Swiss Bankers Told to Search for Assets Left by Victims of Nazism

The Association of Swiss Banks circulated today a memorandum to member banks asking them to “do their utmost” to trace deposits which might have belonged to depositors who perished in Nazi concentration camps and other victims of “racial, religious or political persecution” during the Hitler era.

The note accompanied copies of a Swiss Federal decree, effective September 1, instructing all Swiss banks to pay out such deposits or accounts to the legal successors of the victims. The decree was the first major step taken in Switzerland to unfreeze deposits of persons who placed funds and valuables under the traditional secrecy of Swiss banking rules and who subsequently perished.

The decree specified that declarations must be filed within the next six months on all deposits and accounts “whose owners are known to be foreigners who have not been in touch with the banks since May 9, 1945 and who are presumed to have been the victims of racial, religious or political persecutions.”

Funds and valuables for which no heirs or successors can be traced will be turned over to a special organization with appropriate “humanitarian tasks” for disposition.

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