Historical Background

Measures since 1995


End of October:

The auctioning off of the Mauerbach Collection (collection of "heirless" works of art held by the Republic of Austria, named after their place of storage at the Carthusian monastery Mauerbach near Vienna) generated 122 million Austrian schillings in net proceeds, which went to a fund to compensate needy victims of National Socialism and their descendants.


November 30 to December 2:

The London Gold Conference on the origin and the current location of gold looted by the Nazis and the extent of restitution to date. Representatives from governments, state banks and victims' groups from 41 countries participated in the conference.


January 8:

Two paintings by Egon Schiele (Portrait of Wally, Dead City III) were seized at an exhibition of the Leopold Collection in New York on suspicion that they constituted "looted works of art". Previously the heirs of the original owners Lea Jaray-Bondi and Fritz Grünbaum had asserted their claims to the paintings.


Federal Minister for Education and Cultural Affairs Elisabeth Gehrer, who was responsible for nearly all of Austria's federal museums as well as the Austrian Federal Office for the Care of Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt), issued oral instructions to inspect all of the materials from the National-Socialist and post-war periods under her jurisdiction. Decision to form a Commission for Provenance Research.


Federal Minister Gehrer created a Commission for Provenance Research at all federal museums and collections. The Commission was charged with systematically cataloging the works of art and cultural assets acquired between 1938 and 1945, as well as all restitution efforts that took place after the Second World War in order to clarify all issues concerning the ownership of the objects during the National Socialist regime and the postwar period immediately thereafter, and to examine the Republic of Austria's property rights to these objects on the basis of the available archive materials in the Republic of Austria's collections and at the Federal Monument Office.


The Director-General of the Austrian postal savings bank (Österreichische Postsparkasse, P.S.K.), Mr. Max Kothbauer commissions a team of historians to examine the seizure of assets of Jewish customers by the "Postsparkassenamt".


The working group Acquisition and Restitution of Jewish Assets 1938-1955 is commissioned by the Landesmuseum Joanneum to inspect and evaluate the materials on file from the Second World War and the postwar period relating to dubious acquisitions of works in the collection.


US attorney Ed Fagan announced possible class-action suits against Austrian banks.

September 29:

Decision to create a Historical Commission, which is to investigate the seizure of assets within the territory of the Republic of Austria between 1938 in 1945 and restitution and compensation made by the Second Republic of Austria.

September 30:

The Association of Poles Repressed by the Third Reich demands compensation from Austria for former Polish forced laborers in "Ostmark".


Ed Fagan announces a class-action suit on behalf of former forced laborers against VOEST-Alpine Stahl and Steyr-Daimler-Puch.


The lawsuit filed by Ed Fagan against Creditanstalt/Bank Austria is served in New York.


Erste Bank (formerly Erste Österreichische Sparkasse) creates a team of historians to examine the handling of Jewish assets during the National Socialist regime and after 1945.


VOEST-Alpine Stahl (VA Stahl) commissions a team of researchers to investigate the issue of forced labor and the company's history during the National-Socialist regime.

November 5:

Maria Altmann, the last surviving niece of the Austrian sugar industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, publicly asserted her claim to Klimt paintings from the Bloch-Bauer Collection held by the museum Österreichische Galerie.

November 30 to December 2:

The Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets concluded 11 principles on the restitution of Nazi-confiscated art.

December 4:

Federal law on the return of objects of art from Austrian federal museums and collections (Art Restitution Act)

December 9:

Creation of a Restitution Advisory Council for works of art, which is to advise the competent Federal Minister regarding the restitution of works of art.


March 5:

Settlement agreement regarding the claims of victims of National Socialism against Creditanstalt AG/Bank Austria AG


The Insurance Association commissions the examination of Austrian life insurance policies during the National-Socialist era.

April 29:

The Vienna Municipal Council votes in favor of the restitution of works of art and cultural assets, which were acquired during the National-Socialist era by museums, libraries, archives and collections of the City of Vienna by purchase or dedication and are to be classified as spurious acquisitions (confiscation, seizure, expropriation, etc.), to the original owners or their legal successors.

