The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS -

I would like to make the fol­low­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tions to Toby Ax­el­rod’s ar­ti­cle Writer jailed for try­ing to re­claim Nazi-stolen loot, ( JC, Oct 9) con­cern­ing the Aus­trian court case of Mr Stephan Templ, and the piece by Si­mone Di­nah Hart­mann, The hate that forced my grand­fa­ther to flee Vi­enna is alive and well in Aus­tria to­day.

Stephan Templ was con­victed by the Vi­enna Crim­i­nal Court for se­ri­ous fraud, com­mit­ted dur­ing resti­tu­tion pro­ceed­ings.

This case has noth­ing to do with an­ti­semitism or re­tal­i­a­tion for hav­ing writ­ten a book on resti­tu­tion is­sues. It is an or­di­nary crim­i­nal case of se­ri­ous fraud de­cided by the in­de­pen­dent Aus­trian ju­di­ciary. Noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

Ac­cord­ing to the courts, Mr Templ was not con­victed for sim­ply omit­ting the name of an es­tranged rel­a­tive in a resti­tu­tion ap­pli­ca­tion. On the con­trary, he not only “con­ve­niently for­got” to men­tion his own aunt (who lives, just like his mother, in Vi­enna) but he in­ten­tion­ally made a se­ries of false al­le­ga­tions to the resti­tu­tion panel, as was proven by doc­u­ments and wit­nesses in the crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings, con­ceal­ing the ex­is­tence of his aunt in or­der to in­crease his mother’s share of prop­erty to be resti­tuted.

As a re­sult of Mr Templ’s fraud, his mother was awarded a share worth around € 1.1 mil­lion in the resti­tuted prop­erty ( ie dou­ble the share that she would have re­ceived with­out the fraud).

His aunt, a Holo­caust sur­vivor her­self who was un­aware of her rights, missed the ap­pli­ca­tion dead­line and thus re­ceived noth­ing. Mr Templ was in­dicted by the public pros­e­cu­tor af­ter his aunt had re­ported the fraud­u­lent con­duct of her nephew to the author­i­ties.

Mr Templ was con­se­quently con­victed and sen­tenced to one year of prison and a pro­ba­tion pe­riod of two years. He be­gan this prison term on 5th Oc­to­ber.

As for Na­tional So­cial­ist ac­tiv­i­ties, I would like to stress that, in 1947, Aus­tria in­tro­duced a Con­sti­tu­tional Law pro­vid­ing for sanc­tions for the deny­ing, the triv­i­al­i­sa­tion, the ap­proval or the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of Na­tional So­cial­ist ac­tiv­i­ties and Na­tional So­cial­ist crimes against hu­man­ity, with im­pris­on­ment up to 20 years.

It goes with­out say­ing that the Re­pub­lic of Aus­tria un­equiv­o­cally re­jects all forms of racism, an­ti­semitism, in­tol­er­ance and other hu­man-rights in­fringe­ments.

Ridi­cul­ing the com­mem­o­ra­tions of the Holo­caust which are car­ried out in Aus­tria an­nu­ally as an “ob­ses­sion in the suc­ces­sor states of the Na­tional So­cial­ist em­pire” is some­thing that a jour­nal­ist is free to do. We, how­ever, do take these com­mem­o­ra­tions se­ri­ously and will con­tinue to do so. Martin Eichtinger, Am­bas­sador Aus­trian Em­bassy, 18 Bel­grave Mews, SW1

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