kurier: After having written pieces such as "Weiningers Night" or "Alma," you selected once again an historical figure from Austria as main hero. Have you any special relationship to Austria?
Sobol: Vienna at the turn of the 19th century was a particularly interesting city because it was there that two movements came together which grew to be very significant for the 20th century: Zionism and political anti-Semitism. Because Zionism was born in Vienna, somehow Israel was also born in Vienna.
Kurier: Despite the difficult times, you live in Israel. Have you ever considered leaving the country?
Sobol: I remain in Israel because I belong here. I want to influence theater in Israel and resist special tendencies which may have dire effects. It might be much more comfortable for me to live in Europe but at the same time certainly not as meaningful.
Priceless Painting by Schiele
Neues Volksblatt (06/25/03)
The painting "Krumau" from the Austrian expressionist, Egon Schiele (1890-1918), which hung in the Neue Galerie in Linz until the previous year, was auctioned off in London for over 18 million Euros. "That is a record price for Schiele", said a spokesman for Sotheby’s. The estimated price exceeded almost double the amount. "It is the most highly priced, restituted painting that has yet been sold." The auction house refused to announce the seller.
The "Krumauer Landschaft (Stadt und Fluss)," dating back to year 1916 depicts the place Schiele’s mother was born, the small village of Krumau on the banks of the Moldau, some forty kilometers north of the Upper Austrian border.
The painting was originally owned by the Viennese textile industrialist, Wilhelm Hellmann, and wife, Daisy. The couple had bought it directly from their friend, Schiele. In 1938 the painting was confiscated by the Nazis and four years later sold to the Berlin art dealer, Wolfgang Gurlitt, who again sold it to the Neue Galerie in Linz in 1953. There it was exhibited and hung until it was restituted to the heirs of the Hellmann family.
On the "list ranking revenues" for Schiele paintings, the 'Krumau" oil painting remains unrivaled number one in terms of record sales prices:
"Porträt Anton Peschka" (12 million Euros, auctioned off by Sotheby’s of London in 2001);
"Haus mit trocknender Wäsche" (11 million Euros, Philips of New York in 2001);
"Porträt des Kunsthändlers Guido Arnol" (10.29 million Euros, Sotheby’s, 2000);
"Porträt Franz Martin Haberditzl" (6 million Euros, private sale in Vienna in 2003);
"Mädchen" (3.05 million Euros by the Vienna Art Auctions in 1998).
NS Confiscated Art Returned to U.S. Owner
During a special ceremony, the Governor and Cultural Director of Upper Austria, Josef Pühringer, returned an oil painting which had been confiscated by the Gestapo in 1942 to the family, Bryk-Cardarelli, from the US who had travelled to Austria for the occasion. The large "Knabe im Hühnerhof," dating from around 1670, painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter together with his Dutch compatriot, Jacob Joraens, has hung in the Art Museum in Linz since 1945.
A project funded by Upper Austria under the direction of the University of Linz researching the whereabouts of NS confiscated art and their rightful owners discovered the painting in the Linzer Museum. Valued at 70,000 Euros, the artwork underwent complete restoration before it was returned. In the future it will hang in the home of the clothing manufacturer, Julius Neumann, in Washington, whose family immigrated to the U.S. in 1938 after the Anschluss and from whose collection the Gestapo seized twenty-two paintings.
The current legal owner, Franziska von Weber, born Neumann, wrote in a letter that since "one is not as agile at age 92 as at age 85," she was requesting that her daughter, Antonia Bryk and granddaughter, Alexandra Cardarelli, represent her in Linz. During the presentation, Dr. Prühinger spoke of a "day of gratification," in that Upper Austria’s restitution laws concluded on April 1, 2002, were bearing its initial fruit.
Holocaust Survivors Visit Carinthia
Kurier (07/11 /03)
Initiated by the Austrian Embassy in Israel, the Governor of Carinthia, Jörg Haider, seizes the opportunity to invite Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to visit the region.
