Austria’s Gestures of Reconciliation for Former Forced Laborers

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (10/15/03)

As a "symbolic gesture," Austria presented six former forced laborers, that is, their descendants, with checks. "We are not interested in reconciliation or compensation, because nothing can make up for the years stolen," said the head of the fund’s curatorship, Ludwig Steiner, at a ceremony at the Austrian Consulate General in New York.

Together with the Secretary General of the Reconciliation Fund, Richard Wotava, Steiner participated in the event, along with Moshe Jahoda, head of the victims’ organization, Claims Conference in Austria. Both men were presented the checks personally in the presence of the new Austrian Ambassador in Washington, Eva Nowotny. "This is an important moment for us. For that reason I have come from Washington to attend the ceremony," told Eva Nowotny, the Austrian Press Agency (APA). "That we are able to present the checks personally at a small public ceremony in the presence of representatives from the media has a publicity effect which is very important for the Fund." She explained that "we need to reach as many people as possible who might be eligible for compensation," since the time limit for submitting an application is set for the end of the year 2003. After that, the Fund will be dissolved.

The Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gerhard Pfanzelter, was also at the ceremony. "As UN Ambassador, I am continually confronted with questions on reconciliation and compensation. Today’s ceremony is particularly encouraging because it reveals how much we have done that has been recognized by those who have been involved," said Pfanzelter to APA. "As Austrian Ambassador to the UN, where almost every country represented is faced with a problem from the past, it is a moment which is especially inspiring."

The six recipients were Henry Aron, Fred Hainbach, Alfred Paschkes, Joseph Schabes, Josephine Zwirn and Dorrit Erika Woolf, all residing in the greater New York area. The amount of the check was dependent on the category assigned to the work carried out by the forced laborer. Those who bore the greatest burden of slave labor received a check in the amount of USD 7,000. Forced laborers working in the industrial sector were awarded USD 3,000 and those in the agricultural sector received USD 2,000.

The Reconciliation Fund has processed more than 100,000 applications of former NS forced or slave laborers. More than 8,000 cases are still being reviewed. Steiner said that new applications are continuing to come in.