English News Archive

News between March 18th and March 28th 1999, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For other News look into our News Archive.


Headlines

March 28, 1999:

March 27, 1999:

March 26, 1999:

March 25, 1999:

March 24, 1999:

March 23, 1999:

March 22, 1999:

March 20 , 1999:

March 19, 1999:

March 18, 1999:


TOP

Video Attacks Stereotypes of Jews

Saturday, March 27, 1999; 11:10 a.m. EST

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Maryanne Reed didn't realize how pervasive the stereotyping of Jews had become until she heard Hebrew spoken with a twang. It caught her off guard.

Reed, a West Virginia University journalism professor and a Jew, was researching Jewish communities for a documentary about their struggle to maintain a cultural identity. While filming at Temple Beth El in Beckley, Reed met Tom Sopher, a member of the temple's board of directors.

``I didn't expect to hear somebody speak Hebrew with a West Virginia accent. It just seems weird,'' Reed said.

Nor did she believe Sopher looks Jewish. He has red hair, pale skin and freckles. ``He's Opie!'' Reed said, referring to Ron Howard's character on ``The Andy Griffith Show.''

That was the point of the video. In helping others rid themselves of stereotypes, Reed unexpectedly confronted her own.

Her 30-minute film, ``Righteous Remnant: Jewish Survival in Appalachia,'' won a community history award last year at the Jewish Video Competition in Berkeley, Calif. It led to a lesson plan that a handful of middle and high school teachers around the state are now using.

Jean Hammersmith, a teacher at University High School in Morgantown, used the film in her social studies class to probe the idea of family.

``Here's an example of where family values are very important, and people are willing to sacrifice a lot for them,'' Hammersmith said. ``So much of what we do as Christians is in a church setting. Jewish people do it in a home setting, so it really is an exercise in the family.''

For Reed, the project was an exploration of her heritage. Her great-grandfather Simon Fox was an immigrant from Lithuania who moved to Tucker County in the 1890s. His family -- 10 children, two parents -- was the only Jewish one in Davis.

``They wanted to experience some kind of religious community,'' Reed said. ``So they would all split up... and they would go to church. But they still maintained their Jewish identity.''

Fox and his family eventually left West Virginia, moving to Ohio around 1910 so the children could find Jewish spouses.

When she began her project, Reed, a former TV news writer and producer, assumed Jews had faced prejudice. So she was taken aback by the intermingling of Jews and Christians. In some towns, churches and temples help each other raise money and open their services to everyone.

``You buy into the stereotype of Appalachians being unfriendly to outsiders, clannish,'' she said. So what she discovered about the Jews surprised her. ``They were accepted -- in some cases, tolerated -- but mostly accepted as being important members of the community.''

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


TOP

French Jews said split over Holocaust bank deal
02:27 p.m Mar 18, 1999 Eastern

By Bernard Edinger

PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) - A proposed banking deal to compensate French survivors of the Holocaust has fallen at the last hurdle because of differences among France's Jewish leaders, sources within the Jewish community said on Thursday.

They told Reuters the accord was to have been signed on Wednesday between the French Banking Association (AFB) and Henri Hajdenberg, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), umbrella organisation for France's Jewish groups.

It was to have been accompanied by an AFB pledge to hand to CRIF key documents on bank accounts, dormant for more than half a century, of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps.

The AFB had also pledged to make a first, symbolic payment of 10 million francs ($1.6 million dollars) to launch a framework structure to handle compensation which CRIF wanted to use for Holocaust memorial programmes, the source said.

The intention was to make the accord public once it was signed but news of its existence led to a threat of resignation by members of the Matteoli Commission, a French government panel headed by a concentration camp survivor which is probing the looting of Jewish assets and efforts at restitution.

The Commission, saying its work would be made redundant, asked and received French government backing to put pressure on AFB not to sign the agreement, the sources said.

An AFB spokeswoman declined comment on the matter and CRIF Vice-President Michel Zaoui said he knew nothing of any deal.

But Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, who is both a member of the Matteoli Commission and CRIF, confirmed there was a major row and that an accord had been aborted at the last minute.

``The existence of such a proposed deal is a reality, the discontent in the Jewish community is a reality and the fact the deal will not be signed is also a reality,'' he told Reuters.

Simultaneously, the single largest body within CRIF, the 200-year-old Central Israelite Consistory which administers the country's synagogues, decided to suspend its CRIF membership.

The official reason was that Hajdenberg did not consult with it before embarking on a Middle East tour this month in which he met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdallah but was not received by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

Hajdenberg's views on the Arab-Israeli conflict are said to be close to those of Israel's opposition Labour Party while the Consistory's membership is largely made up of Jews born in Arab countries and sympathetic to Netanyahu's Likud party.

The split in CRIF came amid what the body felt was sniping against it by the New York-based World Jewish Congress (WJC) which has complained it was being kept out of contacts between French banks and the country's Jewish leaders.

WJC officials said last week CRIF alone should not be allowed to handle the issue of Holocaust compensation and other French Jewish bodies should be involved.

The Consistory's split from CRIF on Thursday means there are now two groups which can vie for leadership of France's 750,000 Jews, the world's third largest Jewish community after the United States and Israel.

The WJC is taken seriously internationally because its advice is closely followed by U.S. politicians, including New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Last year, Hevesi's threat to boycott Swiss banks helped convince them to reach a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust victims.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Deutsche says Holocaust fund proving legally complex
09:00 a.m. Mar 18, 1999 Eastern

FRANKFURT, March 18 (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank said on Thursday that German firms planning to set up a compensation fund for World War Two Holocaust victims had still not discussed the size of the fund and that it was proving legally difficult to arrange.

Deutsche Chief Executive Rolf Breuer said German demands for all current and future lawsuits against them to be dropped were proving to be ``exceptionally difficult'' to satisfy under U.S. law.

But an adequate solution had to be found before the fund could be set up, Breuer told a news conference.

``We haven't talked about money yet in the whole debate, it's too early to talk about money, we're still talking about the right structure.''

Breuer said he was well aware that Holocaust victims eligible for compensation were now in their late seventies and early eighties and that speed was of the essence in paying out money.

``No one is playing for time or putting the problem on the back burner in the hope that less money will have to paid out.''

``It is in our (Deutsche Bank's) interest in particular that a solution be found as quickly as possible,'' Breuer said, referring to market speculation earlier this year that failure to pay compensation may prompt U.S. authorities to block Deutsche's takeover of Bankers Trust.

But Breuer added that the U.S. approval procedure for the takeover did not hinge on a Holocaust fund being set up and said he expected to receive regulatory approval during the second quarter of 1999.

``From today's point of view the approval procedure has progressed without a hitch and we have no signs that it could be affected.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Non-Jews to Get Holocaust Aid

Thursday, March 18, 1999; 10:10 p.m. EST

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Destitute non-Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust will receive financial assistance from a Swiss fund, Israeli officials said Thursday.

The independent Swiss fund to help needy Holocaust victims will now also give direct payments to some 1,000 gentiles named by Israel as ``Righteous Among Nations,'' said Yoram Dori, spokesman for the World Jewish Restitution Organization.''

The honor is bestowed on gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II.

The $89 million fund is made up of contributions from Swiss banks and industry.

Six million Jews were killed during a systematic plan of genocide by Nazi Germany during World War II.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


TOP

FEATURE - Latvia Waffen SS soldiers defend their actions
09:31 p.m Mar 17, 1999 Eastern

By Burton Frierson

RIGA, March 18 (Reuters) - Janis Lacis still remembers why in 1941 he tried to enlist to fight on the Russian front with the German Nazi troops who were occupying his native Latvia.

``We didn't like Germany. We chose the lesser of two evils... I am not proud. I simply did what I had to do,'' he told Reuters.

On Tuesday, Lacis and hundreds of veterans who fought with the Nazis marched through the capital Riga to commemorate their Waffen SS unit, the Latvian Legion, amid criticism from Jewish groups who saw the event as an insult to Holocaust victims.

For Latvia, seeking Western approval for bids to join NATO and the European Union, it was a painful reminder of the Nazi period that was taboo during 50 years of Soviet rule and which the Baltic country is still coming to grips with.

Lacis saw his young nation's independence crushed and his countrymen terrorised in a 1940 occupation by Soviet forces who shot or deported tens of thousands in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in what was known as the Year of Terror.

``I volunteered when I was 17 years old in 1941 but then my mother made a lot of noise that school children were being taken (to the front)...and I wept because I wanted to fight the communists,'' Lacis said.

The Nazis swept through in 1941 and two years later, when their fortunes reversed, gave the 19-year-old Lacis his chance to fight the communists, drafting him and 146,000 Latvians into a ``volunteer'' Waffen SS legion in a last-ditch mobilisation.

The legionnaires on Tuesday marked the day in 1944 when two Latvian divisions fought together against Soviet troops for the first time, holding their own at the Velikaya River in western Russia.

