Migration organisation to distribute money to Holocaust survivors

Holocaust survivors are being asked to submit claims for a share of the settlement Keystone Archive

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is calling on Holocaust survivors and their heirs to apply for a share in the $1.25 billion (SFr2.19 billion) settlement agreed between Jewish groups and the big Swiss banks.

This content was published on May 22, 2001 - 14:07

The IOM is one of three organisations so far charged with distributing money from the settlement, which is designed to compensate former slave labourers and other groups of victims of the Nazi regime in Germany.

The director of the IOM's Holocaust Victim Assets Programme, Dirk De Winter, told swissinfo the IOM was well placed to distribute the funds.

"The IOM has a world-wide network of field offices. Its staff is used to dealing with vulnerable groups, whether they are migrants who're victims of trafficking, or as in this case, elderly claimants."

Through its Holocaust Victim Assets Programme, the IOM will process applications from non-Jews who were persecuted or targeted for persecution by the Nazis, and were refused entry to Switzerland or who were expelled after being admitted. Claims from people who were forced to perform slave labour for Swiss companies or their German subsidiaries will also be considered.

In addition to Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and physically and mentally handicapped people were targeted for persecution by the Nazis.

De Winter explained that claimants would be compensated based on which category they fall into, for example slave labourer or refugees.

"There are what we call categories and ceilings. I think the reason behind this is that although DM10 billion is a big amount, there are between one and two million claimants, and so this immediately puts the amount into perspective."

Two deadlines of August 11 and September 30 have been set for claims from the different categories of victims.

With regard to bogus claims, De Winter said: "There are a certain number of elements in the procedure that try to prevent bogus claims, or duplicate claims, including the signature of people on the form which has to be authentified."

He added: "What we encourage people to do is to add any evidence they have, and try to provide us with as substantiated a claim as possible. However, if that is not possible, we still encourage people to claim and to fill out the personal statement."

The two other organisations charged with implementing the settlement agreement are the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Claims Resolution Tribunal.

Switzerland's two biggest banks - UBS and Credit Suisse - agreed the $1.25 billion settlement with the World Jewish Congress to settle the claims of Holocaust survivors who held assets in Switzerland during the Second World War.

A plan for allocating and distributing the funds was finally approved by a court in the United States on November 22 last year.

Almost 65 per cent of the money - some $800 million - has been earmarked for holders of dormant Holocaust-era accounts who were unable to retrieve their assets after the war.

swissinfo with agencies

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