May 20:

The Vienna Municipal Council votes in favor of the creation of its own advisory commission on matters of the restitution of "aryanized" works of art and cultural assets now owned by the city.

June 24:

The Linz Municipal Senate votes unanimously to return the painting The Seamstress by Lesser Ury from the Gurlitt Collection to the grandson of the original owner from whom it was seized during the National-Socialist era.

June 28:

The Art Restitution Advisory Council recommends not returning the Klimt paintings from the Bloch-Bauer Collection claimed by Maria Altmann. Federal Minister Gehrer follows the recommendation.

July 1:

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria sets up an Information and Support Center for Holocaust Victims and Their Family Members


Auction of restituted Rothschild Collection objects from Austria's federal museums in London.


January 6:

Judicial authorization for a settlement regarding the claims of Holocaust victims vis-à-vis Creditanstalt/Bank Austria.

January 25:

Austrian Historical Commission submits an interim report on forced labor to the ministry

January 26-28:

International conference in Stockholm on the Holocaust focusing on the issues of education remembrance and research (The Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust); 48 countries and numerous government representatives participate.


The Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) commissions the investigation of asset confiscation and restitution within its own party.

February 15:

Maria Schaumayer is appointed special representative of the Austrian government in charge of negotiating compensation for forced laborers under the National-Socialist regime.

February 22:

US attorney Ed Fagan calls for Ms. Schaumayer's powers to be expanded (aryanization, restitution). Ms. Schaumayer refuses.

March 14:

On the basis of the research report drawn up by the working group Acquisition and Restitution of Jewish Assets 1938-1955 (at the end of 1999) the Styrian Provincial Parliament passes a provincial constitutional law on the restitution of spurious acquisitions of Jewish assets.

March 30:

"Farm workers" are also to be compensated, in addition to "slave and industrial workers" within the context of the "regulations governing forced laborers".


The Salzburger Provincial Archives publishes the inventory book from the Gallery of the Province of Salzburg between 1942 and 1944 on behalf of the province of Salzburg. It represented the public art collection of the Salzburg Reichgau region; Friedrich Welz was in charge of its creation from 1940 to 1942 and functioned as its head from 1942 to 1944.

April 13:

Ed Fagan files a class action suit against Austria and Austrian companies demanding 260 billion schillings.

April 30:

Ms. Schaumayer puts the amount of compensation for forced laborers under the National-Socialist regime at 6 billion schillings.

May 2:

Ms. Schaumayer presents her draft for a fund law to the Parliament. Changes are called for.

May 8:

Nomination of Ernst Sucharipa, head of the Diplomatic Academy, as the special envoy of the Austrian federal government for restitution issues involving "aryanized" assets.

May 10:

Broad-based agreement with Poland on the issue of forced laborers.

May 16-17:

"Reconciliation conference" in Vienna with victims' representatives from Eastern Europe.

July 7:

The Austrian National Council unanimously passes the Reconciliation Fund Act.


Maria Altmann, heir to Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, files a lawsuit in California against the Republic of Austria (Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, Apple Tree, Beechwood and Houses in Unterach/Attersee as well as Amalie Zuckerkandl)

September 29:

Austrian Historical Commission submits interim report on "aryanization" of rental apartments to ministry.

October 3-5:

International conference in Vilnius (International Forum on Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets).

October 24:

The international agreements on compensation for forced laborers are signed in Vienna and the Reconciliation Fund is set up.

November 27:

The Reconciliation Fund Act enters into force.


January 18:

A key breakthrough is achieved (Washington Agreement) at the negotiations on compensation for victims of "aryanization". The Austrian government delegation led by special envoy Ernst Sucharipa, the US represented by Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, the Claims Conference and victims' attorneys reach an agreement on a compensation sum in the amount of 7.2 billion schillings. Subsequently Dr. Ariel Muzicant refused to satisfy the claims of the IKG Vienna claims for the so-called community assets from this fund.

