English News ArchiveNews between April 22th and April 12th 1999, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For other News look into our News Archive.
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April 12, 1999:
Israeli study says anti-Semitism increased in 1998
JERUSALEM, April 12 (Reuters) - The number of anti-Semitic acts worldwide edged up in 1998 after declining steadily for the past three years, Israeli researchers said on Monday at a news conference held on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
``During the (previous) three or four years there was a decrease. Now in the last year there has been an increase,'' said Rabbi David Rosen, head of the Anti-Defamation League's Israel office, which co-sponsors the annual study.
Researchers said factors that contributed to the rise included increased political destabilisation in the former Soviet Union and the publicity given to the compensation of Jewish Holocaust victims.
Researcher Roni Stauber of Tel Aviv University, which co-sponsored the study, said the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process also helped drive up the number of anti-Semitic acts.
``The peace process is halted...the Palestinians feel injured and left-wing groups that identify with the Palestinian battle feel the Israelis, the Jews, are doing injury to the Palestinians. This is translated into acts against Jewish communities in the world,'' Stauber told a press conference.
A summary of the report, issued on Monday, was short on figures but concluded both violent and less severe anti-Semitic acts were on the rise.
It said incidents of severe anti-Semitism ``hitherto unknown in recent years,'' including the beating of rabbis in the streets were recorded in countries like Russia, Argentina and Britain.
While the number of major violent attacks involving the use of a weapon decreased slightly from 38 in 1997 to 36 in 1998, the number of major violent incidents against unarmed persons or property rose from 116 to 121, the report said.
Citing Russia as a particularly severe case, the report said Russia witnessed ``violence against Jewish life and property, by means of arson and explosives accompanied by popular incitement, and the most severe anti-Semitic rhetoric by politicians ever heard in decades.''
Nearly one-third of all major attacks took place in the former Soviet Union.
The report said the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Iraqi crisis and the appointment of a Jew as the American ambassador to Egypt, provided pretexts for anti-Semitic outbursts in the Arab world.
Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday to mourn the murder of six million in a Nazi genocide campaign during World War Two.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
FOCUS-Israel angered over World Bank man's remark
JERUSALEM, April 12 (Reuters) - Israel on Monday said it had filed a complaint with the World Bank over an alleged comparison that the bank's representative in the West Bank and Gaza Strip made between Israeli troops and Nazi ``brown shirts.''
The World Bank's West Bank and Gaza mission apologised in a statement for what it called a ``heated and inappropriate exchange in a highly charged, end-of-the-night, private conversation'' between the official, American Joseph Saba, and an Israeli soldier.
``We wish to state clearly that no offence to the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) or Israel was or is intended,'' the World Bank statement said.
A spokesman for Israel's coordinator of activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip confirmed a report in the Jerusalem Post newspaper over the telephone exchange between Saba and the soldier at an Israeli checkpoint.
Saba called the soldier to inquire about a transit permit for one of his workers, a Palestinian. When the soldier said the worker would have to pick up the permit in person, Saba said Israel was treating Palestinians like dogs, the newspaper said.
``Would you like your people to be treated like this? Next thing you'll be telling me is that you're wearing a brown shirt,'' the newspaper quoted Saba as saying.
The brown shirts were the infamous Sturmabteilung, or storm troops, the private army of the German Nazi Party who derived their name from the colour of their uniform.
Israel marks Holocaust remembrance on Tuesday in an annual day of mourning for the six million Jews exterminated by Nazi Germany during World War Two.
The complaint, filed to the World Bank by Israel's coordinator of activities in the West Bank and Gaza Yaacov Orr, described the comments as grave.
``The coordinator pointed out that he considers the incident very serious and that it would be difficult for him to work with him (Saba) in the future,'' said Orr's spokesman, Shlomo Dror.
The World Bank statement said Saba had understood the checkpoint incident to be ``ureasonable harassment of a Bank employee not in line with the usual helpful attitude of IDF liaison staff.''
It said it looked forward to a constructive relationship with the Israeli army in the future.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Sun Joins With the White House and National Endowment for The Humanities in Celebrating the Seventh Millennium Evening at The White House
PALO ALTO, Calif., April 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) joins the President and Mrs. Clinton, the White House Millennium Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities in supporting the April 12 Millennium Evening at the White House. This Millennium Evening, the seventh in a series of lectures and cultural showcases, will feature Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Sun Microsystems, the technology provider of the series, will cybercast the event and provide an uplink for live satellite broadcast. The lecture, which will be broadcast live on C-SPAN at 7:30 p.m. EST, will focus on "The Perils of Indifference: Lessons Learned from a Violent Century."
Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Boston University professor, is the evening's main speaker. Wiesel has worked on behalf of oppressed people for much of his adult life. His personal experience of the Holocaust has led him to use his talents as author, teacher and storyteller to defend human rights and peace throughout the world. His 1958 novel, "LaNuit" (Night), about his Holocaust experience, has been translated into 25 languages and millions of copies have been sold.
"Sun is proud to lend its technological expertise to the White House Millennium Council so that the American people can participate in this discussion on the quest for peace around the world," said John Marselle, president of Sun Microsystems Federal, Inc. "Monday's event will help provide a meaningful dialogue that will educate and engage the public."
As a technology supporter, Sun is providing the video and audio streaming technology to globally cybercast this and all of the White House Millennium Evening lectures via the Internet. The lectures will be downlinked via satellites to universities and junior colleges in all 50 states and accompanied by an e-mail question and answer session on the Internet. On-line participants will be able to e-mail questions to the speakers and have their inquiries displayed in the East Room, so that anyone with an Internet connection and a modem will have access to this historic lecture.
The Millennium Evenings at the White House lecture series is part of the White House Millennium Council, which is a multi-year initiative to mark the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the new millennium. The program celebrates the accomplishments of this American century, recognizes and initiates projects and engages every sector of society in conveying America's rich heritage to future generations. The Millennium Evening series began in 1998 and continues with a number of lectures in 1999.
On-line access to "The Perils of Indifference: Lessons Learned from a Violent Century" lecture can be found by logging on at http://www.sun.com/events/millennium or at http://www.whitehouse.gov/Initiatives/Millennium.
About Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Since its inception in 1982, a singular vision, "The Network Is The Computer(TM)," has propelled Sun Microsystems, Inc., to its position as a leading provider of high quality hardware, software and services for establishing enterprise-wide intranets and expanding the power of the Internet. With more than $10.5 billion in annual revenues, Sun can be found in more than 150 countries and on the World Wide Web at http://sun.com.
NOTE: Sun, the Sun logo, Sun Microsystems and "The Network is the Computer" are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc., in the United States and other countries. SOURCE Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Copyright 1999, PR Newswire
Nobel winner Wiesel praises Kosovo air strikes
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel praised NATO's air strikes on Monday as a justified step to stop Yugoslavia's ``ethnic cleansing'' against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.
Speaking at the White House, Wiesel evoked his experiences at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War to make an impassioned plea for the world not to ignore the plight of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner also said that he believed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic should be tried as a war criminal for his brutal campaign against Kosovo's Albanians.
Wiesel hailed what he called ``the justified decision of the United States and of NATO to intervene in Kosovo and save those victims, those refugees, those who were uprooted by a man whom I believe ... should be charged with crimes against humanity.''
``This time the world was not silent. This time we did respond. This time we intervened,'' he said.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is in its 20th day of air strikes in an effort to stop the Serb onslaught in Kosovo, a southern Yugoslav province whose majority ethnic Albanian population has been terrorised by Yugoslav forces.
Hundreds of thousands of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians have fled as refugees into neighbouring countries, some of them crammed into railway carriages that evoked images of the Nazi's treatment of the Jews during the Second World War.
Wiesel, best known for his writings about his harrowing experience in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, was invited to the White House to give the seventh in a series of scholarly lectures to mark the approach of the millennium.
President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton asked Wiesel to speak on ``The Perils of Indifference: Lessons Learned from a Violent Century.''
Wiesel began his talk with a reference to his liberation from the Buchenwald concentration camp by American troops and spoke of a lasting debt of gratitude to the United States.
But he also raised a series of pointed questions about why the allies did not do more during the Second World War to stop the Holocaust, the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis.
The discussion ranged over many of the century's tragedies, including the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 800,000 died.
One woman who survived that slaughter asked why the West had come to the defence of Kosovo while it did little to stop the killing in Rwanda.
Clinton expressed remorse.
``I think we could have prevented a significant amount of it. It was done mostly with primitive weapons and yet it happened in just a matter of ... a few weeks,'' he said.
``One of the things that made it more likely we would act in Kosovo, and eventually in Bosnia, is that we had a mechanism though which we could act ... and that was NATO,'' Clinton said, adding that he was trying to develop the ability to act in concert with other militaries in Africa in such circumstances.
``I will do my best to make sure that nothing like this happens again in Africa,'' he added. ``I do not think that the United States can take the position that we only care about these sorts of things if they happen in Europe.''
Clinton also said that the West should not demonise the Serbs and said that they should be protected from reprisals.
``We should not fall victim to the easy tendency to demonise the Serbian people ... They have their own legitimate concerns,'' he said. ``Any international force going into Kosovo to maintain the peace must be dedicated also to protecting the Serbian minority from those who may seek their vengeance.''
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Kosovo adds poignancy as Australia marks Holocaust
By Paul Tait
SYDNEY, April 13 (Reuters) - Australian Jewish leaders, marking the Holocaust remembrance day on Tuesday, said scenes of refugees fleeing Kosovo added gravity to this year's commemoration of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.
``While doing this we see scenes on our televisions of indescribable degradation which, while although not totally comparable, certainly resonate with those who suffered during the Shoa (Holocaust),'' said Diane Shteinman, Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) convenor of restitution issues.
Australia marked the Holocaust anniversary with the launch of the latest phase of an international fund for needy survivors of Nazi World War Two death camps.
The Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust has allocated US$2.5 million for recipients in Australia as part of a total $185 million fund set up in 1997 with contributions from the Swiss National Bank and Swiss corporations.
Australia is home to 20,000 Holocaust survivors, the largest number per capita outside Israel, said ECAJ president Nina Bassat.
The Swiss fund was set up as a humanitarian gesture to survivors, whose average age is over 80. It is separate from a $1.25 billion settlement among Jewish groups, reached last August by lawyers for tens of thousands of plaintiffs and two major Swiss banks over unreturned World War Two assets.
Swiss fund president Rolf Bloch said the Australian launch marked the fund's second phase after it had been made available to survivors in Eastern Europe and the United States.
``The fund is not humanitarian, it is not reparation either and it is not restitution,'' Bloch told reporters.
The fund has granted $502 each to 60,071 people out of a total of about 100,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States.
Australian officials expect the Australian distribution to be around $400 a person spread between 7,000 and 8,000 survivors.
``For many survivors the money is very much secondary, it is the public recognition of the pain and the horror that they went through that is of vital importance,'' Bassat said.
``A lot of survivors have a very strong psychological need to have their suffering recognised and at this stage of their lives it is even more important as their memories become more pointed.''
Shteinman said all Holocaust survivors in Australia could apply by the end of June for a share of the fund. Each would receive an equal amount after ensuring they met broad qualification criteria.
A leading international Jewish group overnight singled out Lithuania, Latvia and Australia in an urgent call for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
The Australian government in 1992 closed down its war crimes investigation unit.
``Recent events in the Balkans demonstrate once again the need for justice and the importance of prosecuting those responsible for crimes against humanity,'' the Simon Wiesenthal Center said.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
FEATURE-Nazi photographer awaits Valhalla in Bolivia
By David Mercado
SAN JAVIER, Bolivia, April 14 (Reuters) - More than 50 years after making his name by documenting the Nazi war machine, renowned German photographer Hans Ertl is prepared to die in the Bolivian Amazon rather than return to his homeland.
The 92-year-old Ertl, who photographed Adolf Hitler and the military campaigns of feared desert tank commander Erwin Rommel, has already readied his grave on a small hillock at the hacienda where he has spent the second half of his life.
``I don't want to return to my country. I want to remain here, on my land, to the death,'' the white-bearded hermit told Reuters in his tropical enclave. Ertl was awarded the Iron Cross by Rommel, invented submersible and flight cameras and wrote 12 illustrated books about his wartime experiences.
