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NAZIS

Rothschild heir sues Vienna for ‘perpetuating Nazi decrees’

A member of the Rothschild family is suing the city of Vienna, accusing it of "perpetuating" Nazi laws by plundering the Jewish banking family's foundation, media reports said on Saturday.

Rothschild heir sues Vienna for 'perpetuating Nazi decrees'
Palais Albert Rothschild, one of five Rothschild Palaces in Vienna built at the end of the 19th century. Photo: Hippolyte Destailleur/Wikimedia Commons
The Financial Times reported that the dispute — over the long-forgotten charitable trust set up to provide psychiatric help — is one of the largest-ever restitution claims by Nazi regime victims' descendants.
   
Austria's Kurier daily and Profil magazine carried similar reports on the case, for which a Vienna district court hearing has been set on February 20.
   
Vienna “has acted as if the Nazi confiscation decrees were still in place”, according to the reported court filings by the lawyer of Geoffrey Hoguet, a descendant of the younger brother of Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild.
   
Rothschild — a member of the Austria branch of the wealthy family originally from Frankfurt — left the equivalent of about 100 million euros ($110 million) when he died in 1905 to provide psychiatric help for the needy.
   
The foundation set up in his name and initially managed by a 12-member committee led by the Rothschild family ended up running two sanatoriums — the first, opened in 1912, still operating today as a neurological centre.
   
The Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, expelled the Rothschilds in that year and disbanded the foundation in 1939.
   
After World War II, in 1956, it was re-established and managed by the city of Vienna, no longer under a 12-member committee.
 
Sale 'grossly undervalued'
 
Hoguet — a prominent investor from New York and financial supporter of Democratic Party presidential nominee Pete Buttigieg — now says an independent management committee should be put in place again.
   
He has accused the city of appropriating the foundation in breach of its founder's will, according to the reports.
   
The 69-year-old also wants to nullify the sale of one of the sanatoriums in the early 2000s — a late-baroque palace that was reportedly one of the world's earliest centres of mental health treatment.
   
He alleges it was sold at a “grossly undervalued” price to the city, according to the Financial Times.
   
Hoguet's court case also aims to nullify a 2017 clause that determines that if the foundation were dissolved its wealth would go to the city of Vienna. A lawyer for the city of Vienna said in a statement that agreements
regarding the foundation were made decades ago with “the greatest respect and absolutely in line with the foundation's purpose”.
   
It is not the first case highlighting Austria's dealing with its past.
   
In 2016, Vienna's famous Leopold Museum settled a long-running dispute over five Nazi-plundered drawings by Austrian painter Egon Schiele with the descendants of the works' Jewish former owner.
   
Since Austria passed a law in 1998 covering the restitution of vast numbers of artworks stolen by the Nazis, thousands have been returned — including major works worth millions of euros.

ENERGY

Energy costs: Vienna to support 200,000 households with up to €500

The City of Vienna is expanding its group of homes that can receive an energy cost voucher by the end of the year. Here's what you need to know.

Energy costs: Vienna to support 200,000 households with up to €500

Austria’s capital Vienna is expanding a program to subsidise part of the energy bills of around 200,000 eligible households, the City said in a press release.

“Energy costs are difficult for many Viennese to cope with in the current situation. We are helping those who need the support most urgently – and we are doing so in a targeted manner by settling outstanding bills with energy providers”, City Councillor for Social Affairs Peter Hacker said.

The City has already agreed with state-run energy company Wien Energie that, from December 2022 to February 2023, no electricity, gas or heat shutdowns will happen – regardless of any payment issues.

READ ALSO: From lighting to ice skating: How Vienna plans to save energy

Now, a group of more vulnerable people can apply for Energy Support Plus to get up to €500 in aid with their energy bills.

The following people can apply online at wien.gv.at for Energy Support Plus: Recipients of Vienna minimum income (Bezieher*innen von Wiener Mindestsicherung), housing assistance (Wohnbeihilfe), AIVG benefits (AIVGLeistungen), a compensatory or supplementary allowance (einer Ausgleichs- oder Ergänzungszulage), GIS-exempt persons and low-income earners (GIS-Befreite und Geringverdienende) who are covered by the cost cap of the Renewable Expansion Act, those entitled to sickness benefit (Krankengeld), rehabilitation benefit (Rehabilitationsgeld), reintegration benefit (Wiedereingliederungsgeld) or transitional allowance (Übergangsgeld).

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to keep energy bills down in Austria

Applications can be submitted until December 31st, 2022. The maximum subsidy amount is €500 per household.

The service telephone of the Department for Social Affairs, Social and Health Law, is available at 01/4000-8040 for information and assistance with applications. Wien Energie’s customer service also offers personal assistance with the application process at Spittelau.

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