Hungary Confirms 1973 Deal on Unclaimed Swiss Accounts

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it made a secret deal with Switzerland to transfer assets of Holocaust victims to Hungary.

Switzerland had promised in 1973 to transfer $259,000 to Hungary, which was then under Communist rule, Marta Fekszi, deputy head of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry’s department of international law, said in an interview.

Most of the money was to come from the unclaimed accounts of Holocaust victims, according to various reports. The money apparently was never given to Hungary, but distributed directly among Swiss businessmen for their Hungarian property that had been nationalized after World War II.

The revelations come in the wake of Switzerland’s naming of two historians to examine postwar Swiss deals with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania as well as Hungary to use Jewish assets to compensate Swiss citizens for property in those countries.

A secret pact between Poland and Switzerland has recently garnered the most attention.

The deal between Poland and Switzerland apparently enabled the Swiss to use Polish Jewish assets deposited in Swiss banks for safekeeping to compensate Swiss citizens. The assets of the Polish victims of the Holocaust are believed to have gone to Swiss nationals who owned property in Poland that was nationalized by the Communist government in Poland.

Fekszi said the revelations would not affect ongoing talks about restitution between Jewish leaders and the current Hungarian government.

“The money of the Hungarian Jews taken and deposited in Switzerland will not be included in the talks about compensation for confiscated Jewish property in Hungary,” Fekszi said.

Earlier this month, the Hungarian Parliament overwhelmingly approved a government plan that will partially compensate Hungarian Jews for property that was confiscated during World War II.

According to the plan, Holocaust survivors, their living relatives and the Jewish community will be compensated.

Hungary had a prewar population of 800,000 Jews. About 600,000 died during the Holocaust. Today, the Hungarian Jewish community, the largest in Central Europe, numbers between 80,000 and 130,000.

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