Clinton probing Swiss ties to Nazis

WASHINGTON — President Clinton said his administration has broadened its inquiry into Switzerland's dealings with Nazi Germany and will expedite the declassification of documents to help determine how much the U.S. government knew about the disbursement of Nazi assets after World War II.

In a letter to World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman, Clinton said he shared the group's objective of advancing "an expeditious and thorough review of dormant accounts and other Nazi assets in Switzerland.

"I am pleased that the Swiss government has begun this process," Clinton said.

The WJC, together with the Senate Banking Committee, has been spearheading efforts to determine the extent of Nazi-Swiss cooperation during the war, the fate of assets belonging to Holocaust victims deposited in Swiss bank accounts and the whereabouts of looted Nazi gold purchased by Swiss banks.

Clinton said the administration has expanded a State Department review into the matter announced last month. He named Stuart Eizenstat, undersecretary of commerce and special envoy on property restitution, to coordinate a wide-ranging probe involving several agencies.

An interim report on the group's findings will be made available "within a few months," Clinton said.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC, said Clinton's announcement "puts the full weight of the presidency behind this effort" and indicates there will be "real teeth in this probe."

He added, "Without the support that the president has demonstrated, we would never have gotten this far."

Steinberg also welcomed the announcement last week that the House Banking and Financial Services Committee plans to follow the lead of the Senate Banking Committee by holdings its own hearings into the matter later this month.