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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 17:19 GMT
Austria to start Holocaust payout
By Kerry Skyring
BBC News, Vienna

Inmates at concentration camp
Most of the victims of looting are Austrian Jews
Thousands of people whose property was looted during the Holocaust will get payments from the Austrian government.

Most of them are Jews whose apartments, houses, insurance policies and artworks were systematically looted by the Nazis in Austria.

The head of Austria's General Settlement Fund, Hannah Lissing, says the money will reach the first 3,000 claimants in the next few days.

Another 3,000 people can expect payments shortly after that.

But it could be another year before all 19,000 claims are processed.

Legal delays

The payments come from a fund set up five years ago, when Austria agreed with the United States to pay more than $200m (169m euros; 115m) in compensation to victims of Nazi looting - most of them elderly, most of them living in the United States.

But payments were delayed because Austria insisted on what it called "legal closure", that is, no more class action lawsuits against Austria or Austrian companies in US courts.

A recent series of court rulings in the US, dismissing class action suits and referring the claimants to the General Settlement Fund, has cleared the way for payments to begin.

Most of the victims of the Nazi looting are elderly Austrian Jews and the Austrian government acknowledges that many who should have received compensation died during the years of legal wrangling.

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