Austria promises Lithuania direct compensation for forced Nazi labor

  • 2000-11-30
VIENNA-VILNIUS (BNS) - Austria has promised Lithuania direct com-pensation payments to Lithuanian citizens who were deported to Austria by the Nazis for forced labor during World War II.

The Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry reported Nov. 28 that Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner voiced the commitment in Vienna in a meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Antanas Valionis, who took part in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's council of ministers meeting.

The foreign ministry report says that Ferrero-Waldner "ensured that a principle decision was taken to make direct com-pensation payments to the victims residing in Lithuania" when discussing the problem of com-pensation payments to the citizens who were taken for forced labor to Austria.

The Austrian minister said that an institution representing the Lithuanian victims should provide the Austrian compensation fund with exact data and hand in the claims of the victims.

The director of the information and culture department at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Petras Zapolskas, told the Baltic News Service that the procedure of making com-pensation payments will have to be discussed and clearly established now that the ministers have taken the principle political decision.

Zapolskas said that Deputy Minister Oskaras Jusys representing Lithuania in the negotiations on establishing the procedure sent a letter to the Austrian deputy foreign affairs minister proposing to coordinate the details of the compensations.

Lithuanian citizens seeking compensation for damage they suffered during the Nazi occupation were forced to address the Russian Embassy since the beginning of the decade.

Germany is making the compensation payments through a fund in Moscow.

Lithuania is seeking to receive the compensation payments without me-diators. Zapolskas said that the Foreign Affairs Ministry is conducting negotiations with Germany on direct payments at present.

The German companies and enterprises who used of forced labor during the war years established a special compensation fund of approximately 5 billion Deutsche marks ($2.15 billion).

Austria, in turn, is planning to pay more than $260 billion to Central and Eastern European citizens who were taken for forced labor to Austria during WWII.

The Russian daily Moskovskij Komsomolec reported Nov. 28 that, according to information from the Russian gov-ernment, persons residing in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia who were Soviet citizens at the time of deportation will receive single payments from Austria.

Persons deported to hard-labor camps will receive the highest com-pensation payment - 105,000 Austrian shillings ($6,400) each.

Those who worked under compulsion in industrial enterprises will receive 35,000 shillings, while those who were deported for farming work will receive 20,000 shillings.

The Russian daily reported that persons who were under 12 years of age at the time of deportation will be paid the same compensation as their parents.

Women who gave birth in the Nazi special labor wards or who had a forced abortion will receive an additional compensation of 5,000 shillings.

Nazi Germany occupied Austria in 1938 and the country remained part of the Third Reich until the end of WWII.

The Reich had a total of 7.6 million foreign workers from 20 states during the war.

According to data from the Lithuanian Investigation Center for Genocide and Resistance of the People, approximately 10,000 of those who were forced to work for the Reich and are entitled to the compensation live in Lithuania now.

The deportation of Lithuanians to German forced-labor camps started on Jan. 28, 1942. During the three years of the war, between 51,000 and 70,000 people were deported.

About 30,000 Lithuanian citizens did forced labor and were imprisoned in con-centration camps, among them 10,000 Jews. As few as 23,000 Lithuanians and 2,000-3,000 Jews survived until liberation day.