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Saturday, November 29, 1997 Published at 08:08 GMT


Cook promises to end mystery of Nazi gold
image: [ Robin Cook pays homage to Polish holocaust victims ]
Robin Cook pays homage to Polish holocaust victims

The British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is marking his visit to the Jewish memorial in Warsaw by reaffirming his pledge to discover the full truth about what happened to the gold which Nazis looted from their victims.

Mr Cook's decision to renew the first promise he made as Foreign Secretary comes only days before the British government hosts an international conference on the problem of Hitler's stolen bullion.

At the close of World War Two the allies set up the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold (TGC) to return hundreds of millions of pounds of gold which were believed to have been stolen from the central reserves of Nazi-occupied countries. About 40 million, less than 2% of the original recovered bullion, has still not yet been redistributed.

But it is being claimed that the TGC monetary gold pool contains not only gold stolen from central banks, but from individuals as well. Mr Cook hopes to address these concerns at the conference which starts on Tuesday.

In a speech at the memorial the Foreign Secretary said: "We must never forget what happened - that is why I've come here today. It is in that spirit that the new Labour government of Britain has called together a conference to examine how we can best make reparation to those who still survive, having been through that kind of experience."

The outcome of the conference is being eagerly awaited in Warsaw, a city which suffered horrifically under the Germans. The monument which Mr Cook is visiting is at the site of the Jewish ghetto, whose 450,000 inhabitants were deported by the Nazis to the Treblinka death camp. Around 750,000 Jews were killed in Treblinka between 1942 and 1945.

More than half a century after Hitler's demise many of the holocaust's survivors and their descendents are still seeking the return of property stolen by the Nazis. Many believe that much of the plundered wealth is being held in Swiss bank accounts. Earlier this year a concerted international campaign to shame Switzerland over this issue led to the country's famously secretive banking system promising to open its records up to unprecedented scrutiny.

The search for the Nazis' stolen riches is also continuing on the other side of the world. Earlier this week millions of pounds in cash, gold and jewellery allegedly looted by the Germans during the war was discovered when a bank vault in Brazil was opened.

Cook pledges Britain's commitment to Europe

Mr Cook's visit to the memorial is the final engagement on his brief tour of central Europe. Earlier, Mr Cook speaking at a conference on EU enlargement in Warsaw, pledged that the British Government would reaffirm its commitment to Europe during its forthcoming six-month EU presidency.

Mr Cook said that Britain would use the time "to help create a European Union that really belongs to the people. We need to reconnect the people of Europe with the European Union which their leaders are trying to create. The people need to know that the EU is relevant to their lives."

The Foreign Secretary said the European Union had to focus on the concerns of its citizens - creating jobs, fighting crime, protecting the environment, doing "things that matter to people from London to Warsaw."

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Internet Links

Foreign Office - Conference on Nazi Gold

Poland Country Guide - Holocaust

Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial

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