The Holocaust Victims' Information and Support Center (HVISC) in Vienna is "a political body representing Jewish Nazi victims and their heirs." It was set up in July 1999 by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria in conjunction with the Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria, the Council of Jews from Austria in Israel and the American Council for Equal Compensation of Nazi Victims from Austria. The Support Center was created in response to dissatisfaction with the process of reparations to Jewish Nazi victims from Austria and with a view to defending their interests. Its program was developed on the basis of a survey among Jewish Nazi victims from Austria across the globe. A key mission of the Support Center is to "document individual cases of Nazi persecution and seek to achieve justice for Holocaust survivors finally and without delay". The HVISC has a support and advisory role and does not provide legal representation or administer restitution funds. Its services are provided free of charge unless otherwise agreed. The HVISC's director is Lothar Hölbling.
The Support Center is active in all aspects of restitution and compensation and is involved in art restitution in a number of ways. It is represented at the Commission for Provenance Research since October 1999 and is directly involved in its debates and restitution cases. Working closely with the Commission and the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture, the Support Center defends the interests of Nazi victims and their heirs during the decision process on restitutions. It also undertakes in-depth research on individual cases, which can involve tracing art objects and undertaking provenance research on objects in public collections.
The HVISC is very active in the search for heirs for the restitution bodies. It has taken on this role because the 1998 Federal Act does not regulate the search for heirs and such research is not undertaken systematically in Austria, except in Vienna. According to the comprehensive review of the Support Center's first four years by Erika Jakubovits, the HVISC identified heirs in 14 of the 42 restitution cases processed by the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture up until and including the Third Restitution Report. The Support Centre also cooperates with the Provenance Research and Restitution Commissions of Vienna, Styria and Upper Austria and has identified heirs for restitution cases of the City of Vienna and in Styria as well.
The HVISC cooperates closely with Austrian archives to make important resources for provenance research rediscovered in recent years accessible for researchers. Projects so far have included the creation of a computerised inventory for a photo index in the Archives of the Federal Office of Historical Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt) which documents c. 5,400 confiscated art objects, and for the name index of the VUGESTA in the Austrian State Archives.
The HVISC has also computerised lists of names and records compiled in connection with the First (1969) and Second (1985) Artistic and Cultural Assets Settlement Acts and located at the Regional Finance Office (Finanzlandesdirektion) in Vienna. A current project of the Support Centre is the creation of an Internet database of all archival information in Austria relating to the Nazi regime.
The Support Center and the Jewish community of Vienna also lobby Austrian provinces to adopt a legislation along the lines of the 1998 Federal Act on the Restitution of Artworks from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections.
The HVISC has its own website at www.restitution.or.at (in German and English), which includes information for claimants and guides to research resources in Vienna.
The HVISC publishes a free bilingual (German/English) Newsletter, which contains the latest information on its activities and the restitution and reparations debate and also lists addresses and deadlines of funds and support organisations. To be included on the mailing list, simply contact the HVISC offices.
Dr. Ingo Zechner (art restitution)
Holocaust Victims' Information and Support Center (HVISC)
Desider Friedmann-Platz 1
Tel.: + 43 (0)1 531 04 201
Fax: +43 (0)1 531 04 219
<www.restitution.or.at>, first accessed 11 March 2003. Link updated 23 July 2007.
Erika Jakubovits, 'Auf dem "Schlussstrich" Die Tätigkeit der Anlaufstelle seit ihrer Gründung', accessed 11 March 2003. This article is no longer online.