Already gone are the tools of his trade including an old Leica still camera and a Bell and Howell movie camera. He gave them away a decade ago and has devoted himself to tending the livestock and fowl on his spread, whose name ``La Dolorida,'' or ``The Hurt One,'' reflects his dark thoughts on Germany.
``They have stolen so many things from me in Germany that I don't want to live there any more,'' Ertl said. ``Here I was always free, without difficulties.''
THE FUEHRER AND THE DESERT FOX
Separated by time and space from the exploding artillery shells of the Third Reich's military advances, Ertl relives the past while he observes the wild herons that flock to his small tranquil lagoon nestled in eastern Bolivia's lush pastures.
He still worships Rommel, the ``Desert Fox'' whose Panzer tanks battered British forces in the Sahara before a shortage of fuel and Allied resistance stopped him at El Alamein. ``Field Marshal Rommel was my boss, he was like a god to me,'' he said.
Ertl also had contact with Hitler during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin while working with film director Leni Riefenstahl, whose black-and-white documentary of the games has been heralded as a masterpiece of filmmaking and propaganda. Riefenstahl managed to create an uncharacteristically tender moment with the man known as history's scourge, he recalled.
``I remember she was a petit, pretty woman, with a wide hat and delicate clothes,'' he said. ``She approached Hitler and kissed him while the crowd cheered. (Luftwaffe head Hermann) Goering then gave Hitler a small mirror and, looking into it, Hitler wiped off the young woman's red lipstick.''
Ertl said he captured the scene on film only to be threatened by the SS, the Nazi secret service, whose attempts to confiscate the roll were thwarted by Riefenstahl herself.
Ertl landed in Bolivia in 1950 to test photographic plates at high altitude for German firm Seimens. Within a few months he bought La Dolorida, where he has holed up ever since.
Many high-profile members of the Nazi party also chose to spend their retirement in South America, including the ``Butcher of Lyons'' Klaus Barbie, the ``Angel of Death'' Dr. Josef Mengele and concentration camp architect Adolf Eichmann.
But Ertl steadfastly maintains that his link to them and their party was via his work, not his political beliefs. ``I never shared the Nazi ideals and I never had anything against the Jews, particularly the Jewish women,'' he said.
Ertl's new life led him to travel Bolivia top-to-bottom with his daughter Monika, taking prize-winning photos including the last images of the Siriono tribe, now believed extinct.
The old photographer's second wife returned to Germany six years ago suffering from Parkinson's disease. He maintains contact with his children, who forward money from various points around the globe.
Without a telephone or radio, Ertl is shut off from the outside world save an occasional unexpected visitor. He has three workers on his property, which echoes with the sounds of cattle, ducks, turkeys and horses.
A son who lives in Germany has sent him a sack of earth from Bavaria to cover his coffin when the time comes.
Somewhat frail and bothered by sunlight, Ertl is lucid and focused on reaching 2000 before his workers bury him on the hillock tucked between two enormous pine trees. He never would have made it so far if fate had not intervened, jamming the gun of an American soldier set to execute him during the war.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Berlin mourns Holocaust victims in 28-hour ritual
By Deborah Cole
BERLIN, April 13 (Reuters) - Berliners marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday by reciting the names of every one of the city's Jews murdered by the Nazis -- a ritual organisers said would take 28 hours to complete.
As solemn ceremonies were held round the world, the names of these 55,696 of Hitler's six million Jewish victims were read aloud in the former capital of the Third Reich, newly restored to its status following the reunification of Germany.
``Lewinson, Paul; Lewinson, Recha nee Heidler; Lewinstein, Flora nee Kreszny; Lewinstein, Gertrud; Lewinthal, Elisabeth...,'' intoned 75-year-old retired nurse Maria Werdin from a book the size of a large telephone directory.
Werdin said she had taken part in the reading because she was still troubled by the memories she had of the Holocaust when it swept through her small German town in what is now Poland.
``We did not have much contact with Jews growing up,'' she said. ``There was one Jewish girl in my school and one day she just disappeared. None of us asked what happened to her. We may not be guilty but surely we were cowardly.''
Journalist Annegret Kunkel, 28, noted the particular resonance of the annual event this year in light of the Kosovo conflict and its images of ``ethnic cleansing.''
But the head of the German Jewish community, Ignatz Bubis, objected to direct parallels between the plight of Kosovo Albanians today and that of Europe's Jews during World War Two.
``What is happening in Kosovo is horrible,'' he told Berlin's InfoRadio. ``But the comparison is really not appropriate.''
The fourth annual Berlin event, organised by the city's small Jewish community and the B'nai B'rith Youth Organisation, was held in front of the Jewish community centre.
After years of wrangling over designs, Germany has yet to begin work on a national Holocaust memorial planned for Berlin, which was restored as capital in 1991 and to which the German government will return this summer. An inaugural sitting of parliament in Berlin's renovated Reichstag is due on Monday.
In a reminder of the continuing controversy in modern Germany over the Holocaust, an Australian historian, Frederick Toben, was being held by German police on Tuesday, suspected of inciting racial hatred and denying that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews.
The Berlin memorial readers on Tuesday included Holocaust survivors, relatives of the dead and non-Jewish Germans.
Passers-by left candles and flowers. Others stood by and listened. Some wept.
The reading began at dusk on Monday evening with the name of Jutta Aal, a Berlin woman born in Bavaria in 1860 and killed at the Theresienstadt concentration camp on September 1, 1942.
It was to end late on Tuesday with Leo Zyzman, murdered at Auschwitz on July 24, 1942. He was 16.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Germany holds Australian for Holocaust denial
BONN, April 13 (Reuters) - German police are holding an Australian historian accused of making anti-Semitic remarks denying the Holocaust, officials said on Tuesday.
The state prosecutor's office in the southwestern city of Mannheim said Frederick Toben had been detained on Thursday.
He is being investigated on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and denying the murder of millions of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust during the Second World War, a criminal offence popularly known as the ``Auschwitz Lie'' in Germany.
The maximum penalty is five years in jail and a stiff fine.
He is suspected of circulating the extreme right-wing material on the Internet and through other publications, the prosecutor said. Dr. Toben's Adelaide Institute Web page.
Earlier, a spokesman for the Australian embassy said officials were aware of the case.
``We hope to meet Toben at some point today,'' an embassy spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.
