Survivors in U.S. can apply for separate Swiss fund

NEW YORK — Applications for payments from a Swiss humanitarian fund are now available for needy Holocaust survivors in the United States.

Eligible individuals can receive application information by calling the special application processing center set up by the World Jewish Restitution Organization, which will be handling all claims in the United States with the assistance of the New York state Banking Department.

The toll-free number is (800) 549-6864.

Instructions are available in English, Russian and Yiddish.

Interested individuals must request applications from the center by Nov. 17. The deadline for filing is Nov. 30.

In its first day, the center received 3,360 calls.

Since the Swiss humanitarian fund was established last year by Switzerland's leading banks, more than 18,000 needy survivors in Hungary, Latvia and Slovakia have received payments.

In the coming weeks, thousands of survivors in the Czech Republic, Croatia and Poland will receive checks from the fund, according to Gideon Taylor, treasurer of the WJRO, the body that is overseeing the distribution of the payments.

Some $31.4 million from the $185 million fund will be paid to qualified U.S. survivors after Nov. 30, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) and New York Gov. George Pataki said at a news conference Monday announcing the application process.

The humanitarian fund is separate from the $1.25 billion settlement of Holocaust-era claims reached last week between Switzerland's two largest banks and negotiators for survivors. Anyone who receives payment from the humanitarian fund will still be eligible to participate in the proceeds from that settlement.

WJRO officials expect between 20,000 to 40,000 applications from the more than 110,000 Jewish survivors living in the United States.

Each qualified applicant is expected to get a one-time payment of about $500.

Applicants must meet three criteria. They must be:

*A Jew who lived in a country when it was either under the Nazi regime, Nazi occupation or the regime of Nazi collaborators.

*Now a citizen or legal resident of the United States.

*In need of financial support.