Dark truth about Austria
OUTRAGE IS mounting following the jailing of an Austrian Jewish writer who tried to claim compensation from the Austrian state over the theft of his ancestors’ home by the Nazis in 1938.
Stephan Templ, who in 2001 published a critical book about restitution in Austria, was incarcerated this week and is to remain in jail for one year, convicted of having defrauded the state.
Mr Templ, 54, was accused of deliberately failing to inform the state about his aunt — a potential claimant — when he initiated his restitution case. A state prosecutor accused Mr Templ of defrauding Austria on the grounds that had his aunt chosen not to claim her share of the restitution money, it could have gone to the state.
In a statement published on their website, Mr Templ’s London-based lawyers, Amsterdam & Partners, said: “[The court claimed that] by not naming his aunt in the application for restitution — something there was no
Stephan Templ obligation to do and the results of which he could not have foreseen — Templ had aimed to deceive the restitution panel. This argument runs contrary to both the restitution and cr i m i -
na l laws of Austria, as well as universal legal principles.”
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, called the jailing “absolutely outrageous”. He was one of 75 historians from around the world who signed a letter protesting against the sentence. The letter was sent to Hans Peter Manz, Austrian ambassador to the US, on September 21. As yet there has been no response.
Ahead of his imprisonment, Mr Templ told Haaretz his case was “Kafkaesque” and “completely absurd”.
Mr Templ’s crime was “his omission of the name of an estranged relative from his application for the return of his family’s seized property”, the 75 historians wrote. “This matter could have been resolved by the Templ family in civil court.”
The ADL has become involved, with its new national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, appealing to Austrian President Heinz Fischer for a pardon.
According to the BBC, Austrian journalist Karl Pfeifer has said he believed Mr Templ was prosecuted and jailed because “he touched a nerve with his book, which reminded the Austrians of how they stole Jewish property”.
The case dates to 2005, when, on behalf of his Shoah-survivor mother, Mr Templ applied for the restitution of a former sanatorium in Vienna that the Nazis had confiscated from their ancestor, Lothar Fürth.
Mr Templ’s mother, who received
“Templ was jailed because he reminded Austrians how they stole Jewish property”