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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
US in dock over Nazi loot
Concentration camp prisoners
The US report did not suggest how to compensate holocaust victims
A group of Hungarian Holocaust survivors is suing the US Government for compensation for property stolen by the Nazis which was later taken by US troops.

The case was brought by Hungarian Jews living in America who say the property was worth some $200m at the time it was stolen.

The United States made no effort to return the assets and did not truthfully respond to requests... for information about the property

Lawyer for Hungarian Jews
The property, including gold, artworks, jewellery and oriental rugs, was taken by US troops from what has become known as the Gold Train shortly after the end of World War II.

A 1999 report by the US Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets said the army let the train leave Hungary and that US personnel then took property from it.

Incorrectly classified

"The United States made no effort to return the assets and did not truthfully respond to requests from Hungarian Jewish community organizations for information about the property," Sam Dubbin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said.

Auschwitz survivors
The Holocaust devastated Hungary's Jewish community
The Gold Train was captured by American troops in May, 1945 in Werfen, Austria, 100 kilometres south of Salzburg.

The class action lawsuit claims that the US army incorrectly classified the goods on the train as unidentifiable enemy property which meant that the army did not fulfil its obligation to return it to its rightful owners.

Cultural loss

The property was dispersed after being taken by the army, including 1,100 works of art which were handed over to Austria and never officially accounted for and a suitcase of gold dust which disappeared.

It addition, some items were stolen from American army warehouses and others were taken by military officials.

Lawyers for the claimants claim the property would now be worth ten times its original estimated worth of $200m.

"The monetary restitution is really secondary to the acknowledgment of the loss of the cultural heritage that the people suffered by not having their property returned to them after the war," Mr Dubbin said.

While the Presidential Advisory Commission accepted that the US was responsible for the goods on the Gold Train, it did not suggest how property could be returned or compensation made.

It is estimated that there were some 800,000 Jews living in Hungary before World War II but only a quarter of them survived the Holocaust.

Of those survivors many fled to America, concentrating in Florida.

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See also:

21 Oct 00 | Europe
Nazi loot is won back
18 Apr 01 | Europe
Hungary marks first Holocaust Day
19 Jul 98 | Europe
New synagogue opens in Hungary
27 Jan 01 | Europe
Europe remembers the Holocaust
27 Jan 00 | Europe
Work starts on Holocaust memorial
23 Oct 00 | UK
Holocaust memorial online
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