Swiss Banks to Lift Secrecy of Accounts of Jews Murdered by Nazis

An estimated $500,000,000 deposited in Swiss banks by Nazi victims, most of whom were Jews later annihilated by the Nazis, will soon be released to surviving heirs, under legislation to be adopted this week by the Swiss Parliament, it was announced here by the Swiss Consulate.

The accounts, identified only by numbers, have been dormant since the end of World War II. Many Jewish victims of Nazism are known to have deposited in such numbered accounts much money as well as insurance policies, stocks and deeds, to keep these valuables from confiscation by the Hitler regime. Numbered accounts have not been identified publicly by name under the secrecy law for Swiss banks passed in 1937. A large share of these fortunes is expected to be claimed by heirs now living in the United States, England, France and Israel.

An American Committee on Swiss Claims was set up yesterday in New York, as the Swiss Parliament prepared to relax the National Bank Secrecy Act, name the owners of the accounts, and establish a governmental agency to accept claims from the owners or heirs. Although 80 percent of the legitimate heirs are expected to be Jews, the committee–which is to facilitate the filing of claims–includes also Protestant and Catholic members.

The committee, formed by Kings County Surrogate Maximilian Moss, also includes Dr. Edward D. Re, chairman of the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. Mr. Moss said the committee will offer free aid to American claimants, including assistance in gathering proof and representing individuals before the Swiss Government. The committee has set up headquarters at 26 Court Street, Brooklyn.

Major Jewish organizations all over the world have been demanding since 1945 that Switzerland permit possible identification of such accounts, even if many of the owners are among those massacred by the Nazis. Swiss bankers claim that the total amounts involved may be only about a quarter of a million dollars, instead of the estimated half-billion dollars.

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