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Mar 2007 Journal

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Central Office for Holocaust Claims

Briefing by Hannah Lessing

Speaking at the Austrian embassy in London at the end of January, Hannah Lessing, General Secretary of the Austrian National Fund, gave an overview of the General Settlement Fund (GSF), including information on when payments were likely to be complete.

The $210m GSF was established in January 2001 as part of the Washington Agreement to 'acknowledge the moral responsibility for losses and damages inflicted ... and to settle comprehensively unanswered questions of restitution and compensation'.

Ms Lessing outlined how the Fund was processing 200,000 claims submitted by 20,000 applicants for - among other assets - properties, bank accounts and insurance policies as well as stocks and shares.

She explained that while there was insufficient money to make full restitution payments from the GSF, claimants would receive a pro-rata share, calculated at approximately 13 per cent of the actual value of losses. Down payments from these awards would be completed by the end of 2007, with the balance paid in 2008. The Fund, she said, was making initial payments in accordance with age, with the applications of those born in 1920 currently being finalised.

Hannah Lessing confirmed that the GSF did not gain interest between the time it was agreed and the dismissal of the final lawsuit against the Austrian state in December 2005.

She also answered questions about the new, online database of looted art - www.kunstrestitution.at - which includes full provenance information on 10,000 artworks. One piece, an oil painting by the Dutch painter van Ostade, which had been hanging for many years in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, had already been identified and was in the process of being recovered by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe.

Written enquiries should be sent to Central Office for Holocaust Claims (UK), Jubilee House, Merrion Avenue, Stanmore, Middx HA7 4RL, by fax to 020 8385 3075, or by email to mnewman@ajr.org.uk
Michael Newman

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