Within the last month, two long-awaited reports dealing with the looting of Jewish assets during the Holocaust have been released. These reports were investigated and drafted by the Bergier Commission, a panel of international historians established by the Swiss government to delve into Switzerland’s war-time behavior, and by the office of U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat. Each of these reports sheds valuable light on the role that neutral countries played in assisting the Nazi Regime and exploiting European Jews during World War II.

The JCPA commends U.S. government officials, and in particular, Undersecretary Eizenstat, for their diligent dedication to the pursuit of full moral accountability with regard to this sad chapter in world history. The report’s revelations about the actions of neutral countries such as Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Sweden besides Switzerland during the War highlight the need to cast our collective focus beyond the Swiss nation in assigning responsibility in this matter.

Despite its primary focus on nations other than Switzerland, the latest Eizenstat report contains additional revelations about the role of the Swiss government and particularly the Swiss central bank in providing vital financial assistance to the Nazis. In addition, the Bergier commissions report confirms that the Swiss central -bank made no attempt during the War to identify the source of the gold it purchased from the Nazis, and that significant quantities of this gold in fact were looted from Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

In light of these revelations, the JCPA: 

JCPA RESOLUTION ON HOLOCAUST ASSET RESTITUTION

With new revelations coming to the fore regarding Switzerland’s role in seizing and failing to restore Holocaust-era assets, a worldwide process of assigning responsibility and pursuing restitution has begun. The last year has seen a number of developments in this area. Pursuant to an agreement among the Swiss Bankers Association and several major Jewish organizations, the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons chaired by Paul Volcker (“the Volcker Commission”) is developing a process by which Holocaust survivors or their heirs may file claims for assets held in dormant Swiss bank accounts. In addition, the Bergier Commission, comprised of an international panel of historians, was created by the Swiss government in December 1996 to study the extent of the country’s financial dealings with the Nazis.

At present, negotiations are taking place between Switzerland and Jewish organizations on the issue of compensation for Holocaust survivors. Discussions are also taking place with other governments and entities whose wartime activities are in question. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) supports worldwide efforts to compensate appropriately victims of Nazi looting and to provide additional financial support to indigent Holocaust survivors. However, the JCPA emphasizes that such efforts must not impair the ability of Holocaust -survivors and their heirs with individual claims to obtain compensation and achieve justice. With respect to such individual claims, there must be recognition that the traditional means of proving ownership usually do not exist, and that alternative sources of proof of ownership and relationship should be used.

Many believe that punitive measures against Switzerland or against Swiss companies are warranted in order to compel them to cooperate fully with restitution efforts. Others, including the U.S. State measures are unwarranted and likely to be counterproductive to successfully completing negotiations with the Swiss for a just global settlement with the Jewish community and with individual claimants.

In light of these continuously unfolding events, the JCPA:

The JCPA condemns anti-Semitic responses to worldwide efforts to restore Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, and urges Switzerland and other European nations to join in that condemnation in a strong and meaningful way. JCPA constituent agencies are urged to take an active role in supporting the quest for restitution and accountability, to ensure that justice is finally served for Holocaust victims, their families, and the entire Jewish people.

-end- 

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