Dec 2013 Journal
Twenty years ago last month, on 1 November 1993, Dr Charles (Carl) Kapralik died. He made an outstanding contribution to the organisations representing the interests of the Jews from Central Europe. Kapralik was born in Sereth (Siret) in Bukovina in 1895. After serving in the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War, he qualified as a lawyer in Vienna and worked in banking and insurance. After the German annexation of Austria in March 1938, he was asked to advise the representative body of Vienna’s Jews, the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, on the financial and currency issues that, thanks to Nazi regulations, bedevilled the emigration of the Jews of Austria. Kapralik was about to emigrate, but he and his wife Camilla decided to stay on, thereby facilitating the life-saving emigration of large numbers of Jews. The Kapraliks only left for Britain in March 1939. During the war, he was interned for six months on the Isle of Man.
After the war, Kapralik worked for the Central British Fund (CBF) for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation, which was continuing its pre-1945 work as the Central British Fund for German Jewry, established in 1933 to raise funds to enable Jews to emigrate to Britain from Nazi Germany and to support them here. In 1958, on the retirement of Myer Stephany, Kapralik and Joan Stiebel became Joint Secretaries of the CBF (now World Jewish Relief). From 1950 to 1969, Kapralik acted as General Secretary of the Jewish Trust Corporation (JTC) for Germany, which was responsible for the complex task of recovering unclaimed, heirless and communal property, formerly Jewish, in the British Zone of Occupation in Germany. The funds thus raised were used for relief projects for the victims of Nazi persecution, in Britain principally for the construction and maintenance of homes for the elderly. The CBF set up an Allocations Committee, through which the money received from the JTC was channelled to the homes, which were jointly administered by the CBF and the AJR. Kapralik gave many years of devoted service to the Management Committee that oversaw the running of the homes.
Kapralik’s greatest achievements arguably resulted from his skilful and tenacious negotiations with the Austrian government, as an expert member of the International Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria, based in New York. His work secured for many thousands of former Austrian citizens the social security and pension benefits that Austrian legislation had initially denied them. Kapralik was also Vice-Chairman of the London-based United Restitution Organisation and an active member of the AJR. Fittingly, he spent the final years of his life in Heinrich Stahl House, one of the homes whose establishment owed so much to him.