Israeli Holocaust Survivors Sue Austria For Billions


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A group of Austrian-born Israeli Holocaust survivors is working to reopen the symbolic compensation agreement signed by Austria a decade ago and demanding payment “for all the property we were robbed of”.

Jewish property has been evaluated in the past by Austrian historians at some €15 billion euros ($21 billion), without interest.

Since the Austrian and US governments signed the symbolic agreement in 2001, Holocaust survivors have filed claims worth some €1.5 billion euros ($2 billion), without interest. But the agreement states that Austria will pay the survivors and their offspring a total of $210 million, so in most cases survivors received only 10% of the sum demanded in the claim.

When the agreement was signed, Austria had a conservative-national government which also included Jörg Haider’s far-Right Freedom Party. The move was aimed at removing the country from the international isolation it was subject to at the time.

The Austrian leadership took advantage of the fact that Vienna’s Jewish community was facing bankruptcy at the time in order to get its approval for the symbolic compensation arrangement (Israel was not part of the agreement). Now, 10 years later, the Austrian-born survivors are preparing to demand the rest of the money they deserve.

“I have no idea how the Austrians calculated the sum agreed on at the time,” says Attorney Martha Raviv, a member of the group demanding to reopen the agreement.

Raviv was born in Vienna in 1938 to a family involved in the Austrian food industry. Her father was murdered in gas chambers near Buchenwald. Her sister was sent to Israel immediately after Austria was annexed by Germany.

Martha and her mother were sent to several prisons and concentration camps before being transferred to Israel in 1943, as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Britain and Germany.

As part of the compensation agreement, Martha and her sister received only $10,000 for all of the family businesses registered under their father’s name.