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Austria shutters compensation fund for Nazi era victims

Program set up in 2001 has ‘completed its tasks’ after dispensing $215 million to restitute plundered property acquired after WWII

Nazi youth celebrate Adolf Hitler's takeover of Austria, in Vienna, March 12, 1938. (AP Photo)
Nazi youth celebrate Adolf Hitler's takeover of Austria, in Vienna, March 12, 1938. (AP Photo)

Austria on Tuesday dissolved a fund set up in 2001 to compensate victims of Nazism, saying it had “fully completed its tasks,” according to a statement sent to AFP.

“The dissolution of the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism… marks the completion of one of Austria’s largest-scale projects to provide restitution and compensation for Nazi-seized assets,” it said.

More than 30,000 cases filed by people persecuted by the Nazis or their descendants have been heard.

“The General Settlement Fund made [payments] of $215 million in total. Around 25,000 beneficiaries received a payment from the General Settlement Fund,” the statement said.

The fund was set up to study requests for the return of property acquired legally after the war by local authorities or the Austrian state following the Nazis’ plundering from Jewish people during the country’s annexation to the Third Reich.

More than 2,300 applications were submitted and 140 met the criteria, the fund said in a statement.

Austria, which became a prosperous country in the years following World War II, took the historic decision to set up a fund to compensate victims of Nazism after decades of denial.

It has been the subject of legal action by survivors and their descendants in the United States, who have accused individuals and communities of taking advantage of the plundering to get rich with impunity.

After the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) led by Joerg Haider, founded by former SS officers, returned to power in 2000, pressure from Washington and its European Union partners to recognize the historic reality and accept the financial consequences intensified.

In 2001, an agreement was reached between the United States and Austria in Washington, marking a historic turning point for Adolf Hitler’s country of birth.

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