Austrian head extols victims fund

"What happened between 1938 and 1945 cannot be mended. Nobody can make the inexpressible suffering and the losses undone or give back the lost days of life," the chancellor wrote in the letter to the WJC, dated Aug. 14.

"This reaching out by the Austria of today to those Austrians who were forced to leave by National Socialism is first and foremost a gesture of humanity, warmth and welcome," the chancellor wrote.

Steinberg said Aug. 24 that if the fund is as flexible as the letter indicates, much more than $50 million would be needed to compensate those eligible.

In an earlier media release from the Austrian government, beneficiaries of the fund included people who were "persecuted by the Nazi regime out of political, racial, religious, or ethnic reasons; because of their sexual orientation; or [because of] their disabilities."

However, the guidelines for eligibility remain unclear, Steinberg said.

Some 25,000 to 30,000 former Jews of Austria are alive from the World War II period, says the WJC.