Last year's event was attacked by Jewish groups, Russia and the West who saw it as offensive to veterans who fought Hitler's tyranny. It led to the dismissal of Latvia's armed forces commander, who took part in the march despite a government order not to.

Adding to the tension this year was the fact that it coincided with a national remembrance day for fallen soldiers that parliament declared in defiance of the international criticism last year.

BOYCOTT

The local Jewish community boycotted the remembrance day activities, refusing to hang the national flag at their Riga premises as required by law.

President Guntis Ulmanis also gave it a miss and the government, which prohibited officials from taking part in the march, predicted the date would be removed from the official calendar.

``To celebrate a date in connection with a Nazi army unit -- the Nazi army that was defending the regime behind the front lines where my people were being murdered -- is something that I cannot accept,'' said Jewish community head Grijorjs Krupnikovs.

Ninety five percent of Latvia's 70,000 pre-war Jewish population was murdered during the German occupation, sometimes with local collaboration, such as the notorious Arajs murder squad which travelled round in a blue bus seeking out Jews.

Many Latvians also served in the Red Army and see their part in the struggle against fascism as the right fight, despite misgivings about the Soviet occupation they helped reinstate, and take a dim view to the March 16 events.

``It is not a pleasant day for me,'' said Mavriks Vulfsons, an 81-year-old professor and former Red Army battalion commander.

``It is an anachronism...it is not something consistent with the modern situation.''

But the legionnaires feel they have been misrepresented as greying war criminals nostalgic for Hitler's iron rule, saying they fought not to glorify the Nazis but to stave off another invasion by Soviet forces, who were even bigger murderers.

``(Winston) Churchill said that if Hitler occupied hell (he) would even go together with the devil to beat him...but we Latvians were not allowed to go together with one devil to fight another,'' Lacis said.

After the war the Allies declared that membership of the Latvian Legion was not an obstacle to immigration for the thousands of Latvians in refugee camps throughout Europe.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

U.S. Holocaust survivors say lawyers shouldn't get fees
06:50 p.m Mar 18, 1999 Eastern

NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - U.S. Holocaust survivors on Thursday said legal fees that could run as high as $100 million should not be awarded to lawyers who have sued German companies for billions of dollars over claims they profited from Nazi atrocities, including the use of slave labour.

``The awarding of legal fees is simply incomprehensible to survivors, since it comes from the very assets stolen from us under circumstances which have no historical precedent,'' Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust survivors said, in prepared remarks.

The organisation, representing about 125,000 U.S. Holocaust survivors, is considering having its members mail postcards expressing their concerns to all the judges who are handling the Holocaust suits.

Roman, who said in a telephone interview that the American Gathering did want the attorneys to be reimbursed for their expenses, added: ``In my opinion, it is very unfortunate that what I call the glitter of gold is obstructing the just cause.''

One of the plaintiff attorneys declined to comment; another was not immediately available.

``If you're going to carry on a business, you have to get some remuneration for your time,'' a legal source close to the claimants' side said. ``All the time the plaintiff attorneys now are putting in is uncertain, it's all being put in without any promise of remuneration.''

Further, any legal fees would have to be approved by a U.S. court, he said.

Many of the lawyers who sued Swiss banks, charging that after World War II ended they held onto bank accounts and other assets that belonged to Holocaust survivors and their families, did their work on a pro bono basis.

The Swiss banks last year reached a $1.25 billion settlement with victims, and the lawsuits filed against the banks were among the main levers used to bring them to the bargaining table.

Similar pressure is being brought to bear upon the German banks and industrial companies that are being sued in the United States.

One of the banks being sued, Deutsche Bank DBKG.F, also faces pressure from the New York City Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, who has called for delaying the $10.1 billion merger between Germany's largest bank and Bankers Trust (BT.N), the eighth biggest U.S. bank, until Holocaust claims were resolved.

Deutsche Bank, which has denied it used slave labour, is one of at least 13 companies negotiating a new two- to three-billion mark ($1.13 billion to $1.69 billion) fund that will pay compensation of Holocaust victims.

((Joan Gralla, U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1654, joan.gralla+reuters.com))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Photomatrix Scanners Used to Computerize the Names of Millions of Jewish Holocaust Victims
10:25 a.m. Mar 18, 1999 Eastern

CARLSBAD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 18, 1999--Photomatrix Inc. (Nasdaq:PHRX), announced today the sale of two of its high performance 9000 series scanners to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Research Centre in Jerusalem.

According to an article in the Sunday, March 7, 1999 edition of The London Times (www.sunday-times.co.uk), these scanners are at the heart of a project to computerize the names of, and testimonies on behalf of, millions of Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. This is the largest and most complex scanning effort carried out on an historical archive.

Patrick Moore, chief executive officer of Photomatrix, said, "We are proud that these highly sensitive handwritten testimony pages are being trusted to our scanner. It demonstrates the quality and care of our design and manufacturing capabilities that we make the most advanced scanner in the world."

According to Mike Evans, Photomatrix international sales manager, "We have the only scanner in the world that is able to take papers of such a delicate nature. Most scanners on the market take the piece of paper and feed it through a mechanism of rollers and wheels. Invariably, valuable pieces of paper, especially if they are old, will eventually disintegrate and end up in bits. You could scan the Dead Sea Scrolls on this machine," said Evans.

In the article, Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, is quoted as saying, "The documents are up to 50 years old, were completed by hand in at least 14 different languages and were produced in 42 different versions over the years."

The article states that the age and lack of uniformity, the documents cannot be digitized through standard optical characterization methods.

Moore further stated, "Not only the quality of the design, but the quality of our manufacturing has contributed to our success in winning this contract. We expect that our rapidly growing value-added engineering, design and manufacturing capacity will increase our ability to provide quality products to an expanded range of companies in the scanner industry," said Moore.

According to Moore, there is a growing need to support other OEM's with these services. Moore refers to the Manufacturing Market Insider, an industry publication, which indicates that there is a $400 billion market, of which only $80 billion is currently served for the manufacture of Electronic and Electro-mechanical equipment for the OEM marketplace.

Photomatrix is a value-added engineering, design and manufacturing company marketing its own product line of high-performance document scanners. Complete product and company information can be found at the companies Web site, which is located at www.Photomatrix.com.

This press release contains forward-looking statements that involve risk and uncertainties. These statements include, without limitation, statements relating to the company's future economic performance, management's opinions about the ability of the ability of the company to compete successfully and other non-historical information. The company's actual results could differ materially from those discussed herein. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, without limitation, those risks discussed in item 6 under the heading "additional risk factors" as well as those discussed elsewhere in the company's annual report on Form 10-KSB.


Copyright 1999, Business Wire


TOP

Austria hands over skulls of Polish Nazi victims
07:43 a.m. Mar 19, 1999 Eastern

VIENNA, March 19 (Reuters) - The skulls of 14 Polish World War Two resistance fighters, stored for over 50 years in the archives of Vienna's Natural History Museum, will be handed over to the Polish ambassador at a ceremony on Saturday.

The skulls of 11 men and three women were discovered a decade ago, but the decision to return them to Poland was only taken after an investigation into the origin of anatomical specimens in Austrian state collections was completed last year.

Vienna University's medical faculty released over 200 preserved body parts from Austrian victims for burial six months ago after the study revealed that the specimens stemmed from executed opponents of the Nazi regime.

Austria was annexed in 1938 by Nazi Germany, which invaded Poland the following year to unleash World War Two.

Research at the natural history museum showed that the 14 skulls were acquired for a 1942 anthropological exhibition from Poznan University in Poland, according to Maria Teschler-Nicola, who heads the museum's anthropological department.

Poznan University traded actively in the skeletons of people executed by Adolf Hitler's Gestapo police, she said.

``This makes up our most shocking correspondence,'' Teschler-Nicola said, referring to museum documents. ``We have the order forms for these skulls.''

The skulls, stored in individual wooden boxes, had not been on display or available for study since the end of World War Two. Their identity was unknown, as only their age and sex were recorded.

The skulls will lie in state in the museum's grand hall on Saturday before being received by a Polish military delegation.

Teschler-Nicola said Polish authorities were in contact with families whose relatives were executed by the Nazis and would attempt to identify the victims to enable them to be buried.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

U.K. Judge Dismisses Two War Charges

Friday, March 19, 1999; 8:11 p.m. EST

LONDON (AP) -- A judge dismissed today two counts of war crimes against a Belorussian man accused of killing Jews during World War II, but proceedings continue on two other counts.

Anthony Sawoniuk, 78, has pleaded innocent to all four counts of murder and told the court, ``I have never hated Jews. Jews were my best friends. I was born next door. I have grown up with them. I went to school with them.''

Judge Humphrey Potts dismissed charges accusing Sawoniuk of killing two Jewish men in his hometown of Domachevo, Belarus in 1942. He still is accused of killing two women.

