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July 28, 2003

SWC URGES AUSTRIA TO LAUNCH CAMPAIGN TO BRING UNPROSECUTED AUSTRIAN NAZI WAR CRIMINALS TO JUSTICE AS FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS ISRAEL

The Simon Wiesenthal Center today called upon Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner to address her countrys poor record in prosecuting Austrian Nazi war criminals during her impending visit to Israel, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow. (According to the Centers 2003 Annual Statues Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, issued this week, Austria was labeled the country which has done the least to bring Nazi war criminals to justice in comparison to the number of its suspects.)

In a letter to Austrian ambassador to Israel Dr. Kurt Hengl, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff called upon the Austrian government to take serious measures to bring Austrian Holocaust perpetrators to justice, calling Ferrero-Waldners visit an opportune moment to announce such a change in Austrian policy.

According to Zuroff:
Given Austrias extremely poor record in prosecuting Holocaust perpetrators, a fact clearly established by our most recent Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, I believe that the visit of the Foreign Minister is a unique opportunity for the Austrian government to announce its intention to deal seriously, for the first time in decades, with the problem of unprosecuted Austrian Nazi war criminals. This is the right time for Austria to declare its readiness to establish a special investigations unit to handle such cases and to make clear that the political will to bring Nazis to justice has finally materialized in Vienna.

As our Annual Status Report clearly demonstrates it is not too late to bring some of these murderers to justice. It is high time that Austria do its share in this regard and the coming visit to Israel of Minister Ferrero-Waldner is an opportune moment for your government to inform Israel and world Jewry that it fully intends at long last to make a serious effort to hold Austrian Holocaust perpetrators accountable for their crimes. The implementation of such a declaration will be the best proof that Austria is finally fully confronting its troubled Holocaust past and will no doubt have a beneficial impact on Israeli-Austrian relations.

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