Aba Lewit was a Holocaust survivor. As a young man, he was sent by the Nazi regime to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he was held until its liberation in 1945.
Over 70 years later, Aba and several other survivors took legal action against a magazine which, in 2015, published an article that described those liberated from Mauthausen as “mass murderers”, “criminals” and “a plague”.
The legal action concerned a second article, published by the same magazine in 2016, which reported on the closure of a criminal investigation into the author of the first article, and which repeated the earlier statements. Aba and the other survivors argued that this article defamed and insulted them.
In 2016, an Austrian court dismissed the survivors’ claim, finding that the magazine’s statements did not personally affect them because thousands of people were liberated from Mauthausen. It said that Aba and the other survivors were not therefore individually identifiable in the article.
The court also ruled that the article did not contain any separate defamatory statements but only described the outcome of the criminal investigation.
On appeal, the survivors insisted that they could be identified because only a few former Mauthausen prisoners were still alive, and most of them were known to the public.
An appeal court confirmed the earlier findings and rejected the survivors’ complaint, without considering the size of the group.