Memorial ceremonies were held in various German cities on Tuesday, marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Australian held in Germany over Holocaust remarks
BONN, April 13 (Reuters) - Australia's embassy in Germany said on Tuesday that an Australian historian had been held by German police for alleged anti-Jewish statements.
The embassy said it believed that Frederick Toben was suspected of inciting racial hatred and denying the murder of millions of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, a criminal offence known as the ``Auschwitz Lie'' in Germany.
``We can confirm that he has been detained. We hope to meet Toben at some point today,'' an embassy spokesman told Reuters.
Toben was being held in the southwestern city of Mannheim. The prosecutors' office was unavailable for comment.
Australian media reports said that Toben had been circulating extreme right-wing material on the Internet and through other publications. Dr. Toben's Adelaide Institute Web page.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
FOCUS-Poles and Jews walk Holocaust death trail
By Wojciech Moskwa
OSWIECIM, Poland, April 13 (Reuters) - Young Israelis and Poles marched side by side on Tuesday along ``The Road of Death'' outside Auschwitz in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of Jews killed in the camp by Poland's Nazi German occupiers.
Young Poles were officially participating in the annual ``March of the Living'' for the first time, in a bid to improve local awareness of Jewish suffering and to help conquer foreign stereotypes of widespread anti-Semitism in Poland.
Some 2,000 young Jews from Israel, Europe and North America were joined by some 300 Poles as they solemnly walked the three kilometre (two mile) stretch between Auschwitz and Birkenau, sister camps in the death complex in southern Poland.
As many as 1.5 million people, 90 percent of them Jews, perished at Auschwitz and Birkenau during World War Two as Nazi Germany sought to wipe out the Jewish race from Europe.
Young Israeli men and women wrapped in their national flag wept, lit candles and prayed when they reached the rubble of the ovens where thousands of Jews were burnt after being gassed. The ovens were blown up by German troops at the end of the war.
``Poland is the unfortunate host as it is here that Germans tried this horrible experiment. It is our duty to teach our children what has happened here,'' said Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, former Polish foreign minister and Auschwitz survivor.
``I don't know how much this will help in changing people's perceptions. Change comes from a long process of education but we have to try,'' Bartoszewski told Reuters.
``I came to try to understand what went on here 50 years ago and now seems so impossible,'' said David Weinfield, 16, from Montreal, Canada.
One of the Israeli organisers expressed hope that understanding between Jews and Poles would grow.
``Meetings between young people is the best way to have better relations in the future,'' said Jozef Kadim. ``I believe both sides want better relations. Not only on the government level, but more importantly young people want it.''
Of the nearly 3.3 million Jews in Poland before World War Two, just 300,000 survived the Holocaust.
A post-war pogrom in the town of Kielce and a bout of anti-Semitism in 1968 sponsored by the communist authorities forced many to flee. Fewer than 10,000 Jews are thought to remain in Poland.
The groups of Jewish and Polish youth stayed mostly separate during the march, with many preferring to experience their painful emotions in the comfort of close peers.
``I am here to try to comprehend what happened and to try to change some of the conceptions we have of each other,'' said Adam Osinski, a 23-year-old Polish marcher.
``There are contacts between Jewish and German youth, so why can't there be closer ties between Polish and Jewish groups?''
But as Poles and Jews walked toward better understanding in the drizzling rain, some several hundred metres (yards) away stood a reminder of the religious tensions that have plagued relations between Israel and largely Catholic Poland.
A radical Polish Catholic has staged a near year-long sit-in to prevent authorities from removing a large cross associated with Polish-born Pope John Paul, despite church condemnation and government efforts to remove him.
Fringe rightist groups and fundamentalist Catholics have backed his stand by setting up hundreds of other crosses in a campaign condemned at home and abroad as anti-Jewish.
On Saturday Poland's parliament passed a bill to set up protection zones around all former Nazi concentration camps on its soil, giving the government the power to remove the crosses.
Many Jewish groups have broken off contacts with Poland over the conflict at the camp. Jews say that no religious symbols should be erected at the site and its memorial character must be properly preserved.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Lockhart told reporters Clinton's statement would reflect his
Lockhart told reporters Clinton's statement would reflect his conversations with lawmakers as well as his meeting at the White House on Monday evening with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
Clinton was to meet with the members of Congress -- including leadership representatives and members of committees dealing with the Kosovo crisis at 10:45 EDT a.m. (1445 GMT) -- to review the status of the conflict as Congress returns to work after a two-week recess.
``The president wants to ... bring them up to date on where we are in the operation,'' Lockhart said.
Lockhart said Clinton would restate to lawmakers his policy on ground troops, which was articulated in recent days by officials including U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen.
Cohen said there was no intention to expand the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia to include NATO ground troops, but that there were standby plans for ground troops that could be updated at the request of NATO commanders.
Lockhart said the Clinton administration had not yet determined how much it would ask Congress to provide in an emergency funding request for the Kosovo operation. He said that figure would be determined by the White House budget office ``in the coming days.''
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
WJC to delay call for sanctions against German banks
NEW YORK, April 13 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress will ask U.S. state and city finance officials to delay any decision on sanctions against German banks and industries for 60 days while efforts continue to resolve Holocaust-era claims against them, an official of the Jewish group said on Tuesday.
The official said that the WJC's president Edgar Bronfman will inform a committee of finance officials headed by New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi that he is sending the group's Secretary General Israel Singer to Germany on Sunday to discuss plans to establish a Holocaust memorial fund with top German officials.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
WJC to delay call -2
WJC to delay call -2
The committee headed by Hevesi represents 900 public finance officials from across the United States. The group last year imposed sanctions on Swiss banks which led to their agreement to pay $1.25 billion to settle Holocaust-era claims against them.
Earlier this year the German government announced that following discussions with the WJC, German companies had voluntarily agreed to set up a fund to resolve claims against them stemming from their use of slave labour and the seizure of Jewish property and assets during the Nazi era.
The finance officials announced last month that they will be holding a meeting of their executive board to consider progress in establishing the fund and determine whether to oppose the merger of Deutsche Bank with the eighth largest U.S. bank, Bankers Trust. U.S. military documents have cited Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank as two main pillars of the Third Reich and accused them of engaging in crimes against Jews.
