Washington, 14. May 2010 Press release

Ceremony at the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Austrian National Fund

Washington, 14 May 2010 – On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for victims of National Socialism, Austria's Ambassador in Washington, Christian Prosl invited to a commemorative event in the Embassy on Thursday, 13 May. Apart from representatives of victim organisations and the State Department, the numerous guests also included several Holocaust survivors from Austria.

Hannah Lessing, Secretary General of the National Fund, presented a review of the 15 years of the fund’s activity, as well as current projects and initiatives by the National Fund: the support of older and needy Holocaust survivors is a priority concern for the Fund, as well as the utilization of art objects that were stolen from their owners during the Nazi era and can no longer be returned to their legal successors, because this utilization would directly benefit the victims of the Nazi regime. The Fund also promotes the maintenance of memorials and contemporary research projects, as well as school projects in the area of Holocaust education.

The US State Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Ambassador Christian Kennedy, praised the successful cooperation with Austria in the implementation of the 2001 Washington Agreement on open restitution issues, the important contribution to the work of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, in particular during the Austrian Presidency in 2008/2009, and the Austrian contribution to the preparation of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference that took place in June 2009 in Prague.

Stuart Eizenstat, who led the negotiations with the Austrian Federal Government on the very comprehensive Washington Agreement on open Restitution and Asset Issues in 2000/2001 as a US Government Envoy for Holocaust Issues, emphasized that since the establishment of the National Fund, Austria was consistent in facing up to the darkest chapter of its history. He said that, by launching a series of new initiatives, Austria assumes the role of a pioneer among European states: The Austrian art restitution legislation is unique and exemplary worldwide, as are the Austrian social benefits, and in particular the care allowance granted to many surviving victims of National Socialism. Especially due to the dire financial situation of many Holocaust survivors, programs such as care allowance and pension benefits are of central importance today.

Since its establishment, the National Fund has contributed to building bridges to Austrian emigrates who found a new homeland in the United States following the atrocities of Nazi persecution. Apart from the payments from the National Fund and the General Settlement Fund, applicants also receive ongoing information on Austrian restitution and compensation programmes, as well as on Austrian social, care allowance, and pension benefits granted to survivors in the USA. Several applicants who attended the ceremony at the Embassy expressed their recognition for the work of the National Fund and praised the many Austrian support programmes. Most important, however, was the recognition of the suffering of the victims, and the feeling that they have never been forgotten.

Contact:
Austrian Embassy in Washington
3524 International Court N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008
Tel. (+1/202) 895 67 00
washington-ob(at)bmeia.gv.at