(JNS.org) In a ruling published on Wednesday, the Austrian Supreme Court turned down the appeal in the civil case of an Austrian-Jewish writer for a restitution-related case relating to the Holocaust. Fifty-five-year-old Stephan Templ, who was also criminally sentenced to one year in prison, has insisted that he is innocent.
Templ sought reparations on behalf of his elderly mother, whose family owned a building that was confiscated by the Nazis. But Templ was accused of hiding the existence of an aunt who was also eligible for the same compensation.
Templ’s criminal conviction was upheld by the Austrian Supreme Court in January of 2014. In January of 2016, the court confirmed an indemnity levied on Templ in the amount of 550,000 euros (more than $600,000) from a civil law suit filed by his aunt. The court said Templ’s actions resulted in his mother receiving twice the amount of money that was owed to her.
Templ is known as a prominent critic of the actions of Austria during the Holocaust. The British newspaper The Guardian recently reported that Templ’s original restitution forms from 2003, which were obtained by Templ’s legal team for his defense, did include the existence of his aunt. Her name and address were mentioned six times in the documentation.
It was “outrageous for Austria to claim that Templ hid the existence of his aunt when her name is mentioned six times in documents submitted by him to the [General Settlement Fund] panel,” Templ’s lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, told The Guardian.
Nevertheless, General Settlement Fund representatives testified during Templ’s criminal trial that they did not know the aunt existed, and the judge ruled that Templ had deliberately withheld her existence, thereby “damaging the Republic of Austria.”
“From the first look at this case, we thought it was political, and had nothing to do with the law or a sense of justice, but everything to do with singling out this Jewish troublemaker,” Amsterdam said. “This entire case is predicated on a legal fiction—the state has never been damaged and it’s an absolutely historic obscenity for Austria to claim this is the case."
In a statement to JNS.org, the Austrian General Consulate in New York City said that
"as provided for in Article 87 of the Austrian Constitution, all judges are independent in the exercise of their judicial office."