January 31:

The Austrian National Council passes the Settlement Fund Act, forms the legal foundation for providing compensation for these assets and other areas that had remained uncompensated to date, such as the discontinuation of schooling.

February 28:

Announcement of an amendment to the National Fund Act, which foresees the final settlement of the following loss of assets: a) Lease rights to apartments and commercial business premises, b) household effects, c) personal valuables.


The Dorotheum auction house once again tasks outside historians with the examination of the history of the house between 1938 and 1945.


The province of Upper Austria commissions an investigation into the issue of Museum of the Province of Upper Austria 1938-1935, Special Commission Linz and Collection Agency; Aspects of asset confiscation involving works of art (objects) and restitution in Upper Austria.

May 4:

US judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled that the lawsuit brought by Maria Altmann against the Republic of Austria for the restitution of the paintings once belonging to her uncle Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer is admissible in the US.

May 5:

Restitution of the Strauß-Meyszner Collection (one of the two collections of the so-called "Strauß estate") by the City of Vienna.

May 28:

The settlement fund act enters into force. Claims can be submitted to the claims committee until May 28, 2003, or to the Arbitration Panel by January 27, 2004. Payments are only possible when legal certainty is established, i.e. when all lawsuits have been dismissed.

July 25:

US judge Shirley Wohl Kram dismisses the last remaining claims pending before a court of law for compensation for forced laborers. As a result, legal certainty is established, removing the last obstacle to payments to former forced laborers in the National-Socialist regime from the Reconciliation Fund.

August 21:

Bank Austria Holocaust Settlement fully enters into force. The settlement earmarks US$ 40 million for a settlement fund, which contains a humanitarian funds outfitted with US$ 30 million to cover the claims of those Holocaust victims who had suffered damage at the hands of the predecessor institutions of Bank Austria and/or Creditanstalt between 1938 to 1945, when the National Socialists controlled the two institutions.

An agreement between the IKG Vienna and the Austrian federal provinces is reached; the IKG Vienna is awarded EUR 18.2 million. The payment is then linked entirely to the achievement of legal certainty and therefore to the end of class-action suits in the US.


Repurchase of the Strauß-Meyszner Collection by the City of Vienna.


The Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) commissions the University of Vienna's Department of Contemporary History to examine the seizure of assets and restitution within the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP)/SPÖ 1934/1945 et seq.


June 12:

Agreement between the Jewish communities of Vienna, Graz, Linz and Salzburg and the federal provinces on the comprehensive resolution of all unanswered questions in connection with compensation for assets destroyed and/or looted in the period from March 12, 1938, to May 9, 1945, belonging to the Jewish communities, associations and foundations (community organizations), which existed in the territory of what is today known as Austria and are not the object of corresponding statutory or contractual regulations on compensatory payment from the federal government, Austrian municipalities with the exception of Vienna or Austrian companies. The payment is linked to the dismissal of all class-action lawsuits in the US (= legal certainty).

July 5:

The reconciliation fund announces that to-date 71,435 former forced laborers under the National-Socialist regime have been compensated and EUR 182.2 million has been paid out.


The City of Linz transfers the painting City on the River (or Krumau) from the Gurlitt Collection to the IKG Vienna, which forwards the painting to the heir of the former owner, Daisy Hellmann.


The California appeals court rules that the lawsuit filed by Maria Altmann against the Republic of Austria for the return of six Klimt paintings belonging to her uncle Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer until 1938 is admissible in the US. The Republic of Austria had appealed the ruling of the court of first instance in Los Angeles.



The City of Vienna orders an investigation of all of the real estate properties in its ownership as of January 17, 2001, as to their origin. The City of Vienna has previously submitted to the Arbitration Panel of the Settlement Fund by Municipal Council resolution.

