Austrian Jew to take restitution case to Europe rights court

Fri Apr 4, 2014 11:13am EDT
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By Derek Brooks

VIENNA (Reuters) - A Jewish critic of Austria's post-war record in returning property plundered by the Nazis plans to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights after receiving a jail sentence last year when his own restitution claim went sour.

Stephan Templ, 53, an architectural historian living in Prague, was sentenced to three years in jail for defrauding the Alpine republic after failing to name his aunt in a restitution claim for a hospital building near Vienna's famous Ringstrasse.

The state argued that the aunt, Elisabeth Kretschmer, could have relinquished her stake in the building, which was seized from its Jewish owner after Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938, and that this share would have reverted to the state.

Kretschmer learned in 2011, two years after a state panel returned the building to dozens of relatives including Tempel's mother, that she had missed a deadline to claim a stake in the property, and she then went to Vienna prosecutors.

The Vienna court ruled that Templ illegally omitted the 84-year-old Kretschmer to boost his mother's share of the property.

Templ, who had been estranged from his aunt for 30 years, argued that not mentioning her was a mere oversight. No other claimants mentioned other potential heirs in the paperwork, according to Templ, but he was the only one charged with fraud.

Austria, which came to terms with its Nazi past much later than Germany, has had a complicated history in returning looted property to original Jewish owners and their heirs.