A Swiss fund to support needy Holocaust survivors has made its first payments to gypsies, or Roma, in Ukraine. The first of nearly 4,000 beneficiaries received their payments at a special ceremony on Friday in the capital, Kiev.
The administrators of the fund said 3,966 Ukrainian Roma would receive $400 each. They said the sum represented a significant financial boost to the needy Holocaust survivors, whose average monthly income is only $20.
Speaking at the ceremony in Kiev, the fund's president, Rolf Bloch, underlined the importance of the payments. He said the fund had had great difficulty locating Roma survivors of the Nazi Holocaust because the repression of the gypsy people during the Second World War was poorly documented.
Bloch said the payments in Ukraine had been made possible by the help of a national foundation called "Understanding and Forgiveness". The search had also led to the recognition at the highest political levels in the Ukraine, of the suffering experienced by the Roma at the hands of the Nazis.
The payments in Ukraine are expected to be among the last to be made by the Swiss Holocaust Fund. Almost all of the fund's capital of SFr273 million and SFr22 million in interest has been spent.
The fund was set up by Swiss banks in 1997, when they were under intense pressure for allegedly profiting from the Holocaust. The National Bank and Swiss businesses also contributed to the fund.
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