``I have reached the conclusion that on the evidence as it stands, you could not safely convict on either count,'' the judge told jurors in explaining his decision.

Prosecutors allege that Sawoniuk, a retired British Rail worker, joined a police force set up to kill the local Jewish population after German forces overran Domachevo in June 1941.

Asked whether he had killed Jews during 1942, Sawoniuk told the court: ``I never did, nor had any intention to do so.''

An estimated 200,000 Jews were killed in Nazi-occupied Belarus during the war.

Britain's 1991 War Crimes Act permits prosecution of suspects for charges alleging crimes committed outside of Britain.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


TOP

U.S. launches new search for Holocaust assets
05:28 p.m Mar 19, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, March 19 (Reuters) - The United States, criticised in Europe for not doing its part to resolve Holocaust issues, is launching a new search for bank accounts, artwork and other valuables that belonged to Holocaust victims, a World Jewish Congress spokesman said on Friday.

Unlike many European countries, where banks hold onto dormant accounts, in the United States such funds are turned over to state governments after a number of years.

The states will be asked to assist the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, chaired by the head of the World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman Sr., at its first meeting on Wednesday.

``This federal commission will ask the cooperation of state agencies in locating what is believed to be millions of dollars,'' Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said.

But the scope of the inquiry, which will involve sifting as many as 40 million classified and unclassified documents in the National Archives, encompasses far more than simply looking for money that people who perished in the Holocaust deposited with U.S. banks in the years leading up to World War Two.

``Our mission is to achieve the truth -- to find out how, and when, the gold, artwork, books, bank accounts and other assets of the Holocaust victims came into the possession or control of the United States government and to review what others have learned about assets that came into the possession of non-Federal entities,'' Bronfman said in prepared remarks released on Wednesday.

Through his leadership of the World Jewish Congress, Bronfman, the chairman of Seagram Co. Ltd (VO.TO), has become a major player in a global effort to win what the WJC calls moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims.

The New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, whose threat to boycott Swiss banks last year helped convince them to reach a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust victims, likely will be asked to put his network of 900 state and local officials to work in helping to turn up dormant accounts, Steinberg said.

``That's under consideration,'' said David Neustadt, a spokesman for Hevesi. While no formal request had yet been made, he added: ``If we were asked to help out in that way, we would do everything we could.''

Looted artwork, which has been one of the most controversial subjects of Holocaust probes, is likely to be a major focus of the U.S. Holocaust commission.

After the war, the Allies tried to return works of art that were plundered by the Nazis to the countries from which they were taken, but the objects were not given back to the original owners or their families, Steinberg said.

``In the post-war period, one thing we have learned is that art follows where the money is, and the largest buyers of art were galleries, individuals and museums in the United States,'' Steinberg said. ``There is no question but that looted art objects are and will be located in U.S. galleries, museums and dealers.''

The United States in December held an international conference on Holocaust assets and organisations representing art dealers and museums agreed they had a special obligation to try to identify any items in their collections that had been plundered.

Investigations into Holocaust assets have been going on since the war ended, and a probe by the U.S. government in the 1950s identified approximately $3 million in bank accounts that were owned by victims of the Nazis, Steinberg said.

``But the means of seeking out accounts was very limited,'' he said, explaining that the WJC believes considerable sums have yet to be located.

About $500,000 of the money found in the earlier investigation was turned over to Jewish restitution organisations and used on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

((U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1650, nyc.munis.newsroom+reuters.com))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

German leaders oppose new Holocaust memorial plan
10:56 a.m. Mar 20, 1999 Eastern

By Clifford Coonan

BONN, March 20 (Reuters) - A row over a Holocaust memorial for Berlin escalated on Saturday as leading German politicians and bishops criticised the latest compromise design for the long-delayed project.

Johannes Rau, the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate for the German presidency, has criticised the twice-altered proposal by New York architect Peter Eisenman, which is favoured by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Der Spiegel news magazine said.

Rau favours an alternative design for the monument put forward by East German SPD politician and theologian Richard Schroeder.

Richard Schroeder has proposed a slimmed down version, containing the words ``Thou shalt not kill'' in Hebrew, with the same Fifth Commandment written in other languages in smaller lettering below.

The chairman of the German Bishops Conference, Karl Lehmann, said in Welt am Sonntag newspaper that such a monument would have a profound effect ``through its clarity and simplicity.''

Richard Schroeder's design also has the support of the Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber and Berlin's Christian Democrat mayor Eberhard Diepgen.

Eisenman's design envisages 1,500 pillars and a ``Wall of Books,'' a 20-metre (65 ft)-long stack containing one million volumes covering the extermination of six million Jews.

Originally Eisenman planned an austere field of 2,700 columns near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

For years, Germans and Jews alike have been unable to agree on exactly what, if anything, could act as a suitable memorial to victims of Nazi genocide.

The long-delayed Holocaust memorial plans were set back still further last week, when Berlin city authorities refused to back any of the designs for the project.

Schroeder has said that the city of Berlin has to make its recommendation on the memorial before the federal parliament can be called on to make a final decision.

The scheme looked to be making progress last year when the government unveiled Eisenman's compromise design. But despite Bonn pressure, Diepgen refused to lift his objections to it.

The Berlin senate supported this stance on Tuesday last week, when they voted by 6-5 to suspend the competition procedure.

Berlin senators have challenged Schroeder's Social Democrats to go ahead with the parliamentary vote without first having secured their backing.

Schroeder is, however, unwilling to risk such a move because it would almost certainly mean the explosive issue would get sucked into a Berlin state election this autumn.

His SPD are aiming to take control in the city, which later this year once again becomes the seat of federal government. At the moment, they are junior partners in the city-state government in a CDU-controlled grand coalition.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Bomb Latest Blow to Russia Caucasus

By Barry Renfrew
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, March 20, 1999; 11:22 a.m. EST

MOSCOW (AP) -- The devastating bombing of a market in the troubled Caucasus is the latest setback in a turbulent region that Russian leaders fear may one day unleash their worst nightmare -- the unraveling of Russia.

The northern Caucasus is an intricate web of shifting loyalties and borders, of tribal, ethnic and religious animosities reaching back centuries. The poor, mountainous region on Russia's southern border has been ravaged by wars, ethnic rivalries and growing lawlessness for the past decade.

Moscow's hold on the patchwork of turbulent republics in the region, never strong, is slipping more and more. The evident Russian weakness is encouraging separatist groups and inflaming anti-Russian feelings and Muslim passions among the 3.5 million people in the various ethnic enclaves.

Many sense the time may be close to reclaim their independence after 200 years of Russian rule.

President Boris Yeltsin and other government leaders quickly saw Friday's bombing in the provincial capital Vladikavkaz, which left scores of people dead and wounded, as part of the growing challenge to Russian rule.

``I consider this bloody crime an attempt to destabilize the situation in the northern Caucasus, to sow enmity and hatred,'' Yeltsin said.

The inability of the Russian government to suggest who was responsible for the blast underlined the complexity of the political situation in a region awash with political, ethnic and religious hatred.

A host of possible motives were suggested by officials, ranging from various religious and ethnic rivalries to organized crime. A group that claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not name itself, appeared motivated by ``religious fanaticism,'' officials said.

Many Russians have an instinctive aversion to the people of the Caucasus, seeing them as untrustworthy and dishonest. The mostly Muslim people of the Caucasus, in turn, see the Russians as cruel and oppressive conquerors.

Mikhail Lermontov's poem about an ``evil Chechen'' is still required reading in many Russian schools -- a reminder of the age-old antipathy between the two peoples. Lermontov, one of Russia's greatest poets, was a cavalry officer who fought the Caucasian tribes in the early 19th century.

The Moscow government, weakened by the steady decline of the Russian economy and military, is struggling to maintain its hold over the Caucasus and other restless regions across Russia.

With growing separatist, or even pro-independence, sentiment in parts of the Russian Far East and Siberia, Moscow lives in fear that if one region breaks away others will follow suit, leading to the dissolution of the Russian state.

Moscow suffered a major defeat in the Caucasus when it lost the Chechen war in 1996. The Chechens, long the most restless group in the region, fought the Russian military to a standstill in a frightful two-year war and claimed independence.

East of Chechnya lies Dagestan, a mostly Muslim region whose people aided the Chechens during their conflict with the Russians. The region has seen growing political and religious unrest and a wave of lawlessness.

Vladikavkaz, scene of the bombing, is perhaps the most solid Russian foothold in the region, the capital of Christian North Ossetia, a traditional Russian ally. The Ossetians are traditional enemies of the neighboring Muslim Ingush people, who are ethnic brethren of the Chechens.

Russian troops had to intervene after a brief but deadly Ossetian-Ingush conflict in 1992. There still is no resolution of that feud, which occasionally flares with house-bombings and interethnic clashes.

