$1.25 Billion Swiss Claims Settlement Underway
Final Claims Must Be Filed By August or September, 2001
The United States Court overseeing the historic settlement between Holocaust survivors and Swiss Banks has approved the Special master's "Plan of Allocation" to distribute $1.25 billion to qualifying Class Members. The settlement resolves Nazi-era claims against Swiss Banks and other Swiss entities. The Claims Process is now underway with claim filing deadlines as outlined below.
Four independent international agencies have been selected to facilitate the distribution under court supervision:
The Claims Resolution Tribunal ("CRT"), established in 1997 in Zurich to arbitrate claims with Swiss Banks for deposited assets and, more recently, for insurance claims;
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee ("JDC"), a humanitarian agency in existence since 1914, which helped to resettle Holocaust victims after the war and paid more than half the costs of maintaining Jewish refugees who were admitted into Switzerland during World War II;
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. ("Claims Conference"), created in 1951 to negotiate with Germany for material recompense on behalf of Jewish Holocaust victims; and
The International Organization for Migration ("IOM"), which is the leading international organization working with migrants and governments primarily on migration issues and which is already handling claims of Holocaust victims filed under the German Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future."
More than 560,000 individuals who submitted an Initial Questionnaire or requested information about the Settlement will automatically receive information about the claims process in the mail. Potential class members who have not yet participated in the settlement process may still do so by calling a toll-free or local number or visiting www.swissbankclaims.com and following instructions and deadline requirements.
"We are very gratified to reach this final stage of providing restitution for as many victims of the Holocaust as possible," said Burt Neuborne, Lead Settlement Class Counsel. "We believe that our system of outreach around the world - through the media and support of many organizations and individuals - will provide the most effective means of providing some relief, financially or in food and services, to the millions of people who were robbed by the many players of the Holocaust."
The Plan of Allocation addresses six groups of potential claimants as outlined below. Individuals who were persecuted by the Nazi Regime because they were or were believed to be Jewish, Romani, Jehovah's Witness, homosexual, or physically or mentally disabled or handicapped may be in one of the first five groups. The sixth group, Slave Labor II Claims, is not limited to the above listed "Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution."
Deposited Assets Claims - Individuals who had assets deposited with any Swiss Bank, investment fund or other custodian prior to May 9, 1945 and have not been previously compensated for these accounts will receive payment upon approval. Up to $800 million has been allocated for approved awards to claimants. A list of approximately 21,000 accounts "probably" belonging to Nazi victims has been published. Those whose names do not appear on the list may also file claims. Certain heirs of the original depositors are also eligible. Claims are due by August 5, 2001. The CRT will administer these claims under the supervision of the Court and its Special Masters. Claim forms and other information about deposited assets claims as well as the list of account holders is available at www.dormantaccounts.ch and www.crt-ii.org.
Slave Labor I Claims - Former forced or slave laborers and certain heirs of former slave laborers who died after February 15, 1999 are eligible for payment. All eligible claimants will receive equal payments of up to $1000 USD and no less than $500 USD. Claims are due by August 11, 2001. Claims will be processed by the Claims Conference and IOM. Claim forms are available at www.claimscon.org and www.swissbankclaims.iom.int.
Looted Assets Group - Because all survivors had assets taken by the Nazis, an individual claims process for this Class was not feasible. Instead, needy survivors may be eligible for services such as food packages, medical assistance and emergency cash grants to be distributed through Court-approved humanitarian relief programs. The distributions will be implemented by the JDC, Claims Conference and IOM.
Refugee Claims - Individuals who plausibly demonstrate that, while seeking to avoid Nazi persecution, they were denied entry into or expelled from Switzerland will receive equal payments of up to $2,500 USD, but no less than $1,250 USD. A partial list of names is available at www.swissbankclaims,iom,int and www.claimscon.org. Those whose names do not appear on the list may also file claims. Those who were admitted into Switzerland as refugees but were detained, mistreated or abused there will receive equal payments of up to $500 USD but no less than $250 USD. Certain heirs of refugees who died after February 15, 1999 are also eligible. Claims are due by September 30, 2001. The Claims Conference and the IOM will administer these claims.
Swiss Insurance Claims - The Court has also approved a claims process to resolve any Nazi-era insurance claims specifically involving Swiss Reinsurance Company, Swiss Life Insurance and Pension Company; and certain of their affiliates. A separate claim form must be filed to make a Swiss insurance claim. Those wishing to exclude themselves solely from the insurance provisions of the Settlement with respect to these companies must do so before August 5, 2001. Otherwise, individuals will be subject to the insurance provisions of the amended Settlement. Claims are due by September 30, 2001. The CRT will administer these claims. For information on where to obtain a claim form and other information about insurance claims, access www.crt-ii.org.
Slave Labor II Claims - Individuals who plausibly demonstrate that they performed slave labor anywhere for a Swiss-run company appearing on a list issued by the Court, will receive equal payments of up to $1000 USD and no less than $500 USD. Certain heirs of former slave laborers who died after February 15, 1999 are also eligible. Claims are due by September 30, 2001. The list is available at www.swissbankclaims.iom.int. The IOM will administer these claims. Rabbi Israel Miller, president, Claims Conference, said: "While money, alone, cannot begin to right the unconscionable wrongs of the Holocaust, this Settlement is as fair and equitable as can be expected while working within our legal system. I commend the Court and all other people and parties involved in this long, complicated process for reaching this successful point of actually distributing money to victims and/or their heirs."
Dirk de Winter, director, German Forced Labour Compensation Programme of the IOM added, "We look forward to putting IOM's humanitarian know-how and network of field offices at the service of claimants and working hand-in-hand with the other agencies to effectively process claims from all corners of the world in recognition of the wrongs related to the Nazi era."
Complete information on the Settlement, Plan of Allocation and Distribution and contact information is available at www.swissbankclaims.com, including phone numbers and related web site addresses.
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