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Last Updated: Friday, 28 December 2007, 17:00 GMT
Nazi victims' fund pays out 21m
By Angus Crawford
BBC News

Concentration camp
Many victims of the Nazis also had their UK savings seized
A British scheme to return money belonging to victims of the Nazis has paid out more than 21m, or 10 times its budget, BBC News has learned.

The Enemy Property Claims Assessment panel (Epcap) was set up to help people who lived in enemy countries and whose British bank accounts were frozen.

It was meant to end three years ago, but is still receiving applications.

The monies include a "six-figure sum" paid to a woman whose Jewish grandfather had his savings seized.

"When my mother died, we cleaned the house [and] I found some papers [that] looked very funny," said Yvonne, who does not want her real name used.

The mysterious looking documents, found by chance, could only be read when held up against a mirror.

Hidden message

"They were photographed in a mirror, black paper and white letters," Yvonne said of the papers.

They dated back to the 1940s and had details of money held in British bank accounts belonging to her grandfather.

The government set aside 2m... but we've now compensated people to the extent of just under 22m
Lord Archer of Sandwell, compensation panel chairman

Yvonne said they explained stories she heard as a child growing up in Israel.

"My parents didn't get any money when they were getting married. It was all abroad," she said of talk of missing family monies.

Yvonne's grandfather was a successful Jewish businessman living in Eastern Europe and before war broke out, he had stowed much of his money in British banks.

While he survived the war and later emigrated, he, like many Holocaust survivors, never recovered his savings.

Wartime trading-with-the-enemy laws meant the property belonging to anyone living in an enemy country was confiscated and would not be given back.

'Right a wrong'

After the war, assets confiscated from affected countries were shared out among British people whose own assets had been confiscated by the enemy countries.

In 1999 the British government set up EPCAP to return the funds to victims of the war and Yvonne made an application for compensation.

In 2007, after years of letter writing she received what she described as "a six figure sum".

She said the money corrects a mistake of history.

Lord Archer of Sandwell, chairman of the Epcap, said the panel went out of its way to compensate the families of Holocaust victims and even extended its own mandate from 1999 to 2004, when it officially ended.

"We bent over backwards to allow claims," he said. "The government set aside 2m... but we've now compensated people to the extent of just under 22m."

Buchenwald camp
Germany's Buchenwald concentration camp housed victims of Nazis

The panel is still receiving about 20 new claims a year and continues to consider them on an ad hoc basis. In total, 400 claims were successful.

Greville Janner, Lord Janner of Braunstone who campaigned for the scheme to be set up in the first place, said the reparations paid by UK taxpayers are a matter of justice.

"The average taxpayer would not want the government to have money stolen from murdered people," he said.

For Yvonne, regaining some of her grandfather's seized assets was about leaving a legacy.

"It was my obligation for the future of my children."



SEE ALSO
How Britain is settling old debts
28 Sep 04 |  Magazine

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