Memories are still strong in the region of 1944, when Josef Stalin exiled the Ingush and Chechens to Kazakstan for allegedly helping invading Nazi German forces.

They returned in the 1950s to a Chechen-Ingush autonomous region and to Ossetia, where they often found their homes had been taken by Russians and Ossetians, sowing the seeds of new conflicts.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


TOP

Wiesenthal Urges Nazi Looting Probe

Monday, March 22, 1999; 3:44 p.m. EST

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal has called for a full investigation into Nazi-era economic exploitation, looting and slave labor in Austria.

``Everything must be investigated -- for historical reasons,'' Wiesenthal, 90, said in an interview Monday with the Austria Press Agency. He was referring to belated attempts to indemnify survivors of the Holocaust, most of whom are no longer alive.

The Austrian government has begun returning paintings and other art objects to survivors of Jewish families, whose property was looted by the Nazis and never given back. Some of the art treasures were withheld by postwar governments, who cited laws ruling out the export of such heritage.

Meanwhile, a government-appointed commission has begun assessing the amount of damage caused by impounding and looting Jewish industrial and private property in Austria, which was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. Critics have already complained that the envisioned three years for the commission to work is way too long.

``The history of the suffering of Jews is also Austrian history,'' Wiesenthal told APA, expressing regret that investigations are taking place so long after the end of World War II. ``It's very late -- the people who are to get something are dying every day.''

Compensation should be directly given to those who personally suffered under Nazi persecution, Wiesenthal said. But most have already died.

Wiesenthal himself survived Nazi terror in a dozen different concentration camps. He was part of a work detail of slave laborers used to repair the so-called eastern rail line. ``We were 300 in a group at the time -- today I'm the only survivor,'' he said.

In Vienna, 70,000 apartments of fled or slain Jews were looted by the Nazis, and the rest of the furnishings were sold off at the state-run auction house Dorotheum, he recalled.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


TOP

FOCUS-Le Pen protests as Belgian police seize arms
06:15 p.m Mar 23, 1999 Eastern

By Yves Clarisse

BRUSSELS, March 23 (Reuters) - Belgian police said on Tuesday they had seized a cache of arms found in the car of French far-right leader and European Parliament deputy Jean-Marie Le Pen, who protested at the police action.

Le Pen, head of the French National Front, said it was normal that someone in danger should be protected by firearms. ``I have already notified my ambassador,'' he said.

Le Pen's car was broken into outside a Brussels restaurant where he was dining on Monday evening and officers investigating the break in found the arms by chance and seized them.

According to a police source, a pump-action gun, a teargas grenade and a revolver were found.

They were covered by permits granted to Le Pen's bodyguards, although one permit had expired, justifying the seizure, the source said.

The source, who declined to be identified, said Le Pen had not been harassed. ``But you do not walk around Brussels with an arsenal,'' he added.

At first Le Pen contested the list of arms. He acknowledged having a ``rubber bullet gun and some teargas grenades,'' while the hand gun had been carried by his bodyguard.

``There is nothing extravagant in the items seized,'' he told reporters at the European Parliament.

According to Le Pen, the permits were in order, but the question was why the Belgian police did not accept them.

He criticised police for searching his car, whose windscreen had been broken during the break-in, instead of going into the restaurant to warn him.

Le Pen said the incident was due to the fact that the ``official escort'' which protects him when he is in France was not allowed in Belgium, obliging to organise his own protection while in the country.

``This country should give protection to threatened people,'' he said.

The European Parliament has already suspended Le Pen's immunity because of his comments on the Nazi gas chambers of the Second World War in which millions of Jews were killed.

``The prestige of the parliament is seriously damaged by this,'' French socialist member of the European Parliament Olivier Dumahel told a packed chamber.

But French National Front euro-deputy Jean-Claude Martinez dismissed the incident. ``We are talking about teargas bombs of the type which can be bought in a supermarket,'' he said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Britain to name more Holocaust victims owed funds
06:55 p.m Mar 23, 1999 Eastern

NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) - Britain, trying to right a World War II wrong, will soon publish the names of 5,000 Jews and other refugees who escaped the Nazis only to have their bank accounts seized because they came from countries that Germany had invaded, a Jewish pressure group said on Tuesday.

The names of over 25,000 people who also had their property confiscated under the Enemy Property Act because they fled belligerent nations already have been published.

``In many cases, these assets did in fact belong to the enemy, but a British government study last year showed that the accounts also belonged to victims of the Nazis,'' Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, told Reuters.

The British government has told Lord Greville Janner, a WJC vice president, that the new list, which was expected to be released on Wednesday, includes people from the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Steinberg said.

Many of the Holocaust victims who lived in Eastern Europe did not receive any compensation until a few years ago, in part because the West was reluctant to send hard currency to the Soviet Union, the WJC official added.

``The WJC welcomes this honourable action by Britain that serves as a model for other countries,'' Steinberg said.

Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Byers, who told Janner he plans to release the 5,000 new names on Wednesday, also is expected to announce the start of the claims process.

That process will be run by Lord Peter Archer, a senior lawyer who has advised the government on the compensation programme.

While many of the victims are dead, the compensation that will be paid to their families and to those who still are living is not inconsequential. A Trade and Industry official previously indicated the cost to the Treasury could be some 25 million pounds ($41 million.)

((Joan Gralla, U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1654, joan.gralla+reuters.com))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Germany deports U.S. ``Farmbelt Fuehrer''
04:41 p.m Mar 23, 1999 Eastern

HAMBURG, March 23 (Reuters) - Germany deported an American neo-Nazi on Tuesday after he completed a four-year prison term for inciting racial hatred.

A spokesman for Hamburg city authorities said Gary Lauck, who smuggled anti-Semitic and rightist propaganda to Germany for more than 20 years, had been flown to Chicago via Paris.

Lauck, a Nebraskan dubbed the ``Farmbelt Fuehrer'' for his admiration for Adolf Hitler, was arrested in Denmark in March 1995 and extradited to Germany. He is reportedly so taken with Nazism that he speaks English with a German accent.

A Hamburg appeal rejected an application for early release in 1998, saying the 45-year-old Lauck was an unrepentant offender whose aim was to re-establish a Nazi regime in Germany.

The court said at that time that it was likely that Lauck would return to the distribution of illegal propaganda to Germany after his return to the United States.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Romania strips firebrand politician's immunity
07:05 p.m Mar 23, 1999 Eastern

BUCHAREST, March 23 (Reuters) - Romania's parliament on Tuesday stripped extreme nationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor of his immunity, opening the way to a welter of libel suits against him, including one involving President Emil Constantinescu.

Parliament's upper house, the Senate, voted by 80 to 36 to lift Tudor's parliamentary immunity after three hours of often unruly debate. Tudor was absent, saying he was ill.

Tudor, 49, faces libel cases launched by a variety of politicians, officials and journalists. One case alleges ``offence to authority'' in connection with his allegations that Constantinescu had an extra-marital affair.

Tudor leads the anti-Semitic Greater Romania Party (PRM) which won five percent of the vote in 1996 elections.

His popularity rose last year as Romanian living standards plumetted, but it has fallen back in recent weeks after he openly supported violent marches by striking coal miners.

Earlier attempts to strip Tudor of immunity after he accused then-president Ion Iliescu of ``selling Romania to a Jewish-led conspiracy'' failed when he again won a seat in parliament.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Holocaust suits unlikely to reach trial -experts
09:16 p.m Mar 23, 1999 Eastern

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 23 (Reuters) - Lawsuits filed by Holocaust survivors against banks and other corporations will likely never reach trial, in part because firms would rather settle than be accused in court of profiting from atrocities, legal scholars said on Tuesday.

``I don't think any one of these cases is going to be litigated,'' Harvard Law Professor Arthur Miller said during a panel discussion on class-action suits filed by Holocaust survivors and their families.

``I believe the class actions are like the sword at the back of the neck. Nobody wants to swing the sword, they just want to keep it at the back of the neck,'' he added.

Miller and other panellists at the Harvard Law School forum enumerated the difficulties of the suits, which claim the corporations profited from slave labour during the Second World War or from assets confiscated from Holocaust victims.

They said there were problems with jurisdiction, establishing classes of plaintiffs, statutes of limitations, placing a monetary value on human life, and identifying who should pay and who should receive settlement proceeds.

Also, companies would rather settle than have accusations of profiting from Nazi atrocities leveled against them in court, Miller added.

A Swiss diplomat on the panel said it was pressure outside the courtroom, not the legal merits of the case, that led to the recent agreement by banks in his country to pay $1.25 billion to Holocaust victims.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Kosher wine: it isn't chopped liver anymore
10:40 a.m. Mar 23, 1999 Eastern

By Gail Appleson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kosher wine. It's not chopped liver anymore and Jews celebrating Passover this year can get plenty of French Beaujolais, California Chardonnay and even Chilean Merlot to wash down their gefilte fish and hefty matzo balls.

