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Holocaust Restitution: Investigators Find Thousands of Unclaimed Swiss Bank Accounts

(December 1999)

An investigation of the World War II records of Swiss banks led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker, found 54,000 unclaimed accounts that may have belonged to Holocaust victims. "The handling of these funds was too often grossly insensitive to the special conditions of the Holocaust and sometimes misleading in intent and unfair in result," according to the panel’s final report.

The investigators, appointed by Swiss bankers and international Jewish organizations, were unable to determine the exact value of the Holocaust accounts in Swiss banks, but they said their findings shouldn’t affect the agreement reached last year by Switzerland's two biggest banks to pay $1.25 billion in a U.S. class-action settlement. That accord is supposed to cover the claims of victims and their heirs and leave funds for other claimants.

The panel also said it had found 1,622 accounts that might have belonged to top-ranking Nazis or their collaborators. No names were disclosed.

While the report found "no evidence of systematic destruction of records of victim accounts, organized discrimination against the accounts of victims of Nazi persecution or concerted efforts to divert the funds of victims of Nazi persecution to improper purposes," auditors did confirm "evidence of questionable and deceitful actions by some individual banks in the handling of accounts of victims, including withholding of information from Holocaust victims or their heirs about their accounts." More specifically, the investigators found cases of "inappropriate closing of accounts, failure to keep adequate records, many cases of insensitivity to the efforts of victims or heirs of victims to claim dormant or closed accounts."

In 1997, Swiss banks published 5,559 names on missing account holders who lived outside Switzerland. Those accounts are worth $44.2 million. The panel recommended the publication of 25,000 more names on accounts so that relatives can file claims.

Click here for more information on Holocaust assets and reparations.

Source: Associated Press, (December 6, 1999)