A party of fifty-one Israeli citizens arrived in Klagenfurt early in July. The eldest is eighty-three years old, lives in Tel Aviv and is confined to a wheelchair. Next to the elderly man from Tel Aviv are nine other arrivals who were born in Carinthia. Persectued by the Nazis as Jews, they had to leave the country before WW II. He who wasn’t able to flee had his property expropriated and was assassinated.
Carinthia’s Governor, Jörg Haider, seized the opportunity of inviting survivors of the Holocaust and their family members, a gesture initiated by the Austrian Embassy in Israel.
At the official reception of the guests in Carinthia, Haider avoided getting verbally off track: he spoke only of "searching for traces and promoting a dialogue of peace in Carinthia" - and no longer of "former Carinthians who during the course of WW II chaos immigrated to Israel," as he had formulated it previously to the press.
In his speech, the Governor expressed to his Israeli guests his joy over the "special visit." He spoke likewise of "Nazi terror."
The group was accompanied by Gernot Steiner from the office responsible for refugee questions and external humanitarian affairs within the regional government. "Everyone is happy," said Steiner. The guests had actively discussed with the Governor following their arrival.
The visit to Carinthia lasted one week. The program was solidly packed with a visit to Burg Hochosterwitz, individual trips to places inciting childhood memories, an excursion to the Wörthersee, and a visit to the Nockberge.
The final event scheduled on the program evoked the most memories. The Director of the Archives, Wilhelm Wadl, had prepared an exhibit: Jewish cultural life, businesses, bits and pieces from everyday life up until the persecution and expulsion, in addition to anti-Semitism.
Jewish families had come sporadically to Carinthia during the second half of the 19th century. Their main preoccupation was the textile trade. In 1923 the Israelite Religious Community was founded in Carinthia. It numbered three hundred members. In 1938 the number of Jews persecuted during the Nazi terror rose from six hundred to seven hundred due to having counted those who had lived in mixed marriages.
The majority of Jews from Carinthia immigrated to the US, Latin America, Australia, and Palestine. Less than one dozen returned to their place of birth in Carinthia after the war.
Symposium on Austria and National Socialism: Implications for Scholarship in Science and the Humanities
IVC Aktuell (06/06/03)
Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000, Eric Kandel of Columbia University, a neurobiologist born in Austria, suggested to Austrian Federal President Thomas Klestil and Minister of Science Elisabeth Gehrer, along with Rector of the University of Vienna Georg Winckler, that in lieu of honors and ceremonies an international symposium be held in Vienna on "Austria and National Socialism: Implications for Scholarship in Science and the Humanities."
Following extensive planning and deliberation, to which Fritz Stern of Columbia University and Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna contributed, the Institute Vienna Circle, under the directorship of Friedrich Stadler, was asked by the Ministry of Science, section Social Sciences, to plan and organize a symposium together with the University of Vienna.
The symposium was held on June 5-6, 2003 at the University of Vienna. Its goal was to convey to the general public and to the scientific community, in particular the younger generation of scholars and students, the disastrous effects of Nazi rule in Austria - expropriation, expulsion and the Holocaust - on the entire field of education and research. The symposium also intended to place the study of the NS period, during the Second Republic and today, within an international context. Not only the academic and political aspects were addressed but also the moral dimension of coming to terms with the past. How many Austrians actually contributed to Fascist/Nazi ideology and dictatorship is one of the questions that was critically examined. A symposium with contributors such as Eric Kandel and Walter Kohn, two scientists and Nobel Prize laureates from Austria who were forced to leave their homeland, as well as a number of internationally renowned researchers and contemporaries offered a welcome opportunity to combine an (auto)biographical perspective with ongoing historical research in Austria. The symposium’s contributions were presented and discussed against the backdrop of the findings recently submitted by the Historical Commission which examined Austria’s role in the expropriation of Jewish assets during the period of Nazi rule and return of those assets along with the reform currently being implemented by the universities in Austria.
Reversal of a ‘Cultural Exodus’
Der Standard (06/04/03)
Anton Zeilinger Pleads for Visiting Professorships for Researchers Expelled during NS Times and Scholarships for Young Jewish Scientists
Vienna - Anton Zeilinger, Viennese physicist, has suggested at a symposium held at the University of Vienna on "Austria and National Socialism "The Impact on Education in the Sciences and Humanities "-- that scholarships be offered to young Jewish scientists and -"as long as it still is possible - visiting professorships to researchers expelled from Austria by the Nazis. "We should do everything to make Austria again attractive to such people," said Zeilinger as one of the organizers of the symposium.
Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in year 2000 was born in Vienna in 1929 and, as Jew expelled from Austria in 1939 by the National Socialists, had strongly hoped that such a conference would take place. Among the numerous prominent participants in the conference was another Nobel Prize winner and colleague, Walter Kohn, who also fled from the NS Regime in Austria during his youth. The symposium emphasized the importance of the "late but not too late" opportunity to promote the initiative, explained Friedrich Stadler, Director of the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna.
High Rate of Displaced Persons
Between forty to fifty percent of all members affiliated with academic life, from professors to students, were expelled from universities in 1938, according to Stadler. There are no exact numbers but one knows that out of some 130,000 - 150,000 forced emigrants, about ten percent were connected with the universities. "In the faculty of medicine alone, fifty percent of the university professors were let go within a matter of weeks," explained Kandel. Many of the forced emigrants became successful abroad, emphasized Kandel and reminded one that from those who were expelled from Vienna, three became Nobel Prize winners: apart from himself, Walter Kohn (Chemistry, 1998), and Max Perutz (Chemistry, 1962).
At the beginning of the 20th century, a "magical intellectual climate" prevailed in Vienna and Jews made a significant contribution in this regard, pointed out Kandel. "It would be wonderful if this cooperation could exist again and that’s why I wish for a thriving Jewish community in Austria and Vienna. In that way Vienna could again become an important intellectual center in the world."
Austria as well as the University of Vienna began very late to work through the matter of "Science and National Socialism," explained Rector Georg Winckler. For him it is important not only to consider the times between 1938 - 1945 but also the years after 1945. "One really must ask the question why it took so long to address the matter and why one failed to bring the intellectual loss back to Austria and to the universities."
These are failures for which the university now apologizes. Thus, for Winckler the symposium was also concerned with "getting critically to the bottom of the hypothetical continuity which was generated after 1945." It concerns finding the truth rather than sugarcoating the issues.
Zeilinger justified his idea of scholarships and visiting professorships by expressing his "shock" when he met with a prominent scientist who was expelled from Austria, the physicist, Victor Weisskopf, who when asked why he never returned to Austria, answered: "Because no one ever asked me to." It is essential to pass on this experience to those of the next generation. This became evermore clear to Zeilinger while working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, where he continually met someone who was originally from Vienna.
The Search for Traces of Memory
Der Standard (06/04/03)
Instead of being honored as Nobel Prize winner, Eric Kandel expressed his wishes for a symposium to elucidate the expulsion of "scientists" from Austria in 1938.
Vienna - "I’m an American," said the neurobiologist and Nobel Prize winner for Medicine, Eric Kandel, after his lecture in the Jewish Museum during a conversation held in Hotel Regina. This was not far from his domicile in the Severingasse 8, from where he and his brother, along with his parents and grandparents, had to flee in 1939 to the U.S.
The author, born in 1929, had objected to being greeted as "Austrian Nobel Prize winner" by Federal President Thomas Klestil, after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his research on the "Neurobiological Foundations of Learning and Memory Ability." Instead, Eric Kandel had asked that there be an attempt made to clarify the history of expulsion of "scientists" from Austria in 1938.
The current symposium can therefore be viewed as an educational debate on the exodus of science which still hurts Austrian research to this day - more than half of all professors in physics and medicine at the University of Vienna in 1938 were Jewish.
Eric Kandel is also the archetype for how science can flourish under favorable conditions, as in the laboratories of the USA: "During the fifties, there were hundreds of meetings and seminars in the National Health Laboratories (NIH)." Asked whether it had been the Austrian tendency to repress history which had motivated him to explore a topic which, as early as 1950, became a lifetime of research, namely the biology of memory, Kandel responded with wonderful scientific dryness: "That’s a very philosophical thought. At that time I needed no philosophy, no. I lived in a very favorable environment. And I learnt about the ‘experimental approach’ and searched for a system, a simple system, which could reveal the functions of learning. And it was the ocean snail Aplysia which provided this system."
