III.1. General observations
Under the terms of the Austrian Declaration of Independence of 27 April 1945, the "Second Republic" perceived itself legally and politically as a a country occupied by Germany and now restored as as a democratic republic. On the other hand, the "Moscow Declaration on Austria" of 1 November 1943, by recalling Austria's share of responsibility for the war and by calling on Austrians to resist, had implied a certain ambivalence caused by the conduct of the Austrian people under the Nazi regime. Despite the activities of the Austrian resistance movement, this ambivalence had not been entirely allayed when the war ended. It continued to be reflected in the Second Republic's restitution and compensation practices.
As long back as early 1943, the Allied Powers had notified their general intention to reverse Nazi confiscations of property in the occupied countries. In the "Inter-allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation or Control" ("London Declaration" of 5 January 1943) the signatories (17 governments and the French National Committee) issued a formal warning to all concerned and especially to the neutrals that they would do everything to frustrate the methods of expropriation practised by the enemy. They reserved the right to declare null and void all transfers of property effected under enemy occupation. This applied to obvious robbery as well as pseudolegal, pretendedly voluntary transfers. At the time when that declaration was published, the restoration of Austria had not yet been decided on, so Austria was not treated separately from the enemy German Reich. Hence the question of what stand the reborn Republic of Austria was to take on this principle involved, among other things, the perception which Austria's postwar society was to develop of Austria's relationship to National Socialism and of the role which Austrians had played in the Nazi system.
After the end of the Nazi regime, the provisional Austrian government was faced with the question of how to cope with the consequences of Nazi crimes and with the associated problems of compensation. Although a law on the registration of "aryanised" property and other assets expropriated in connexion with the Nazi takeover had been passed as early as the beginning of May 1945, it was only after lengthy discussions that the Republic of Austria in January 1946 declared itself ready in principle to indemnify former owners by making restitution, thus endorsing the principles of the London Declaration. Though the Nullification Act enacted as a result of this policy decision stated that all legal transactions and other legal acts effected during the German occupation of Austria were null and void (if they had been effected in the course of the political and/or economic penetration of the country by the German Reich in order to deprive natural or legal persons of property or equivalent assets to which they were entitled on 13 March 1938), its Section 2 provided at the same time that special federal legislation would be passed to determine the manner in which claims based on the above general rule could be filed, and the extent of such claims. This meant that until such legislation was enacted, the nullity per se had no legal consequences at all (apart from an obligation to report claims).