A Vienna district court hearing has been set on Feb 20 after the member of the famous Rothschild clan accused the capital city of “perpetuating” Nazi laws by plundering the Jewish banking family’s business, The Financial Times said on Saturday.
The newly-started dispute becomes one of the largest-ever restitution claims by Nazi regime victims’ descendants. According to Rothschild heir’s lawyer, city of Vienna “has acted as if the Nazi confiscation decrees were still in place”. Geoffrey Hoguet, a descendant of the younger brother of Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild, decided to clear the situation. Now, the 69-year-old man is a prominent investor from New York and financial supporter of Dem presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
In fact, Rothschild left the equivalent of about EUR100 million when he died in 1905 to provide psychiatric help for those who need it. Thus, the foundation set up in his name, while a 12-member council led by the Rothschild family ended up running two sanatoriums. The first was opened in 1912 and later transformed into the big neurological centre, which still operates today.
In 1939, after the Nazis annexed Austria, the Rothschild foundation was disbanded by the occupational authorities. The Nazis also expelled the Rothschilds that year and the foundation could a chance to be re-established only in 1956. But that year, the financial entity was managed by the city of Vienna, not the 12-member council.
According to Hoguet, Vienna is responsible for breach of founder’s will, so, the independent management committee should be put in place again.
Austria deals with its past
Since Austria passed a law in 1998 covering the restitution of vast numbers of artworks stolen by the Nazis, thousands have been returned. Many of them worth millions of euros, that is why the descendants or heirs are ready to fight for the artworks.
The 69-year-old also wants to nullify the sale of one of the sanatoriums in the early 2000s — a late-baroque palace that was reportedly one of the world’s earliest centres of mental health treatment. Mr Hoguet alleges it was sold at a “grossly undervalued” price to the municipality.
Rothschild heir’s court case also aims to void a 2017 clause that determines that if the foundation were dissolved its wealth would go to the city of Vienna. A city of Vienna, in its turn, has released the statement, which stresses that agreements on the Jewish banking family’s foundation were made decades ago with “the greatest respect and absolutely in line with the foundation’s purpose”.