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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Sept. 16, 1996 V4, #171
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Holocaust Survivors Won't Get Plundered Jewish Gold

By Andre de Nesnera (VOA-London)

Last week, Britain's Foreign Office released historical documents indicating Switzerland still holds billions of dollars worth of German gold plundered by the Nazis and placed in Swiss bank vaults.

The report says the story of the search for Nazi gold is fraught with dead ends and misleading trails. The report says during World War 2, Nazi Germany deposited in Swiss banks more than $550 million worth of gold, the equivalent of about $7 billion today. Most of the gold came from central banks in countries overrun and occupied by the Nazis. But the gold also came from dispossessed private businesses and individuals -- mostly Jewish.

Much of the looted gold was melted down and resmelted into ingots stamped with a special pre-war logo to conceal its origin. The Foreign Office report says this meant a bank in a neutral country could claim to have received "untainted" gold, as all the ingots were clearly marked as coming from Germany's pre-war reserve. It is the easiest thing in the world -- says the report -- to destroy the identity of gold.

Many Jewish organizations say the money held in Swiss banks should be given back to Holocaust survivors.

Prof. Douglas Cameron Watt is an expert on the Second World War, teaching at the London School of Economics. He says most of the gold was used to help the war effort and it is very difficult for individuals to prove ownership of the gold.

"When you negotiate government to government, the position of individual claimants is dictated by their citizenship. If I am a British citizen and I have had my property in Germany taken away from me and sold -- my claim against the German government goes to the British government, which then puts it as part of a general settlement. The problem with most of these claimants on these deposits in Switzerland was that they did not have a citizenship. Most have been deprived of their citizenship and were refugees -- if they were still alive -- and, of course, an awful lot of them were dead."

Cameron Watt says restitution of the money, as demanded by Jewish organizations, is virtually impossible.

The Swiss government says it knows nothing of the money still remaining in Swiss banks. Swiss banking authorities say the $60 million paid to the Allies at the end of the war represented all of the Nazi assets in their possession.

Swiss member of parliament Jean Ziegler told British radio he questions the veracity of statements by the Swiss government. "It is completely absurd to say this money is lost (and that) we do not know where it is. The Swiss banks should sit down with survivors of the Holocaust and then proceed to voluntary restitution. It is a moral, it is not a legal problem."

Jews Return to Uzbekistan

By Douglas Bakshian (VOA-Tashkent)

In Uzbekistan, a dwindling Jewish community with ancient roots has stabilized after decades of heavy emigration to other nations. A Jewish leader says some Jews are returning from nations like Israel and the United States, where they found life too demanding. At the same time, the government has allowed expanded Jewish cultural activities and life for those remaining in Uzbekistan has improved.

A rabbi holds a prayer service in a Tashkent synagogue -- a reflection of the ancient culture of Bokharan Jews that dates back 2,000 years. Jews originally settled in the Uzbek city, Bokhara, along the ancient Silk Route, but later spread to other parts of the country. Bohkaran Jews speak a Hebrew that varies from the traditional Jewish tongue -- pronouncing many vowels differently.

The situation of the Jewish community in Uzbekistan is complicated. Edward Davidov, chairman of the Bokharan Jewish Cultural Center, says the Jewish population has stabilized. He says many Jews are staying in Uzbekistan because they are accustomed to the relatively-slower and less-competitive life here. He says some Jews are returning from the United States and Israel because they found life in these countries too difficult and expensive. He says that Uzbekistan's economy has improved in the past 1-1/2 years and life is better for the nation's Jewish community.

Davidov says about 80,000 Jews remain in Uzbekistan, way down from the 400,000 he says lived there three decades ago. These are his own estimates. He says official figures are much lower. A government spokesman declined to be interviewed on the subject.

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