Holocaust survivors and victims' heirs have received $1.24 billion (CHF1.18 billion) from a Swiss fund set up after a scandal over dormant accounts of Jews killed during the Second World War.This content was published on July 15, 2013 - 21:36
The figure was contained in a court order filed by New York judge Edward Korman, who oversees the management of the fund.
Korman summed up operations since a landmark 1998 deal between the World Jewish Congress and Swiss banks.
The banks were accused of keeping money owned by Jews who had hidden funds in secret accounts in neutral Switzerland but then perished in the Holocaust, and of having given heirs the cold shoulder when they tried to track down the money.
Under the 1998 accord, the banks paid a $1.25 billion settlement, which was transformed into US government bonds.
Payouts were then overseen by Korman and the Zurich-based Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT), which wrapped up its operations last year. The CRT analysed more than 100,000 claims related to Swiss bank accounts.
Within the fund, a total of $800 million were destined for account holders and their heirs.
According to Korman's filing, $726 million has been paid out since then, with $426 million of that related to claims on 4,600 dormant accounts.
In addition, the fund gave a flat-rate sum of $5,000 each to 12,300 claimants whose cases were deemed "plausible but undocumented".
Another goal of the settlement was to provide money to survivors of Nazi persecution, whether or not they had held accounts in Switzerland.
All told, 457,000 Holocaust survivors and heirs have therefore received money from the fund.
Among them were 199,000 people who were pressed into forced labour by Nazi Germany and who received a share of $288 million.
In addition, 4,100 Jewish refugees who were turned back at Switzerland's borders during the Second World War received a total of $11.6 million.
Korman also authorised the payment of a total of $205 million to 236,000 needy victims of Nazi Germany's occupation, notably in the former Soviet Union. Any residual funds, around $50 million, will be mostly passed on to this group as well as Roma victims.
No details of the fund's administrative budget have been revealed, but the Swiss Jewish weekly Tachles said that the CRT alone cost up to $800,000 a month to run.
The CRT is now closed, but the definitive location for its archives is still being discussed. They could end up either in the Swiss capital Bern or in Washington at the city’s Holocaust Museum.
The Swiss Federal Archives have staked a claim to the documents.
Spokeswoman Manuela Höfler told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper that according to Swiss law, any documents should remain in Switzerland, given that they not only have historical, but also legal, political and economic value.
She added that this would ensure that the archives would be available over a longer period for researchers.
UBS and Credit Suisse agreed on a global settlement with Jewish organisations and Holocaust victims in August 1998, in exchange for the dropping of all class-action litigation against them in the United States.
$800 million of the $1.25 billion settlement was earmarked for Nazi-era account holders and heirs.
$425 million was also to be distributed among Holocaust survivors, refugees turned away from Switzerland during the war, and to prisoners who carried out forced labour for firms linked to Switzerland.End of insertion