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Saturday, August 7, 1999 Published at 05:25 GMT 06:25 UK


UK compensates Nazi victims

Holocaust victims had millions of pounds of assets seized

Those who suffered under the Nazis are being urged to come forward as the UK Government makes its first compensation payments to victims of the Holocaust.

Christine Stewart reports: "Details of siezed property is being publicised worldwide"
London confiscated bank accounts and valuables from citizens of countries allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. The scheme was designed to prevent money going back to Germany to finance the Nazis.

Among assets taken were millions of pounds belonging to Jews and other victims of the Holocaust across Europe.

A worldwide search is now under way to find more people who tried to escape Nazi persecution, and had property confiscated by the British authorities.

[ image: Stephen Byers: Call to other victims to come forward]
Stephen Byers: Call to other victims to come forward
The government launched its Enemy Property Compensation scheme last year to repay those affected and their descendants. It followed a campaign by Holocaust victims and their relatives.

Announcing the first payments on Friday, Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers urged other victims to come forward.

He said the £131,935 payments to the first 10 claimants would spark a worldwide hunt to remedy the "terrible injustice" of the seizures. They come from countries including Romania, Norway, Israel and Canada.

A further 250 claims from around the world are currently being processed.

Individual claimants have received up to £22,338 after details of more than 30,000 seizures were placed on the Internet.

Move welcomed

The government has set aside £25m for the scheme - the projected value of the total assets seized.

The BBC's Jack Baine: "The Holocaust Trust said nothing would make up for the time spent waiting ror money to be repaid"
Mr Byers said: "There's now a recognition that there was a terrible injustice carried out all those years ago and we need to compensate the families for those assets."

He said there was a need to "reflect on what happened" as well as taking action to remedy the situation.

"There was a considerable period where people were reluctant to face up to the reality of what occurred," he said.

"Many families were treated very badly and regarded as enemies, when in many cases their own families were being persecuted."

The move has been welcomed by a Holocaust group that had campaigned to have the assets returned.

'Honourable' action

Lord Janner, Chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "I am delighted that the government has accepted so promptly and honourably to the evidence which the trust placed before them.

"Their response is an example to other countries on how to act fairly and swiftly."

Thousands of Jews moved assets to the UK, Switzerland and the US before the war in the hope of keeping them safe, only to have them seized when the conflict broke out in 1939.

The scheme will continue to accept claims up until the end of September.

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