February 24:

The Historical Commission presents its final report. A total of 53 report and 14,000 pages systematically document the looting carried out by the National-Socialist regime and attempts at restitution and compensation, whereby the Commission comes to the conclusion that the Republic of Austria –stemming from its unwarranted support of the "Austria as a victim theory" – had often acted but halfheartedly and in some cases downright hesitantly in compensating Holocaust victims after 1945.

April 14:

One of the two class-action suits still pending against Austria is dismissed in Los Angeles. The judge cites the fact that the case revolves around a political issue that is to be resolved between governments and not on the judicial level as the reason for her ruling. The representative of the class-action suit announces his intention to appeal the decision. Yet another class-action suit is pending in New York. Only when all lawsuits have been dismissed can the payments from the Settlement Fund be disbursed.


The proceedings before the Supreme Court of Los Angeles in the legal dispute over six paintings by Gustav Klimt held by the Österreichische Galerie are stopped. The Republic of Austria had filed a suit with the US Supreme Court contesting the rulings issued by California courts affirming jurisdiction.


Dr. Ariel Muzicant files 777 applications with the Settlement Fund on behalf of the IKG Vienna in order to assert claims of the IKG Vienna.

September 26:

The director of the Austrian National Library (ÖNB) announces that the ÖNB is to list the some 10,000 objects contain in the Provenance Research Report, whose origins would have to classified as "specious".


In its third decision the Arbitration Panel of the Settlement Fund recommends the restitution of the property located at, Weihburggasse 30, 1010 Vienna, to the heirs. The property houses the regional office of the Vienna Employment Services.


June 25:

The IKG Vienna and the Republic of Austria reach an agreement on compensation for losses from the National-Socialist era. The agreement includes a payment of EUR 18.2 million to the IKG Vienna. In return, the IKG Vienna will then withdraw its applications to the Settlement Fund as well as its support for the still pending class-action suit in the US ("Whiteman" case).

December 13:

After the "Whiteman" case in the US is dismissed, the Cabinet of Ministers decides that legal certainty in connection with National-Socialist compensation has been achieved, as is necessary for the payments from the National-Socialist Settlement Fund to be disbursed.

End of 2005:

At the end of the year the Austrian Reconciliation Fund ceases its activities. All in all, nearly 132,000 applications in over 60 countries were processed with a positive result. A total of EUR 351.95 million was paid out until October 2005. The money not yet paid out upon the dissolution of the funds is to be earmarked for the creation of a scholarship foundation and a "Future Fund". This fund is to continue processing the as yet unconcluded applications from forced laborers or their heirs, as well as continue the ongoing humanitarian projects primarily in the medical sphere and produce academic studies.


January 15:

A court of arbitration decides that Austria must return five Klimt paintings to Maria Altmann. The Arbitration Panel is to take a separate decision on the restitution of the sixth painting claimed by Maria Altmann (there is also yet another claimant).

February 2:

Federal Minister Gehrer announces that the Republic of Austria will not repurchase the five paintings returned to Maria Altmann.


August 1:

Expansion of the provisions governing the beneficiaries of pensions for Holocaust survivors within the context of the 2009 Second Social Law Amendment Act (2. SRÄG 2009, Federal Legal Gazette I No. 83/2009).

November 23:

Amendment to the Art Restitution Act (Federal Law on the Amendment of the Federal Law on the Restitution of Works of Art from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections, Federal Legal Gazette I No. 117/2009).


Forum Politische Bildung (ed.): Wieder gut machen? Enteignung, Zwangsarbeit, Entschädigung, Restitution (Sonderband der Informationen zur Politischen Bildung). Innsbruck–Vienna 1999, pp. 178 et seq.
www.nationalfonds.org (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.historikerkommission.gv.at (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.museum-joanneum.at (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.linz.at/archiv/gurlitt/bericht.htm (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.stadtbibliothek.wien.at (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.museum.vienna.at (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.salzburg.gv.at//themen/ks/kultur/galerie.htm/ (Oct. 6, 2003),
www.histcom.at (Oct. 6, 2003),
Own research: Among other places in the archives of the dailies "Der Standard" and "Kurier".