Rothschild scion takes on Vienna over family's legacy

After the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938, the Jewish Rothschilds were expelled

A descendant of the Rothschild dynasty began a lawsuit against the Vienna city authorities Thursday in a row over the running of a foundation set up by one of his forebears.

American Geoffrey Hoguet, 69, is pressing for a say in the running of the foundation set up by his great-great uncle Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild, who left the equivalent of about 100 million euros ($110 million) when he died in 1905 to provide psychiatric help for the needy.

"I'm not interested in any financial reward but I want the foundation to be re-established according to the will of my ancestor and to be brought back to life," Hoguet told AFP after Thursday's initial court hearing.

The foundation was initially run by a 12-member committee and opened two psychiatric care institutions.

After the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938, the Jewish Rothschilds were expelled, their property seized and the foundation dissolved.

After the war, in 1956, the foundation was re-established and placed directly under the control of the city of Vienna.

New York investor Hoguet wants to see an independent committee run the foundation.

The judge presiding over Thursday's hearing referred the case to another court but expressed concern over the fact that the city had total control over the foundation.

The city authorities are contesting the suit and deny allegations that they have not adhered to Nathaniel von Rothschild's wishes.

Historians say that Nathaniel von Rothschild's donation to set up the foundation was the largest individual bequest ever made in Austria.

It was made in the family's heyday, at a time when its success in banking and industry had been rewarded with one of the biggest fortunes in Europe.

One of the institutions was set up in 1912 and is now a neurological hospital.

The other institution was one of the first places in the world to treat mental illness and was sold off in the 2000s -- at what Hoguet says was less than its market value.

Hoguet said after the hearing that "bringing back the name of Rothschild in Austria is very important", adding that he had his "strongest roots" there.

He had been a frequent visitor to Austria for decades and counted some of his closest friends there, he said.

The country's Jewish population was almost totally wiped out under Nazi rule, with the vast majority either fleeing or falling victim to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

"I don't want to create further separations for religion or politics -- I want to build bridges," Hoguet said.

After the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938, the Jewish Rothschilds were expelled