Nearly five years after its creation, the Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust is near to fulfilling its mandate of compensating Jewish survivors of Nazi Germany. Dutch and Tunisian Jews have yet to receive money from the Swiss fund.
Only 1,000 of the original 313,404 beneficiaries of the Swiss fund are still awaiting payment, said Barbara Ekwall, the secretary-general of the fund. Some 660 Jews in Holland and 350 Holocaust survivors in Tunisia have yet to receive the designated money from Bern.
Some SFr297 ($177.8 million) million has been sent to partner organisations charged with distributing the money, of which SFr285 million has been handed out to Holocaust victims.
Ekwall said the delay in Holland was due to time taken to process claimants' applications. She also explained that the hold-up in Tunisia was the result of late applications made to the fund.
Ekwall stressed, however, that Jews in the two countries would receive the money within the coming weeks.
The fund has distributed SFr20 million to 11,742 Jews in Western Europe, including France, Belgium, Spain and Italy. SFr84.4 million was paid out to 124,000 Israeli Holocaust victims. Some 123,000 of the recipients were given $466 each last year.
Ekwall said the payment scheme had progressed smoothly, despite lengthy delays in some cases. She added that the fund had collaborated well with local Jewish organisations and the World Jewish Restitution Organisation (WJRO), charged with distributing the money.
Last Friday, 58 Gypsies in Kosovo finally each received SFr1,257 from the Swiss Holocaust Fund. The application was made by the International Romani Union in Berlin in 1998, but the organisation was unable to distribute the money at the time because of the security situation in the Yugoslav province.
The payments will now be distributed by a Swiss church aid group.
The entire payments scheme should wrap up by next summer, Ekwall said.
Swiss banks and industry contributed money to the fund, which is in addition to other efforts to aid victims or return unclaimed bank assets.
It is also separate from a $1.25 billion (SFr2.19 billion) fund established in 1998 by Switzerland's two largest banks and intended for holders of dormant wartime accounts and their heirs.
swissinfo with agencies