Austria begins sending compensation to former Nazi slave labourers

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Austria has started paying out compensation to the victims of slave and forced labour - people who were forced to work for Austrian firms during the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. Around 10,000 Czech citizens are eligible, and the first of 5,000 payments could arrive on Friday, with another 2,000 victims receiving their money by the end of August. Alena Skodova spoke to Wolfgang Renezeder, head of the Austrian Reconciliation Fund in Vienna:

"We are very glad that the remaining two litigation against Austria and Austrian companies in connection with claims filed by former slave and forced labourers of the Nazi regime -which happened on July 25th in New York - paved the way for the start of compensation payments to the victims of the Nazi regime. This is a moment we have been waiting for for a long time, since the constitution of the fund, when this fund was established, all the negotiations have been taken that had taken place also with the Czech Republic, based on bilateral agreements and based on the necessity of using the partner organisation in the Czech Republic. Based on all these preparatory work, we dispersed payments to 20,328 former slave and forced labourers."

Which countries do they come from, because it's not only the Czech Republic?"

"Yes, we have partner organisations in Poland, in the Czech Republic, in Hungary, in Russia, in Ukraine and in Belarus. The first payments went to the Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine, to give you a figure, among the first payments we have 4, 952 applicants from the Czech Republic, who'll receive the payment within several days, via our partner organisation in Prague."

What do the victims need to prove they are eligible for the compensation?

"Well, according to the Austrian Reconciliation Fund law, what we need is main personalia, information when and where the person was subjected to forced labour and some sort of credibility, some sort of proof, anything that can serve as a proof that he was subjected to forced labour. We have a very relaxed standard of proof , witnesses or any other sort, but we prefer documents of the Nazi regime."

How much will the former forced labourers get - there are several categories...

"Right, there are several categories, the first - the highest - category is slave labour, it's the category of those who were under concentration-camp-like conditions, they will receive 105,000 shillings, the second category is forced labour in industry and they'll receive 35, 000 shillings, and the third category is forced labour in agriculture for which they will receive 20, 000 shillings. When children were deported together with the parents or with one of the parents, they'll receive exactly the same amount as the parent they were deported with, and mothers who delivered their child as forced labourers will receive the additional amount of 5,000 shillings."

Unlike Germany, Austria will compensate the victims in one single payment, and those eligible can receive their money at any branch of the Czech Republic's Ceska Sporitelna savings bank. However, the payments come too late for some 1,000 former forced labourers, who did not live long enough to receive compensation for their suffering.