STEPHAN TEMPL’S SERIOUS FRAUD CONVICTION WAS PROPER, NOT ANTISEMITIC
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