BONN (May. 19)
The scandal surrounding the late president of the West German Jewish community, Werner Nachmann, grew in complexity Thursday amid implications that he may have enjoyed protection in high government circles while he was embezzling reparations funds intended for Jewish victims of Nazism.
Heinz Galinski, who succeeded Nachmann as president of the Jewish Central Council, the German Jewish community’s umbrella organization, revealed that tax officials had begun to examine Nachmann’s books last year but were called off after two days’ work by order of high authorities in Bonn.
The Jewish community was stunned by Galinski’s revelation Tuesday that Nachmann probably misappropriated some $12 million. The missing money was the interest accrued on $238 million worth of reparations money provided by federal authorities between 1980 and 1987.
The fund was to be used to distribute one time payments of 5,000 marks to Jewish victims of Nazism who came to West Germany from Eastern Europe after the 1965 deadline for filing reparations claims.
West German radio reported Thursday that the federal prosecutor has broadened the investigation of Nachmann to include possible connections he had among ranking politicians in Bonn and elsewhere.
Nachmann, an industrialist who served as longtime president of the Jewish community until his death in January, enjoyed the full confidence of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
ACCESS TO THE ACCOUNT
The prosecutor’s office is also questioning Alexander Ginsberg, veteran secretary of the Jewish Central Council and the only individual apart from Nachmann who had access to the account in which the reparations fund was kept.
The money was deposited mainly in the Karlsruhe branch of the French bank Societe Generale Alsacienne, where Nachmann also had private and business accounts.
Michael Fuerst, a lawyer and a member of the Jewish Central Council from Hanover, accused the French bank Thursday of performing illegal transactions. He charged bank officials closed their eyes to Nachmann’s activities.
Legal experts and representatives of financial institutions expressed amazement that the reparation funds were managed by Nachmann without control by the government or by the Jewish community’s institutions.
The West German reparations funds are administered by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Its executive director, Saul Kagan, said he was “shocked” by the allegations against Nachmann.
According to government statistics, 124,900 claims were filed by individual Jewish persecutees as of July 20, 1986; 64,000 have been approved.
Another charge was made against Nachmann Wednesday by Professor Leo Rubinstein, chairman of the Jewish community in Baden, who announced his resignation. He said the former president of the Jewish Central Council had used the regional community’s money to finance private investments and pay the bills of his Otto Nachmann textile company.
Eberhard Braun, executor of Nachmann’s estate, said Wednesday that the late Jewish leader left no money to cover claims from various organizations. He said Nachmann’s businesses were heavily in debt when he died. Bankruptcy proceedings for the textile company began in a Karlsruhe court Thursday.
Meanwhile, Nachmann’s widow, Israeli-born Aviva Nachmann, has taken a job as receptionist at a Karlsruhe publishing house. She told the Central Council her husband did not leave her enough money to survive.