Swiss Bank Accounts of Victims of Holocaust Will Be Addressed

A new initiative to regain Jewish funds deposited in Swiss banks during World War II is expected to emerge from a meeting of world Jewish leaders next month in Brussels.

The officials from European Jewish communities, Israeli government agencies and American Jewish organizations will meet Sept. 12-13 “to discuss broad issues across Europe” that affect Jews, said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC President Edgar Bronfman will lead the conference, which is co-sponsored by the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

The conference is expected to result in a demand for the Swiss government to take steps to allocate frozen funds, among other initiatives to pressure the Swiss banking system to allow Holocaust survivors or inheritors to search for missing funds.

Media in Israel and elsewhere have reported that large amounts of money belonging to Holocaust victims are still being held in Swiss bank accounts.

Swiss banks, which are known for their premium on privacy, have refused to release the deposits to relatives of the deceased without proper documentation and accurate account numbers, much of which vanished during and after the war years.

Estimates of these accounts, comprised of deposits from World War II, range from tens of millions of dollars to nearly $7 billion.

The Swiss Bankers Association, the industry’s leading organization, has said the numbers are inflated.

Some of the accounts may include funds confiscated from Jews by the Nazis, who then transferred to monies to Switzerland.

The German daily Bild reported Monday that Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS and Gestapo, has transferred $800 million in cash and items to Switzerland during the war.

He accumulated the treasure from Hungarian Jews, who sought passage in return, reported the newspaper, which apparently received the information from recently released archives from the former East Germany.

The newspaper report could not be confirmed.

Earlier, top Swiss bank officials reportedly reached an agreement to appoint an independent arbitrator to oversee the transfer of the deposits to their rightful heirs.

At the September conference, the leaders also will address compensation issues involving other countries in Eastern and Central Europe and in Scandinavia, Steinberg said.

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