Faces behind pleas for proper accounting of Nazi-era deposits
November 19, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EST (0200 GMT)
From Correspondent Siobhan Darrow
LONDON (CNN) -- Sebastian Kornheuser never knew his grandfather, a wealthy Jewish jeweler in Poland. Most of the Kornheuser family died in the Holocaust.
Today, there isn't much left to show for the family history, or wealth -- just a handful of photos.
"It's a dark chapter for people when so many of them have been murdered in concentration camps, which then gave rise to the mass robbery, mass looting," Kornheuser said.
Kornheuser is one of thousands who lost relatives in the Holocaust now pressing for answers to one of the great mysteries of World War II: what happened to the money and assets deposited in Swiss bank accounts by Jews?
Relatives of survivors want those assets back, and are demanding the Swiss government suspend its banking industry's legendary secrecy to find the rightful owners of dormant accounts.
"This is not just about money, it's about justice," said Israel Singer, Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress. "These people were abused... and most were killed. There is no reason for their tormentor and the banker to benefit from this horrible tragedy."
Holocaust survivor groups say Swiss banking regulations have made reclaiming assets unnecessarily bureaucratic, such as demands for written proof of death. The banks also demand a hefty fee just to make an application of inquiry.
Two British Parliament members are demanding the Swiss make a gesture of good faith, by turning over a lump sum to a Holocaust charity fund.
But for Sebastian Kornheuser and many others, nothing short of a full accounting will suffice.
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