Although syrupy, sweet Concord grape wine is the tradition at festive U.S. Passover Seders, the supply of premium kosher wine available in the United States has grown so rapidly that one New York liquor store advertises some 70 such wines from France alone. Passover begins March 31 this year.

In fact, there is so much good stuff out there now that connoisseurs are starting to argue about whether it is better to serve a fruity white with chicken soup to counteract the salt or a light-bodied red to help digest the matzo balls.

And while high-octane horseradish eaten with gefilte fish also ignites debate -- some say only Scotch whisky or vodka can quench the fire -- the experts can agree on one thing.

``There is no reason to just drink the sweet stuff anymore,'' said Jeff Saunders, owner of Skyview Wine & Liquors in Riverdale, New York, which sells more than 400 Kosher wines and spirits from Australia, California, Chile, France, Hungary, Israel and Italy.

Prices for such wines range from $4.95 for Bartenura Italian Soave and $5.75 for Alfasi Merlot from Chile to $45 for Laurent-Perrier Rose Champagne or Montaigne Cognac Napoleon.

``There are young kosher wine drinkers out there who want what everybody else has,'' Saunders said.

And there is no reason why they should not have it, says Avi Fertig, director of marketing for Brooklyn-based Royal Wine Corp., the largest U.S. maker and importer of kosher wine. Its holdings include the Kedem wineries in New York and Baron Herzog and Weinstock in California.

People think kosher wine has to be sweet because at the turn of the century the majority of Jewish immigrants settled on the East Coast, where only Concord grapes were available for ceremonial wine, Fertig explained.

The grapes produce a harsh, acidic wine that needs lots of sugar to be drinkable, he said. ``People just got used to it and it became the status quo.''

Gary Fisch, co-owner of Shoppers of Madison and Shoppers of Livingston, two high-volume, high-quality wine and specialty foods stores in New Jersey, said his mother, who immigrated from Eastern Europe, is a perfect example. She probably never drank sweet wine before coming to the United States, he said.

But now, ``for my mother, it has to be Manischewitz. It's tradition. But this long tradition is only 90 years old. Where is it written that you have to have sweet wine for Passover?''

Unfortunately this sweet tradition has not blessed kosher wine with a great reputation. It has such a stigma, in fact, that it has even ended up on the ``Frasier'' television sitcom.

In one episode, Frasier is trying to mislead his Jewish girlfriend's mother into believing he is Jewish. When he goes to fetch her a glass of wine, his brother asks whether she might be expecting ``Jewish wine.'' He then dumps sugar into the glass and asks Frasier to taste it. ``It's dreadful,'' says Frasier, grimacing. ``Perfect,'' his brother responds.

But sugar is not what makes wine kosher, it is the way the wine is handled, Fertig said. Kosher wine is made the same as other wines with a few exceptions including that the grapes can be handled only by observant Jews, from crushing to serving.

Some kosher wines go through an extra step to make them ''mevushal,'' meaning they can be served by someone who is not Jewish, like a waiter, and still be kosher. In this step, the crushed juice is ``flash'' pasteurized for only a few seconds.

Nathan Herzog, executive vice president of Royal, said the move to make kosher premium wine in the United States followed efforts by California vintners in the late 1960s to begin producing varietals rather than just jug wines.

As the popularity of these varietals grew, the Herzog family realized that ``we've got to get a good kosher California wine,'' he said, and they opened the Baron Herzog winery in Santa Maria. Its first 1985 vintage Cabernet, Chardonnay and white Zinfandel wines became available in 1986.

Last year the winery's 1995 Limited Edition Cabernet earned a whopping 93 points from Wine Spectator -- one of the top scores the magazine gives -- placing it alongside ultra-premium nonkosher wines.

``It's just great wine that happens to be kosher,'' Herzog said.

Like Herzog, many agree kosher wines can rival nonkosher counterparts and are looking forward to Passover as a time to convert friends and relatives into premium wine drinkers.

Avrum Kirschenbaum, an orthodox Jew whose family owns Levana, an avant garde kosher restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, said a multi-course Seder would be an ideal setting for pairing foods with different wines. The family runs Seders at its restaurant and its hotels in Puerto Rico and Aruba.

Since it is always best to go from white wines to red, he suggested starting with gefilte fish before moving on to chicken soup with matzo balls. He prefers a fruity white such as a Sauvignon blanc from Israeli wineries Carmel or Golan.

But the horseradish with the fish presents a problem. ``If you use a lot of horseradish that wins the battle. It has to be red ... but it's not a match made in heaven,'' Fisch said.

But Kirschenbaum said even red would not stand up to horseradish. ``You'd need scotch or vodka to wash that down.''

The two also disagreed about chicken soup and matzo balls. ''There is no perfect wine for chicken soup but I would choose a Chardonnay,'' Fisch said. ``The fruit competes with the salt OK. ... I definitely wouldn't use red because of the salt.''

But Kirschenbaum said if the soup is made correctly and fat is skimmed off the top, taking a lot of the salt with it, then a light-bodied red would be good.

With chopped liver, Fisch opted for a Golan Village Red, similar to French Beaujolais, while Kirschenbaum suggested a Carmel Private Collection Merlot. For a meat entree Fisch liked a Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon and Kirschenbaum a Hagafen Cellars of California Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc.

And for dessert, Kirschenbaum preferred a Carmel Grappa or Montaigne Cognac Napoleon, while Fisch said, ``Yarden Vineyards Muscat is great. Of course my mother would have tea, but by then the kids are crazy and I need something.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Israel launches Nazi victim name campaign
09:29 a.m. Mar 24, 1999 Eastern

JERUSALEM, March 24 (Reuters) - Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial launched an urgent campaign on Wednesday to collect names of Holocaust victims, officials said.

Yad Vashem, the biggest storehouse worldwide of testimony containing details on Jews who perished in the Nazi genocide, said it would appeal primarily via the media to the Israeli public to provide information on victims.

Jewish organisations abroad have been enlisted to help collect data on victims abroad.

``This generation must commemorate the names of the victims of the Holocaust for the sake of the past and the future. The Jewish nation has not done enough to commemorate the victims,'' said Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem's directorate.

The memorial now holds some three million records of Holocaust victims -- two million testimonials collected from survivors and relatives and a million lists from various sources throughout Europe.

Some six million Jews were annihilated in Europe by the German Nazis during World War Two.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

U.S. Jewish group rejects French bank Holocaust plan
09:24 p.m Mar 24, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, March 24 (Reuters) - A powerful U.S. Jewish group that says it speaks for all Jewish victims of the Holocaust, regardless of what country they came from, on Wednesday rejected a compensation plan announced by French banks.

The French Banking Association's (AFB) decision to move ahead with its compensation plan, after an earlier version was scuttled by the French government, was assailed by the World Jewish Congress, the New York City-based group that has insisted on involving representatives of the international Jewish community, as well as French Jewish groups.

``This unilateral announcement by the French banks is a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust victims,'' Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, told Reuters by telephone.

Michael Freitag, a New York City-based spokesman for the French banks, defended the compensation plan, saying domestic and international Jewish leaders were involved, though he declined to say who was consulted outside France.

``Today's announcement was unilateral but it reflects many opinons expressed by Jewish leaders in France and around the world,'' Freitag said.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who heeds the WJC's advice, on Wednesday urged the French banks to open their talks not only to world Jewish groups but to U.S. lawyers who are suing the banks over Holocaust claims. The plaintiff attorneys believe they would have to approve any deal for the French banks to be shielded from lawsuits.

``I encourage the French banks to talk with representatives of the world Jewish community and the class action attorneys who represent survivors. Only real negotiations can produce a real settlement,'' Hevesi said in prepared remarks.

But the French bank spokesman predicted the U.S. suits would be dismissed. ``The U.S. litigation at best can only deal with the banks operating in the United States. It's being dealt with comprehensively in France, and therefore the litigation is completely inappropriate,'' Freitag said.

The WJC has said it will fight a planned merger between Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) and Paribas (PARI.PA), and a $37 billion bid by Banque Nationale de Paris (BNPP.PA) to buy both those rivals.

And it plans to tell Hevesi, who in June will chair a meeting of public finance officers on French banks, that French banks ``believe they can circumvent and avoid their moral responsibility.''

According to a March 10 draft, the AFB plan was drawn up after consulting with the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions (Crif), a French umbrella group, but that phrase was not in Wednesday's release. ``So they can't even claim they negotiated with the French Jewish leadership,'' Steinberg said.

The French banks' new plan calls on them to make an unspecified ``significant financial contribution'' to a memorial fund. So-called ``heirless'' assets, bank accounts and other valuables of people whose entire families perished in Nazi death camps, also would be turned over to the new fund, but the WJC criticised the plan, saying there was no sign the money would be controlled by Holocaust survivors.

