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Saturday, December 6, 1997 Published at 19:34 GMT

World: Europe

Swiss banks make first payouts from holocaust accounts
image: [ Nazi gold ]
Nazi gold

Swiss banks say they have made their first payouts to victims of the Nazi holocaust and their heirs from accounts that have lain dormant since the end of the Second World War.

The banks would not give details of the accounts, or say how much money had been paid out.

However, the Swiss Bankers' Association said that the cases included a Jewish doctor who had sought refuge in Switzerland during the war, as well as relatives of holocaust victims.

The Swiss Bankers Association said about 6,000 claims had been filed since July, when the banks responded to allegations that they were hoarding the assets of holocaust victims by publishing a first list of dormant accounts.

In all, the banks have released details of more than 5,000 dormant accounts containing a total of just under $50 million.

The association said it was determined to resolve each claim within a year of receiving it.

Meanwhile, the American state of California has announced that it is suspending a moratorium it imposed on investments with Swiss banks.

State officials say they are pleased with the action the banks have taken to uncover and return the assets of holocaust victims.

[ image: Swiss banks are reported to have been the main conduit for Nazi gold]
Swiss banks are reported to have been the main conduit for Nazi gold
A recent interim report studying Switzerland's conduct during World War Two said 76% of Nazi gold transactions went through the country, and the volume of trade between Swiss private banks and war-time Germany was at least three times higher than earlier estimates indicated.

Representatives from over 40 nations met this week in London to investigate what happened to the gold the Nazis plundered.

The conference decided that holocaust survivors should receive compensation within three years.

Many believe that much of the wealth the Nazis looted from their victims in World War II is being held in Swiss bank accounts.

Swiss officials say they have proved that they are willing to face up to their past. The Swiss government set up a historical commission, the country's banks provided information on dormant bank accounts and both proposed to set up a multi-billion-dollar humanitarian fund.

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