The executive board of the Hevesi committee will meet on Thursday to be followed by another meeting in June to assess whether a satisfactory settlement has been reached with German industry. The June meeting will also separately consider what actions to take against French banks, which the WJC says have been uncooperative in responding to Holocaust-era claims against them.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Pope Receives Holocaust Memorial Menorah
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul Wednesday was given a miniature of a Holocaust memorial menorah whose original was placed in a seminary garden in Rome to remind future Roman Catholic priests of the perils of anti-Semitism.
The six-branch menorah (candlestick) was designed to mark Tuesday's Yom Hashoah, the day in which Jews around the world commemorate the Nazis' slaughter of six million Jews during World War Two.
Each branch represents a million Jews killed in the Holocaust. At the base is the Star of David, cracked in the center to represent the devastation of European Jewry during the war.
The original of the menorah was placed Tuesday night in the gardens of the Pontifical North American College, a seminary for future priests from the United States.
Leading American rabbis and Roman Catholic cardinals attending Tuesday's ceremony at the college said its significance was to remind future Catholic priests of the Christian roots of some forms of anti-Judaism.
In a major document on the Holocaust last year, the Vatican apologized for Catholics who had failed to do enough to help Jews against Nazi persecution and acknowledged centuries of Catholic preaching of contempt for Jews.
At Tuesday's ceremony, the Jewish leaders told chilling stories of their families' experiences of the Holocaust and praised the Pope for revolutionizing Catholic-Jewish relations.
The Pope, who lived through the Nazi occupation of his Polish homeland, is the first Pontiff to have visited a synagogue. He also led the Vatican in an historic move to open diplomatic relations with Israel.
Both were milestones in attempt to improve Catholic-Jewish ties after nearly 2,000 years of distrust and hostility.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
German banks escape U.S. sanctions threat - for now
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - U.S. finance officials on Thursday said sanctions against German banks were not needed because the banks are making progress on resolving Holocaust claims, but warned the merger between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust could be held up until the issues are resolved.
``There apparently is dramatically more good will in these negotiations than there was in the Swiss negotiations,'' New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi told reporters after chairing a meeting on how German companies were responding to charges that they profited from Nazi atrocities.
Hevesi leads a committee that represents 900 U.S. public finance officials. That group's threat to boycott Swiss banks and to delay a merger between Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corp. helped persuade Switzerland's banks last year to pay $1.25 billion to Holocaust victims.
The World Jewish Congress, one of the main players leading what it sees as a fight for moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims, had been expected to ask Hevesi's committee to delay for 60 days sanctions against German companies while efforts continued to resolve Holocaust claims. But the subject of sanctions was not raised.
``There was no suggestion at all of any sanctions. The word didn't even come up,'' WJC Executive Director Elan Steinberg said.
The U.S. State Department, which last year called sanctions on Swiss banks ``counterproductive,'' again criticised any such punitive measures, saying, ``For Germany's historic initiative to succeed, it must do so free of threats and intimidation.''
Still, the New York City Comptroller made it clear that he believed Deutsche Bank should resolve claims that it took part in Aryanization--buying or brokering Jewish assets at fire sale prices--and used slave labour--a charge the bank specifically denies--before it should be allowed to buy Bankers Trust.
Saying the U.S. Federal Reserve and the New York State Banking Department, both of which would have to approve the bank merger--were reviewing Holocaust issues, Hevesi said: ``They're sympathetic to our view that there be a resolution in the context of this process.'' He added he was ``optimistic'' that the outstanding questions could be resolved ``shortly.''
Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust officials declined to comment but senior officials from both banks were at Hevesi's meeting.
Despite these promising signs, another result that had been anticipated was not achieved. No agreement was reached with class action lawyers on one of the critical demands made by German companies--that any settlement with Holocaust victims protect the firms from any further legal liability.
``Of course, a precondition for the German government is legal closure,'' Thomas Matussek, Germany's deputy ambassador to the U.S, said.
A strategy on achieving a global resolution, which like the Swiss settlement would include civil lawsuits--might be in the offing. ``They'll be an announcement next week,'' said a source close to the talks, who declined to be named.
But two prominent U.S. Holocaust lawyers, Mel Weiss and Michael Hausfeld, while saying they wanted a global accord as it was the fastest way to resolve claims, urged Hevesi's committee to keep the pressure on German banks and industry.
The need for speed--with most of the Holocaust survivors in their 70s and 80s--was emphasised by a number of the speakers, and that will be one of the main subjects that WJC Secretary General Israel Singer next week was expected to raise in meetings with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach.
Stressing the WJC wants the proposed German fund to begin payments to Holocaust victims by September 1, the 60th anniversary of the start of World War II, Singer added ``Deutsche Bank needs expeditious treatment for their own sake.''
The Holocaust talks are not expected to grapple some of the toughest issues, including the size of the proposed fund, estimated at up to $1.7 billion, until a mid-May meeting in Washington, which U.S. class-action lawyers will attend.
Singer left the door open to including top U.S. companies that also face charges of having used slave labour, like Ford Motor Co and General Motors.
While at least 14 German companies have agreed to join the proposed Holocaust fund, which will be privately financed, Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. Under Secretary of State, said that the number of firms could rise to 50.
((U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1650, nyc.munis.newsroom+reuters.com))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
WJC to pursue Holocaust claims vs Holland, Belgium
NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress, which has been instrumental in forcing Swiss banks to reach Holocaust-related settlements, on Thursday said it planned to pursue similar claims against the Netherlands and Belgium.
Before the New York-based WJC turns to those two countries, however, it first plans to wrap up negotiations over Holocaust charges against Germany and France.
Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC, said potential targets in Holland and Belgium included the banking industry.
Speaking at an conference on Holocaust issues sponsored by the New York City Comptroller, Steinberg said that few people realise the Netherlands had one of the worst records when it came to protecting its Jewish population from the Nazis. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of Holland's 137,000 Jews were sent to their deaths, he estimated.
``At least in France, 70 percent of the population survived,'' Steinberg said, though he faulted France for not negotiating with the WJC or other international Jewish groups to resolve Holocaust issues.
Belgium, however, has been ``much more cooperative'' because it has set up a process to resolve Holocaust issues, he said.
