Dark truth about Aus­tria

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOBY AX­EL­ROD

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”

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