Commission Indépendante d’Experts Suisse- Seconde Guerre Mondiale (Commission Bergier)
[Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland-Second World War (Bergier Commission)]
The commission was established in December 1996 by the Swiss Federal Assembly. Its mandate was to conduct a historical and legal investigation on the volume and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before, during, and immediately after World War II. The mandate included investigations into gold trading and foreign currency transactions conducted by the Swiss National Bank and by private commercial banks. The objects of the investigation were all assets moved to Switzerland, including insurable values and cultural assets, both of the victims of the Nazi regime as well as of its perpetrators and collaborators. The commission also examined the relations of Swiss industrial and commercial companies with the National-Socialist economy, especially regarding their involvement in "aryanization measures" and the exploitation of forced laborers, as well as Swiss refugee policy and government measures for the return of unlawfully acquired assets in the postwar period. The five-year appointment of the Independent Commission of Experts (ICE) reached its expiration date in December 2001 and in March 2002, the ICE presented and published its final report in four languages. Copies of the commission’s interim and final reports may be ordered online from its Web site.
P.O. Box 259
CH-3000 Bern 6, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 31 325 1172
+41 31 325 1173
Fax: +41 31 325 1175
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs "Task Force: Switzerland—Second World War"
The Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs maintained a service, "Switzerland and Second World War," which was dissolved in March 1999. Official information from the Swiss government relating to unclaimed assets, claims, compensation, and funds for Holocaust victims can be found on the Swiss Task Force’s Web site at http://www.switzerland.taskforce.ch [N.B. site no longer available]
[Contact Bureau on Looted Art]
The Swiss Federal Office of Culture maintains a Contact Bureau on Looted Art, a center of expertise to respond to all issues linked to looted art from the World War II era. The bureau is primarily responsible for processing inquiries and researching the federal art collections, and it also maintains close contact with private Swiss and foreign institutions that deal with looted-art issues.
Yves Fischer, Responsible for the operations of the Contact Bureau on Looted Art
Federal Office of Culture
Legal and International Affairs
Contact Bureau on Looted Art
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 31 322 03 25
Fax: +41 31 322 92 73
The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons ("The Volcker Commission")
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of May 2, 1996, between the Swiss Bankers Association, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, and the World Jewish Congress established the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons. The committee consists of six members and four alternate members, half appointed by the Swiss Bankers Association and half appointed by Jewish organizations. The committee was mandated by the MOU to conduct an investigative audit to determine whether there are any dormant accounts, financial instruments, and other assets of the victims of Nazi persecution or others that were deposited in Swiss banks before, during, or immediately after World War II. In January 1997, the investigative audit was designated a special audit by the Swiss Federal Banking Commission, giving it the force of law in Switzerland.
20 rue de Candolle, 3rd floor
1205 Geneva, Switzerland
Michael Bradfield, Counsel
Jones Day Reavis & Pogue
51 Louisiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001 USA
Telephone: +1 202 879 4697
Fax: +1 202 626 1700
Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Banks) CV96-4849
In November 2000, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman approved a plan to distribute a $1.25 billion settlement of litigation by Holocaust survivors against Swiss banks. The distribution plan set aside $800 million for claimants who can prove that their families deposited money in Swiss banks to hide it from the Nazis and never got it back. The remaining $450 million was set aside for refugees who were denied entrance to or expelled from Switzerland, slave laborers forced to work for companies with Swiss accounts, and victims whose belongings were plundered by the Nazis and apparently ended up in Switzerland. The Web site of Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation against Swiss Banks and other Swiss Entities provided complete and up-to-date information on the different types of claims, information on filing claims, and documents relating to the settlement agreement.
Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland
An international, independent tribunal was established in Switzerland by the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons to resolve Swiss bank claims made by victims of Nazi persecution following the $1.25 billion settlement agreement. Its initial mandate was to adjudicate claims of entitlement of approximately 5,570 foreign dormant accounts that had been identified in two lists published by the Swiss banks in 1997. The adjudication of those claims has now been completed. The tribunal now operates under rules approved by Judge Edward Korman. On December 8, 2000, Paul Volcker and Michael Bradfield were appointed as Special Masters to organize and supervise the tribunal. The court must approve tribunal awards for payment from the settlement fund. The tribunal will adjudicate claims to accounts on the list of account names published on February 5, 2001, where the claimant believes that the account was owned by a victim or target of Nazi persecution. The tribunal will also review and decide claims filed by individuals who believe that they or a relative, who was a victim or target of Nazi persecution, owned a Swiss bank account not identified on the published list. The tribunal’s task is to process individual claims to Swiss bank accounts of claimants who seek return of assets deposited in Swiss banks. The tribunal determines whether each particular claimant has plausibly demonstrated that an account was opened by a victim or target of Nazi persecution and whether the claimant should then be considered the rightful owner. If a claimant makes a plausible case that he or she is entitled to such an account, the tribunal will make an award of an amount that will be paid to the claimant from the settlement fund.
Paul A. Volcker and Michael Bradfield, Special Masters
The Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland
8023 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 1 298 5454
Fax: +41 1 298 5455
[Swiss Bankers Association]
In accordance with its September 1995 guidelines on handling unclaimed accounts, custody accounts, and safe-deposit boxes at Swiss banks, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) carried out an investigation of all accounts opened before May 8, 1945, that had remained dormant for more than ten years. In summer 1999, the Swiss Bankers Association updated its guidelines with the aim of preventing assets from becoming dormant in the future and of making the search for dormant accounts easier. The SBA guidelines stress the need for banking institutions to search actively for asset owners and the SBA will establish a central information service for that purpose. In February 2001, a new claims process was established to provide victims or their heirs an opportunity to make claims to assets deposited in Swiss banks before and during World War II. The association’s Web site contains information about the claims program, the names of account owners, and other related items.
[Swiss National Bank]
The Swiss National Bank published a study on the monetary policy background of its gold transactions during World War II. The aim of the study was to contribute to a better understanding of the economic policy situation during the war. The study can be found online in German, French, and English at http://www.snb.ch by following the links to Publications, then “Gold Transactions in the Second World War.” Press releases and reports from 1984 to 1999 relating to the Swiss National Bank and World War II can also be found on the bank’s Web site at
Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund
[Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SFJC)]
The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities is an umbrella organization of the Jewish communities in Switzerland and represents Swiss Jews politically. By the 1950s and 1960s, the SFJC was already dealing with the question of dormant accounts and assets being held by banks and insurance companies. Since 1995, the representatives of the SFJC have been involved in the investigation into the role played by Switzerland at home and abroad during World War II. It has acted as a mediator between international Jewish organizations, such as the World Jewish Congress, and the banks as well as Swiss government departments.
Fonds Suisse en faveur des victims de l’Holocauste/Shoah dans le besoin
[Swiss Fund in Favor of Needy Victims of the Holocaust/Shoah]
The Swiss Fund was established by the government in 1997 as a humanitarian initiative to benefit needy Holocaust victims. The fund distributed around CHF 300 million to victims of the Holocaust in need, mostly in Eastern Europe. The fund distributed its entire financial means by the end of 2002; therefore, it is no longer possible to receive funding.
Rolf Bloch, President, and Barbara Ekwall, Executive Director, gave a presentation on the work of the fund in more than 48 countries worldwide at a press conference in January 2002. Information on the press conference can be found in French at http://www.pressclub.ch/archives/events_2002/event_240102.htm [N.B. Page no longer available]
Rolf Bloch, President
Barbara Ekwall, Executive Director
Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust
Polish American Congress Charitable Foundation
5711 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60646 USA
Telephone: +773 763-9944
Fax: +773 763-7114
Switzerland participated in the London Conference on Nazi Gold.
Switzerland participated in the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets. Proceedings of the Washington Conference can be found at http://www.state.gov/www/regions/eur/holocaust/heac.html.
Switzerland participated in the Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets. Proceedings of the Vilnius Forum can be found at http://www.vilniusforum.lt.