The ocean snail’s nerve cells were so large that its responses to stimulation were easy to observe: " Many said at the time that was too simple. But it was a model which allowed to observe complex matters." It was much like what Kandel, a connoisseur of art, had observed in the paintings of the Expressionists such as Kirchner, Schiele, Kokoschka, or in the great abstract art of a Mark Rothko: no reductionism but rather concentration on structures.
In other words, no body-soul problem as argued in the philosophies of Locke via Kant to Popper? -"The neurologist, John Eccles, was the one interested in it. I am friends with philosophers such as John Searle. But my scientific interest lies in the biological foundations of Neuroscience."
Eric Kandel predicted that this science was going to be as significant for the 21st Century as Genetics was for the 20th century. And it had its beginnings in Vienna, he claimed: Sigmund Freud, namely, had studied at the beginning of his career the effects of synapses, which he called "contacts," but recognized "that at that time knowledge of chemistry was insufficient." Moreover, well-known Freudian notions such as "traces of memory" were originally thought of as a function of the body and in no way abstracted speculation.
Eric Kandel, who had studied literature, but had become acquainted in New York at the time with Ernst and Marianne Kris (both belonged to the circle of Freund followers), committed himself to this topic of traces of memory. Thus, he came to psychoanalysis and medicine, and later to the laboratory of the neurobiologist, Harry Grundfest, at Columbia University. Using a simple model, Eric Kandel searched for the architecture of behavior and how it could be changed: "The reaction of the aplysia became stronger when it was threatened. And it was able also to develop mechanisms to fight against it."
Eric Kandel, in the meantime, continues to look for such means to fight against fear and loss of memory in the laboratory established by his own firm, "Memorial Pharmaceuticals.' Even that sounds almost like an elixir for Austria or as motto for the symposium. The laboratory, consisting of some twenty researchers, are developing drugs against memory loss found in the aged ("not Alzheimer, rather simpler cases"). The animal used in the laboratory is the mouse: "We studied loss of memory in the mouse and developed drugs which dramatically reduced this loss. We can help the mice but we’re still not sure we can help people. We can only hope to."
Jewish Community Liquidated
Wiener Zeitung (06/05/03)
The Austrian government’s offer of "interim aid" as a solution to the acute financial problems suffered by the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (english: Israelite Religious Community (IKG)) was declined by the community’s executive board after IKG President Ariel Muzicant refused a loan without interest offset by Nazi victims. The Greens wish to introduce a motion to the budget committee to offer financial assistance to the Jewish Community in the amount of 2.7 million Euros annually.
Muzicant has alluded for a long time that the IGK has enormous financial difficulties. Yesterday, together with the President of the European Jewish Congress, Michael Friedman, he disclosed which objects are to be soon liquidated. Some thirty-five employees during the previous week were asked to resign.
The Community is dealing with a long-term guaranteed existence. Needed is an additional 2.7 million Euros in annual federal funding. The government has offered a three-time loan without interest of 772,000 Euros between 2003 to 2005 which then would be offset with payments from the General Settlement Fund, endowed with 254 million Euros. Muzicant already demanded upon conclusion of the Washington Agreement in 2001 a separate solution because the Religious Community wants to avoid depleting the Fund to the disadvantage of the individual victims of the NS Regime. For this reason Muzicant refused to sign at that time the Washington Agreement: "Because our position is that the just claims for restitution and compensation for the aryanization of Jewish property demanded by the Religious Community have to this day not been accounted for."
The Religious Community’s position was strengthened by the opposition. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) characterized the government’s posture as "aloof". The concerns of the IKG were not taken seriously. The Republic has, however, a responsibility to guarantee the historical and cultural heritage of the Jewish Community. "Instead of seriously negotiating with representatives of the IKG, the Community is being informed by way of the media of the possibilities of a loan financed by payments withdrawn from the Restitution Fund and to be later returned. That reveals, mildly said, a lack of sensibility," according to the Social Democratic Spokesman for Human Rights, Walter Posch.
