Austria, US Approve Slave Fund
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Austria and the United States have reached agreement to establish a $380 million fund to compensate people forced into hard labor by the Nazis during World War II.
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat agreed on Thursday that the fund will come into existence on Oct. 24 when it is to be signed.
Payments to the estimated 150,000 elderly slave labor victims could begin by the end of the year.
Once the agreement is signed, Austrian companies will be legally protected against further lawsuits on this issue. Schuessel said he was confident those who had not yet contributed to the fund would do so within the next few weeks.
The fund will be financed by both the Austrian government and businesses who profited from slave laborers.
Eizenstat, who arrived in Vienna on Thursday for late-night discussions with Schuessel, said the agreement demonstrated a common effort by Austria’s government and people to put the shadow of their past behind them.
Once the agreement has been signed, Eizenstat said intensive discussions would begin with the Austrians on the tougher issue of compensating Austrian Jews whose property was seized by the Nazis.
The slave laborer fund will pay out reparations not only to those survivors living in the United States, but also to those in Russia, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine.
In July, the German parliament passed a similar bill, setting up a $4.5 billion fund to compensate slave and forced laborers who worked on their territory during World War II.