Library to pay for stolen Jewish books

The Austrian National Library said it would pay 135,000 euros (164,000 dollars) for thousands of books in its possession that were taken by the Nazis from Jews during World War II.In a symbolic gesture, library director Johanna Rachinger handed over the books to the Austrian National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism at a special ceremony.The objects, some 8,363 in all, included children’s books, scientific reference works and theological treatises dating back to the 17th century, whose owners the library had not been able to trace.But the library has agreed to buy them back immediately at their market value, so that proceeds can go to Nazi victims who had not so far received any form of compensation, “such as Jews who arrived in Austria in the 1930s,” said the head of the fund, Hannah Lessing.The national library decided in 2003 to return 52,403 books looted by the Nazis after the annexation of Austria in 1938 to their rightful owners.So far it has succeeded in returning 35,217. A decision is still pending on a further 8,823 books, manuscripts, sheet music and cards, Rachinger said.However, 8,363 objects have been classified “heirless” after researchers failed to find their previous owners.Now it has been decided to use them to help people who had not been compensated so far.Austria decided in the 1990s to award a gesture payment of just over 5,000 euros to Nazi victims as an acknowledgement of the injustices suffered.