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Monday, 17 April, 2000, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
France counts cost of Nazi era
The French Government has been presented with a long-awaited report on the plundering of Jewish property during the wartime Vichy regime.
The Matteoli report estimates the value of looted Jewish assets, particularly works of art, in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars in today's money.
It shows that the confiscation of Jewish assets affected every area of public and private life, including the civil service, trade, industry and culture.
Headed by former minister Jean Matteoli, himself a concentration camp survivor, the inquiry began in February 1997.
It was charged with assessing the scope of the looting during the occupation, as well as postwar restitution.
Here, it discovered that although the process had been slow, between 90 and 95% of Jewish assets had been returned.
Customs and museums reproached
However, the 3,000 page document rebukes the customs services for holding "premature" sales of formerly Jewish properties.
It also attacks some French museums for failing to carry out adequate research into the rightful ownership of 2,000 classical paintings and other works of art stolen during World War II.
Tthe report largely avoids recrimination or chest-beating, and in his presentation Mr Matteoli stresses the "volume and diversity" of the efforts at post-war restitution.
BBC Paris correspondent James Coomarasamy says the process marks a further stage in France's efforts to come to terms with its murky wartime record.
It follows the unprecedented admission in 1995 by President Jacques Chirac that the French state as a whole was implicated in the deportation of French Jews during the occupation.
The Matteoli report forms part of a series of recent inquiries aimed at helping the country come to terms with the social damage done during the German occupation.
The government has also set up legislation to offer financial compensation to the 10,000 Jews who were left orphans after their parents were deported.
A Memorial Fund is to be established to receive unclaimed Jewish assets and to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust.