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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Austrian parliament adopts schedule for closure of settlement fund for Nazi victims

Austria's parliament has unanimously resolved the deadlines for the deposit of monetary compensation for victims of National Socialism which has been awarded but could not yet be disbursed. As a result, by the end of 2018, the work of the General Settlement Fund shall be completed and the remaining funds transferred to the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for programs benefitting Nazi victims. By 25 June 2012, the Claims Committee of the General Settlement Fund had already decided on all 20,702 applications for compensation of assets received before the expiry of the deadline.
Pursuant to the newly amended General Settlement Fund Law, awards made by the Claims Committee can be claimed by the entitled beneficiaries within a period of five years after the delivery of the decision. All monies which remain in the General Settlement Fund after the expiration of this five-year period shall be transferred to the National Fund. The Claims Committee shall submit a Closing Report by 1 September 2015 and then be disbanded.
The General Settlement Fund, established in 2001 on the basis of the Washington Agreement and endowed with US$ 210 million, has recognized around 103,000 individual claims for compensation of asset losses which were covered only in part or not at all by previous compensation measures. The largest single amount of compensation awarded was US$ 1.08 million. Disregarding the applications for which no compensation was awarded, the average compensation payment was around US$ 12,000.
The Claims Committee decided on approximately 160,000 individual claims in different categories of losses. Heirs are still being sought for 1,049 deceased applicants. As the applicants were/are resident in over 70 different countries, Austrian embassies abroad and social networks such as Facebook are being employed in order to reach as many entitled heirs as possible before the deadlines expire. The Arbitration Panel has decided 1,206 of the 2,251 applications received so far. Of the remaining 750 applications, 95 fulfil the formal criteria. To date, 90 applications have been concluded with a recommendation of restitution. The estimated total value of the restituted real estate amounts to € 42 million.
All in all, on the basis of the compensation package set out in the Washington Agreement of 2001, around 24,000 persons from 78 countries have received payments from the National Fund and the General Settlement Fund. By 4 December 2012, the General Settlement Fund had disbursed US$ 210.5 and the National Fund around € 175 million for seized tenancy rights, household effects and personal valuables.
“Material compensation, regardless how much, cannot set anything right”, said the fund's Secretary General Hannah Lessing. “But it can and should be seen as a gesture of acknowledgement of the losses suffered and damages incurred, and as an admission of the Republic of Austria’s accountability and responsibility towards the victims. Beyond this, the stories of thousands of individuals and families as well as companies and associations – documented in 38,646 files stretching over 750 running meters – are a fundamental part of Austria’s history. They contribute towards the efforts to pass the flame of remembrance to future generations”.

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