Investigate Swiss claims,Holocaust role at key sites

Since the original Swiss claims process was established in 1997, a number of lawsuits have arisen out of the Holocaust. Many have resulted in settlements or agreements, each with its own rules and claims procedures. There are a number of sites on the Internet where you can learn more about the process, download relevant documents if you are considering a claim and read about the controversy over restitution.

Please note that there are different procedures depending on the type of restitution you are claiming (such as for victims of slave labor, for those trying to retrieve deposited assets and for heirs to old Swiss insurance policies). Each type of claim requires completion of a detailed form. Volunteer organizations from local Jewish federations and social service agencies worldwide are available to assist claimants with all the paperwork. Information is at Claimants may also want to get professional assistance in any claim. Be aware that the deadline for submitting a claim in some categories is as early as Aug. 5.

One of the best articles to summarize the struggle for Jewish reparations following World War II is also one of the most controversial: Gabriel Shoenfeld, senior editor of Commentary, first takes a look at the history of reparations and the early debates. (For example, in the 1950s Menachem "Benny" Begin, leader of Israel's Herut Party, held street demonstrations to denounce the Israeli government for accepting German "blood money.") Schoenfeld then looks at more recent events and suggests that in addition to "stoking the fires of anti-Semitism on the right," at least some of the claims have been settled under duress by banks or corporations anxious to avoid unceasing notoriety.

Schoenfeld's article drew a great deal of response, which Commentary published earlier this year, including a letter from former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat, at

In February of this year, the Dormant Accounts Web site of the Swiss Bankers Association — the home page is at — listed the names of owners of 21,000 dormant accounts likely to have belonged to Holocaust victims. In addition to the list of names, the site includes a Question and Answer section about the claim process, recent press releases and a copy of the detailed claim form. For an explanation of the claims process, consult the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Swiss Bank Claims Web site at Information at this site is available in 16 languages.

In 1997, the PBS documentary "Nazi Gold" examined Switzerland's wartime role as banker and financial broker for Nazi Germany. Although the "Nazi Gold" site — — has not been updated recently, it contains a great deal of valuable information. There is a discussion area, a post-war chronology of events and a transcript of a debate from a Swiss television program, "Switzerland & the War: Neutral or Cowardly?"

Beyond the official sites, the single best Web site on this topic is run by Swiss journalist Bruno Giussani. Switzerland & the Holocaust Assets calls itself "a one-stop resource page for the information available on the Internet related to the actions of Switzerland and other countries during and after Second World War — more specifically to the handling and recovering of the Holocaust Assets — and its current coverage by the world media." At the site — — you'll find references to late-breaking news, a timeline of events and a comprehensive list of relevant Web sites; the latter is at

In a future column, a look at restitution programs from other countries, initiatives to retrieve stolen art and examples of postwar altruism and kindness.