A Chronology of Events Surrounding the Lost Assets of Victims of Nazi Germany<p>
May 25, 1946 Switzerland and the Allied powers sign the Washington Agreement whereby the Swiss agree to pay $58.1 million in gold to a commission set up by the Allies after the war . The amount is a voluntary contribution to rebuilding Europe. In return, the Allies drop further claims to the monetary gold Switzerland bought from Germany during the war. (The May 1997 U.S. government report - the 'Eizenstat report' - estimates Switzerland held $305 million -$409 million in looted Nazi gold.)

December 20, 1962 Prompted by Jewish agencies and Israel, the Swiss Bankers Association asked Swiss banks to investigate bank accounts that may have belonged to Holocaust victims. A total of 9.5 million Swiss francs are eventually turned over to claimants, the Swiss Jewish communities, and a Swiss refugee organization. Swiss bankers say that this represents the last of unclaimed wartime desposits which they hold.

1992 A coalition of Jewish organizations forms the World Jewish Restitution Organization. Its purpose is to coordinate claims for the return of assets and property lost in the Holocaust and the claiming of any heirless property for Jewish people.

November 1992 The Israeli Minister of Finance Avraham Shohat signs a memorandum recognizing that the State of Israel considers itself the heir to Jewish public property and heirless Jewish private property lost in the Holocaust.

January 1, 1996 The Swiss Bankers Association establishes a central information service to facilitate inquiries into Holocaust accounts. The information service processes all claims and forwards them to one of 400 Swiss banks.

February 7, 1996 The Swiss Bankers Association announces that after an internal investigation it conducted on its own behalf into Swiss Holocaust-era accounts, roughly $32 million was found in 775 dormant accounts. Many Jewish leaders believe this sum is far too small.

April 23, 1996 Senator Alfonse D'Amato chairs a hearing on the Swiss bank Holocaust account controversy before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. President Clinton expresses support for a full investigation.

May 2, 1996 Jewish leaders and representatives from the Swiss Bankers Association agree to create a commission to investigate the status of Holocaust victims assets in Switzerland. Known as the Volcker Commission (also as 'The Committee of Eminent Persons' and headed by former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Paul A. Volcker) it will investigate both accounts opened by Holocaust victims and assets stolen from Holocaust victims that may have passed through Switzerland or been deposited by the Nazis in Swiss banks. The investigation will include audits performed on the Swiss banks by three international auditing companies.

September 10, 1996 The British Foreign Ministry publishes a memorandum describing transactions between the Swiss National Bank and Nazi Germany for gold sales. The memorandum causes an international controversy.

September 26, 1996 Senator D'Amato asks the Federal government to re-negotiate the 1946 Washington Agreement.

October 5, 1996 Gizella Weisshaus, a Holocaust survivor, files the first U.S.class action lawsuit against Swiss banks for an account opened during World War II.

October 16, 1996 Senator D'Amato holds a second hearing on the Swiss Holocaust accounts.

October 18, 1996 A second class action suit is filed in The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of three classes of plaintiffs against the Swiss Union Bank. The complaint accuses the bank of knowingly accepting looted assets and acting to prevent the recovery of these assets by their owners.

October 24, 1996 A task force is formed in Switzerland by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to investigate the Holocaust assets controversy.
November 15, 1996 Senator D'Amato reports evidence that the Nazis placed sympathizers inside Swiss banks during the war to gain access to secret account numbers and information. According to documents provided by Senator D'Amato the Nazis then used this information to extort money from Jews and other account holders in Germany.

November 29, 1996 Argentina's President Carlos Saul Menem promises full support of investigations into Argentina's actions during World War II, and says Argentina will release all secret files on Nazis who fled to Argentina after the war.

December 13, 1996 The Swiss Parliament passes a "Federal Decree concerning historical and legal investigations into the fate of assets brought to Switzerland because of the National Socialist rule." The Parliament waives the customary Swiss banking secrecy laws for the next five years to facilitate the Volcker Commission's investigation.

December 19, 1996 The Swiss Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry (The Bergier Commission) is formed. It consists of nine historians who are to investigate all aspects of Switzerland's wartime actions.

January 1, 1997 Former Swiss president Jean-Pascal Delamuraz makes a statement calling demands for the compensation of Holocaust victims by Swiss banks and threats to boycott Swiss banks "blackmail."

January 5, 1997 Negotiations between Jewish Leaders and the Swiss cease because of Delamuraz's remark, and the Swiss government's failure to repudiate his statement.

January 7, 1997 The Swiss government announces that it intends to establish a fund for Holocaust survivors with money from unclaimed Swiss bank accounts.

January 14, 1997 The UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland, one of Switzerland's largest banks) is caught by one of its security guards, Christophe Meili, shredding documents related to accounts opened before and during the war.

Week of January 20, 1997 French Prime Minister Alain Juppe announces that he will create a commission to investigate the seizures of Jewish property by the occupying Nazi forces and the French collaborationists during the war. He said attempts would be made to trace the ownership of any questionable property and return it to rightful owners or heirs.

January 28, 1997 Swiss high school students begin a collection for Holocaust survivors. The students release a statement saying that Holocaust victims cannot wait for the Swiss government investigations, but need aid now. The students will donate the money they collect to AMCHA, an Israeli organization that provides psychological and social support for Holocaust survivors.

January 29, 1997 A resolution to boycott Swiss banks is presented to the City Council of New York.

