LONDON (Apr. 7)
Britain has announced plans to create a $3 million fund to reimburse victims of the Holocaust and their heirs — and has apologized for the way Britain dealt with claims for Jewish assets.
The fund, which was announced last Friday, would compensate European Jews whose assets, deposited in British banks, had been seized during World War II.
The announcement, which marked a reversal of long-standing British policy to not offer compensation, came with the release of a British government report on its investigation of the seized assets.
It also came after a week of intense lobbying by Jewish leaders here, who believed, after meeting with British officials, that the government would not be offering compensation.
Presenting the results of the governmental investigation, which was undertaken by historians at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Board of Trade President Margaret Beckett acknowledged that some documents indicated that officials who dealt with the claims “were sometimes insensitive to the plight of Nazi victims.”
“The present government deeply regrets this,” she said, “and I would like to apologize to those individuals and to their relatives and descendants.
“The general principle must be that confiscated assets placed in the UK by victims of Nazi persecution should be returned to them by the UK where practicable and where claims can be validated.”
In addition to establishing the compensation fund, the British government plans to publish on the Internet a list of some 25,000 names of people for whom records still exist, Beckett said.
She added, however, that many of those names are thought to be “genuine enemies” who sought a safe haven for their assets.
The report noted that in 1948 the British government made token payments totaling some $2 million to about 1,000 victims of Nazi persecution whose property had been confiscated as a result of the war.
After 1956, the British government used the remaining assets to compensate British citizens who had lost assets in enemy countries as a result of the war.
The report was expected to have been published when Britain convened an international conference dealing with Nazi gold in early December — and the delay prompted speculation that the recommendations would not include any provision for further compensation.