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Swiss fund to aid survivors set to authorize first payments

BERN, July 1 (JTA) — A Swiss fund established earlier this year to benefit needy Holocaust survivors is set to begin authorizing payments next week. The seven-member executive committee of the Holocaust Memorial Fund will meet Monday in Bern to determine the allocations, Rolf Bloch, the chairman of the committee, announced Tuesday. The committee is expected to authorize an initial allocation of $60 million that will go to 60,000 survivors living in formerly Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe, according to a well-placed Jewish source. The first payments would be made by the end of the summer, with each recipient getting a check for $1,000. Disbursements to survivors living in Israel and other countries will be addressed at future meetings of the executive committee. “There is a great deal of determination on our part to begin the allocations immediately,” the source said. “Priority should go first to the so-called double victims of East and Central Europe,” those who survived the Nazi camps and decades of living under Communist rule. “We are far along in being able to identify recipients,” said the source, referring to comprehensive lists that have been assembled by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on behalf of the World Jewish Restitution Organization. The WJRO, which was created in 1992 by the World Jewish Congress, the Jewish Agency and other leading Jewish groups, has spearheaded international efforts to determine the whereabouts of assets deposited by Holocaust victims in Swiss banks during the war years and to investigate Switzerland’s wartime dealings with the Nazis. The Holocaust Memorial Fund was created to make payments to needy Holocaust survivors as soon as possible while the questions regarding the missing assets are worked out — a process that could take years. The fund was set up with contributions from Switzerland’s largest banks and industrial firms. It is currently valued at $116 million. The Swiss National Bank has pledged to give an additional $70 million, but that contribution requires approval by the Swiss Parliament. The legislature is expected to take action in September. The fund’s executive committee is comprised of three Jewish representatives who were nominated by the WJRO, and four Swiss officials, including the chairman.

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