((--Joan Gralla, 212-859-1655, joan.gralla+reuters.com))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
U.S., Germany speed up work on Holocaust fund
By Jonathan Wright
WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. and German governments plan to accelerate work on setting up funds to compensate people who worked as slaves or forced labourers for the Nazis, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
They will invite lawyers, representatives of German companies and other parties to launch working groups in Washington in early May with a 90-day deadline to complete work on three funds, the official told reporters.
Under Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, speaking in a telephone conference call from Botswana, reiterated the U.S. administration's opposition to any threat of sanctions against the German banks and companies cooperating on the funds.
He described the funds as a historic initiative and a great moral gesture. But the threat of sanctions could undermine German public support for them, he added.
The German companies will also need watertight guarantees that after contributing to the funds they will be immune from lawsuits by former victims, he said.
U.S. lawyers have filed class-action suits against some of the companies demanding compensation.
``The initiative will not succeed unless the companies are assured that it will provide them closure to any litigation, present or future. They do not want to pay twice, once into the fund and the second time into the U.S. courts,'' said Eizenstat, who is the Clinton administration's special envoy on property restitution in central and eastern Europe.
The World Jewish Congress, another party in the search for compensation, said on Tuesday it would ask U.S. state and city finance officials to defer any sanctions against German banks and industries for 60 days while efforts continue to resolve Holocaust-era claims against them.
But Eizenstat said even this suspension of the threat was insufficient. ``It has all the disadvantages -- politicizing the decision, potentially creating resentment in the German public, that is very supportive of this initiative, and creating a negative climate,'' he said.
One of the funds would be for former forced and slave labourers whose employers can be identified, the second would be to support projects which keep alive the memory of Nazi victims, and the third would be for a publicly funded foundation to address the claims of those who do not neatly fit into any categories of slave or forced labour, he added.
The aim of speeding the work up is to ensure the funds are in place by September 1, the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two, Eizenstat said.
In a statement addressed to New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi on Thursday, Eizenstat explained again why the U.S. administration opposes any attempt to link the Holocaust claims with Deutsche Bank's plans to merge with Bankers Trust.
``For Germany's historic initiative to succeed, it must do so free of threats and intimidation,'' he said.
``Applying political criteria to the mergers of banks could chill investment to the detriment of the U.S. economy as a whole,'' Eizenstat added.
Hevesi, who took part in a meeting of an executive monitoring committee on Holocaust assets in New York on Thursday, later said that sanctions against German banks and companies did not come up at the meeting because of the progress made in resolving the issues.
Eizenstat said he and his German counterpart, Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach, expected to issue the invitations to the working group meetings within about a week.
The working groups would concentrate on slave and forced labour, Aryanization of property, claims on banks and insurance companies, legal closure for German companies, and on the fund to preserve the memory of victims.
Thirteen German companies are cooperating with the plan to set up the funds but Eizenstat said this could rise to 50.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Las Vegas Casino Erects Lenin Statue, Axes Head
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Visitors to Mandalay Bay, the newest mega-resort to grace [email protected] of capitalism run amok, the Las Vegas strip, are asking why?
Why -- amid robotic waiters, a four-story wine cellar, a faux beach with artificial waves -- would the beach-themed hotel erect a 20-foot statue of the founder of Soviet Communism Vladimir Lenin?
And why have him overlooking the slot machines?
The Lenin statue, a monument to Soviet realism, stands with one hand outreached and the other clutching a worker's cap just outside the Red Square vodka and caviar restaurant in the hotel's restaurant row.
The Miami, Fla.-based China Grill group, which owns Red Square, decided to erect the statue in the walkway outside the restaurant in order to attract patrons inside.
Officials at casino giant Circus Circus Enterprises Inc., which built the $1 billion Mandalay Bay, were initially happy with the statue which follows a trend in Las Vegas toward large, garish renderings of historical landmarks.
After all, just up the street Park Place Entertainment Inc. is getting ready to open a $750 resort that's a near perfect replica of the Eiffel Tower. And two weeks from now billionaire Sheldon Adelson will open a $1.3 Italian-themed resort called The Venetian, complete with a real moat, real gondolas with singing gondoliers.
But Lenin was not well received. Patrons, insulted by the Communist symbol, were likening it to a statue of Hitler or Mussolini.
Most of the complaints were coming from U.S. service men and women, Circus Circus spokeswoman Sarah Ralston said.
The story does not end there.
Lenin's 250-pound head is now missing. Management, one night late last month, chopped it off, on orders of Circus Circus Chief Executive Glenn Schaeffer, Ralston said.
Schaeffer also ordered that the decapitated statue be splattered with white paint made to look like bird droppings, she added.
``We debated how to deal with the issue. There were several options. One was riding it out, hoping people would appreciate the irony of it, the other was removing it,'' Ralston said.
After careful research, Circus Circus chose to alter the gypsum-and-plaster statue, which was relatively inexpensive to build because it was faux.
``We ran an extensive search of news clips on what happened in the Eastern bloc to the (real) Lenin statues'' after the fall of Communism, Ralston said.
``In many cases townships had neither resources nor manpower to physically remove these statues that in many cases weighed hundreds of tons. What they did was lop the head off. It makes the point. If there's any confusion about the symbolism, that now goes away.''
The hotel plans to turn the severed Lenin head into a table inside the Red Square vodka bar and restaurant, Ralston said.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Famous Holocaust asset litigant Sapir dies in U.S.
NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - Estelle Sapir, a Holocaust survivor who sued and won a settlement from a major Swiss bank to recover her father's money, has died at her home in New York, one of her attorneys said on Thursday. She was 72.
``She has been ill for quite a while,'' attorney Carey Davino said. ``She didn't have any recent onset of anything, she has been in frail health for years.''
Sapir, who died on Tuesday, was a leading plaintiff in a historic lawsuit filed by thousands of Holocaust survivors or their relatives against big Swiss banks accused of withholding their dormant assets.
A year ago, Credit Suisse Group settled Sapir's claim that it hoarded her father's wealth when she could not produce a death certificate, even though he perished in a Nazi death camp during World War Two.
Her 52-year-long quest for her father's legacy made headlines around the world in recent years as survivors pressed their cases against the banks.
