- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government and several banks hold assets belonging to Holocaust victims worth $212 million, according to a parliamentary report released Tuesday.

The unclaimed accounts belong to European Jews who deposited savings in banks in what was then the British mandate of Palestine. Many of the account holders were among the 6 million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide during World War II, the report by a government committee said.

The report comes after banks in Switzerland agreed to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars and open their records. They were accused of hiding and misappropriating Jewish accounts from the war.

Israel’s parliament approved the panel’s report Tuesday, saying the money must be returned to the heirs. The names of known account owners were published on the parliamentary Web site.

The committee’s 57-page report criticized the government and banks for not doing enough to find the account owners.

“The government of Israel and other public bodies did nothing to investigate the truth, to evaluate the scope of the property and to seek its owners or to examine means of returning it to them,” the report said.

The government holds $135 million while the banks have $79 million, the report said. Of the bank holdings, Bank Leumi, which developed from the pre-state Anglo-Palestine Bank, has $70 million in Holocaust assets, the report said.

Most of the accounts were turned over to the government in the 1960s.

However, it is unlikely that the entire sum will be paid out, said lawmaker Colette Avital, who headed the committee.

“Not all of the heirs will be found,” Miss Avital said.

The unclaimed money should go to a fund to help Holocaust survivors, she said.

Miss Avital accused the banks of failing to cooperate and delaying in the report, which took four years to compile.

Banks denied the charges and said they had done everything in their power to find the heirs to the accounts.

“The banks acted properly and will accept the findings of the report and cooperate,” Yonah Fogel, a Bank Leumi representative, told Israel’s Channel Two TV.

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