The Greens’ Speaker for Human Rights, Terezija Stoisits: "The Republic of Austria must safeguard the guaranteed survival of the IKG." The government’s offer is "unacceptable," because no guarantees are made for the existential needs of Jewish life in Austria. The Greens will, therefore, introduce a petition for an annual financing of the IKG by the Republic.
The Minister for Education, Elisabeth Gehrer, called for the acceptance of the "really well meant offer made by the government for interim aid." The offer, on the one hand, allows for a loan, and on the other hand, payment of 18.2 million Euros in five installments through the provinces and project promotions.
Declaration in Support of the Israelite Religious Community
Neue Kronen-Zeitung (06/27/03)
For decades the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (English: Religious Community (IKG)) in Vienna has made efforts towards commensurate restitution for confiscated property and assets. Until now it has received primarily promises and declarations of good intention. Confronted with current financial difficulty, the IKG has now started a campaign of collecting signatures.
We, from the newspaper "Krone," are publishing during the coming days a list of personalities who, by submitting their signatures, are calling upon the Austrian Federal Government to fulfil the demands of restitution short term and in commensurate amount. The following people have expressed their support and sympathy for the needs of the IKG: Prof. Josef Haslinger, Salzburg’s Archbishop Dr. Alois Kothgasser, Federal Council Member Dr. Vincenz Liechtenstein, City Council Member Dr. Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, Dr. Freda Meissner-Blau, Elisabeth Orth, Wolfgang Petritsch, Prof. Arnulf Rainer, Head of the Labor Union for the Self- Employed, Regional Parliamentary President Prof. Erika Stubenvoll and Roland Düringer.
"Letter to the Editor" submitted on behalf of the Austrian Federal Government
Bundespressedienst (Federal Press Services) (07/09/03)
The following is a reaction to the letter of support written by Austrian authors and artists to the Austrian Federal Government and published by various sources of media:
Upon the initiative of Federal Minister Elisabeth Gehrer during the twelfth meeting of the Austrian Council of Ministers on June 3, 2003, the Austrian Federal Government resolved positively on a report containing an offer on interim aid for the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (IKG, in English: Israelite Religious Community) which was subsequently submitted to the Parliament. The National Council adopted the offer within the context of the laws accompanying the budget. We, thus, reiterate this offer submitted by the Federal Government verbatim:
"In numerous communications to personalities in public life as well as through press releases and interviews, the President of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) in Vienna, Dr. Ariel Muzicant, has increasingly alluded to a considerable deficit in the budget of the IKG in Vienna. Austria is aware of its responsibility for the Jewish communites and has underscored its interest in a well functioning community life by having supported the IKG substantially for decades."
Assuming Responsibility for our Past through Restitution
The Federal law regarding financial payments to the Israelite Religious Community, BGBI. Nr. 222/1960 idF BGBI. Nr. 317/1996, provides for a one-time payment of 10.4 million Euros (current monetary value) as compensation for devastated synagogues, prayer houses, cemeteries and religious objects owned by the Jewish Community as well as an open-ended annual allocation of 772,177.72 Euros (current monetary value) to be paid indefinitely beginning in 1958. The assessment of this annual sum is based on the number of members of the IKG prior to 1938 (see footnote at the end of Part III).
In 2001 the groundwork was laid by Federal Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel, together with Ambassador Dr. Ernst Sucharipa and former U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat in the "Washington Agreement" for closing the remaining gaps in the Federal Law on Restitution for Victims of National Socialism. The core part of this agreement is the General Settlement Fund endowed with Austrian funds totaling 210 million USD (254 million Euros). The most important matter now is for the two pending class-action suits in the USA to be dismissed so that legal peace is established and payments can begin without delay. The President of the IKG, Dr. Ariel Muzicant, helped negotiate and signed the Washington Agreement. Without his cooperation the Agreement would not have come about. On May 28, 2003 the IKG submitted 777 applications submitted on May 28, 2003 to the General Settlement Fund.
On June 12, 2002 the Federal provinces, together with the IKG, concluded an agreement on the restitution of property loss during the NS period in the amount of 18.168 million Euros. This agreement is separate from that of the Washington Agreement. The due date of payments also depends on the establishment of legal peace in the USA.
