New York Times on Austria’s Shameful Imprisonment of Stephan Templ

Published in NYT:

The case, unfolding over a decade, has stirred the ghosts of Austria’s murky Nazi past. It has also fanned outrage among Holocaust historians, dozens of whom wrote to the Austrian authorities pleading for the case to be dismissed. Last month, President Heinz Fischer rejected a plea for clemency, arguing that he had no mandate to intervene in such a case.

The historian, Stephan Templ, 54, was co-author of a book in 2001, “Our Vienna,” which documented hundreds of properties seized under the Nazis that were never returned to Jewish owners or their heirs after World War II. The book outraged many Austrians, exposing long-held secrets about the Nazi era, and helped set off a flurry of legal claims.

Mr. Templ himself became involved in a restitution case in 2005, the tangled strands of which resulted in his imprisonment on Monday after all existing avenues of appeal had apparently been exhausted.

Mr. Templ’s lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, said in a telephone interview that his client was a victim of “selective persecution.” He “has been subjected to all of this as retribution for the publication of his book,” Mr. Amsterdam said.