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>Israel Faxx
>JN June 24, 1996, Vol. 5, No. 113

Israel's Netanyahu Seals Accord on 'Who is a Jew'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has signed an accord with Reform and Conservative Jews vowing to resolve their dispute with Orthodox Jews in Israel over "Who is a Jew." Under a deal signed with Reform and Conservative representatives, Netanyahu promised to create a committee to draft a proposal that would satisfy "all parties." Parliament approved preliminary legislation in April to enshrine a "status quo" where people converted in Israel to Judaism would be officially recognized as Jews only if the conversion was performed by an Orthodox rabbi.

Swiss Holocaust Charity

By Lisa Schlein (VOA-Geneva)

A private fund "For Humanity and Justice" has been launched in Switzerland to help needy survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. The fund has the support of prominent figures in political, business, artistic and religious circles.

The initiative is being launched with a poster campaign and radio and newspaper advertisements and organizers say so far they have raised several hundred thousand dollars.

The "Fund for Humanity and Justice" is tiny compared to the $180 million fund set up by Switzerland's three largest banks to compensate victims of the Holocaust. It is minuscule compared to the $5 billion Solidarity Fund announced by the Swiss government. But one of its organizers, Maya Lalive d'Epina, says the private fund allows individual Swiss to demonstrate the country's humanitarian tradition.

"It's clearly a third kind of support which is based on the idea that a lot of individual Swiss people are willing to help and want to help and want to do something but we want to do it in a more private organization and want to do it by themselves."

Switzerland has come under enormous international criticism recently for its trade links with the Nazis during World War 2. Its banks have been accused of hiding billions of dollars belonging to Holocaust victims. D'Epina says the private fund will not deal with political issues but will try to help needy survivors of the Holocaust. Many live in Switzerland but most live in wretched conditions in eastern Europe.

"It's just simply supporting people who have no money. So you give them the money or medicine or things like that. It can also be to support institutions who try to collect what's still around from the Jewish culture."

Organizers say every penny donated to the fund will reach the needy. They say private sponsors are paying for administrative costs.

Nazi Insurance

By Lisa Schlein (VOA-Geneva)

A private Nazi-hunting group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is urging Swiss insurance companies to investigate the whereabouts of money paid on insurance policies belonging to Holocaust victims. The Wiesenthal Center says Holocaust victims and their survivors may have been swindled out of hundreds-of-millions of dollars.

The Wiesenthal Center says a large Swiss insurance company, Winterthour, gave it a list of 90 unclaimed accounts opened by people during World War 2. It says the policies were later taken over by the Swiss government.

The center says Winterthour also turned over the names of three people killed during the war. Their policies were claimed by the Nazis.

A Wiesenthal Center official, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said this may be what he calls the tip of the iceberg. Heir says he is sure other insurance companies also had many policies that were handed over to the Swiss government or cashed in illegally by Nazi officials.

"Money taken from the victims of the Holocaust that should be returned. And this is what we would say would be the beginning of the insurance scandal. In the same way that the banks were sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars that were not their's, the same is true of insurance companies and this could be the opening chapter of the investigation into the insurance companies."

The Wiesenthal Center also says it sent a letter to the Swiss president asking him to search bank records to locate accounts which may have belonged to Nazi leaders.

The center gave the Swiss government a list of 334 senior Nazi officials it believes may have transferred looted assets to neutral countries. Hier says the Nazi leaders deposited money, gold, and other valuables when they realized they were losing the war.

"And the smart ones knew it was over then and they began laying plans and they were not stupid. So they did not open foreign bank accounts by using their own names -- Herman Goerring, Heinrich Himmler, Adolph Eichmann -- they used agents, aliases, a wife's name, a maiden name."

Hier says no government has formally investigated such accounts. He believes the investigations could lead to hundreds-of-million of dollars of unrecovered assets. Far more than will ever be found in dormant victims' accounts.

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