On the basis of Federal law regarding the restitution of art objects from Austrian museums and collections, (BGBI. I Nr. 181/1988), a total of 1,544 inventory numbers could be returned by the deadline date, December 3, 2002 with the support of the IKG.
Continual Support for the Jewish Community in Austria due to their Special Significance in the Present
In Austria, legally recognized churches and religious communities in Austria have a legal claim to reimbursement for the entire cost of employing teachers for their privately directed schools according to public law.
The IKG maintains annually some 80 teaching positions amounting to 4.2 million Euros. Moreover, as with all other legally recognized churches and religious communities, costs for religious instruction are also being covered.
Furthermore, the Federal government grants numerous subsidies for supporting the development of Jewish life. These include among other things the support of the construction of the Religious Center in the Seitenstettengasse and promotion of the Jewish Museums in Vienna, Eisenstadt and Hohenems with a total amount of 6.27 million Euros.
Since 1979 the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) has annually supported the technical equipment of security installations properties at risk; the total volume of this support to this day amounts to about 815,000 Euros.
To ensure the security of Jewish institutions in Austria, special security measures, either on the spot or within the framework of actual patrol duty. Numerous Jewish objects are guarded around the clock or for special situations by policemen in uniform. For this service alone, the Federal Ministry of the Interior spends annually about 3 million Euros. Furthermore, an additional 50,000 Euros per year is spent on security for special occasions.
An aid fund within the Federal Ministry for Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection allowed for the financial support of a special program (a home for parents) for the Israelite Religious Community with a total of 2,543.549 Euros.
In addition, the association "ESRA" has been receiving yearly subsidies since 1993 for the psychosocial care of Holocaust victims. In 2002 approximately 83,574 Euros were paid out in the form of subsidy. After 2003 the annual amount of subsidies will reach 90,000 Euros. The total number of payments granted for that purpose totaled 577,740 Euros.
Some 7,267 - 13,081.11 Euros drawn from the equity tax fund for victims assistance are used to support the publication of the magazine, "The Community" (containing information for those eligible for psychosocial care). In 2003 the annual sum was increased to 16,500 Euros.
Over the last number of years, substantial financial measures were also taken in favor of Holocaust victims and their surviving dependants, some of whom also belong to the IKG. During the past ten years a total of 21.8 million Euros was used to finance international projects for care of the elderly who were former Jewish NS victims and their relatives via the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria.
According to the Victims Assistance Act (OFG), payments in 2002 have been made to victims of NS persecution for pensions and restitution amounting to 12.8 million Euros. In March of 2002 important improvements were made in the area of pensions and care.
The IKG can expect 18.168 million Euros from the agreement with the Federal provinces and a yet unknown sum from the General Settlement Fund. In light of the deadlines and the fact that legal peace has not yet been established in the USA, it, nevertheless, appears necessary to offer the IKG interim aid without additional interest so that community life can be maintained without interruption.
Austria has offered a variety of financial measures for decades and is also prepared to further support the IKG beyond these existing measures.
To that end the following steps should be taken:
Contact should be taken up with the Federal provinces to have them make initial down payments on the basis of the agreement of June 12, 2002 before legal peace has been established.
The Federal government offers direct interim aid to the IKG in the form of an annual loan without interest of 772,000 Euros for the years 2003 until 2005 at the latest. These loans will be offset by the total sum resulting from a decision on the claims filed by the IKG with the General Settlement Fund after the establishment of legal peace.
Support of future oriented projects of the IKG in the areas of education, security and social life as in past years by the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture (BMBWK), the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and the Federal Ministry of Social Security and Generations (BMSG).
The Federal Government assumes that the IKG will contribute as much as possible to finding an immediate solution to legal peace in the interest of the victims.
