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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Swiss Nazi row ends in US court
Auschwitz concentration camp
Many people did not live to reclaim their money
A judge in the US has given the final seal of approval to a deal to end a long-running dispute between Swiss banks and relatives of Nazi Holocaust victims.

More than 500,000 people claimed they were owed money which had been deposited by them or their dead relatives, but was then hoarded by the banks after the war ended.

Some banks were even reported to have refused to pay out to the victims' relatives, because no death certificates were available from Nazi concentration camps.


I do not say it is fair, because fairness is a relative term - no amount of money can possibly be fair under those circumstances

Judge Korman quoting Holocaust survivor
The deal, worth $1.25bn, was hammered out after a long campaign by the families.

It had already been agreed by the banks, but needed the judge's formal approval.

New York Judge Edward Korman used the words of a Holocaust survivor as he rubber-stamped the deal. "I have no quarrel with the settlement," Judge Korman quoted the survivor as saying.

"I do not say it is fair, because fairness is a relative term. No amount of money can possibly be fair under those circumstances."

Plundered

More than 50,000 separate accounts were believed to have been opened by holocaust victims in Switzerland.

But the deal also covers people whose assets were plundered by the Nazis and transferred to Switzerland later.

The banks agreed to settle the dispute after being threatened with sanctions by several US states.

Two of the largest banks - Credit Suisse and UBS - have since agreed to allow the claimants access to a database of 2.1 million accounts from the war years.

The move was designed to help speed up payments to victims.

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See also:

13 Aug 98 | Americas
Nazi victims agree $1bn deal
03 Jul 98 | Europe
Swiss banks and Jewish gold
21 Aug 98 | Nazi Gold
The greatest theft in history
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