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Only 80 claims on list of pooled Holocaust-era assets, Swiss say

(AP) -- A government search for the owners of Holocaust-era assets in Swiss banks that were pooled for charity has led to some 80 claims, an official said Wednesday.

This content was published on September 29, 1999 - 16:25

(AP) -- A government search for the owners of Holocaust-era assets in Swiss banks that were pooled for charity has led to some 80 claims, an official said Wednesday.

The campaign, smaller than a long-running quest organised by the banks, will probably result in total payments of less than SFr5 million ($3.3 million), said Urs Mueller, who heads a foreign ministry registration office dealing with claims.

The claims apply to 60 of the 580 account names listed by the government last January, Mueller said. A deadline of September 30 has been extended until the end of the year to give others a chance to file claims.

The government campaign aims to find people whose assets were uncovered in a 1962 Swiss attempt to compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs. Little effort was made at the time to find any surviving owners, in part out of fear that any living in Eastern Europe might encounter trouble with communist authorities.

Most of the claims received in the new campaign have been from the United States and Israel.

Under the 1962 law, Swiss financial institutions were supposed to hand over to the government deposits unclaimed since the end of World War II. Any unclaimed assets were pooled into a fund which totaled SFr3 million (now $2 million) and given to Jewish and refugee charities.
The government says it will use tax money to settle any claims except from account owners who lived in Poland and Hungary. Those countries have already been given the assets and are themselves searching for those affected, it says.

Payments will cover account balances plus interest of 3.5 percent per year. Switzerland says the rate was devised to reflect a fair increase in the deposits' value, given that they were used for humanitarian purposes and no one profited from holding them.

The foreign ministry hopes the first payments can be made by the end of this year.

The much larger Swiss bank campaign, launched under intense international pressure, is searching for any surviving Holocaust victims with unclaimed Swiss bank assets or their heirs.

The banks in 1997 published account information on assets worth SFr67 million ($45 million), and received more than 12,500 claims.

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