Austrian Fund to Compensate 3,000 Holocaust Survivors

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About 3,000 people have been cleared to receive the first payments from an Austrian fund to compensate Holocaust survivors, and another 3,000 should be approved shortly, the fund's chief overseer said Thursday.

Hannah Lessing, general secretary of the General Settlement Fund, told the Austria Press Agency that the first cash payments will be made by Saturday.

Lessing said the fund hopes to have processed all of the 19,300 survivors' claims by the end of 2006, although she said "some cases are very complicated."

Six thousand applications were filed from inside Austria, Lessing said.

Austria created the $210 million fund in 2001 to compensate people stripped of businesses, property, bank accounts and insurance policies under the Third Reich.

Vienna was home to a vibrant Jewish community of some 200,000 before World War II. Today, it numbers about 7,000.

Lessing said there would have been many more applications if Austria had taken action sooner, since many survivors have died.

"We could have reached many more people," she said.

Payments had been delayed because of pending U.S. legal action. That hurdle was cleared last month when a New York court threw out sections of a class-action lawsuit targeting Austria.