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One Year Later, Mystery Remains over Embezzled Reparations Funds

December 26, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A yearlong investigation has been unsuccessful in locating 30 million marks — now worth about $17 million — in reparations funds allegedly embezzled by the late Werner Nachmann, who was chairman of West Germany’s Jewish community until his sudden death in January 1988.

A joint statement admitting the failure to account for the missing money was released last week by Heinz Galinski, Nachmann’s successor, and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schacuble.

The statement affirmed, however, that Nachmann was believed culpable and that there existed no evidence of wrongdoing by anyone else.

The money was provided to the special fund for reparations to Holocaust survivors by the Bonn Finance Ministry and administered by the Council of Jewish Communities of West Germany.

The funds that were missing were the interest accrued on the original reparations awards. The monies were channeled to the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which paid out sums to individual claimants.

The joint statement said the Claims Conference lost 18 million marks (some $10 million) as a result of the embezzlement, and the Jewish community lost 12 million marks, or about $7 million.

The community has decided to reimburse the Claims Conference in the amount of 4 million marks ($2.3 million) which has been allocated for “administrative fees.”

The statement blamed the losses on the “criminal behavior” of Nachmann and a “failure of controls.” It said much of the money he stole went into his various companies and could not be traced.

Nachmann, a wealthy businessman with contacts at the highest political levels in Bonn, headed the Jewish community for 20 years before his death. He was said to be a personal friend of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, both of whom appeared at his well-attended funeral.

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