Wiesenthal Center asks Swiss to freeze Nazi accounts

LOS ANGELES — The Simon Wiesenthal Center is stepping up its pressure on Swiss banks to freeze World War II-era accounts bearing the names of possible high-ranking Nazis and their collaborators.

More than a month ago, the Wiesenthal Center submitted the names of 11 suspected Nazis culled from the list of 1,800 dormant wartime accounts publicized internationally by the Swiss Bankers Association.

The Swiss banks also implemented a mechanism by which the heirs of these accounts could regain their funds.

The 11 names included some known aliases of top Nazi officials as well as some names with slight variations in spelling from the Swiss list. A top aide to Adolf Eichmann, Hitler's personal photographer, the chief exterminator of Latvian Jewry and high-ranking French, Slovakian and Latvian collaborators all appeared on the Wiesenthal list.

Now, after weeks of further research, the Wiesenthal Center has submitted an additional 94 names, selected from among the names of 376 German and Austrian citizens found on the Swiss list.

Of the 94 names, 36 bear the first and last names of men who have been identified by the United Nations War Crimes Commission or who have appeared on a complete list of SS officers. Ten of these people have been accused of mass murder and torture, according to the Wiesenthal Center.

Of the remaining names on the list, many are identified only by their last names in the U.N. and SS lists and may or may not be identical to persons with the same last names who established wartime Swiss bank accounts.

In a fax to Christoph Meier of the Swiss Bankers Association, the Wiesenthal Center asked that "the assets of the 94 accounts be frozen, pending a formal investigation by Switzerland and Germany, to determine whether this money belonged to members of the SS and other Nazi organizations, who committed crimes against humanity."

After the Wiesenthal Center submitted the initial list of 11 names in July, Meier promised to work with the Swiss government in investigating the allegations.

"Since then, we have heard nothing, and I hope we are not facing more stalling tactics," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.

"We will judge their level of commitment by how rapidly" they determine who put the money in the suspects' accounts and by what mechanism they put in place "to make certain that the assets in accounts set up by identified war criminals do not fall into the hands of their heirs," Cooper said.

Tom Tugend

JTA Los Angeles correspondent