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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 17:27 GMT
Austria 'holding stolen art'
Some Jews were murdered as well as robbed
Some Jews were murdered as well as robbed
By Ray Furlong in Bratislava

The Secretary-General of the World Jewish Congress, Dr Israel Singer, has told a conference of European rabbis that art stolen from Austrian Jews during the Holocaust is now worth $10b.

He caused shockwaves at the meeting in Bratislava by producing what he said was a secret US State Department report from 1953 listing the property.

He said it was still in the hands of the Austrian Government and Austrian people, and that they should not continue to hold it.

Report hidden

Dr Singer made sweeping attacks on those who had prospered through the Holocaust, stating that 50% of the art in American collections was stolen Jewish art.

But the US State Department report was his trump card. He produced a bundle of papers from his bag which, he said, were a secret file on Jewish property stolen in Austria during the war.

In Monday's figures, the property would be worth $10bn, he said, adding that the State Department had successfully hidden the report until Friday last week, when he got a federal court ruling to have it declassified.

Dr Singer said libraries, art collections, businesses and private homes had all been plundered and that the pickings were still in the hands of Austrian people and the Austrian Government.

He was not entirely clear about what would happen next.

Further revelations

He said all those who had lost property would be "red-flagged" and that, in regard to whether the property would be returned or not, the process would be painful and painstaking.

Speaking informally on his way to the airport afterwards, he said he had handed the documents to the Israeli Government and the World Claims Conference, and it would be part of discussions with the people of Austria, not the Austrian Government.

They should not be allowed to hold on to stolen property, he said, adding that further details would be announced in Jerusalem tomorrow.

Some delegates at the conference said the speech was shocking and showed just how much was still to be learnt - others said they were not so surprised.

But everyone seemed to agree that more revelations are yet to come.
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12 Mar 00 | Europe
Violence at neo-Nazi march
06 Jan 00 | Europe
Bank Austria Holocaust deal
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