Footnote (editorial remark): Yearly allocation of funds for the IKG is based upon the Federal Law of October 26, 1960, for the Financial Support of the Israelite Religious Community (BGBI. Nr. 222/1960 idgF). This yearly allocation was assessed not according to the actual number of members in the IKG (about 7,200) as is the case when assessing other religious communities, but rather according to their historical membership numbers dating back to 1938 (about 150,000). The IKG, itself, had kept record of its approval of this federal legislation in its Report of Activities 1960 to 1964: "Thus the funding offered the Jewish religious community, compared to that allotted the Christian religious communities, exceeds the latter by far, something which according to the numerical portion of the Jewish population was not to be expected. In this respect it is not the numerical but moral weight of the claims which asserted itself and remains the historical service of all of our representatives who had a part in the accomplishment of this legislation." (pg. 250-51).
Statement Made by the IKG in Vienna in Reaction to the "Letter to the Editor" Submitted by the Austrian Federal Government
Chair of the Israelite Religious Community in Vienna (07/09/03)
The points listed by the Austrian Federal Government largely fail to pertain to the IKG. The Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (English: Israelite Religious Community (IKG)) is primarily a religious community and has, moreover, additional work to carry out and special burdens to carry.
The yearly budget of the IKG is broken down into the following categories:
Sector 1: Essential work conducted by a religious community: 7.5 million Euros. From that amount the IKG receives 975,000 Euros from public money (Federal and Regional).
Sector 2: Special financial burden totalling 3.7 million Euros, out of which 1 million Euros go for social priorities; 700,000 Euros for schools, and 2 million Euros for maintaining security. From the total budget amounting to 11.2 million Euros, about 1 million Euros are covered by public funds, 7.5 million Euros by own funds and 2.7 million Euros are considered as the current deficit.
Sector 3: Outsourced institutions consist of Maimonides Zentrum (Home for Parents) with 7.1 million Euros, ESRA (a psychosocial center) with 2.1 million Euros, and ZPC Schule with 1.9 million Euros. These are covered by their own revenues (school tuition, costs for maintenance, etc.).
These deficits are covered by revenues coming from the City of Vienna, a portion from the Federal government and from the IKG.
The IKG is not denying that Austria has made numerous attempts to offer restitution to survivors of the Holocaust. Dr. Muzicant has always emphasized that Schüssel’s government has achieved a great deal in this respect by having created the Reconciliation Fund and the Restitution Fund. Both funds were primarily thought of as providing individual restitution to forced laborers and survivors and relatives of the Holocaust.
The Jewish Community in Vienna possessed considerable wealth before 1938. This was totally aryanized; in other words, destroyed, and after 1945 it was not the least bit restituted nor indemnified. The Jewish Religious Community had to establish itself anew on its own accord by building synagogues and rebuilding the Jewish infrastructure. For the expenses involved the Federal government has refused to work out a solution with the IKG but rather points to the efforts made by having created the Restitution Fund. The Religious Community refuses to accept having an essential part of this Restitution Fund taken away from the individual victims.
As to the issue of current support for the Jewish Community in Austria, the following points need to be emphasized:
Support of Jewish museums in Vienna, Eisenstadt and Hohenems: The Jewish Museum is a museum which belongs to the City of Vienna, whereas the Jewish museums in Eisenstadt and Hohenems belong to private associations.
International projects of the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria: This organization has its seat in the U.S. and supports worldwide survivors of the Holocaust who are in need and who are former Austrians.
Pensions and care for the disabled and elderly within the context of the Victims Assistance Act (OFG): These are again contributions which are made worldwide to former Austrian survivors of the Holocaust.
Return of art objects from Austrian museums and collections: These art objects are being returned directly to the victims or their heirs.
None of the financial contributions come under the heading of restitution payments to the IKG.
Aid for Religious Community
Nine Million Euros from Regional Funds
Der Standard (07/19/03)
Vienna - The Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (english: Israelite Religious Community (IKG)) will immediately be receiving 9 million Euros to be taken from Regional funds endowed with 18.2 million Euros for restitution of the Community’s assets accounted for at the time it was confiscated or destroyed during the NS period. It is possible that this will be done by treating the regional funding separately from that of legal peace which is established only when the pending class action suits in the U.S. filed against Austria have been suspended.
The negotiators, Minister of Education Elisabeth Gehrer, Governor Waltraud Klasnic as well as IKG Representative Ariel Muzicant and Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg refrained from assessing the results as a "breakthrough." It is, however, "a step forward."