Wednesday, April 20, 2005

American Summary of Swiss Bank Settlement

This is, imo, a pretty sharp summarization of the Swiss bank settlement with Holocaust survivors - from an american viewpoint.
Check out the full article at Global Politician.

In August 1998, Switzerland's two major banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, agreed to set up a $1.25 billion fund to settle claims by holocaust survivors and their relatives. The red-faced Swiss government threw in $210 million. It seems that banks - from the USA to Switzerland - were in no hurry to find the heirs to the murdered Jewish owners of dormant account with billions of dollars in them.

A settlement was reached only when legal action was threatened against the Swiss National Bank and both public opinion and lawmakers in the USA turned against Switzerland. It covers owners of dormant accounts, slave laborers, and 24,000 refugees turned back to certain death at the Swiss border - or their heirs.

A high level international commission, headed by Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, identified 54,000 accounts opened by holocaust victims - not before it inspected 350,000 accounts at an outlandish cost, borne by the infuriated banks, of $400 million. A similar - though much smaller ($45 million) settlement was reached with Bank Austria and Creditanstalt of Vienna. Another $2 billion are claimed from 9 French banks.

Five major insurance firms - Allianz AG, AXA, Generali, Zurich and Winterthur Leben - formed an International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance to deal with unresolved insurance claims of holocaust victims. Assicurazioni Generali went ahead and set aside $12 million in a compensation fund. But the claims may total $1 to 4 billion.

Surprisingly, calls for the restitution of Jewish real-estate, property, bank accounts, insurance policies, and art works confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators are fairly recent. The International Committee on Restitution took until 1999 to appeal to the Austrian government to restore assets to their rightful Jewish owners.

Governments from Austria to France and from Belgium to the Netherlands appointed commissions to investigate Jewish claims. The United Kingdom has posted to the Internet a list of tens of thousands of assets confiscated - mostly from refugee Jews - under the 1939 Trading with the Enemy law.

More than $60 million were set aside by 18 governments in the 1997 London conference on Nazi gold. A French commission, chaired by Jean Matteoli, a resistance fighter, identified $1 billion in expropriated Jewish property, including 40,000 apartments and hundreds of thousands of works of art.

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