US Congress told of slowness of Holocaust payments

The distribution of money to Holocaust victims from a Swiss bank compensation settlement is going far too slowly, the US Congress has been told. The head of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer (pictured) said Swiss officials were dragging their feet.

This content was published on February 10, 2000 minutes

The process of distributing money to Holocaust victims from the $1.25 billion compensation settlement by Swiss banks is going far too slowly, the United States congress has been told. The head of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer (pictured) told the hearing Swiss officials were dragging their feet.

Singer, who was a negotiator in the three-year effort to reach the settlement, said the Swiss Banking Commission should move faster to publish the names of the owners of about 25,000 dormant accounts from the Nazi-era, which could have belonged to Holocaust victims.

Singer's comments were echoed by Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the federal reserve who headed a three-year audit of dormant accounts in Swiss banks.

He told the Congressional hearing he was frustrated at the time it was taking to get results, but praised the co-operation of the Federal Banking Commission in attempting to shed light on the dormant account issue.

Congress also heard from deputy treasury secretary, Stuart Eizenstat, who deplored the fact that Holocaust victims had still received nothing from the settlement.

"A year and a half after the agreement, not one nickel has yet been spent for the victims," Eizenstat said.

A spokesman for the Swiss Bankers' Association said the Banking Commission had made it clear it would take a decision on lifting banking secrecy on the 25,000 accounts in the first quarter of this year, and was therefore well on target.

He added that the banks had already handed over the money from the $1.25 billion settlement, and that the reason nothing had yet been paid to the victims was the delay in drawing up a distribution plan.

He said the responsibility for this lay with Judge Korman of the US district court overseeing the class action suits against Swiss banks.

The Swiss Bank compensation programme, agreed in 1988, is meant to cover Jews and other victims who deposited assets in Switzerland during the Nazi era and never got them back, as well as those whose belongings were stolen by the Nazis and placed in Switzerland.

From staff and wire reports

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