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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 11:52 GMT
Holocaust claims deadline nears
Jewish girl in a concentration camp
Most survivors would have been young when they were persecuted
Holocaust survivors and their heirs have been urged to claim compensation before a New Year's Eve deadline.

Thousands of people may not know they are entitled to any money, Michael Newman, director of the Central Office for Holocaust Claims believes.

He said 10,000 survivors came to the UK after World War II, but only about two thirds of them have been traced.

Payments start at 2,800 and could go into six figures for unclaimed life insurance policies bought decades ago.

The deadline for claims under several other schemes also passes on 31 December.

They are for the victims of the Nazis forced to work as slaves in Austria; those who lost homes, businesses or property in Austria; and those whose properties were taken in what is now Slovakia.

'Phenomenal' amount

Claims on outstanding insurance policies bought in the 1920s, 30s and 40s can be made following pressure on a large number of companies to settle Holocaust era debts.

This is the last chance for people to claim some restitution
Michael Newman

A "phenomenal" amount of money would be paid out if all victims and their heirs across Europe came forward, Mr Newman told BBC News Online.

Dozens of insurance companies have drawn up a list of 500,000 unclaimed policies, against which names can be checked.

Generali, an Italian insurance company, has pledged 100m in payments, Mr Newman said.

Young children

Despite the schemes, many people do not realise they could benefit.

Concentration camp survivors at Dachau
Thousands of survivors and their heirs have not come forward

"A lot of people that would be claiming today would have been young children at the time of their persecution and would not have known that their families had insurance policies," Mr Newman said.

There was also the problem that others have since died and it is now down to their relatives to come forward.

Despite the difficulties, Mr Newman says people should come forward to claim what is "rightfully" theirs.

"There's a historical element to this because it took the best part of 50 years for the companies to admit there had been failures on their part and this is the last chance for people to claim some restitution," he said.

Advice for anyone who thinks they may be entitled to make a claim is available from the Central Office for Holocaust Claims on 020 8385 3074.

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