SYDNEY (Jul. 21)
After a hard-won battle to claim the dormant bank account of his late grandfather, an Australian Jew has won a settlement estimated at more than $150,000 from the Union Bank of Switzerland. News of the settlement came as the Swiss Bankers Association readied to release this week a list 775 people who opened Swiss bank accounts during World War II that have remained unclaimed.
Whether the settlement announced here would set a precedent for others who have claims against Swiss banks was unclear, but a senior World Jewish Congress official in New York called the reported amount of the settlement “significant.”
Stephen Baruch, a Sydney accountant, had been working for more than 30 years with his family to regain the money held in his grandfather’s dormant account.
Salem Budzyner had placed the money in a secret account before fleeing the Nazis in 1938.
Budzyner, a Polish mill owner, later died in Trieste, Italy.
The family has held on to the bank account number and other details of the deposit since the end of the war.
The successful claim against the UBS was filed for Baruch by lawyer Henry Burstyner, who met Baruch after placing an advertisement in 1995 in the local Jewish press offering his services to readers who had reason to believe family assets deposited during the war years were still held by Swiss banks.
According to Burstyner, most of the letters he received were general and seemed to offer little hope that a successful claim could be made.
But the documentation held by Baruch encouraged Burstyner to believe that this was a case worth pursuing.
Burstyner discovered that the UBS had a statement indicating that Budzyner had made a deposit of some $460 in 1938.
Based on what that money would be worth today and calculating interest due, Burstyner responded by lodging a claim for $600,000.
Although a confidentiality agreement prohibits Baruch or his lawyer from divulging details of the settlement, local reports indicate Baruch has received more than $150,000, which he says he will use to try to move his grandfather’s remains from Trieste to Israel.
The Swiss ambassador to Australia told the Australian newspaper that he was “comforted by the fact that there has been some positive attitude on the side of the Swiss banks on this particular case, and I hope the family feels they have now found justice.”