LONDON (Jul. 26)
A British government panel has approved the claims of a first group of Holocaust survivors whose assets were seized by Britain during World War II.
The 10 claims, said to be worth a total of $200,000, were announced during the first meeting of the panel. It was set up after the British government announced last December that it was establishing a $25 million fund to offer immediate assistance to survivors who had previously been unable to reclaim their pre-World War II assets.
Before the war, people across Europe deposited their assets in Britain for safekeeping. But the British government seized their assets after war broke out because they were citizens of an enemy country.
Some 220 claims have been made in the past year since the British government posted on the Internet — at http://www.enemyproperty.gov.uk — a total of 30,000 names relating to unclaimed prewar accounts.
At the same time, the government also launched a worldwide publicity campaign to alert survivors and heirs to the possibility of reclaiming assets that were seized — and never returned — by the British Custodian of Enemy Property at the beginning of the war.
The deadline for submitting claims is Sept. 30. After then, the assessment panel will meet regularly to accelerate the process of judging the claims.
The list of bank account holders and owners of other assets released on the Internet relate to people who were then living in Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Of the 220 claims that have been received so far, 36 have come from Israel, 29 from Germany, 26 from Romania, 25 from the United States, 23 from Hungary, 19 from Estonia, 17 from Britain and five from Bulgaria.
Of the claims that have been approved, two each came from Israel and Britain, and one each from the United States, Canada, Romania, Germany, Norway and Belgium.
Publication of the names on the Internet followed an apology by the British government for the insensitivity with which it had handled the issue in the past.
At the same time, it announced that it would reopen claims and return seized assets at current valuations to people who could prove their claims.