Freitag held out the possibility that Jewish leaders would be asked to help run the fund: ``The fund has not been created yet, but it might very well include members of the Jewish community,'' he said. It will be up to the French government and Jewish groups to work that out, he added.

The French compensation plan also obliges the AFB to turn over by May 15 to the government investigation panel the lists of dormant accounts and other assets of people who were considered Jewish under Nazi and Vichy laws.

This is a different approach than the one used by Swiss banks, whose dormant accounts are being independently audited.

While the WJC faulted the French banks for not subjecting themselves to the same tough standards, the French bank spokesman defended the arrangement, saying the banks were complying with a mandate from the French government.

((U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1650, nyc.munis.newsroom+reuters.com))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Anti-Semitic Acts On The Rise In U.S., Study Finds
12:03 p.m. Mar 24, 1999 Eastern

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For the first time in three years, anti-Semitic acts increased across the United States in 1998 bringing a rise in vandalism at Jewish institutions and property, the Anti-Defamation League said Wednesday.

While the number of incidents involving harassment, threat or assault remained virtually unchanged with 896 incidents reported, compared to 898 in 1997, the 1998 audit of anti-Semitic incidents showed vandalism at synagogues, Jewish schools, community centers and other communal institutions and private property was on the rise.

A total of 715 incidents of vandalism were reported in 1998, a 6 percent increase from the prior year, in which 673 incidents occurred, ADL said.

``We are disappointed that there was even a slight increase in this year's numbers,'' said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. ``We are concerned that vandalism was so prevalent, because an attack on a synagogue is an attack on an entire community.''

The Internet also continued to play an increasingly prominent role in disseminating hate literature through hundreds of sites on the World Wide Web, the ADL said.

Although difficult to quantify, e-mail threats and messages of hate transmitted over the Web have increased dramatically in recent years, the ADL said.

``The audit is one measure of anti-Semitism in America,'' said Foxman. ``It reminds us that we cannot afford to be complacent, even when crime is reportedly on the decline. It also sheds light on ways in which communities come together after experiencing anti-Semitism to counteract the painful effects of hate.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Wiesenthal Centre's European arm hits French banks
06:13 p.m Mar 25, 1999 Eastern

PARIS, March 25 (Reuters) - The European branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said on Thursday an offer by French banks to compensate Holocaust victims or honour their memory was a whitewash.

The centre, a Nazi-hunting organisation whose headquarters is in the United States, said the plan by the French Banking Association (AFB) to return funds from Jews' bank accounts frozen during World War Two was incomplete.

``This would be a whitewash exercise if settlement does not also include what is no longer held in banks (but was transferred from them),'' the centre's head Shimon Samuels said in a letter to French Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

He said the banks' offer should include funds removed from banks by the Nazis or transferred to state coffers because they lay dormant for 30 years after the war, presumably because their holders were killed in death camps.

The centre said it was speaking on behalf of ``an ever increasing number of claimants'' who wish to press a class action suit in New York courts against seven French banks.

The criticism of the banks' offer mirrored comments on the compensation plan on Thursday by the powerful World Jewish Congress (WJC).

The New York-based WJC vows to fight a planned merger between Societe Generale and Paribas, and a $42 billion bid by Banque Nationale de Paris to combine all three banks.

The banks' offer was welcomed in France by the Council of Representative Jewish Institutions (CRIF), umbrella body for France's 700,000 Jews.

But a newly-created group, the Coordination of Shoah Child Survivors, said on Thursday it had ``great doubts about the credibility of the AFB statements'' and that CRIF did not represent its interests.

Group spokesman Jean-Jacques Fraenkel said CRIF wanted to use compensation funds for memorial foundations when some survivors whose parents were killed or who spent years in hiding were still awaiting compensation or pensions.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

German ex-Communists slam NATO, recall blitzkrieg
06:00 a.m. Mar 25, 1999 Eastern

BONN, March 25 (Reuters) - German ex-Communists blasted NATO on Thursday for bombing Yugoslavia and recalled the Nazi blitzkrieg on Belgrade, saying German planes should not have taken part.

``You cannot stop any humanitarian disaster with bombs, you only make it worse,'' Gregor Gysi, leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), told the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in a passionate address.

``After what has happened this century, Germany above all has no right to drop bombs on Belgrade.''

German bombers flattened much of the Yugoslav capital in April 1941 after Adolf Hitler ordered an invasion.

Gysi's remarks drew applause only from his party's 30-odd members amid a Bundestag solidly behind centre-left Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's decision to deploy the German air force.

The PDS leader, whose party inherited the mantle of the SED which ran East Germany from World War Two until it collapsed, questioned the rationale for NATO's strikes, saying they would not force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to negotiate a peace with ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo.

``What I don't understand is this,'' Gysi said. ``They're always saying Milosevic is completely irrational...Then they tell me that after a bomb or two the man will suddenly become rational, will suddenly...sign up and the war will be over.

``And if he doesn't? What then? What's the political solution? No one has said so far other than that they hope for a signature from Milosevic. I frankly don't expect that.''

Schroeder's centre-right opponents, headed by Christian Democrat leader Wolfgang Schaeuble, pledged full support in the Bundestag after Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping explained that the action was intended to prevent Yugoslav troops persecuting Kosovo Albanian and to curb a possible widening of the conflict.

The most overtly pacifist party in Germany, the ecologist Greens, who have their roots in the anti-nuclear peace movement of the Cold War-era, also supported the NATO action.

They have been junior coalition partners with Schroeder since October and their most prominent member, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, has played an important role in the Yugoslav negotiations.

The party's defence spokeswoman Angelika Beer, a stalwart of the Green's hardline radical wing and long an adversary of Fischer, told the Bundestag that the decision to back the bombing had been a difficult one for her colleagues.

But the interests of preventing a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo had prevailed over reservations about the use of force.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Protestors fail to stop Holocaust gas firm meeting
12:44 p.m. Mar 25, 1999 Eastern

By Matt Karnitschnig

FRANKFURT, March 25 (Reuters) - Protestors on Thursday failed in an attempt to prevent a meeting of shareholders of the firm which produced the gas used in Nazi concentration camps to discuss a plan to help victims they deemed inadequate.

Police reacted quickly as the demonstrators hurled stink bombs and blew whistles in the hall in Frankfurt where former Nazi-era conglomerate IG Farben AG was holding its gathering.

Protests by victims groups had forced the firm to cancel its last three attempts at similar meetings, but this time the police, armed with water cannon, succeeded in ejecting several demonstrators.

The meeting approved a plan to examine endowing a foundation for the company's victims with a portion of the firm's remaining 30 million marks ($16.71 million) of capital.

The proposal fell shy of protestors' demands that the entire sum be distributed to survivors and used to maintain the Auschwitz camp as a memorial.

``This is a question of the victims' dignity,'' Hans Frankenthal, a former IG Farben slave worker said ahead of the protest.

IG Farben, a once mighty industrial giant with global reach, employed thousands of slave workers at a plant near Auschwitz during World War Two. It produced the Zyklon-B gas used by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

IG Farben was broken up by the Allies after the war and has been in liquidation for more than 45 years, but the process has been hampered by persistent legal disputes.

Those delays looked likely to continue on Thursday after the firm's two liquidators said they would pursue property claims for holdings confiscated by the East Germans after the war.

The liquidators also said they would try to recover IG Farben's former assets despite a constitutional court decision in the 1980's that denied their petition to recover them.

IG Farben claims it has the right to property now owned by Swiss banking group UBS AG.

IG Farben, which in its heyday comprised what is now BASF AG, Bayer AG and Hoechst AG, paid about 27 million marks in damages to slave workers in the 1950s.

($1-1.795 Mark)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Germany says right-wing extremism on the rise
07:21 a.m. Mar 25, 1999 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

BONN, March 25 (Reuters) - The German government said on Thursday right-wing extremism was on the rise and reaching more people with the use of the Internet and rock music.

Germany's anti-extremist watchdog said in its annual report the number of far-right supporters in the country had increased 11 percent in 1998 to 53,600, including 8,200 people described as violent.

This was an increase from 7,600 in 1997.

``We are deeply concerned about the activities of right-wing extremists,'' Interior Minister Otto Schily told a news conference to introduce a 218-page report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

``One has to assume the increase will continue in 1999,'' he said.

Schily said neo-Nazi groups were turning increasingly to the Internet to spread propaganda because of the anonymity and scope it afforded, adding that the number of right-wing extremist web sites discovered in 1998 had nearly doubled.

In addition, Schily said the number of skinhead bands performing songs with racist lyrics had climbed to 100 from 70 in 1998.

``The skinhead music scene, where many young people start their involvement with groups ready to use violence, is, like last year, on the rise,'' Schily said.

He said the neo-Nazi faction of the right-wing scene remained stable in size compared to last year with 2,400 members.

