Holocaust Survivors from Austria to Receive Additional Benefits
The National Fund of the Republic of Austria welcomes the resolution issued by the Austrian Federal Government to provide additional support to all living victims of National Socialism from Austria. With this step, Austria is reaffirming its special responsibility towards people persecuted by the Nazi regime. An initiative of the Claims Conference provided the impetus for this Federal Government resolution, which was the product of joint negotiations between the Claims Conference and the Austrian Federal Government.
Extraordinary Disbursal of the Gesture Payment
This Austrian Federal Government resolution of 20 September 2023 provides for a one-time extraordinary gesture payment of approx. 5,000 euros to all living victims of National Socialism from Austria under National Fund criteria. According to estimates, there are around 3,500 to 4,000 people living in over 50 countries worldwide who will be eligible to receive the payment.
Victims of National Socialism who have already been recognised as such by the National Fund and who have previously received a gesture payment do not need to submit a renewed application. In order to receive the extraordinary gesture payment, entitled persons must submit a proof of life certificate, contact information and their bank details to the National Fund. The National Fund has recently sent out letters to eligible persons along with the forms that must be filled out to receive the payment. These can also be obtained online through the National Fund’s website: https://www.nationalfonds.org/gesture-payment.
The Foreign Ministry and the Austrian diplomatic missions abroad will provide local support, by certifying the proof of life certificates free of charge, for example. Payments to the oldest cohorts will be commenced by the National Fund before the end of this year and continued in 2024. With its many years of experience in providing benefits and compensation to victims of National Socialism, the National Fund will see to it that these funds are disbursed to the entitled recipients quickly and efficiently.
Additional Payments in Cases of Special Need
The resolution also makes provision for Holocaust survivors from Austria living in difficult financial circumstances to continue to apply for an annual payment from the National Fund. These payments for victims of National Socialism who qualify for extra support in accordance with National Fund criteria will also be available from 2024 onwards. The people concerned will be contacted personally by the National Fund.
Assistance Fund and Educational Projects
In addition, the government has undertaken to increase the resources of the Assistance Fund – an emergency assistance programme for Holocaust survivors set up at the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs – and to step up support for educational projects that raise awareness about the Holocaust.
Additional support for Holocaust survivors from Austria in Israel
Moreover, the Board of Trustees of the National Fund unanimously decided at its meeting on 12 October 2023 to send 150,000 euros in emergency aid to Holocaust survivors from Austria. This will go directly to the Central Committee of Jews from Austria in Israel, which currently looks after around 400 former persecutees from Austria and provides financial assistance to those living in difficult circumstances.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka, emphasised that the terrible atrocities carried out in the terrorist attack on Israel had evoked the horrors of the Shoah again for the victims of National Socialism. It was important to provide rapid assistance and to support Austrian Holocaust survivors on the ground.
In the current situation, efforts are mainly focused on providing psychosocial care and the support of social workers and also on maintaining contact. The Central Committee also provides survivors with day-to-day assistance, for example by delivering food and medical supplies.
The Board of Trustees of the National Fund includes the Presidents of the National Council, Members of the Federal Government and of all parties represented in Parliament, as well as representatives from Nazi victim organisations.
President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka: “As Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, it is of particular concern to me that the survivors from Austria are supported. Austria is acutely aware of its responsibility towards the victims of National Socialism. In the many years since it was founded, the National Fund has supported over 30,000 survivors from Austria in more than 50 countries worldwide. The work of the National Fund centres around the victims – people who were persecuted by the Nazi regime for a whole variety of reasons. This payment is a further important step to support them. It shows that we as a society are committed to never forgetting the darkest chapter of our past.”
Federal Minister for the EU and the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler: “Austria bears a special responsibility for the crimes of Nazi tyranny in which many Austrians took part. With this extraordinary payment, the Austrian Federal Government is making another important gesture to support surviving Austrian victims of Nazi tyranny in their day-to-day lives. We cannot undo the Nazis’ crimes, but we will do everything we can to help those who were victims of their dehumanising hatred – as a matter of decency, a matter of conscience and of our historical responsibility. The brutal terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel has once again brought the security issue of the Jews painfully into focus. To us it is clear: The security of Israel and the Jewish people is non-negotiable!”
Federal Minister of Finance Magnus Brunner: “Austria not only acknowledges its historical responsibility, but also acts in accordance with it. The decision to make this gesture payment to Nazi victims and Holocaust survivors serves to underline this responsibility.”
The Secretary General of the National Fund Hannah Lessing: “Following prolonged efforts, I am delighted that the Austrian Federal Government is making this renewed gesture of recognition towards all victims of National Socialism. Given the age of the beneficiaries, who often live in precarious circumstances, this help is particularly valuable.”
Executive Vice-President of the Claims Conference, Greg Schneider, said: „After ongoing negotiations, we are pleased to have achieved this milestone with the Austrian government. Austrian Holocaust survivors living globally deserve this recognition. While the Claims Conference has been supporting Austrian Jewish survivors with critically needed assistance for home care and other welfare services, these additional payments from the Austrian government, while symbolic, will go a long way for some of the more vulnerable in that waning population.”
Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, Special Negotiator for the Claims Conference, who had previously negotiated under the Clinton Administration as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust Issues, resulting in the January 2001 Washington agreement with the government of Austria said: “The impact of this hard-fought, symbolic payment for Austrian Jewish Holocaust survivors cannot be overstated. Aside from the money which will undoubtedly be a benefit to those who receive it, this achievement indicates a level of accountability and acknowledgment on behalf of the Austrian government. These elderly Holocaust survivors, one third of whom live in poverty today, suffered grievously in their youth. This gesture of responsibility acknowledges their suffering and hopefully slightly eases their burden in this final chapter of their lives.”