Photo Credit: Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
Austrians look on as Jews are forced on their hands and knees to scrub the pavements.

A broad majority in the Austrian parliament on Friday approved a new law under which the Austrian government will grant citizenship to claimants who can prove that at least one of their ancestors had been forced out of Austria by the Nazi regime, Deutsche Welle reported, citing the daily newspaper Kurier.

Oskar Deutsch, president of Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (the Jewish Community in Vienna) approved of the new legislation, and declared that “with this decision, the Republic of Austria is living up to its historic responsibility.”


A mere 80 years after the fact, but who’s counting; also considered: better late than never…

Under the old rules, Austrian authorities were allowed to grant Austrian passports to people who had been forced out of the country by its Nazi government up until the surrender of May 7, 1945. The new law, drafted with input from the Vienna Jewish community, stretches the deadline to 1955, and expands the offer of citizenship to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of refugees from Nazi Austria. This also includes adopted children.

The new law also applies to descendants of victims who did not have Austrian citizenship at the time of their persecution, and have lived in Austria as citizens of one of the countries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austria became Nazi on March 12, 1938, when it was annexed by Nazi Germany (commonly known as the Anschluss). The anti-Semitic policies against Austrian Jews took effect immediately after the Germans had crossed the border into Austria. The process of Aryanization began right away, as some 1,700 motor vehicles were seized from their Jewish owners from March 11 to August 10, 1938. By May 1939, the government had seized about 44,000 apartments belonging to jews.

Many Jews were dispossessed of their shops and apartments, which became the property of invaders that moved in with assistance from the SA. Jews, including distinguished rabbis, were forced to put on their best clothes and crawl on their hands and knees in the streets carrying brushes, to sweep the sidewalks.

The largest concentration camp in Austria was the Mauthausen-Gusen complex, with more than 50 subcamps, among them the Ebensee concentration camp, KZ – Nebenlager Bretstein, Steyr-Münichholz subcamp and AFA-Werke. Mass murder was practiced in Hartheim Castle near Linz, where the killing program Action T4 (involuntary euthanasia) took place, and in Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna, where more than 700 handicapped children were murdered.

So now, at last, we can all become Austrians, if we pass. Yeah!


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