Holders of dormant accounts to benefit most from Holocaust fund

Holocaust-era account holders who were unable to recover their wartime assets are to benefit most from a $1.25 billion (SFr2 billion) settlement reached between Switzerland's two biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, and Jewish organisations.

This content was published on September 12, 2000

The distribution plan, drawn up by a "Special Master" of the New York district court handling the fund, has earmarked some $800 million for holders of dormant accounts in Swiss banks.

Also eligible are people forced to work as slave labourers in Swiss firms in Germany during the Second World War, as well as refugees who were turned back at the Swiss border.

The former slave labourers will be entitled to a maximum of $1,000 each, while refugees can claim up to $2,500.

Special Master, Judah Gribetz, drew up the distribution plan after the New York court approved the settlement between the two Swiss banks and Jewish groups.

Around 26,000 account holders and their heirs will be first in line for payments. The amount they receive will be based on the value of their assets at the time, plus interest and compensation for inflation. In cases where the actual amount cannot be determined, a sum will be decided by a special Claims Resolution Tribunal.

Funds will also be available for an estimated 200,000 Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, disabled people and homosexuals who were forced to work for mainly German companies during the war. They will receive an initial payment of around $500 each, plus a further $500 once the claims have been processed.

A sum of $100 million will also be set aside for people whose property was looted, with 90 per cent earmarked for Jewish claimants, and 10 per cent for non-Jews.

Claimants have until November 6 to comment on the proposals. A public hearing on the comments will be held on November 20.

Apart from the two Swiss banks, several Swiss companies which used slave labourers during the war contributed to the settlement in exchange for protection from future litigation.

The latest to join the settlement were the two pharmaceuticals companies, Novartis and Roche. The Basel-based groups said they would contribute SFr25 million each to the settlement.

They also said they would pay money through their subsidiaries in Germany into a fund created there to compensate victims of slave labour.

The decision follows the decision by the the food group, Nestlé, in August to pay SFr25 million towards the global settlement and make a contribution to the German fund.

swissinfo with agencies

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