Newsletter : 7fax0108.txt
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>PD Jan. 8, 1997, Vol 5, No. 4
Swiss Accused of Camouflaging Nazi Gold
By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)
Switzerland, fearing looted gold ingots it received from Nazi
Germany could be seized for war damage settlements, had Germany
stamp them as made before the start of World War II, said a U.S.
When that ploy failed to fool the Allies, certain Swiss banks sold
ingots made from looted gold to firms manufacturing foreign gold
coins, particularly for South America. It was the first document
found after months of hunting that directly accused the Swiss,
rather than the Nazis, of disguising looted gold.
A meeting Tuesday in Jerusalem between Switzerland's ambassador to
Israel and Jewish Agency head Avraham Burg has apparently failed to
solve a dispute which could result in a Jewish boycott of Swiss
Burg charged influential people in Switzerland want to destroy
talks about compensation for Jews whose family fortunes were taken by
Nazi Germany and deposited in Swiss banks. He said the Swiss
government must create an environment making it possible to resume
talks, in his words -- without humiliation.
Jewish groups contend Swiss banks hold billions of dollars in
assets that belong to Jews killed in the Holocaust, as well as
gold and other valuables looted from Jews by the Nazis. The
funds disappeared into the Swiss banks' reserves after their
rightful owners perished.
Some surviving relatives who say they know money was deposited in
a Swiss bank have been unable to meet the bankers' strict demands
for documentary evidence. Innumerable accounts have remained
unclaimed and inaccessible since World War 2.
For the past year and one half, Jewish organizations and the
Swiss government have been negotiating to recover some of the
funds. One outcome of the talks has been a proposal that
Switzerland set up a fund to help destitute and elderly Jews as a
good faith gesture, pending the outcome of investigations into
missing bank accounts.
Last week, outgoing Swiss president Jean-Pascal Delamuraz said the
suggestion amounts to blackmail. He spoke before Justice Minister
Arnold Koller succeeded him as president under Switzerland's
rotating system. Delamuraz is now the economics minister.
At a news conference this week in Jerusalem, the director of the
World Jewish Congress and the chairman of the Jewish Agency --
both of whom have been negotiating with the Swiss -- expressed
outrage at the Swiss president's remarks.
WJC Director Israel Singer says the statement
is an insult and must be retracted. Avraham Burg -- chairman of the
Jewish Agency -- says he fears the former Swiss president's remarks
could harm talks on compensation with the Swiss bankers. He says
negotiations will be broken off unless the Swiss government
disassociates itself from the remarks.
In retaliation for the failure of the Swiss government to repudiate
Delamuraz's remarks, the Jewish Agency -- together with
international Jewish organizations -- is proposing a disinvestment
plan and partial boycott of Swiss banks totaling billions of
dollars. The organizations say they will decide on what action to
take within the next month.
The Swiss Bankers Association has rejected the boycott threats,
saying such action will not help joint efforts to find the lost
Meanwhile, the Israeli parliament's newly formed committee to
discuss the claims on Swiss banks by Holocaust survivors and
heirs of victims met for the first time.
Testifying Monday before the committee was American lawyer Ed
Fagan, who is representing thousands of Holocaust survivors in a
class-action lawsuit filed in New York against the Swiss Banks.
"They're lying. As early as 1941, the Swiss banks knew to the
penny who the money belonged to, what the names were behind each
account, and they knew every person who owned that money. But they
kept this information secret; they kept it locked in archives."
Lawyers in the class-action lawsuit believe there are potentially
tens of thousands of claimants in Israel.
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