World Report

LONDON (JTA) — The first man to face war crimes charges here since Parliament passed the War Crimes Act in 1991 has been released on bail.

Szymon Serafimowicz, 84, is accused of murdering four Jews between 1941 and 1942 in Nazi-occupied Byelorussia, now an independent nation known as Belarus.

Serafimowicz, a retired builder and carpenter who lives in Surrey, came to Britain in 1947 and became a citizen.

At his hearing last week, he made no plea to any of the charges. After the hearing, his solicitor, Nicholas Bowers, said, "Our client is completely innocent of these charges and a full and vigorous defense will be prepared."

The defendant was released on bail on condition that he does not leave the country or apply for travel documents. He is due to appear in court again Oct. 5.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard said last week that at least 14 investigations of alleged Nazi war criminals living in Britain are under way. The Metropolitan Police war crimes unit is handling the investigations, a police spokesman said.

Progressive Judaism entices the French

PARIS (JTA) — The Progressive Judaism movement in France is relatively small. But despite its numbers — some 3,000 families total — members of this community felt emboldened to further their goals as they hosted a recent international gathering of Progressive leaders here.

"We must say loud and clear that there are several ways of being Jewish," Alexandre Adler, a French historian and journalist, told the conference.

"If France is a mover in the new Europe, then its Judaism must play the same role, and this means its Progressive Judaism."

The gathering was the 27th international convention of the World Union of Progressive Judaism, the umbrella organization for Reform, Liberal and Progressive synagogues in more than 30 countries around the world, including Israel and the United States.

Noting the growing number of adherents to Progressive Judaism around the world, particularly in the former Soviet Union, speakers concurred that the strength of the movement derives from its commitment to social action.

Norway may offer reparations to Jews

NEW YORK (JTA) — Norway is planning to investigate claims that property of Norwegian Jews was confiscated by Nazi collaborationists during World War II.

A committee known during the war as the Liquidation Committee for Confiscated Jewish Property had completely or partially seized the property of 12,000 people by the end of the war, according to recent reports in the Norwegian media.

Until the late 1980s, the files of the committee were locked in a cellar in the "Distrikt Prison."

The documents were recently transferred to the Public Records Office, where a graduate student at the University of Bergen, Bjarte Bruland, concluded that the National Union's Relief Fund and the Norwegian Nazi soldiers "got rich on the Jewish estates."

Petter Thomassen, head of the Norwegian Parliament's Control and Constitution Committee, said, "If it can really be proven that the Norwegians robbed the Jews, it is obvious that something has to be done."

"This is a terrible stain we cannot continue to live with without something being done," he said.

Norway had a Jewish population of 1,700 before the war; 900 escaped to Sweden and the rest were deported to Auschwitz.

Hungary to pay restitution to survivors

BUDAPEST (JTA) — Hungary agreed last week to set up procedures for the restitution of Jewish property seized during World War II.

The pact, signed by the Hungarian government, the World Jewish Restitution Organization and local Jewish organizations, calls for the Hungarian Finance Ministry to establish two subcommittees.

One subcommittee will settle the legal and technical aspects of compensation. The other will deal with relevant documentation for claims. A report will be issued by Sept. 30.

Similar efforts are under way in other countries in the region, including Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, an official of the restitution group said.