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HolocausthistorianscondemnAustriajailingofJewishwriter
ByJasmineColeman
BBCNews
1hourago Europe

TinaWalzer

HolocausthistorianshavehitoutattheAustriangovernmentafteraJewishwriter,who
cataloguedthestate'sfailuretoreturnpropertiesseizedbytheNazis,wasjailedin
Vienna.
StephanTempl,54,hasbegunaoneyearsentencefordefraudingthestate.
Hewasconvictedin2013afteromittingthenameofanestrangedauntinanapplicationon
behalfofhismotherforthereturnofpropertyseizedin1938.
Butlegalexpertssaiditwasnothisresponsibilitytofindotherheirs.
ThelengthycasehasdrawnwidespreadcondemnationamidallegationsAustriahasnotdone
enoughtoreturnpropertylootedundertheThirdReich.
HistorianEfraimZuroff,renownedforhiseffortsatbringingNaziwarcriminalstocourt,toldthe
BBConTuesdaythejailingofTemplwas"absolutelyoutrageous".
Meanwhile,Templ'slawyer,RobertAmsterdam,describeditas"outrightinjustice".

Viennaprosecutorshavenotcommentedonthecase.

'DamagedAustria'
Templ,aleadingcriticofAustria'srestitutionrecord,causedcontroversyinAustriain2011witha
bookcalledOurVienna:AryanizationAustrianStyle.
Thebook,cowrittenwithhistorianTinaWalzer,documentedpropertiesintheAustriancapital
includingapartmentbuildings,cinemasandevenaferriswheelthatwereconfiscatedfromtheir
Jewishowners.

Getty Images

OneofthebuildingswasasanatoriumownedbyTempl'srelatives,LotharFuerthandhiswife.
WhenAustriawasannexedtoNaziGermanyinMarch1938,LotharFuerthwasforcedtoclean
thepavementinfrontofthehospitalusingtoothbrushesaspartofthemasspersecutionof
Vienna'sJews.Thecouplelatermadetheirwaybackintothebuildingandtooktheirownlives.

In2006,Templmadeaclaimonbehalfofhismothertoashareoftheproperty'svaluebut
failedtospecifythenameofanaunt,whoalsohadinheritancerights.
TempltoldtheGuardian:"Owingtothefactthatthestatestolethepropertyfrommyfamily,the
obligationshouldbeonthemtotrackdowntherelatives.
"MyonlyobligationasfarasIwasconcernedwastoassurethosedecidingontherestitutionthat
mymother'sclaimwasbonafide."
Vienna'sRegionalCriminalCourtoriginallysentencedhimtothreeyearsinprisonin2013after
thegovernmentarguedtheauntcouldhavegivenhershareovertothestate.Thesentencewas
laterreducedtooneyear.
InSeptemberAustrianPresidentHeinzFischerrejectedarequestforclemency,sayingthe
punishmentwasfairbecausethecourthadruledthatTemplhad"damagedAustria"byhis
actions.

'Touchedanerve'
Criticshavecalledthedecisiontojailthewriteran"overreaction"andhavesuggesteditmaybe
linkedtohiscriticismofthegovernment'srestitutionrecord.
"Alotofpeoplewantedrevenge,"saidMrAmsterdam,aleadinghumanrightslawyerwho
defendedRussianoligarchMikhailKhodorkovsky.
"AlotofpeopleareangryatStephanforthebook."

TinaWalzer

KarlPfeifer,aveteranAustrianjournalistandaHolocaustsurvivor,hasbeenquotedassaying:
"TheonlyreasonTemplwasprosecutedisthathetouchedanervewithhisbook,which
remindedtheAustriansofhowtheystoleJewishproperty."
SpeakingtotheBBCafterhisclientwenttojailonMonday,Templ'slawyerdescribedhisshock
thatthejailsentencewasbeingserved.
"ItwasadifficultdayformenotonlyasalawyerbutasawitnessandaJew,"MrAmsterdam.

Getty Images

MeanwhileEfraimZuroff,oneof75Holocausthistorianswhosignedaletterurgingthe
governmenttocancelthesentence,criticisedAustria'shandlingofcasesrelatingtotheThird

ReichincludingtheprosecutionofNaziwarcriminals.
"ThisacountrythathasareallyverytwistedwayofdealingwithHolocaustrelatedissues,"he
said.

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