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Friday, August 14, 1998 Published at 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK

World: Americas

Nazi victims agree $1bn deal

Gold bars stamped with the Nazi insignia

Senator Alfonse D'Amato: "Long and hard work"
Swiss banks have agreed a $1.25bn compensation deal with Jewish groups over assets seized by the Nazis during World War II.

The main US negotiator at the New York talks, Senator Alfonse D'Amato, said it was an historic agreement which would bring moral and material justice to those who had suffered for so long.

[ image: Alfonse D'Amato embraces Holocaust survivor Estelle Sapir]
Alfonse D'Amato embraces Holocaust survivor Estelle Sapir
Senator D'Amato, who is also chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, added: "This brings some measure of justice for past wrongs."

The deal comes after months of often bitter negotiations, during which the US threatened to impose sanctions on Swiss banks if they failed to resolve the dispute.

Switzerland has been accused of buying large amounts of gold stolen by the Nazis from Jews and of failing after World War II to hand over deposits made by Jews killed by the Nazis.

[ image: Jews at Auschwitz concentration camp]
Jews at Auschwitz concentration camp
Lawyers for survivors and the World Jewish Congress had been seeking compensation of at least $1.5bn.

They rejected an offer last month of $600m, which the banks said at the time was their final offer.

Four installments

Now US District Court Judge Edward Korman and lawyers for the plaintiffs will draw up a plan for distributing the money.

BBC's US Correspondent Jane Hughes: "Moral victory"
The first installment of $250m will be paid 90 days after the Judge Korman grants his approval.

Subsequent payments of $333m will be paid on the first, second and third anniversary of Korman's approval.

Rabbi Marvin Hier: "Historic settlement"
Rabbi Marvin Hier, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, in Los Angeles, had been pushing for a $1.5bn award.

But he said: "I think it's a fair settlement and Holocaust survivors can look forward to some small measure of justice.

"We should remember this is about justice, the memory of the Holocaust. Assets were stolen from the victims of the holocaust and the Swiss banks are merely returning stolen property."

Abraham Foxman: "Search goes on"
Abrham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the US-based Anti-Defamation League, a media watchdog, told the BBC the Swiss were not alone in keeping Jewish assests and the search for justice would continue.

He added: "There have been others but the intensity and the greed that the Swiss did it ... that's unprecedented."

The award settles all claims against two commercial banks - UBS AG and the Credit Suisse - plus the Swiss National Bank, other Swiss banks, the Swiss government and Swiss industry, said Marc Cohen, a lawyer for the banks.

"This development represents a major milestone in our long-standing efforts to ensure that justice is served," the two commercial banks said in a statement.

But concentration camp survivor Estelle Sapir, now 70, said: "This is not charity from the Swiss. My father deposited money there. It is my money."

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