The committee formed to look into allegations that Swiss
banks hoarded the bank accounts opened by people who later
perished in the Holocaust has located 62,900 such accounts,
according to a report in Globes.
More than 14,000 of them were definitely closed by the banks
after the Holocaust, while the closure date of forty-seven
thousand is unknown.
The victims' names were found by cross-referencing the names
of account holders with a list of names forwarded to the
committee by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes'
Yad Vashem forwarded the names of over three million victims,
plus hundreds of thousands of their relatives' names.
Accordingly, it appears that the original number of Holocaust
victim's accounts in Switzerland was at least double the
number actually found, approaching 130,000.
The committee, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman
Paul Volcker, employed three large accounting firms: Price-
Waterhouse-Coopers, Arthur Andersen, and KPMG.
The data regarding the accounts were forwarded to these
chains, and they appear in the final draft of the report,
which the formulation committee and the plenum have been
discussing for the past two months. On the eve of World War
II, there were a total of 6.6 million accounts in Swiss
banks. Over 4 million of them, mainly current accounts and
short-term savings schemes, are considered in the field of
the committee's work. It is assumed that European Jewry,
wishing to secure their future should they be forced to
emigrate, did not invest in securities or long-term
Of the four million account-holders' names, the 352,000
deemed of interest are mainly Jewish names. By cross-
referencing them with the Yad Vashem lists, the committee
traced 62,900 accounts of Jews known to have died in the
Holocaust. Many Jews, of course, do not bear specifically
Jewish names, and many deposited their money through Swiss
trustees or corporate accounts and thus were not uncovered by
There are 48,000 accounts for which the committee lacks
sufficient information to determine whether they were closed
under normal circumstances or became dormant following the
holders' death in the Holocaust and were closed by the bank.
The committee will forward these names to the international
arbitration teams operating under its auspices, so that they
can decide how to proceed in their regard.
With regard to more than 14,000 accounts, there exists
definite information to the effect that the banks closed them
after they became dormant. In these cases, the banks took the
money for themselves, transferring it to their balance sheets
and using it to distribute dividends. This list is another in
the series of 5,500 such lists already traced, and the
committee intends to publish it in full.
According to the Israeli business daily Globes, the
real value of these 20,000 accounts is about $300 million.
The committee will not try to determine the real value of the
other accounts, for fear of adversely affecting the $1.4
billion arrangement between the Jewish organizations and the
The committee's auditors calculated the value of the accounts
by various methods. The draft report is critical of the
banks. It notes, for one thing, that they used
"controversial" methods and demonstrated "extensive
insensitivity" after the Holocaust.
The report also contains specific examples of the banks'
actions, proving how they closed accounts and recorded the
deposits as profits. Representatives of the banks'
association are calling for these examples to be erased from
the final wording, even though the report does not name
either the banks or the clerks involved. The Jewish
organizations firmly oppose this demand.
The accountants also found that, contrary to what was
indicated by preliminary reports, relevant documents were
preserved almost in their entirety in most of the banks.
Only UBS (as it was called before its merger with Swiss Bank)
apparently destroyed a large volume of documents. This bank
was exposed at the beginning of 1997 while attempting to
destroy relevant documents.
Related sources said that "the banks suddenly realize that at
least one percent of the Swiss banking system on the eve of
the Holocaust consisted of Holocaust victims' deposits." In
real terms their present value amounts to billions of
The banks announced in response to initial reports published
in Switzerland on the report's findings, that nothing in it
was such as to alter the arrangement with the Jewish
On the other hand, according to Globes, Avraham
Hirschson, chairman of the Knesset committee for the
restitution of Jewish property said that if these are, in
fact, the findings of the Volcker committee, then the
agreement must be renegotiated.
The Volcker committee report is due to be published in Bern
on November 22, a week before the discussion on approving the
settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, all the moneys
of dormant accounts whose holders and heirs could be
identified, will be restored to the heirs.
Since insufficient information is available on most of the
accounts traced by the committee, most heirs will evidently
probably not be able to claim the money.