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Posted Tuesday, August 25, 1998

Instructions on How to Claim Your Share
[Certain Restrictions Apply]

Holocaust victims' fund taking U.S. applications

By Grant McCool

NEW YORK, Aug 17 (Reuters) - The most needy U.S. Jewish survivors of Nazi death camps can start applying for money from a special humanitarian fund established last year by Switzerland, officials said on Monday.

They said $31.4 million would be made available from a $185 million fund that was separate from a historic $1.25 billion settlement among Jewish groups, lawyers for tens of thousands of plaintiffs and two major Swiss banks concerning unreturned Second World War-era assets. That settlement was announced last Wednesday.

At a news conference, New York state Gov. George Pataki announced a special toll-free number -- 1-800-549-6864 -- for Holocaust survivors to phone for applications to be submitted by Nov. 30. Distribution of the money is being organized by the World Jewish Restitution Organization and the New York State Banking Department.

"Payments out of this fund are not meant to constitute either compensation, restitution, reparation or returns but are made as a gesture of human relief and solidarity, as a signal that the great unparalleled suffering of the victims are remembered," Swiss fund president Rolf Bloch said.


The Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust/Shoa was established last year by decree of the Federal Council of Switzerland to provide worldwide help for survivors, whose average age is 81. Contributions were made by Swiss commercial banks, Swiss industry and the Swiss national bank.

Allocations are also being made by the fund for Jewish Holocaust victims in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Israel and other countries. Non-Jewish victims of Nazi Germany are eligible for assistance and can apply to the fund in Zurich, Switzerland.

Each approved applicant will receive the same amount of money. There are an estimated 100,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States. If 60,000 apply, then each would receive about $500. If 30,000 apply, the payment would be about $1,000.

In the United States, an applicant for the one-time grant from the fund must be a Jew who lived in a country when it was under Nazi rule, Nazi occupation or government by Nazi collaborators, officials said. An applicant must also be a citizen, permanent resident or other legal resident of the United States and demonstrate financial need.

Since opening last September, the Holocaust Claims Processing Office established by New York state has received 3,400 inquiries, resulting in 1,800 claims, officials said. Of those claims, 1,100 are on Swiss banks and 700 on European insurance companies.   

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