WE PROVIDE this document in our on-going series on the origins of global antisemitism
"Jews and Justice"
A Talk by Edgar M. Bronfman
on Wednesday, October 21st, 1998, at the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Program description: Edgar Bronfman is President of the World Jewish Congress, Chairman of the International Board of Governors of Hillel, and Chairman of Seagram Company Ltd. He is one of the architects of a $1.25 Billion settlement with Swiss banks and other institutions throughout Europe that were depositories of Jewish wealth during the 1939-45 period and whose owners perished in the Holocaust. He works to preserve and foster the worldwide unity of the Jewish people.
GOOD EVENING: I first arranged to meet the President of the Swiss Bankers Association 3 years ago representing Holocaust survivor's claims. The Swiss did an audit and claimed there were 744 unclaimed accounts totaling 38 million Swiss Franks ($32 mil. U.S.). We asked them to verify those figures and to determine how many hidden dormant accounts there were. However they stalled for banks hold money and have no reason to search for owners and give it back. They asked us to trust them, but we demanded verify - verify!!
Switzerland turned back 30,000 Jews at the German border after the war started, and acted callously towards many of it's own Jews. It's said the Swiss prolonged the war for 2 years as they used plundered German gold to buy tungsten, nickel, and other armaments metals needed by the Germans. In those 2 years 10 to 15 million people died. We are not blaming today's Swiss for their father's and grandfather's guilt, but we demand justice.
After 5 months of inaction they needed pressure, so I arranged a private luncheon meeting with Hillary Clinton in the penthouse of a New York hotel. Immediately afterwards the President asked Stu Eisenstatt to open all U.S. files which then affected the Swiss proceedings.
A year later I told the banks I knew they were spending $.5 Billion a year conducting an audit and handling their public relations, and it would be better to settle now than continue spending this money. We Jews continued to take the moral high ground giving them reasons to change their attitude but not forcing them.
Three years from my first Swiss meeting the banks settled a class action suit for $1.5 Billion, not $1.25 as reported. We could have received more but we couldn't prove how much the banks owed.
Today I'm told many Swiss are mad at the 15,000 Swiss Jews and are saying unpleasant things to them. We must remember Jews don't create anti-Semitism but rather anti-Semites look for an excuse; and in Switzerland we gave them an excuse. But if 15,000 Jews have to undergo a few temporary hardships so the world's 15 million Jews can obtain justice, so be it.
We are now examining Insurance companies in France, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, and South America for well over $1 Billion.
Like other European countries Sweden transported Jews to be killed and took their land and homes, so returning Jews will now be given the full value of their land in today's prices. Norway is setting up a Holocaust fund for it's survivors. Austrian, German, and other banks are also establishing funds.
It has never been a question of money, but to set the record straight so in the future there will be no question of what happened and no-one can deny the Holocaust's existence.
Jews want a final moral restitution for Holocaust survivors. Children of survivors want dignity, so part of the money they receive will be used for Jewish Education.
People ask me if we are going to stop applying pressure on the Germans. I'll tell you now we will keep going back to the Germans again and again. Next the German government has to pay Eastern Europe's 30,000 survivors, and there are many more survivors from East Europe and Russia now coming forward. We expect this amount may dwarf payments up to now. We will also put more effort into stopping pensions of former SS soldiers and other German excesses.
I realize the future is being handled by the Internet, and we are doing things like putting Operation Birth-right onto a website which is receiving $100 million from Israel and $100 million from private funding.
We need CD Roms, the Internet, and Interactive discs to keep the Holocaust alive with young people all over the world. Thank you...