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In 1997, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all persons residing in France during World War II who were unfairly deprived of bank accounts and other assets. In 1999, the French Bankers Association announced a plan for full restitution of dormant assets belonging to Holocaust victims of all nationalities.

There were 106 French banks in existence during the Nazi Occupation. The announcement was interpreted as a formal acknowledgment of French Banks' moral debt to the Jewish community for their involvement in acts of confiscation carried out during the Occupation.

Approximately 333 million French Francs in cash and 2 billion worth of securities on deposit with French credit Institutions were frozen and confiscated by the Vichy and German authorities during the Occupation (1940-44).

Assets of 2.4 billion (comprising principal and interest) were restored to rightful owners after the Liberation (1944-1954); but a February, 1999 report by the Matteoli Commission concluded that because so many fled the country or perished as a result of Nazi persecution and atrocities, a large number of accounts and safe deposit boxes remain unreturned to owners or heirs.

The Executive Council of the French Bankers Association agreed that member banks would intensify their efforts at full restitution of all assets, adjusted to current value. Toward that end, a list of dormant accounts and boxes not claimed was made available in mid-1999, and an independent body was established to handle claims and assist with individual research efforts.

In recognition of the fact some Holocaust-era assets will never be returned because entire families were wiped out, member banks agreed to remit unclaimed accounts plus interest to a special fund administered by the Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF). In addition, bankers promised to make a significant contribution to the fund in late 1999.

For additional information or to make a claim, contact: French Bankers Association, Robert de Bruin, 33-1-48-00-50-01. In the U.S. phone: (212) 521-4800. On the Internet:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, located at: 9760 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90035 - - can provide updated information and claims assistance.

Similarly, contact the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, a division of the New York State Banking Department, they specialize in claims form processing, the search for unpaid insurance policies, and recovery of lost art confiscated by the Nazis. Contact:

Holocaust Claims Processing Office
New York State Banking Department
One State Street
New York, NY 10004-1417
800) 695-3318 (U.S. toll-free)
(212) 709-5583 (outside U.S.)

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