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News > Economy
Swiss gold restitution lags
June 26, 1997: 9:08 p.m. ET

Popular support dwindles, but ambassador says commitment remains
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - As Swiss citizens' support dwindles for restitution to Jewish war victims -- with a recent survey showing 80 percent of the country opposing the move -- a key Swiss leader admits the measure's importance has faded.
     "A lot of Swiss say that's not anymore our first priority," said Thomas Borer, the Swiss ambassador who heads up his country's World War II task force.
     Nevertheless, "90 percent of the Swiss are fully in support of the government's steps," he said on "Moneyline with Lou Dobbs." "They want to give the money back. No Swiss wants to keep money that doesn't belong to him."
     Borer's comments come amid a flurry of activity to return assets of Holocaust victims, which have laid dormant in heavily guarded Swiss bank accounts for five decades.
     A key Jewish leader said Thursday that the controversy over Swiss handling of the assets could end soon.
     "The mechanical elements for closure are in place," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress. "In many respects, Swiss bankers and authorities have come to agree on the mechanism and procedures we have struggled for in the last two years."
     Although a financial solution appears imminent, he criticized the lack of a moral solution to the problem.
     "They have still to come to terms with the moral aspects over how they acted in the war and in the years afterwards," Steinberg said.
     Yielding to pressure to speed up the search for accounts left by Nazi victims, Swiss banks agreed Wednesday to let an independent, international panel rule on claims to Holocaust-era assets, according to a joint statement from the Swiss Federal Banking Commission and a joint Swiss-Jewish commission headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
     "We are speeding up the process this summer," Borer said. "In July, we are going to make public all the names of the dormant accounts," he said, publishing the names on the Internet and elsewhere.
     Recent moves by Swiss authorities also come in response to a recent U.S. government report that examined Nazi Germany's links to neutral countries.
     Prepared in party by State Department Undersecretary Stuart Eizenstat, the report said Swiss financial dealings with Germany may have prolonged the war. It also criticized six other nations, including the United States, but only Switzerland has criticized the report.
     Rorer said that while the Swiss government "disagreed on certain historical judgments, … we have an open discussion about these disagreements.
     "We embrace the Eisenstat report," he said.
     The Swiss ambassador appeared earnest about his country's desire to rectify the situation, but said "it's a very complicated issue."
     "We want to do the right thing today," Borer said. We want to take the necessary steps to get to a closure of the whole problem."
     The mammoth amount of research involved remains daunting, however, a painstaking and prickly process.
     "We have to go through miles and miles of archives," Rorer said. "It's going to take another year until we have full conclusion of all the facts.
     "There is a lot of sensitivity involved. That's the reason why the discussions sometime were not serene," he said. Back to top

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.