Newsletter : 7fax0523.txt
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>JN May 23, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 94
Bronfman Named to Swiss Holocaust Fund Board
World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman Sr., who led the
fight over the fate of unclaimed Jewish assets in Switzerland, was
named to a seat on the new Swiss Fund to aid Holocaust survivors.
The executive board of the World Jewish Restitution Organization,
which Bronfman also heads, made the decision after Nobel Peace
Prize winner Elie Wiesel resigned from the board, citing statements
"made in the Swiss press." Wiesel bowed out after discovering from
officials the title carried no power.
Switzerland Denies Prolonging WW2
By Lisa Schlein (VOA-Geneva)
Switzerland has rejected charges its wartime dealings with Nazi
Germany helped prolong World War 2. The Swiss government made the
comment in its reaction to a report compiled by Undersecretary of
Commerce Stuart Eizenstat that was highly critical of Swiss trade
links with Nazi Germany.
The Swiss government says it may have entered into some
questionable deals with Nazi Germany. But it denies US assertions
Switzerland acted as a banker to the Nazis. It says the United
States has provided no evidence to support claims Switzerland
prolonged the war by financing Germany's wartime effort.
The Eizenstat report says Switzerland has not lived up to a 1946
agreement with the Allies. The US report accuses Swiss bankers of
deliberately failing to return gold and other assets looted by the
Nazis from European banks and Holocaust victims. Those assets are
now believed to be worth about $5 billion.
In its reply, the Swiss government says it has met terms of the
agreement. As stipulated, it contributed 250-million Swiss francs
towards the reconstruction of Europe. The Swiss also reject US
criticism of its neutral stance during World War 2. While
conceding mistakes were made, the Swiss government calls its policy
of neutrality justified. It says Switzerland was surrounded by
enemy powers during the war. It had to remain neutral to survive.
Because of its neutrality, Switzerland says it was able to provide
a safe haven to tens-of-thousands of refugees.
The Swiss report shows a growing frustration with international
criticism of the country's wartime past. In an effort to improve
its battered image, Swiss banks have established a $180 million
fund to compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs.
Swiss Gold Whistleblower Seeks Refuge
By Maxim Kniazkov (VOA-Washington)
An unusual immigration bill moving through the Senate is
threatening to further upset US/Swiss relations, already strained by
charges of Switzerland's cooperation with Nazi Germany. The
bill would grant refuge in the United States to a Swiss man, who
says his life is in danger because he helped shed light on
Switzerland's World War 2 dealings.
Christopher Meili hardly fits the standard profile of an asylum
seeker. But the lanky 29-year-old father of two from the Swiss city
of Rutihof says he fears for his life just the same. "I fear for
the safety of my wife and two children. We are afraid, when we go
out. We are afraid, when we go to sleep."
Meili's quiet, church-oriented life took a jolting turn early this
year. On Jan. 8, He worked as a security guard at the Union Bank
of Switzerland in Zurich. He says in the paper shredding room he
noticed crates full of documents dating back to World War 2.
Meili says he was well aware of the controversy surrounding alleged
business dealings between Swiss banks and Nazi Germany. He said he
was afraid the documents would be destroyed in violation of Swiss
So he took some of them and gave them to a Zurich Jewish
organization, which turned them over to the police. "It would have
been much easier for me to turn around, leave the shredding room
and let the UBS go ahead with its destructions of these very
important documents. But I could not do that. When I saw the
documents, I suddenly saw visions of Holocaust victims."
A recent US government study concluded Swiss banks served as Nazi
Germany's key financial creditors during World War 2. The report
said Switzerland helped the Nazis exchange $580 million worth of
gold plundered in occupied countries for hard currency.
Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Abraham believes
the United States has an obligation to protect Meili by giving him
immigrant status. "We owe Mr. Meili a debt of immense gratitude for
this act of courage and conscience. But not everyone is thanking
him. He has lost his job. He has received death threats. His
future does not look bright in Switzerland. Yet, here, in America,
he is welcome with open arms everywhere he goes."
The case highlights a new and unusual chapter in US/Swiss
relations. Experts says for the first time in their memory
Switzerland is being treated by Congress on a par with human rights
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