Jewish author released after controversial fraud sentence
Author Stephan Templ is back in Prague after he was released from jail in Austria on Friday, following a controversial eight-month jail sentence for fraud.
The Austrian writer, who has Jewish roots, was released early from custody on Friday after serving two thirds of his one-year sentence for defrauding the Austrian Government in regards to a restitution application.
The decision to jail Templ, a critic of Austria's role in the confiscation of Jewish-owned art and property in WW2, was seen as controversial and was widely covered in international media.
The Austrian Supreme Court sentenced Templ to three years in jail back in 2014, which was later appealed to one year. The charge was committing fraud against the Austrian government because he failed to declare his aunt’s name while filling out an application for restitution for his mother.
The restitution application was for €1.1 million in regards to Fürth Sanatorium, which had been taken by the Nazis during World War II. The Nazis had seized the property after relatives of Templ committed suicide because they could no longer stand the humiliation they had suffered under the Nazis.
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies organised a petition in September 2015 calling on Austria to grant clemency to Stephan Templ.
The petition letter signed by 75 Holocaust historians, links Templ’s indictment to his 2001 book entitled ‘Our Vienna’, in which he catalogued in detail the hundreds of properties in Vienna, which were never returned to Jewish families after being taken by the Nazis during the Second World War.
“The Austrian government’s decision to intervene by prosecuting and jailing Mr. Templ will be seen as an extreme overreaction to Mr. Templ’s important book, Our Vienna: Aryanization Austrian-Style, which criticized Austria’s policy concerning the restitution of Jewish property,” they wrote in their letter to the Austrian Ambassador.
The book names notable Viennese places such as its famous Ferris wheel, luxury hotels and tailors. In the book he criticised Austria’s failures to offer proper restitution to the victims’ families.
The validity of the Austrian Court’s decision was called further into question when evidence was revealed, during his time in jail, that Templ had made the Austrian government aware of his aunt’s existence on at least six different occasions.
Templ has returned to Prague and vows to fight for his conviction to be annulled, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“I don’t want to live in a place that stole my freedom for no legitimate reason, “ he told the Times of Israel.
Written by: Helena Uhl