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Austria closes compensation fund Nazi victims

Austria on Tuesday dissolved a fund set up in 2001 to compensate victims of Nazism, saying it had "fully completed its tasks", according to a statement sent to AFP.

Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen (R) delivers a speech as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (C) looks on during a ceremony to unveil a monument to the victims of World War II. Sergei GAPON / AFP
Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen (R) delivers a speech as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (C) looks on during a ceremony to unveil a monument to the victims of World War II. Sergei GAPON / AFP

“The dissolution of the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism… marks the completion of one of Austria’s largest-scale projects to provide restitution and compensation for Nazi-seized assets,” it said.

More than 30,000 cases filed by people persecuted by the Nazis or their descendants have been heard.

“The General Settlement Fund made (payments) of $215 million (200 million euros) in total. Around 25,000 beneficiaries received a payment from the General Settlement Fund,” the statement said.

READ ALSO: How descendants of victims of Nazism can apply for Austrian citizenship

The fund was set up to study requests for the return of property acquired legally after the war by local authorities or the Austrian state following the Nazis’ plundering from Jewish people during the country’s annexation to the Third Reich.

More than 2,300 applications were submitted and 140 met the criteria, the fund said in a statement.

Austria, which became a prosperous country in the years following World War II, took the historic decision to set up a fund to compensate victims of Nazism after decades of denial.

It has been the subject of legal action by survivors and their descendants in the United States, who have accused individuals and communities of taking advantage of the plundering to get rich with impunity.

After the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) led by Joerg Haider, founded by former SS officers, returned to power in 2000, pressure from Washington and its European Union partners to recognise the historic reality and accept the financial consequences intensified.

READ MORE: Russia and Belarus asked not to attend Nazi camp ceremony in Austria

In 2001, an agreement was reached between the United States and Austria in Washington, marking a historic turning point for Adolf Hitler’s country of birth. 

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POLITICS

Austria’s Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

The Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was formally elected leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) on Saturday.

Austria's Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

The ÖVP has governed at the federal level in an alliance with the Greens since early 2020 and, at a special federal party conference on Saturday, 100 percent of the delegates voted for the Austrian Chancellor (who has been in office for just over five months now) to be their leader.

READ ALSO: PROFILE: Who is Karl Nehammer, Austria’s new chancellor?

Nehammer’s predecessor Sebastian Kurz had resigned as Chancellor and ÖVP chairman in October 2021 following investigations into suspected corruption. Since then, Nehammer had held the party chairmanship on an interim basis. 

Sebastian Kurz has since completely retired from politics and now works for American investor and billionaire Peter Thiel, who has close ties to former US President Donald Trump.

Prior to the vote, Nehammer gave a speech promoting his election as party chairman: “We are the first servants of this country, and with your help, I will also become the federal party chairman of the People’s Party,” he said.

The heads of the ÖVP traditionally tend to get high results in their first election as chairman. Kurz was elected party leader in 2017 with 98.7 percent of the vote. However, there has never been a 100 percent result in a first-time election until now.

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