STEPHAN TEMPL (center) prepares to enter Simmering jail in Vienna.
(photo credit: STEPHANTEMPL.COM)
A Jewish journalist on Monday was jailed for one year on charges he defrauded the Austrian government by failing to list the name of an aunt on a restitution claim for a building stolen from his extended family by the Nazis.
According to prosecutors, Stephan Templ, the author of Unser Wien (Our Vienna), which cataloged sites around the city that had belonged to Jews, “damaged the Republic of Austria” by neglecting to list the name of his mother’s estranged sister Elisabeth Kretschmar on his claim.
They further alleged that had Kretschmar been made aware of the propert, she may have forfeited her share in favor of the government, The Guardian
Writing on JNS.org, Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, asserted that “there are grounds to fear that he [Templ] is being punished for exposing Austria’s failure to return seized property to its Jewish owners.”
Austria has famously failed to have come to terms with its Nazi past in the same way as Germany, and “since the day World War II ended, Austrians have claimed that they were not partners of the Nazis but actually “the first victims of Nazism,” Medoff wrote.
Both the government and public were outraged by Templ’s book, he continued, recalling how many people accused him of trying to “undermine” the country.
Late last month, Medoff and 74 other historians wrote to the Austrian ambassador in Washington protesting what they view as a grave injustice.
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“As scholars who have written or taught about the Holocaust or other genocides, we are deeply troubled by the impending imprisonment of an Austrian Jewish historian and journalist who exposed Austria’s failure to return Jewish property seized during the Nazi era,” the historians wrote.
“The crime of which Mr. Templ has been convicted, and sentenced to one year in prison, was his omission of the name of an estranged relative from his application for the return of his family’s seized property. This matter could have been resolved by the Templ family in civil court. The Austrian government’s decision to intervene by prosecuting and jailing Mr. Templ will be seen as an extreme overreaction to Mr. Templ’s important book, Our Vienna: Aryanization Austrian- Style
, which criticized Austria’s policy concerning the restitution of Jewish property.”
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