After last-minute negotiating, Austria, the United States and Jewish groups signed an agreement two weeks ago under which Austria agreed to pay $210 million, plus about $20 million in interest, to cover victims' property claims and unpaid insurance polices. The government also will pay an estimated $100 million in social welfare benefits to Austrian Jews.
The agreement will give lifetime pensions to all Austrian Jewish survivors, including about 10,000 living in the United States. In the joint statement issued by all the parties, Austria admitted its "moral responsibility" and said it is "facing up to the light and dark sides of its past and to the deeds of all Austrians, good and evil."
"No amount of money can undo the tremendous suffering and losses that have been inflicted on our Jewish citizens," said Austrian Ambassador Ernst Sucharipa at the signing ceremony.
Pieter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Austria's bright, young and energetic new consul general, recently arrived in L.A. after a four year posting in India. (He met and married documentary filmmaker Aradhana Seth there.) We asked him how the agreement might affect Jewish natives of Austria now living in L.A.
Journal: Who is eligible?
Launsky- Tieffenthal: Former Jewish residents of Austria can apply for financial compensation for rented apartments, small- and medium-sized businesses and other properties, except for art.
Journal: How do they apply?
Launsky-Tieffenthal: They should send a letter via e-mail to email@example.com or via fax to 011-4314080389.
Journal: What about for art works?
Launsky-Tieffenthal: That law has already been in place for three years.
Journal: How was this settlement received by the Austrian public?
Launsky-Tieffenthal: This was considered the next step in a three-prong settlement that includes the national fund, restitution and reconciliation for slave laborers. It has gone down well.