Jewish Community Liquidated

Wiener Zeitung (06/05/03)

Part I

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of the IKG, the Community is being informed by way of the media of the possibilities of a loan financed by payments withdrawn from the Restitution Fund and to be later returned.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.