February 26, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- More than $30 million worth of checks were sent Friday to nearly 61,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States -- restitution from Swiss firms for helping the Nazi regime.
The World Jewish Restitution Organization mailed the checks, each for $502.
"It's a symbolic gesture. It's not a lot of money, but it's important," said Gideon Taylor, treasurer of the WJRO.
The money comes out of a $180 million fund established by Swiss banks and industry. About $65 million of that money comes from Swiss taxpayers through the Swiss National Bank.
More than 40,000 Eastern European Holocaust survivors received payments from the fund last year. Survivors in Western Europe and England are next.
The purpose of the fund is to make amends for Switzerland's financing of the Nazi regime. It converts looted gold into hard currency, and makes reparations to Holocaust survivors and families of victims who were unable to reclaim deposits in Swiss banks after the war.
The fund is separate from a $1.25 billion settlement reached last year with the two largest private Swiss banks -- United Bank of Switzerland and Credit Suisse -- in a class action lawsuit by Holocaust survivors. A distribution plan for that money is still being worked out.
Still in limbo is a possible third Swiss fund -- $5 billion for victims of oppression pledged by former Swiss President Arnold Koller in 1997. That fund would be endowed by selling Swiss gold reserves and must be approved by both parliament and voters. A referendum isn't expected until next year at the earliest.
Germany reportedly took gold stolen from Jews
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