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Tuesday, December 2, 1997 Published at 07:03 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Barnaby Mason ]Barnaby Mason

As an international conference on looted Nazi gold takes place in London, delegates will be discussing a proposal to use the remaining gold to set up a fund to compensate victims of Nazi persecution and their families. But, as our Warsaw correspondent, James Coomarasamy, has been finding out, after waiting for more than half a century for compensation, many Polish holocaust survivors are sceptical about what the conference can achieve.

84-year-old Arnold Mostovich is one of the dwindling number of Polish Jews who are eligible for a share of the looted Nazi gold. After spending the entire war in the Lodz ghetto, he found himself one of the so-called double victims of the looting; as a citizen of a Communist country, he was denied the financial compensation for Nazi crimes that some victims in the West received.

Despite the decades of frustration, though, he's retained a gentlemanly manner, but his anger comes to the surface when this week's London conference is mentioned. Like many of his peers, Mr Mostovich's judgement on the organisers of the conference is: "too little, too late," he says, "Quite simply, they have been forced to pay. There is no good will here. They've been forced to act by world public opinion and Jewish organisations. Why should there be a demonstration of good will now when there was none for the past fifty years."

Aside from the moral dimension, Mr Mostovich is offended by the amount of money being promised. Under the current arrangements drawn up by the tripartite commission of Britain, France and the United States, he can probably expect little more than a handful of dollars in compensation.

Because the commission decided that claimant governments are only entitled to money stolen from central banks, Poland will only receive a tiny fraction of its original post- war claim of 140 tonnes of gold. Of course, the conference might change that, but Mr Mostovich doesn't hold out too much hope.

"If I had one cent for every promise I've heard over the last fifty years," he said, "I'd be a millionaire by now."

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