Victims of National-Socialism and Restitution
I. National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism
a) Individual payments (no deadline)
In 1995, the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism was created in order to administer individual “gesture payments” of 5,087 euros as an acknowledgment to persons who were persecuted by the National Socialist regime, provided certain requirements regarding citizenship and residency are met. So far, the National Fund has paid more than 150 million euros to 30,000 applicants.
Detailed information and contact addresses can be found on the website of the National Fund (www.nationalfonds.org). There is no deadline for applying to this one-time payment.
b) Compensation for apartment leases, household property and personal valuables (deadline expired)
In 2001, when implementing the so-called Washington Agreement, the Austrian parliament decided to appropriate an amount of 150 million US dollars to compensate victims of Nazi persecution for loss of property (apartment leases, household property, and personal valuables). Each individual meeting the criteria was entitled to a payment of 7,000 US dollars as well as to an additional payment of 1,000 euros.
The application was to be presented to the National Fund until 30 June 2004 at the latest. In total, the National Fund has paid 175 million euros under this framework.
II. General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism
In 2001, in order to implement the Washington Agreement, the Austrian Federal Law for the establishment of the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism was enacted.
a) Compensation and Claims Committee (deadline expired)
The application deadline expired on 28 May 2003. The Fund was endowed with an amount of 210 million US dollars and provided payments to individuals (or their heirs) and organizations persecuted by the National Socialist regime.
Well over 20,000 applications were submitted until the application deadline. The amount awarded for each claim (the decision was taken by an independent three-member Claims Committee, two of them were appointed by the United States and Austria who subsequently nominated a chairperson) was limited to 2 million US dollars.
Decisions on all applications filed were taken. It was possible to appeal a negative decision, but only one made under the claims-based process. Those made under the equity-based process were final. Overall, claims totaling approximately 1.6 billion US dollars were recognized by the independent Claims Committee, around 32 % for occupational and educational losses, 22 % for liquidated businesses and around 15 % for stocks. The rest included categories like bank accounts, insurance policies, real estate, movable assets, mortgages, bonds and other losses and damages.
Until March 2019, approximately 214 million US dollars were paid under this framework, 161 million US dollars as advance payments and 53 million US dollars as closing payments. At the end, around 24,000 claimants will receive a payment by the General Settlement Fund.
b) In rem Restitution and Arbitration Panel (deadline expired)
In addition to the above-mentioned Claims Committee, an Arbitration Panel for In Rem Restitution was established with the General Settlement Fund.
The application deadlines for in rem restitution of publicly-owned property (real estate and buildings owned by the Federation or Austrian provinces (except Tyrol) on 17 January 2001) have already expired.
An independent three-member Arbitration Panel examined and eventually decided about each application. The United States and Austria appointed one member each. Those two members subsequently elected a chairperson. The Arbitration Panel was able to reopen a proceeding in case of submission of evidence that was previously unknown and warranted the assumption that such evidence would have resulted in a different outcome to the previous proceedings.
In total, 2,307 applications processing for in rem restitution of state property were examined. Based on the decisions made by the Arbitration Panel, public owners have restituted real estate assets in the amount of 48 million euros to 140 applicants, with 9 million euros being paid as a comparable asset.
Both monetary compensation and in rem restitution could only be effected after all class actions against Austria and/or Austrian companies still pending in the United States had been dismissed. Legal peace was achieved in 2005.
On 4 April 2017 the main committee of the Austrian parliament took note of the final report of the Claims Committee of the General Settlement Fund, which resulted in the dissolution of the Claims Committee. The Arbitration Panel submitted its preliminary final report on 31 August 2018. The final report will be submitted to the main committee of the Austrian parliament in August 2020. After its acknowledgment the Arbitration Panel will also be dissolved.
III. Fund for Reconciliation, Peace and Cooperation (“Reconciliation Fund”) (deadline expired)
The Fund was established on 20 December 2000 with contributions by the federal government, the provincial governments as well as Austrian companies. It provided payments totalling around 350 million euros to approximately 132,000 former victims of slave labor who were deported to the territory of present day Austria during the National Socialist era. The deadline for applications ended on 31 December 2003.
With the remaining financial means, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria was established in order to research the injustice suffered during the Nazi regime, to keep alive the memory of the victims as well as to promote tolerance, democratic values and human rights.
IV. Restitution of Works of Art
Immediately after the end of World War II, seven Restitution Acts that provided for the return of stolen property were passed by the Austrian parliament. In 1969 and again in 1985 two additional Art Restitutions Acts for artworks were passed by the legislature.
In 1998 the so-called “Art Restitution Act” was adopted, setting up a “Commission for Provenance Research” in order to systematically investigate all works of art acquired between 1938 and 1945, which are owned by the Austrian Federal Museums and Collections. An amendment of this Act in 2009 expanded its scope to cover all moveable cultural property owned by the Federation that was confiscated in the entire territory of the German Reich between 1933 and 1945.
Works of art that were not rightfully acquired will be returned to their previous owners or their heirs (investigations of the heirs are done proactively and in cooperation with the Jewish Community of Vienna). Since 2006, the National Fund – in cooperation with the Federal Museums – is administering an Art Database (www.kunstdatenbank.at), which is intended to help determining the provenance and rightful ownership of non-restituted or doubtful objects.