More Than 53,000 Swiss Bank Accounts Linked to the Holocaust

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

( - A panel in Zurich probing whether Swiss banks hoarded Holocaust victims' wealth said Monday it had found nearly 54,000 accounts possibly linked to Nazi victims, but that banks had not conspired to steal the money of German Jews. Unveiling its final report after three years of exhaustive research, the committee nevertheless criticized some banks for their callous treatment of victims, misleading statements and sloppy record-keeping, especially many years ago.

According to wire service reports, the committee also said all claims arising from its work should be covered by the $1.25 billion payment big Swiss banks agreed last year to settle US class-action lawsuits against them. Jewish groups and Swiss bankers both claimed vindication from the report, which arose from a bitter row over charges that banks stonewalled families of Holocaust victims when they tried to get money stashed for safekeeping in neutral Switzerland.

"This is no small result. It shows that all the claims that were made were just. It shows that the settlement that was paid (by big Swiss banks to settle Holocaust-era lawsuits) was certainly necessary and at least fair,'' World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Israel Singer told reporters.

The committee recommended publishing the names on 25,000 accounts deemed most likely to match in a final bid to bring long-denied justice to some Holocaust victims and their heirs. Headed by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the committe was set up by Swiss banks and Jewish groups in 1996 to get to the bottom of the Holocaust allegations. Using 650 auditors to comb through banks' books, it was able to trace around 60 percent of the accounts in Swiss banks when World War II ended in 1945, but the committee was unable to put a final value on suspect accounts because its information was too sketchy.