Last August, the three major Swiss banks and Jewish groups reached a $1.25 billion compensation agreement for unreturned Holocaust-era assets after a legal battle that stirred controversy over neutral Switzerland's role in World War Two.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Confident Germany to ring in Berlin Republic
By Deborah Cole
BERLIN, April 16 (Reuters) - The German parliament returns to Berlin's Reichstag on Monday, ushering in what many hope will be a new era of peaceful self-confidence for reunited Germany, 66 years after democracy died in the ashes of the same chamber.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sees the reopening of the building, renovated by British architect Norman Foster, as a symbol of a new ``Berlin Republic'' in Germany's restored capital, certain it will prove more robust than the Weimar Republic declared by a fellow Social Democrat at the Reichstag in 1918.
Adolf Hitler and his Nazis, taking advantage of the chaotic faction-fighting of Weimar, used the mysterious Reichstag fire of 1933 to crush opposition and declare their Third Reich.
Now, having stood forlorn for half a century next to the Berlin Wall while democracy flourished in Bonn and communism ruled in East Berlin, the Reichstag is set to resume its place at the heart of a Germany exorcising the ghosts of division.
Some, however, find rather too many spectres still linger around Foster's bold glass-and-steel Reichstag cupola, and feel reviving the symbols may stimulate too much of the old Prussian arrogance that so blighted Germany and the rest of Europe.
Schroeder's defeat last September of the architect of unification, the staunchly pro-European Helmut Kohl, made him the first postwar leader to have no personal memory of Nazism.
He has emphasised that generational change by sending German forces into combat over Yugoslavia for the first time since 1945, proclaiming Germany to have won the right -- and the duty -- to bear arms again, this time in pursuit of democracy.
Deputies on Monday will debate progress towards integration of east and west Germany, the same issue at stake when the Bundestag voted in Bonn by a wafer-thin majority in 1991 to move to Berlin, partly to cement the new union.
The divisions that debate laid bare are still evident in the discussion of how far Germany has actually come in moving beyond the darkest chapters of its history. Only after much opposition has it finally been agreed that the building can keep the name Reichstag, although the institution retains its Bundestag title.
Jewish organisations accuse German industry and government of failing to pay sufficient reparations to Holocaust survivors and note that the country has not yet managed to build Berlin's promised Holocaust memorial after a decade of discussion.
Schroeder's chief aide said on Friday he would meet the secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress in Berlin this weekend to discuss still outstanding claims for compensation.
There are frequent complaints among ordinary Germans that the 20-billion-mark ($11 billion) cost of moving the capital is unjustified at a time when unemployment, especially in the east, is rooted at levels close to those that helped Hitler to power.
And fears the ``Berlin Republic'' might move rather too readily to forget Germany's sins were loudly voiced late last year when prominent author Martin Walser suggested it was time at last for Germany to shed its obsession with its past crimes.
Bundestag speaker Wolfgang Thierse insists, though, that while the country cannot escape its past, the move to Berlin will combine historical continuity with a fresh start.
``It is both a return and a new beginning at the same time,'' the Social Democrat told Reuters.
``We are returning to a building full of symbolic meaning. It is good that the unified German parliament for the first time since the war has its home here. I hope that we can continue the friendly and peaceful democracy of Bonn.''
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
U.S. Holocaust Survivors Say Money Is Not Enough
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two U.S. Holocaust survivors who discovered they had both been at the same German labor camp said Thursday any monetary settlement with Germany should include a statement of responsibility.
``You have to come up with something that's meaningful ... and the words to go with it,'' concentration camp survivor Paul Frankel told reporters after addressing a committee chaired by New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi. The panel focused on how German banks and companies are handling charges they profited from Nazi war crimes.
``What we are asking for is justice. No one will ever pay me for the loss of my parents,'' Ernest Michel, another survivor of Nazi genocide, said.
At least 14 German banks and industrial companies have agreed to join a proposed Holocaust fund. It will aim to compensate Jews whom the Nazis forced to work as slaves as part of a plan to exterminate the Jewish people as well as foreigners and prisoners of war who endured forced labor and Jews who were compelled to sell their assets at desperation prices as part of Adolf Hitler's program of Aryanization.
While the size of the planned fund has been estimated at up to $1.7 billion, two U.S. Holocaust lawyers said the numbers circulated were far below what they were demanding, though they declined to give figures.
``So far, nothing indicates to me that we are in the same ballpark as to what they are prepared to do,'' Mel Weiss of New York-based Milberg Weiss said.
He and Michael Hausfeld of Washington-based Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll promised aggressive pursuit of their lawsuits against German companies on behalf of Holocaust victims, including victims of slave and forced labor.
``We are pursuing our litigation vigorously,'' Weiss said.
Hausfeld said the only way the German government and companies would win one of their crucial demands -- protection from civil litigation -- was by negotiating with the lawyers who represent Holocaust survivors.
Frankel and Michel, who both were sent to Nazi concentration camps as teen-agers, said it was only when they told their stories to Hevesi's committee that they discovered they were two of what Frankel said were only 19 survivors of the Berga-Elster camp, where slave laborers dug tunnels for rocket launchers.
``I can never get over it. ... When I meet someone like this, it's great -- what can I tell you?'' Michel said.
When it comes to agreeing on the size of a new German Holocaust fund, negotiators should begin by deciding how much each survivor should get, Frankel said.
Saying his father, a doctor, had been ``burned'' in Auschwitz, he asked rhetorically, ``What do you think it's worth?'' The remark highlighted a debate over whether slave and forced laborers deserve more than just the wages they were never paid by the companies that profited from their work.
``To apply an hourly rate for the work I have done is absurd. It belongs in Dante, the 'Inferno,''' said Frankel, who added that he had been imprisoned in four concentration camps.
Michel noted that many U.S. Holocaust victims, now in their 70s and 80s, depended on Social Security. ``I hope the (settlement) figure will be at least something they can live on,'' he said.
Frankel, who said that at 13 he was sent to Auschwitz from Hungary with his mother, father and brother, expressed willingness to testify in a lawsuit against German banks and companies. But he said he thought a negotiated accord would serve both victims and companies better because it would be quicker.
