Le petit flambeau

L'Autriche vue par un universitaire français…

Tilgungsfrist, whitewashing & blanchiment…

The question which interests me in the Amstetten case is whether or not there is something Austrian in it. As I wrote in the previous entry of this blog, it would be naïve just to link the Kampusch story with the Fritzl one and write on “Austria” or “Austrians”. Of course, there is no monopoly on cruelty. I tried therefore to see first what Austrian writers had to say about the case, and it appeared that the “look-away” (Wegschauen) culture played a role as well as the habit of obeying social codes and staying unnoticed.

Now, there is also a matter-of-fact analysis which might be interesting for social scientists , namely the way Austrian law foresees the whitewashing of criminal records. The Amstetten guy, Josef Fritzl, had been convicted in 1967 of having raped a woman. He had been sentenced to (only) 18 months in jail but when he asked for the adoption right to one of his (grand)children, his criminal record had been completely erased. It’s the so called “Tilgungfrist”: whatever sentence you received (apart from lifelong prison), after 15 years it’s just wiped off your criminal record. Fritzl could easily adopt or obtain the legal care of three of his seven (grand)children, social services never had a chance to know about his past.

Great debates are taking place these days at the Parliament to discuss if it may be necessary to change the legal situation but the questions I asked to myself were: how is it in other European countries and – again – is there anything related to Austrian history in this reduced 15 years term.

Let’s take France for example. There is quite a sophisticated system of three bulletins for the “casier judiciaire national”. Depending on the institution which asks for the record, only one of three is delivered. After 40 years (instead of 15 in Austria), all the records are cleared. For an adoption, the bulletin #2 is required and all crimes are written on it. Besides, a law was passed in 2002 to prevent recidivism in the case of sex crimes (see “7.1. Infractions de nature sexuelle”) . Fritzl could definitely not live with his children unnoticed.

How is it in Germany? Well, it’s exactly like in Austria, according to the « Bundeszentralregistergesetz », after 15 years the files are whitewashed (see §_46 BZRG under “fünfzehn Jahre in allen übrigen Fällen”).

Is there any connection between this astonishing difference and the denazification? In a recent exhibition on the occasion of 60 years of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, which marked the independency of the Country, there was a text on the whitewashing of records. Half a million cases of Austrians who joined the Nazi Party were registered after the Nationalsozialistengesetz was passed, in 1947. About 170.000 people were at least provisionally suspended, most of them working in public services; 130.000 cases entered a tribunal… and 43 people were sentenced to death (more details here). Then came the time were Austrian wanted to obliterate the Nazi past (“die NS-Vergangenheit zu tilgen”)…

In 1951, still under occupation , a first “Act on the Erasure of Convictions” (Tilgungsgesetz) was passed. It was followed in 1957 by an important Amnesty law which, according to Wolgang Neugebauer, who headed the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance from 1983 to 2004, can be considered as the final decision to give full rights to former nazi officials. Neugebauer even assumed that this law cancelled the scarce efforts made during the denazification period.

Die NS-Amnestie 1957 setzte den Schlusspunkt: Sie beinhaltete Wiedereinstellungen, Gehalts- und Pensionsnachzahlungen, Vermögensrückstellungen, die Aufhebung aller Verbots- und Sühnemaßnahmen, Strafnachsicht und Tilgung von Verurteilungen und brachte die völlige politische und wirtschaftliche Gleichstellung der ehemaligen Nationalsozialisten. Praktisch wurde die Entnazifizierung damit rückgängig gemacht. Mit diesem Reintegrationsprozess in die Gesellschaft war keinerlei geistige oder moralische Wandlung und innere Umkehr verbunden, zumal die Anbiederung der Politik an diesen Personenkreis die Betroffenen in ihrer Uneinsichtigkeit und ihrem Unschuldig-Fühlen bestärkte. « Wir alle sind unschuldige Täter » lautet der zutreffende Titel eines Buches von Ruth Wodak. (See the whole page)

Since this time, the whitewashing delay has not changed. Even if the Tilgungsgesetz was changed in 1972, the 15 years delay stayed the same. In an article entitled “Austria: ‘We have to ask what’s going wrong’” for the Times, Roger Boyes wrote “The central question for post-war Germans has been: how many facts do I need to know about my father to know myself? It is a question rarely posed in Austria.”

For sure, you can’t know much if you just look at the “Strafregister”, even if you are the social service for child care, but laws will change, while Austria is still on its way to face its past.

PS/ Many thanks to Michael for the English editing and to Nicole for the informations provided on the French law. As my friend Bill likes to say since he spent ten days covering the Amstetten case for his news agency (and really got fed up with it): I hope you’re not totally “amgestettet” with two these entries! 🙂

8 mai 2008 - Posted by | Autriche | , , , , , , , ,

Un commentaire »

  1. emm.. amazing 🙂

    Commentaire par Jeatuedge | 23 mai 2009 | Réponse

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