February 5, 1997 Three major Swiss banks establish a humanitarian fund of 100 million Swiss francs (around $70 million U.S.) to benefit Holocaust victims. Jewish organizations in New York announce that they intend not to participate in any boycott of Swiss banks. A coalition of Swiss businesses contributes about $100 million to the fund.

February 19, 1997 The Ambassadors to the United States from Spain and Portugal are presented with new evidence that their countries received shipments of Nazi gold from Switzerland during the war.

February 26, 1997 The Swiss Federal Council announces that the Holocaust humanitarian fund will be administered by a group of seven, four will be Swiss appointees and three will be appointed by the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

March 5, 1997 The Swiss Parliament announces plans to create a $4.7 billion investment fund whose earnings would be used to compensate Holocaust victims. The fund is subject to a referendum in Parliament. At the time of the announcement, the fund has approval ratings of 60% among Swiss voters.

March 7, 1997 A Brooklyn Federal Judge rules to consolidate three U.S.-based class action lawsuits that have been brought against Switzerland's banks. The lawsuits will be administered by a 10-member executive committee.

April 2, 1997 French museums display art work acquired during World War II and its aftermath in an attempt to trace the owners and heirs. During the war the Nazis took possession of some 61,200 artworks; more than 45,000 were returned to their rightful owners.

May 1, 1997 The Swiss humanitarian fund has grown to approximately $300 million.

May 7, 1997 U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat releases the U.S. government's comprehensive report "U.S. and Allied Efforts to Recover and Restore Gold and Other Assets Stolen or Hidden by Germany During World War II." (The 200+ page text is available at the Web site of the U.S. Holocaust Museum. The report harshly criticizes the actions of most Allied and neutral countries for failing to aid Holocaust victims both during and after the war and details the extent of Swiss financial transactions with Nazi Germany. It suggests that by acting as bankers for the Nazis, the Swiss prolonged the war.

May 23, 1997 The Swiss Federal Council officially responds to the Eizenstat Report saying it is "one-sided" and some of its conclusions are "unsupported."

June 4, 1997 The United States House of Immigration subcommittee approves a measure granting sanctuary to Christophe Meili, the Swiss security guard who reported that the Union Bank of Switzerland was shredding account information from World War II. Meili testified that he no longer can live comfortably and safely in Switzerland.

July 23, 1997 The Swiss Bankers Association publishes a list of 1,756 non-Swiss dormant accounts with a value of roughly $42 million. These accounts have been inactive since the end of World War II.

September 13, 1997 The United States and Britain agree to transfer their Nazi gold holdings (worth up to 40 million pounds) to a fund for victims of the Holocaust or their surviving relatives. This action unlocks a 50-year old post-war reparations deal (the Washington Agreement) that had divided Nazi gold up among the Allied powers. The deal specifically had excluded all claims from individuals whose gold was stolen by the Nazi Reich.

October 29, 1997 The Swiss Bankers Association issue another list of 3,687 dormant accounts (available at the web site listed above) containing roughly $4 million.

November 1997 Switzerland disburses the first money from its newly-created $200 million fund for Holocaust survivors.

Documents show that a leading United States bank accepted $30 million worth of looted Nazi gold as collateral in a loan to Spain after the gold had been laundered in Switzerland.

December 1, 1997 The first interim report on the "Nazi gold" affair is released by a panel of historians (the Bergier Commission). It states that Swiss banks handled 76% of Nazi Germany's gold transactions amounting to $450 million. A portion of this had been looted. This Swiss government-appointed panel of Swiss and international historians is the first to put a figure on the amount of Germany's gold which Switzerland handled.

December 2-4, 1997 A 41-nation international conference is held in London on the fate of the 330 tons of gold stolen by the Nazis and the need to compensate Holocaust victims. Many countries pledge to contribute to a new compensation fund for Holocaust survivors. However, some delegates say key records about the looted gold remain secret and question whether the full story will be revealed. Delegates agree to meet next spring in Washington, D.C. to consider artwork, real estate, insurance funds and other property stolen by the Germans during WWII. U.S. delegation chief Stuart E. Eizenstat calls for all investigations into stolen wartime property to be completed by the end of 1999.

December 8, 1997 Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, asks U.S. city and state officials to postpone any action/boycotts against Swiss banks until March 31, 1998, while negotiations continue on a settlement with Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

August 12, 1998 Swiss commercial banks agree to pay Holocaust survivors and their relatives more than $1.25 billion over the next three years to end claims that Swiss banks had withheld millions of dollars since World War II. The accord involves the banks UBS and Credit Suisse. As part of the settlement, the plaintiffs agree to drop a lawsuit against the Government-owned Swiss National Bank. Many U.S. states and cities had threatened sanctions on the Swiss banks if they had not agreed to an appropriate settlement.

December 6, 1999 The Volcker Commission, which had been set up in 1996 to conduct an "investigative audit" of any dormant Swiss bank accounts that may have been held by Nazi victims, concludes its audit. The Commission says it found 54,000 accounts that were probably linked to Nazi victims. The report was very critical of the actions of individual banks but stated there was "no evidence of systematic destruction of records of victim accounts" and no "organized discrimination" against them. However, the Commission found that the banks showed "a general lack of diligence--even active resistance--in response to private and official inquiries." The Commission's head, Paul A. Volcker, said he saw no reason to revise the $1.25 billion settlment that the two largest banks reached in 1998 with surviving Holocaust victims.

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