Tuesday, June 29, 1999 Published at 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Holocaust fund appeals for Nazi victims
Survivor GŁnther Ruschin at the campaign launch in Berlin with wife Irene
Holocaust survivors and their relatives have been called on to make claims on a $1.25bn compensation fund set up by two Swiss banks.
The vast majority of Holocaust victims were Jews, but the fund is also seeking others, including gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and the disabled who had assets looted by the Nazis during World War II or were forced into slave labour.
The campaign, launched in 108 countries in 29 languages, was unveiled at news conferences in Tel Aviv, Berlin and Budapest. Other announcements were planned for Paris, New York, Johannesburg and Moscow.
Details on making claims will be published on the Swiss Bank Claims Website and in 500 newspapers worldwide.
An historic moment
The first payments could be made by the second half of the year 2000, the WJC said.
"This represents the late beginning of a process of justice for Holocaust survivors and their heirs."
Speaking in Tel Aviv, he stressed that the settlement would address financial, not moral, restitution for victims.
"Today is the first practical step in undoing some of those [financial] crimes," added Mr Urbach, whose father was a slave labourer in Poland during World War II and whose family lost property.
At the Budapest news conference, lawyer Stephen Winston said there were about 860,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide, of whom 400,000 could be eligible for compensation.
Eligible claimants include:
Holocaust survivors have until 22 October to submit claims, file objections to the $1.25bn settlement or remove themselves from the list of potential claimants if they do not want to share in the joint action.
A New York court will decide on 29 November if the settlement has sufficient support to proceed.
If it does, a draft plan for compensation payments will be presented on 28 December.