In a departure from its previous position, the Austrian government said preliminary talks dealing with stolen property might start shortly on a “technical level,” according to its U.S. ambassador.
“I think we can start talking about it,” Peter Moser said in a phone interview from the Austrian Embassy in Washington. “We’re not in denial [regarding these claims].”
Until now Austria has insisted on resolving slave and forced labor cases before dealing with property claims.
In one of his first acts after being sworn in as chancellor of the controversial new government in Austria, Wolfgang Schuessel faxed a letter to the World Jewish Congress in New York promising to move ahead immediately to resolve all outstanding Holocaust-era claims, The Jewish Week has learned.
Alice Fischer, her two younger brothers and her parents lived the good life in the 1930s. A grand piano sat in the living room of their mansion in Munkatch, Czechoslovakia, a valuable art collection adorned the walls, the table was set with sterling silver, and the family wore gold jewelry while servants attended to their every need.
Jewish groups and survivors are taking off the gloves as they vie for a share of the Swiss banks’ $1.25 billion Holocaust-era settlement.
Even the friction between Reform and Orthodox Judaism is coming to the surface, as Reform Jews argue that their institutions in Europe deserve a special share of the money because the Orthodox deny them funding in Germany and Israel.
Faced with lawsuits stemming from unpaid Holocaust-era claims and threatened sanctions from state insurance commissioners, Italy’s largest insurer has discontinued writing policies in the United States. The move came as Assicurazioni Generali has taken the lead in paying Holocaust-era claims, offering $500,000 in the last two weeks to 43 claimants.
The $1.25 billion figure that settled the claims of Holocaust survivors against Switzerland’s two largest banks was suggested by Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman during an often testy, four-hour dinner meeting on the second floor of a sweltering Brooklyn restaurant.
“It was like a mock trial,” said one of the 20 participants.
Despite signing an agreement Monday allowing an international commission to determine its liability in Holocaust-era life insurance policies, the major Italian insurance company Assicurazioni Generali insists it will pay no more than $100 million.
A company spokesman, Dan Leonard, told The Jewish Week that Generali was still committed to honoring a $100 million settlement it reached last month with lawyers for survivors and their heirs who hold unpaid policies.
Facing up to a dark moment in its history, the United States in a landmark decision this week agreed for the first time to pay restitution to a group of Holocaust survivors.
But for Manhattanite and Hungarian Jewish leader David Moskovits, the preliminary settlement of the so-called Gold Train suit should have come long ago.
Despite the sudden dismissal of Israel Singer from the World Jewish Congress, which he helped steer for 35 years, the leaders of a major Holocaust restitution group he presides over this week said they are standing by him.
In her first visit to the United States since becoming Austria’s vice-chancellor last year, Suzanne Riess-Passer had expected to meet with an official of the Anti-Defamation League and to receive plaudits for her government’s decision to put $210 million into an escrow account for 150,000 Nazi-era slave laborers.
Instead, she said in an interview here, she was snubbed by the ADL when it inexplicably cancelled her meeting.