Holocaust survivors likely to get settlement

NEW YORK, Sept. 12 (JTA) — Jewish organizations looking for a piece of a historic $1.25 billion Swiss bank settlement are likely to be disappointed.

Instead, payments from the fund are likely to go solely to Holocaust survivors or their heirs, according to a document submitted to a U.S. court overseeing the settlement.

The distribution plan delivered to the court this week sets a Nov. 6 deadline for responses. On Nov. 20, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman, who is overseeing the settlement, will hold a public hearing to review any comments that have been submitted.

After that, the court will decide what the actual distribution plan will be, and claimants will be informed how to submit applications.

The distribution plan earmarks most of the fund — $800 million — to survivors or their heirs who are holders of dormant World War II-era accounts that they were unable to recover from Swiss banks.

The plan — citing a report issued last year by a panel that conducted a three-year audit of Swiss banks — estimates that as many as 26,000 of these accounts probably belonged to victims of Nazi persecution.

Account holders are the primary recipients of the settlement, which Switzerland’s leading banks first agreed to in August 1998. The settlement was reached amid allegations that the banks were hoarding the wealth of Holocaust victims.

The distribution plan — drawn up by Judah Gribetz, a court-appointed official known as a special master — also designates several other beneficiary classes:

• Slave and forced laborers who worked for German companies will receive at least $500 each, plus another $500 after all claims are processed;

• Slave and forced laborers who worked for Swiss-owned companies will receive the same amount. An estimated 100 Swiss firms used up to 5,000 such workers in Nazi-run plants, mainly in German towns near the Swiss border;

• Anyone who was admitted to Switzerland as a refugee during the war and was subsequently detained or mistreated will be eligible to receive a maximum of $500. An estimated 3,000 people are expected to file such claims;

• Refugees denied entry into, or expelled from, Switzerland may receive between $1,250 and $2,500. About 17,000 people are expected to file under this category;

• The proposal also earmarks $100 million to compensate those whose property was looted during the war. Of this, 90 percent will be distributed to Jews, 10 percent to non-Jews.

The fund also designates $10 million to create a Holocaust memorial foundation.

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