NS Restitution: Real Estate Sources of Business Project

Associated Press (01/19/03)

Decision by the City Council
Some 12,600 Investments to be Examined
Decision as to Return to be Arbitrated by Authorities
of Restitution Fund

Vienna – The City of Vienna is launching a research project on the source of all public real estate which has been possibly acquired unlawfully during the NS period. The City Council voted unanimously for financing the project with € 451,000, claimed the Viennese City Cultural Councillor Andreas Mailath-Pokorny.

Under investigation are 12,600 socalled “investments”, said the Research Coordinator of the Historical Commission, Eva Blimlinger. As to how many pieces of property it concerns is yet unknown since numerous pieces can be assigned to one investment. The historians hope to complete their investigation within a year.

Edith Leisch-Prost, Verena Pawlowsky and Harald Wendelin, having already worked for the Historical Commission, were officially authorized to present their 14,000-page report to the public at the end of February. Investigators were historians, lawyers, art historians, economists and experts in journalism and communications from a wide spectrum of countries. Experts from within were intentionally not consulted since the goal was to obtain “critical information from outside, unbiased sources”, claimed Blimlinger.

Contrary to the past, whereas one reacted out of international pressure and was forced to deal with the issue of restitution - and only then according to the principle of dragging it out as long as possible - Vienna has begun the project on its own initiative. In turn one doesn’t have the feeling of “having hidden corpses away in the basement”, explained restitution representative, Kurt Scholz.

Highlighting the complexity of the issue, Blimlinger as well as Scholz emphasize that there is no restitution object clearly suspected of illegal expropriation. Scholz points also here to the restitution laws of 1946 and 1947, which, however, might contain gaps. In other words, restitution for property occurred but more probably under extremely unfair conditions. Here the Federal Law of the Restitution Fund gives precedence to restitution claims. The final decision lies then with the arbitral authority.

It is this board which will then deal together with the City of Vienna as to judging the dates and facts collected by the historians – planned is also the creation of a database. Should the arbitral authority decide that either the property was a matter of having been illegally confiscated or was shelved, those pieces of property shall be returned to their former owners or heirs, whichever may be the case.