(photo credit: AP)
About 3,000 people have been cleared to receive the first payouts from an Austrian fund set up to compensate survivors of the Holocaust, and another 3,000 should be approved shortly, the fund's chief overseer said Thursday.
Hannah Lessing, general secretary of the General Settlement Fund, told the Austria Press Agency the first cash payments will be made before the year ends on Saturday.
Lessing said the fund hopes by the end of 2006 to have processed all of the 19,300 survivors who have applied, though she conceded "some cases are very complicated."
"It is always difficult to judge how long a decision will take," she said. "It can take several days or several months."
Only 6,000 applications were filed within Austria, Lessing said; all the rest came from abroad.
Austria created the â‚¬175 million (US$210 million) fund in 2001 to compensate those stripped of businesses, property, bank accounts and insurance policies under the Third Reich.
Vienna was home to a vibrant Jewish community of some 200,000 before World War II. Today, it numbers about 7,000.
Noting that many survivors who had held out hope for compensation have since died, Lessing said there would have been many more applications if Austria had taken action sooner.
"We could have reached many more people," she said.
Payments had been delayed because of pending legal action in the United States. That hurdle was cleared last month when a New York court threw out sections of a class-action lawsuit targeting Austria.