Germany defines neo-Nazism as glorification of Hitler's fallen regime or denial of the Holocaust, while right-wing extremists include a range of nationalistic and racist ideologies.

The number of violent incidents involving right-wing extremists had declined 10.5 percent last year. But Schily said nearly half of those incidents took place in the former communist states, which make up less than 20 percent of the German population.

He attributed the concentration of right-wing extremism to high unemployment and the relatively homogenous East German population before Germany reunified in 1990, which he said fostered more distrust of foreigners.

He said the government's youth unemployment programme, under which it plans to provide 100,000 young jobless Germans with vocational training, was also intended to combat political extremism.

Racist attacks, especially in the eastern states, surged after unification and more than 30 people were killed in the early 1990s. Violent attacks fell after a government crackdown in 1993 but soared again in 1997 by 27 percent.

The number of racist or anti-Semitic attacks decreased to 708 in 1998 from 790 in 1997. The incidents included 16 cases of attempted murder and 595 cases of assault, in which foreigners most often fell victim.

Schily said far-right political parties appeared to be relatively weak, noting that they were splintered and failed to clear the five-percent hurdle required for parliamentary representation in last September's general election.

He added that left-wing and foreign extremists still posed a threat to German internal security but that it had observed no dramatic changes in their number or degree from 1997.

The BfV reported 783 cases of left-wing violence last year.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

FOCUS-Israel assails, Palestinians hail EU plan
07:21 p.m Mar 25, 1999 Eastern

JERUSALEM, March 25 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, raising the spectre of the Holocaust, accused the European Union on Thursday of jeopardising Israel's existence by advocating the establishment of a Palestinian state.

He was responding to reports that EU leaders, meeting at a summit in Berlin, were set to adopt a landmark declaration supporting a negotiated path to Palestinian statehood that would make clear Israel should not veto its creation.

The statement, approved by EU foreign ministers and due to be put to leaders at the summit on Thursday night, calls for final status negotiations on the Palestinian territories to be concluded within a year.

The declaration forms part of coordinated efforts by the United States and the EU to dissuade Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from proceeding with a unilateral proclamation of a state on May 4, two weeks before Israel's general election.

Palestinian Authority cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdel-Rahman welcomed the move saying the Authority ``highly appreciates this advanced European stance which stresses the Palestinians' right to self-determination and to an independent state.''

But Arafat's top aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said the statement would not necessarily mean a delay in a statehood declaration.

``The issue of May 4 will be decided and determined within the meetings of the Palestinian leadership and other official Palestinian bodies at the end of April,'' Abu Rdainah told Reuters.

The EU foreign minister's statement said EU countries ``reaffirm the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination including the option of a state; look forward to the early fulfilment of this right; appeal to the parties to strive in good faith for a negotiated solution on the basis of this right, which is not subject to any veto.''

In a statement published before the statement's approval, Netanyahu's office said: ``It is especially saddening that Europe of all places, where one third of the Jewish people perished, sees it as correct to try to force a dangerous solution upon Israel that jeopardises its interests.''

It said Netanyahu rejected any attempt by the EU to impose the results of negotiations with the Palestinians on Israel.

``Such a (Palestinian) state could erect a huge army, arm itself without restrictions, form alliances with regimes that call for the destruction of Israel and form a base for increased terror against Israel and thus endanger its existence,'' it said.

Right-winger Netanyahu, who is campaigning on a platform of opposition to a Palestinian state, has threatened to annex those parts of the West Bank that are still occupied by Israel if Arafat goes ahead.

Arafat insists he has a right to declare a state in the West Bank and Gaza on May 4, the end of a five-year period during which Israel and the Palestinians were meant to have negotiated a final peace settlement. Those talks have hardly begun.

Arafat has faced strong pressure to delay from the United States, the EU and some Arab countries, all of which fear that a unilateral declaration could play into Netanyahu's hands on the eve of Israel's election.

Diplomatic sources said EU member states hoped a pledge of support for Palestinian aspirations, coupled with a signal to Israel that it could not hold up statehood by dragging out negotiations indefinitely, would provide a powerful incentive for Arafat to postpone a declaration in May.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

FEATURE - Russia's campaigning top Communist
09:50 p.m Mar 24, 1999 Eastern

By Peter Graff

IZHEVSK, Russia, March 25 (Reuters) - Gennady Zyuganov is on a roll.

President Boris Yeltsin is ``the guarantor of corruption, destruction, drug mania and banditry in our country.''

The news media are ``an electronic Gestapo,'' ``a weapon of mass destruction.''

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- ``Madame War'' he calls her -- ``brings shame on all the women of the world.''

It is all part of a working day's invective from the head of Russia's resurgent Communist Party. And what a working day.

From beneath a huge portrait of Lenin, Zyuganov rattles off figures and slogans, pausing only for quick sips of water.

He accepts written questions from the audience and barely finishes answering one before reading the next.

On a day of barnstorming through Izhevsk, an industrial town in central Russia, Zyuganov delivered four speeches, speaking in all for some seven hours without notes.

The next day he was up at dawn for an hour's drive to a nuclear missile factory, handshakes at a collective farm, a rally outside the birthplace of composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, a drive back for a news conference and a three-hour flight to Moscow, economy class in a dingy turbo-prop.

The former mathematics teacher has all the energy a politician could want. But questions still remain about whether he has the charisma or judgement to win Russia's biggest prize -- the presidency. And what sort of a leader he will make if he does.

A POSITION OF POWER

Zyuganov's surprisingly polished speeches in Izhevsk -- backing candidates in a local poll -- were rehearsals for two national showdowns: a parliamentary election that must be held before December and a presidential poll next year, when Yeltsin must step down.

It is a millennial moment in Russia. If all goes according to plan, it will be the first time in the country's 1,000-year history that Russians elect a new leader through the ballot box.

Last year's economic crisis saw a near-total political wipe-out for the ``young reformers'' in power at the time -- and brought senior cabinet posts at last for Zyuganov's Communists.

But despite coming closer than ever to the reins of power, Zyuganov remains a hostile political outsider, deeply mistrustful of and mistrusted by Moscow's political elite.

Having spent years describing the entire post-Soviet reform effort as corrupt, incompetent and doomed, Communists saw last August's financial meltdown as a vindication.

The new economic policy team, led by Communist First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, has tamed inflation, so far defying the ousted reformers' predictions of disaster.

``It is now clear to all the world that the (Yeltsin) regime is suffering a shattering defeat,'' Zyuganov wrote in his latest pamphlet, titled ``When the fatherland is in danger.''

``The experience of our struggle will go into the annals of world national liberation movements alongside that of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the Palestinian Intifada.''

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

Zyuganov is easy to under estimate.

Other leading Communists, such as Maslyukov or State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, are widely seen as less divisive.

Seleznyov has a dry wit that often seems more appealing on television than the dour and strident tones of the party leader.

But if Zyuganov's zeal comes across poorly on the small screen, it can make him a stirring speaker on the stump.

He movingly tells the story of his own travels across a country where millions of people have been driven to despair and poverty by failed and corrupted reforms.

It is a basic, resonant message in provinces fed up with the capital's insular political infighting.

It has also helped Zyuganov maintain by far the country's most extensive, loyal and active grass roots party aparatus. Indeed, Zyuganov's Communist Party is arguably Russia's only fully-formed nationwide political machine.

Listening to Zyuganov in the spring morning chill, an elderly woman swoons, showing a mouthful of gold teeth.

``He's handsome. So handsome. What a fine man.''

It seems an improbable description. Zyuganov is, after all, a burly, balding, jowly redhead with a tendency to scowl. But as he woos a crowd with his impassioned bass voice, smartly dressed in a fur hat and leather coat, he appears, if not handsome exactly, then certainly striking.

His crowd is ready to follow. But where?

A NEW IDEOLOGY -- ETHNIC NATIONALISM

Amid his rhetoric, it can be difficult to pinpoint precisely what the Communist leader stands for.

His economic views at times correspond with those of west European social democrats, broadly favouring increased social spending and a strong state sector in a mixed economy.

The evidence so far suggests that like left-leaning parties in France, Britain and Germany, the Communists may move closer to the economic centre as they gain more power.

Zyuganov has ditched other planks of traditional Communism, such as the Soviet Union's official atheism.

``Jesus Christ,'' he says to applause, ``was the first Communist.''

But by far the most controversial element in his ideology is ethnic Russian nationalism. A wing of his party is openly anti-Semitic, and Zyuganov has avoided a split with it.

In a statement released last year, he said he had nothing against Jews as such, but ``Zionists'' -- long a favourite target of Soviet anti-Jewish propaganda -- were plotting in secret to take over the world.

Zyuganov tells his Izhevsk audiences that he disapproves of overtly anti-Jewish statements by Albert Makashov, a top member of the Communist Party's caucus in parliament.

