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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The awful case of Stephan Templ

Kurier/Franz Gruber
I would be remiss not to share the tale of Stephan Templ who has been convicted and jailed on the most spurious and tenuous of charges in Austria for "harming the state." Please read the following links to get a bit of background on the case:



This case is such an abomination and travesty of justice. Templ's lawyer Robert Amsterdam has pointed out that Austria appears to have covered up exculpatory evidence that would have aided the man's defense. A sham, designed to mete out punishment on a man who dared expose Austria's dark past by writing a book about Austrian property that had been confiscated from its jewish citizens before they fled or were annihilated.
“Owing to the fact that the state stole the property from my family, the obligation should be on them to track down the relatives. My only obligation as far as I was concerned was to assure those deciding on the restitution that my mother’s claim was bona fide.” Stephan Templ
The story of Templ's relatives reaction to the appropriation and subsequent humiliation is both poignant and disturbing.
"The property at the centre of Templ’s legal battle with the state is a huge, elegant 19th-century villa near the Ringstrasse in the centre of Vienna that was once a private birth clinic belonging to Lothar Fürth, a cousin of Templ’s grandmother.
 The ferris wheel in Vienna’s Prater amusement park was revealed by Templ to have been among property seized from Jewish owners by the Nazis.
A month before the building was expropriated by the Nazis on 3 April 1938, Fürth, the head of the clinic, and his wife, Sue, were forced by a caretaker to clean the pavement in front of the building using toothbrushes in an ultimate act of humiliation. The couple then retreated to the operating room at the top of the hospital and injected themselves with poison.
Fürth wrote in a suicide note: “We have had enough.”"
Actually the full quote of Fürth was "We have had enough. It is my fault, but I am just tired. I kiss everyone who loves me."

Austria has always had a special place in the annals of anti semitism. It is no wonder that the Austrian born Hitler was so inspired by two noted Austrian jew haters, the mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger and the politician Georg Ritter von Schönerer. But the animus started far earlier. From Wikipedia:
The prosperity of the Jewish community caused increased jealousy from the Christian population and hostility from the church. In 1282, when the area became controlled by the Catholic House of Habsburg, Austria stopped being a religious center for the Jews.
Jews were largely hated because they acted as tax collectors and moneylenders. The earliest evidence of Jews collecting taxes appears in a document from 1320. During the same time, riots occurred against the Jews in the area. The Jewish population continued to decline in middle of the 14th century and at the start of the 15th century during the regime of Albert the Third and Leopold III. This period was characterized in the cancellations of many debts that would have been collected by Jews, the confiscation of Jewish assets, and the creation of economic limitations against them.
In middle of the 15th century, following the establishment of the anti-Catholic movement of Jan Hus in Bohemia, the condition of the Jewish population worsened as a result of accusations that the movement was associated with the Jewish community. In 1420, the status of the Jewish community hit a low point when a Jew from Upper Austria was charged with the desecration of the sacramental bread. This led Albert V to order the imprisonment of all of the Jews in Austria. Two hundred ten Jews were burnt alive in public and the rest were deported from Austria, leaving their belongings behind. In 1469, the deportation order was canceled by Frederick the Third, who was known for his good relationship with the Jews and was even referred to at times as the "King of the Jews". He allowed Jews to return and settle in all the cities of Styria and Carinthia. Under his regime, the Jews gained a short period of peace (between 1440 and 1493).
The rise of religious fanaticism of the Society of Jesus
The relative period of peace did not last long, and with the start of the regime of Ferdinand the First in 1556, though he also opposed the persecution of the Jews, he levied excessive taxes and ordered them to wear a mark of disgrace. Between 1564 and 1619, in the period of the regimes of Maximilian the second, Rudolf the Second and Matthias, the fanaticism of the Society of Jesus prevailed and the condition of the Jews worsened even more. Later on, during the regime of Ferdinand the Second in Austria, which in spite of that like his grandfather he opposed the persecution of the Jews and even permitted constructing a synagogue, he demanded a huge amount of tax from the Jewish population.
The nadir of the Jewish community in Austria arrived during the period of the regime of Leopold the First, a period in which Jews were persecuted frequently and were deported from different areas, including a deportation from Vienna in 1670, but gradually returned after several years. Jews also had to bear different laws—one of which permitted only first-born children to marry, in order to stop the increase of the Jewish population. Although Leopold the First treated the Jewish population severely, he had Samson Wertheimer, a Jewish economic advisor, working for him.
I found this interesting article when researching the Templ case; An Anti-Semitic Incident Adds to Austria’s Shame. A Viennese landlord demands that his renter takes down a mezuzah. Love the first quote by Simon Weisenthal.

"Why did you set up the Jewish Documentation Center in the heart of Vienna? Why not Geneva, London or even Tel Aviv?"

"If you want to catch mosquitos, you cannot avoid the swamp."

I had coffee with an Austrian friend yesterday and we discussed the Templ case. While he in no way supported the court's decision and also shared a similar story about the railroading of his old friend Bettleheim, he said that the Austrians roll the thing back another generation.

Once he told me, the non jewish Austrians owned these many confiscated properties and many were lost in a nineteenth century crash. The only people that had the capital at the time to buy them were the jews and that caused long seething resentment. 

In a cultural alembic that long associated the jews with evil and money lending, the attitude becomes more understandable.

42% of Austrians say Hitler wasn't all bad.

Algemeiner 10/12/15 
Austrian historian and writer Stephan Templ said his prison guards denied him kosher food and demanded that he prove his Jewishness during the first week of his one-year prison sentence.
Templ told the Austrian Kurier newspaper that on top of being denied the foods appropriate to a kosher diet, he had to contact his girlfriend to provide proof from the organized Jewish Community in Vienna as to his Jewish identity.

I hope this guy gets out of jail soon. This is a terrible and unnecessary stain on Austria's reputation.

Heinz Fischer/
"Last month, the Austrian president, Heinz Fischer, rejected a request for clemency, saying the punishment was just because according to the court ruling Templ had “damaged Austria” by his actions.
Another Templ supporter, Karl Pfeifer, a veteran Austrian journalist and a Holocaust survivor who has followed the case, said: “The only reason Templ was prosecuted is that he touched a nerve with his book, which reminded the Austrians of how they stole Jewish property.”"

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