You are on page 1of 4

+

M ENU

Austriasprisonerofconscience?Holocausthistory
whistleblowerheadsforjail
PostedonSeptember22,2015byRafaelMedoff/JNS.organdfiledunderAnalysis,Features,World,
Holocaust.

Clickphototodow nload.Caption:Jew sbeingforcedtoscrubthestreetsinViennain1938.Credit:Courtesyof


TheDavidS.WymanInstituteforHolocaustStudies.

ReadMore:

HolocausttoHebrew:cantors

ByRafaelMedoff/JNS.org

albumbridgesgenerations,

AnAustrianJewishhistorianandjournalistnamedStephan

genres,families

Templisscheduledtosoonbeginservingayearin

ArabKnessetmemberblasted

governmentprison.Officially,heisaccusedof

forfuelingtensionsonTemple

misrepresentinginformationinhisfamilysapplicationfor

Mount

restitutionasvictimsofNazism.Buttherearegroundsto
fearthatheisbeingpunishedforexposingAustriasfailure

toreturnseizedpropertytoitsJewishowners.
TemplsstoryisentangledinthetroublinghistoryofAustriasresistancetopayingrestitutionand
returningproperty.SincethedayWorldWarIIended,Austrianshaveclaimedthattheywerenot
partnersoftheNazisbutwereactuallythefirstvictimsofNazism.
Thisattitudewasmostmemorablyreflectedinadisputethateruptedduringthefilmingofthemovie
TheSoundofMusicinSalzburgin1964.PartofthestorytakesplaceaftertheNazishadtaken
overAustria,sothefilmmakerswantedtodisplayNaziflagsonthehomesinthosescenes.The
Salzburgauthoritiesinitiallyrefusedtopermittheflagstobefilmed,lestitappearthatthetownhad
willinglysidedwiththeNazis.Theyrelentedonlyaftertheproducersthreatenedtouseactual
newsreelfootagethatshowedthecheeringcrowdswhichgreetedHitlerandhisarmywhenthey
marchedintoAustriain1938.
Bymaintainingthewewerevictimstoofiction,theAustrianscreatedakindofloopholetoavoid
payingrestitution.BecauseifAustriawasavictim,itwashelplesstopreventtheNazisfrom
persecutingtheJews,andthereforecouldnotbeheldlegallyorfinanciallyresponsibleformaking
amendsnow.
AttemptsbyJewishorganizationstopersuadepostwarAustriangovernmentstoconsiderpaying
restitutionranintoastonewallofopposition.Atone1953meeting,afterAustrianChancellorJulius
RaabcomplainedaboutAustriasallegedvictimization,WorldJewishCongresschairmanNahum
Goldmannsarcasticallyremarked,Yes,HerrChancellor,thatiswhyIhavecometoaskyouhow
muchmoneytheJewsowetheAustrians.
In1962,theAustriangovernmentfinallyagreedtoonetokenpaymentofjust$22milliontosome
HolocaustsurvivorsbutitalsoprovidedcompensationtosomeformerNaziofficials.
Ittookmorethanthirtyyearsofinternationalpressureandproteststofinallybringaboutthe
establishmentoftheAustrianNationalFund,whichsince1995hasprovidedaverymodestonetime
paymentof$5,700eachtoapproximately28,500AustrianbornHolocaustsurvivorsaroundthe
world.Beginningin2001,another$7,000eachwaspaidtoabout20,000survivorsforthelossof
property.Needlesstosay,thesesumswereinmanycasesbutasmallfractionofthevalueofthe
propertythatwasconfiscated.

AllofwhichbringsustoStephanTempl,whotogetherwithhiscolleagueTinaWalzerin2001
authoredabookcalledUnserWein,orOurVienna.Thetitlemimickedthecitysofficial
newsletterfortourists.Thebookssubtitle:Aryanization,AustrianStyle.
InadevastatingchapteronTheTopographyofRobbery,TemplandWalzerlistedhundredsof
ViennabusinessesthatwerestolenfromJews,withnorestitutionpaid.Thelistincludedmanyofthe
citysmostfamoushotels,movietheaters,restaurants,pharmacies,andestates.Thebooknamed
bothformerandcurrentowners,therebyexposinganumberofprominentAustrianswhohavebeen
livingonJewishpropertythatwaseitherstolenoutrightorpurchasedatgunpointforapittance.
TheAustriangovernmentandpublicwereoutragedbythebook.Templwaswidelyaccusedoftrying
toundermineAustria.Thetruth,ofcourse,wasthathehadperformedagreatservicebyexposing
thosewhowereprofitingfromtheft.ButsoonTemplwouldhimselfwouldbecomeavictim.
In2005,Templfiledaclaimforrestitutionconcerningahospitaltowhichhiselderlymotherwasthe
rightfulheir.Becauseofalongrunningfeudbetweenhismotherandhersister,Templdidnotlistthe
sister'snameinhisapplication.Thematternodoubtcouldhavebeenresolvedbythefamily
membersincivilcourt.Instead,theAustriangovernmentchosetoprosecuteTemplforcriminal
fraud.Convictedandsentencedtoaoneyearjailterm,Templsappealshavebeenexhaustedand
hisprisontermisscheduledtocommenceshortly.

RafaelMedoff

SomeofTemplssupporterssayheisbeingvictimizedbygovernmentofficialswhowanttopunish
himforwhathewrote.Othersbelievehehassimplybeencaughtupinthecomplexandheartless
bureaucracythatgovernstheAustrianrestitutionsystem.Eitherway,abravewhistleblowerisabout
tospendthenextyearofhislifebehindbars.

Dr.RafaelMedoffisfoundingdirectorofTheDavidS.WymanInstituteforHolocaustStudiesand
authorof15book saboutJewishhistoryandtheHolocaust.
DownloadthisstoryinMicrosoftWordformathere.

4Likes

Newer/Older

Preview

PostComment

JewishandIsraelnews.2015,JNS.org.Allrightsreserved.
PrivacyPolicyTerm sofUseAdm inistrators,editorsandJNS.orgsubscribers,pleaseloginhere.