On February 24, 2003 the Austrian Historical Commission presented its comprehensive, 14,000-page report on the systematic confiscation of property of Jews and other victims during NS times. The report also contains information on restitution and compensation by the Republic of Austria after 1945. Consisting of 53 individual reports written by 160 international researchers over a period of four-and-a-half years, the results are summarized in a 453-page final report. Total costs of the study amount to € 6.5 million. The final report in German as well as press releases in English can be found on the internet at www.historikerkommission.gv.at A complete English version is being planned for the near future, and the printed German version will soon be made available by Oldenbourg Publishers. The purpose of the report is to help as many people as possible to understand difficult and sensitive problems of Austria’s recent history. The Historical Commission also hopes to help prepare the ground for legal steps.
Under investigation were the following issues: “Aryanization”, National Minorities; Victims of Political Persecution; The Roman Catholic Church; the “Holding Commissioner”; Forced Labor; Genesis of Restitution and Compensation Legislation, and Analysis of Its Practical Implementation. Investigators were historians, lawyers, art historians, economists and experts in journalism and communications from a wide spectrum of countries, including Germany, Switzerland, the U.S., the Czech Republic and others.
The Commission criticized Austria’s postwar governments for their reluctance to indemnify Nazi victims, saying they acted “often halfheartedly and hesistantly.” At the same time, it rejected assertions that Austria had done nothing “to return property values and to lessen suffering”, claiming that its attempts at compensation and restitution were often hampered by ambiguous laws and subject to bureaucratic obstacles.” Quantifying the injustice committed during the Nazi era for purposes of a fair restitution is impossible, admits the Commission, and the report can never serve as a final stroke in Austria’s involvement with her NS past. Nonetheless, according to Gideon Taylor, executive vice-president of the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, “there seems now to be a new outlook in Austria and we welcome the change.”
Inquiries can be addressed to:
Dr. Reinhard Binder-Krieglstein, Mag. Eva Blimlinger
Sekretariat der Historikerkommission
Nottendorfer Gasse 2
Tel. +43 1 79540-180, 181
Fax: +43 1 79540-186