``Friendship between peoples is fundamental. It is our alphabet,'' he says.

But he also says ethnic Russians make up 80 percent of the country's population, and ``non-Russians'' -- a phrase most take to mean Jews -- are over-represented in government, in business and on television.

He closes his talk on the subject with an ominous joke. Former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin visits Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, a republic with a large ethnic Russian population.

``Chernomyrdin asks: 'Where are the Russians in your cabinet?' Says Nazarbayev: 'Where are the Russians in yours?'''

There are clearly those within Zyuganov's party who are uncomfortable with this tendency toward ethnic chauvinism. Seleznyov, the parliament speaker, was the only Communist to vote in favour of a motion to censure Makashov.

But so far the issue has failed to create a full-blown split in Communist Party ranks, defying some pundits who thought one might be inevitable.

It is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last, that somebody under estimates Gennady Zyuganov.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Mormons asked to help Swiss identify Holocaust accounts
07:31 p.m Mar 25, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Mormon church on Thursday said it has been asked by an accounting firm to help Swiss banks match the names of Holocaust victims with dormant accounts by providing a list of 400,000 Jews whom they baptised posthumously.

A Swiss-Jewish commission, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, is auditing Swiss bank accounts that have been inactive since World War II, as part of an effort to find Holocaust assets.

Coopers & Lybrand, one of the accounting firms helping the Volcker Commission, requested the list of Jewish victims from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

``Our intent is to respond to it as a good will gesture, but we are still waiting to see if there are any objections,'' Michael Otterson, director of media relations for the church, said.

The Salt-Lake City based church compiled the lists as part of its posthumous baptism programme, aiming to unite families beyond the grave. The church in 1996 agreed to stop the controversial practice for Jews, after the World Jewish Congress voiced its objections.

``We obviously expressed not only our astonishment but our horror,'' Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, said, though he made it clear that he understood that the church was baptising the Jewish victims as an act of reverence and respect.

``It's certainly a labour of love from our point of view, but it was not seen as that by the Jewish community and we discontinued it (for Jews),'' Otterson said.

The 400,000 names of Jewish victims were deleted from the church's International Genealogical Index, but stored on computer disks that were turned over to five Holocaust institutions.

The WJC has been at the forefront of what it sees as a battle to win moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims.

Critics of Swiss banks, including the WJC, have said they prevented Holocaust victims or their heirs from claiming millions or even billions of dollars of assets that were deposited in neutral Switzerland for safekeeping during the war.

Last year, the banks, which have denied any deliberate wrongdoing, agreed to pay $1.25 billion to settle all claims by U.S. lawyers representing Holocaust victims.

((Joan Gralla, U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1654, joan.gralla+reuters.com))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

FOCUS-Israel blasts EU call for Palestinian state
07:34 a.m. Mar 26, 1999 Eastern

By Aimee Rhodes

JERUSALEM, March 26 (Reuters) - Israel said the European Union had lessened its chance of acting as a go-between in Middle East peacemaking by calling on Friday for early establishment of a Palestinian state.

A statement issued by EU leaders at a summit of the 15-nation bloc called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be concluded within a year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to a Palestinian state is central to his re-election bid on May 17. He insists a state would endanger Israel.

The EU statement, designed to compensate Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat politically for not making good on his declared intention to proclaim a state on May 4 when interim peace accords with Israel expire, went beyond previous EU support for self-determination.

Palestinians welcomed it as a ``very positive development.''

Raising the spectre of the Holocaust, Netanyahu accused the EU of jeopardising Israel by favouring the establishment of a Palestinian state, which he said could erect an army and form alliances with regimes opposed to Israel's existence.

``The Europeans have considerably reduced their possibility of becoming...an honest broker. It (the EU) has already taken sides. Not only has it taken sides, it has even given a date,'' Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said he had asked Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon to ``communicate very strongly'' Israel's position to EU members over the statement, in which the EU declared ``its readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian state in due course.''

``We cannot accept this attempt at an external dictate, a Palestinian state with a deadline by the year 2000. Why negotiate?'' he said. Earlier on Friday, Sharon said the EU would be far more involved in peace moves if it were more balanced.

Netanyahu said he did not believe the United States, Israel's closest ally, had a hand in the new policy as some diplomats had suggested.

He said the EU, which Israel has accused of bias in the past, should follow U.S. policy that the sides decide the outcome of negotiations and that neither party should take unilateral actions.

Netanyahu advocates limited self-rule for Palestinians and has threatened to impose Israeli law in parts of the West Bank and Gaza captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, should Arafat unilaterally declare a state.

A leader of Israel's opposition Labour party, Shlomo Ben-Ami, called the EU step an ``unnecessary and very damaging intervention.''

``It was out of place to pacify Arafat for the (peacemaking) delay for which we are sorry,'' Ben-Ami told Israel Radio.

Alleging Palestinian violations, Netanyahu froze peace moves in December. Ben-Ami criticised Netanyahu, saying his policies had isolated Israel internationally.

Arafat's aide Nabil Abu Rdainah called the statement a ``positive development,'' but said the issue of whether to declare a state on May 4 would be decided by the Palestinian leadership at the end of April.

Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, the Palestinian Authority's cabinet secretary, said: ``The Palestinian Authority highly appreciates this advanced European stance which stresses the Palestinians' right to self-determination and to an independent state.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

FOCUS-WJC considers series of French bank sanctions
02:33 p.m Mar 26, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - A powerful Jewish group is drafting a plan for a series of sanctions it might ask local U.S. officials to apply against French banks because it is not satisfied with how the banks are handling Holocaust claims, a Jewish source said Friday.

``It's going beyond the question of only seeking to block any French bank merger in New York,'' said the World Jewish Congress source, who declined to be named.

The first weapon the WJC wielded against French banks was a threat to fight any merger between Societe Generale SOGN.PA and Paribas PARI.PA , as well as a $42 billion bid by Banque Nationale de Paris BNPP.PA to buy both those big rivals.

Swiss, Austrian and German banks all have agreed to settlement plans that either have been set up or are pending, after being pressured by the WJC.

While the New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi has no power to approve or reject bank mergers, he listens closely to the WJC's advice, and he previously called for delaying the merger between Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corp (SBVZn.S) until they resolved Holocaust issues.

Further, Hevesi, a high profile official in a global financial capital, leads a group of local and state financial officials that last year threatened to boycott Swiss banks. That warning, plus the pressure to delay the bank merger, helped persuade a group of Swiss banks to settle $1.25 billion on Holocaust victims and their heirs who charged their assets were never returned after World War II.

The extra sanctions against French banks that the WJC will consider at a meeting in Toronto on June 8 are:

Asking local U.S. officials to stop making overnight investments with French banks; then, asking them to bar French banks from managing their pension funds; and, if no progress were made, asking city and state pension systems to sell any stock in French banks that they own, the WJC source said.

``These kinds of threats are both needless and counterproductive,'' said Michael Freitag, a New York City based spokesman for a group of French banks that are being sued by U.S. Holocaust survivors who say their assets, from artwork to bank accounts, were seized and never returned.

The French Banking Association on Wednesday unveiled measures to compensate relatives of French Jewish Holocaust victims, including an unspecified ``significant financial contribution'' to recall their memory.

``The fact is that the French banks are making significant progress and they are doing so in full recognition of opinions expressed by the Jewish community in France and elsewhere,'' Freitag added.

Some 76,000 Jews were sent from France to Nazi death camps during World War II, and because the majority of them were not French, the WJC says an international group like itself must be involved in any Holocaust negotiations.

A spokesman for the WJC declined to comment on any contingency sanctions plan. ``It is my fervent hope that the French banks enter into a dialogue with the world Jewish community so that there be no thought of sanctions,'' Elan Steinberg, executive director, said.

The French banks have consulted a French umbrella organisation of Jewish groups, but the WJC has not taken part in the discussions.

((U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1650, nyc.munis.newsroom+reuters.com))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Report: WWII Poles to Sue Germany

Sunday, March 28, 1999; 9:00 a.m. EST

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) -- A group of 22,000 Polish victims of the Holocaust plan to sue the German government for about $1.2 billion, a newsmagazine reported Sunday.

The plaintiffs, former Nazi slave laborers and concentration camp prisoners, are expected to bring their lawsuit to Bonn on Thursday, according to the Hamburg-based magazine Der Spiegel.

The brief report claimed that former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski is supporting the lawsuit, but Bartoszewski denied that when reached by telephone Sunday.

Der Spiegel did not identify a source and gave no further details.

The lawsuit would increase pressure on the German government, which earlier this year joined with 12 major German industrial firms to establish a fund to compensate former Nazi slave laborers.

The fund is aimed at resolving U.S.-filed lawsuits seeking damages from German firms such as Siemens and Volkswagen that used slave labor to supply the Third Reich war machine.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

TOP


Earlier News
More recent News
Back to News Main Page