September 2003  



While Austria has made considerable progress in facing its Holocaust history during the past two decades, one major area in which it has been terribly deficient has been the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals. Despite the existence of numerous Austrians who actively participated in the implementation of the Final Solution, not a single Austrian has been convicted of Holocaust crimes during the past quarter of a century.

Austria’s failure in this respect has been reinforced by recent research carried out the Wiesenthal Center which has shown that numerous Austrians served in German police battalions which committed the mass murder of civilians, primarily Jews, in Eastern Europe during the years 1939-1944. (The research in question was carried out in conjunction with German Labor Ministry by the Center’s researcher Dr. Stefan Klemp as a part of a project designed to cancel the special disability pensions of individuals who violated the norms of humanity, in accordance with a law passed by the Bundestag in January 1998.)

Under these circumstances, the Center hopes that the launching of “Operation: Last Chance” in Austria will help facilitate the investigation and prosecution of Austrian Holocaust perpetrators, and educate the Austrian public regarding the important role played by numerous Austrians in the implementation of the Final Solution