Swiss Holocaust Fund Returns $1.3bn to Victims
All of the $1.3 billion Holocaust restitution fund created by Swiss banks in 1998 has been returned to victims, a judge involved in the case said in an interview published Thursday.
Fifteen years after Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse agreed to return assets from dormant bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims, U.S. judge Edward Korman, who oversaw the lawsuits that led to the massive $1.25-billion settlement, said the entire amount plus interest had been doled out.
The website of the Claims Restitution Tribunal, which has been responsible for transferring the settlement funds, on Thursday simply stated that it had finished its task and had closed its offices at the end of 2012.
The repayment process, which started in 2001, "was very difficult and time-consuming," Korman told the Swiss German-language Beobachter magazine in an interview published on its website.
"We made an incredible number of inquiries, and the destruction of bank records (during World War II) didn't help" in tracking down the account-holders and their families, he said.
He pointed out that in one case investigators had only had one newspaper report to rely on to determine the existence of an account.
The 1998 settlement fund was the result of a class-action lawsuit launched in the United States by Holocaust survivors and victims' families alleging that Swiss banks were making it unnecessarily difficult to access dormant accounts by, for instance, requiring death certificates which typically do not exist for Holocaust victims.
Korman noted that the Swiss banks for decades clung to the dormant accounts and had continued deducting fees from them.
"It wasn't just one bank... It was a conspiracy," he told Beobachter.
According to Swiss news agency ATS, more than 452,000 Holocaust victims and their descendants have received compensation through the fund.