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>JN Aug. 26, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 156

Nazi-Style Sterilizations Shock Swedes

The Swedish government could face thousands of claims for compensation because of a Nazi-style campaign of forced sterilization of women that historians say was hushed up for years. Swedes have been shocked over revelations from journalist Maciej Zaremba that Swedish governments sterilized 60,000 women to rid Swedish society of "inferior" racial types and encourage Aryan features. "What happened was nothing but barbaric.


Israel May Join the British Commonwealth

Israel is actively considering joining the British Commonwealth, following an "unofficial approach" to its ambassador in the UK from the secretary-general of the 53-member group of states at one time ruled by Britain. The approach was made earlier this month in a meeting between ambassador Moshe Raviv and the Commonwealth's secretary-general, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Jewish Chronicle reports (Aug 24).

The move comes at a time Israeli ties with the European Union and other international bodies have become especially strained over the stalled Oslo process. Sources in Israel said the Israeli government "would be pleased to look into the possibility of joining the Commonwealth."

In February, the Commonwealth rejected a Palestinian Authority application for observer status, on the grounds it does not represent an independent state. Anyaoku told the PLO's "ambassador" in London, Afif Safieh, however, that future membership was possible.

The area now occupied by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority-controlled territory was ruled by British Mandate between 1917 and 1948.


Austrian Foreign Ministry Won't Give Gold to Nazi Victims

By IINS News Service

Austria doesn't plan to give Holocaust victims 50 tons of gold the defeated nation received from the Allied forces after World War 2 because it legitimately belongs to the government, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Spokesman Andreas Launer said in a telephone interview that the government is willing to work with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which demanded in June that the gold be turned over to victims of Nazi Germany.

He said, though, that Austria's willingness to help settle outstanding claims about Jews' seized assets before and after the war does not extend to the gold, originally taken from and now held by the Austrian National Bank. National Bank spokesman Gerald Husa said Austria held 78.267 tons of gold in the National Bank on March 17, 1938, the last time the gold was valued before Austria was taken over by Germany. According to the Foreign Ministry, the German Reichsbank illegally stripped Austria of its official gold reserves.

Austria is willing to forego any future claims to the 28.08 tons of gold it never got back from the Allies and therefore does not have. It is also willing to help set up an international fund with that amount to pay reparations to Nazi victims.


Silence About Children's Deportation Grips French Town

By Julian Nundy (VOA-Paris)

A French town kept silent for 50 years about the World War 2 deportation of Jewish children to Nazi death camps. Previously unpublished documents show that all the children died in those camps. The mayor of Voiron, a small town near the Alpine city of Grenoble, calls the silence "the silence of shame."

One night in March 1944, the Gestapo raided a house in the town where 16 Jewish children were being hidden. They were deported to death camps and none of them survived.

Part of the mystery is how the deportations escaped attention all these years. The regional newspaper, "Le Dauphine Libere," has found two residents of the town who are still alive today and who saw the children being loaded into trucks. The children were taken to a transit camp near Paris. They were put to death in camps in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland.

Mayor Philippe Vial says the town will unveil a memorial next month. The Voiron deportations closely resemble a notorious episode at the nearby town of Izieu. There, in April 1944, 44 children being hidden by an undercover rescue organization were arrested and sent to their deaths.

The news of the Voiron deportation comes some six weeks before Maurice Papon, a former government minister in the 1970s, goes on trial for crimes against humanity. He is to be tried for his alleged role in the deportation of Jews from the city of Bordeaux.


Netanyahu Visits Japan

By Thomas Caldwell (VOA-Tokyo)

In Japan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a four day visit to the country for talks with Japanese leaders. The primary reason for Netanyahu's visit is to attract more Japanese investment in his country and to further the business relationship between Israel and Japan.

Netanyahu met with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at his official residence. The two discussed economic issues, but the subject of the current state of affairs between Israel and its neighbors was also addressed. Hashimoto said Japan would try to support the Middle East peace process, but added that he would like to see Israel fulfill its responsibility to advance the peace talks.


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