``I would be in favor of going before a jury of our peers and telling our story. I think we would do very well,'' he said.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Bavaria Gypsies Call Gov't RacistFriday, April 16, 1999; 4:38 p.m. EDT MUNICH, Germany (AP) -- Gypsies, also known as Roma and Sinti, accused the Bavarian state government of racism in a letter published Friday in U.S. and German newspapers.
The letter, which appeared in The New York Times and Die Welt, was signed by supporters, including the leader of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Ignatz Bubis; Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal; and actors Gregory Peck, Vanessa Redgrave, Tim Robbins, Winona Ryder and Matt Damon.
Also on Friday, the head of Germany's gypsies accused Bavarian state police of maintaining a special database listing Gypsies by name and license plate numbers. Romani Rose called it ``pure racism'' against a minority group.
Rose, who heads the Central Council of Roma and Sinti, said police had registered most of the 11,000 gypsies living in the southern state.
Bavarian Interior Ministry spokesman Michael Ziegler denied the allegations, saying ``that doesn't exist anymore.''
But Rose said collection of information continues and Bavaria only took action to ban use of the data after the gypsies filed a lawsuit claiming their rights were being violated.
Bavaria's office for protection of privacy said one police district began collecting data in 1998 listing the names of gypsies who park vehicles and mobile homes in public places.
Office chief Karlheinz Worzmann said his staff deemed the data discriminatory and that the state Interior Ministry had banned its use pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Rabbi Accused of School-Jobs SchemeBy Verena Dobnik
NEW YORK (AP) -- For years, Hertz Frankel has been known as a gentle, fatherly Brooklyn rabbi and principal of Beth Rachel, billed as the world's biggest Jewish girls' school.
The Holocaust survivor was prominent internationally as a spokesman for the ultra-orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, a neighborhood of bearded men in black hats and coats.
Few suspected what investigators charge -- that the 68-year-old rabbi siphoned about $6 million in public school money to finance the private school.
Frankel pleaded guilty to conspiracy April 9 in Brooklyn federal court. The judge sentenced him to probation for three years and ordered the Beth Rachel school to pay $1 million in restitution.
Edward Stancik, the city's special schools investigator, said Frankel conspired with public school officials to trade political support on a community school board for the money.
From the mid-1970s until 1994, phony jobs were given to 80 women living in the district, Stancik said. The ``jobs'' ranged from security guards and remedial teachers to aides and came with family health insurance benefits for the women, some of whom had as many as 10 children.
The phony employees gave their paychecks to the rabbi, who then passed on the money to the 4,000-student Beth Rachel school and its parent organization, the United Talmudical Academy, authorities said.
In return for the money, Stancik said the rabbi assured district administrators that they would get the support of a critical bloc of Hasidic men on the nine-member community school board.
The rabbi has denied holding any sway over the board, but Stancik said ``many people benefited from this corrupt bargain. None of them were New York City public school students or their parents.''
In a statement, the rabbi said he pleaded guilty to avoid further humiliating his community. He said he's ``the victim of a great injustice,'' explaining that school officials had told him to accept the money to help relieve an economic burden from New York taxpayers by educating the Jewish children privately.
``The arrangement took place, but he did not benefit one penny,'' said Frankel's attorney, Nathan Lewin.
Two former district superintendents also were implicated in the scheme, but died before any charges could be brought. Three lower-level administrators pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Hungary Unveils Wallenberg StatueSunday, April 18, 1999; 6:07 p.m. EDT BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- A statue commemorating the heroism of a Swedish diplomat responsible for saving the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews was unveiled Sunday -- 50 years late.
Hundreds braved wind and pouring rain to pay belated tribute to Raoul Wallenberg, who in the last months of World War II saved the lives of Jews only to vanish himself in the turmoil.
The statue, depicting a man slaying a snake, was to have been dedicated in 1949, on the banks of the Danube River where thousands were executed by firing squad.
However, the statue disappeared under mysterious circumstances the night before the unveiling. It turned up at a pharmaceutical plant in eastern Hungary a few years later, and remained there.
On the 50th anniversary of the original dedication, a bronze copy, made by sculptor Sandor Gyoerfi and funded by the municipality of Budapest and public contributions, was unveiled.
``This is only a small and belated compensation and tribute to the man we can thank so much,'' Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky said at the dedication ceremony.
Wallenberg arrived in Hungary in 1944 and led his rescue mission by issuing Swedish passports and setting up ``safe houses'' for Jews who were being hunted by Nazi SS troops and Hungarian fascists.
``Never in history had a Swedish diplomat received such an important charge,'' Swedish Ambassador Sven Carlsson said.
Wallenberg disappeared from Budapest in January 1945, when Soviet occupation troops detained him and reportedly took him to the Soviet Union. Moscow has never officially explained what happened to him.
``I'm happy to have lived so long as to be able to finally see this statue at its place,'' said Sandor Varga, 79, who survived the war with a Swedish passport.
More than 600,000 of Hungary's one million Jews died in the war.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Is RecalledSunday, April 18, 1999; 10:09 a.m. EDT WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Polish and Jewish officials placed wreaths Sunday at the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and lighted torches shaped like menorahs to mark the 56th anniversary of the ill-fated uprising against the Nazis.
The speakers of both chambers of parliament attended the ceremony, along with representatives of President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. Jewish survivors and representatives of the Israeli Embassy said the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
In the fall of 1940, the Nazis crowded 400,000 Polish Jews into 741 acres in Warsaw.
Most died of starvation and disease or in the gas chambers of the Nazi death camp at Treblinka, to which they were transported in cattle wagons between July and September 1942.
Sunday's ceremony honored 200 young Jews who decided to fight when Nazi troops began to liquidate the ghetto on April 19, 1943. Most of the remaining 60,000 people in the ghetto were killed during the uprising, which was crushed after three months.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Swiss Approve Revamped ConstitutionBy Geir Moulson
GENEVA (AP) -- Swiss voters approved a new constitution Sunday that eliminates the traditional requirement for the country's currency to be backed by gold.
The modernization of the 125-year-old constitution, which was backed by all the major Swiss political parties and expected to pass easily, came down to a closer-than-expected vote.
Some 59 percent of voters casting ballots, 969,400 people, approved the new document. In addition to abolishing the gold standard for the Swiss franc, the constitution enshrines new rights in law, including the right to strike and the principle of equal opportunities for the handicapped.
But twelve of Switzerland's 26 states, known as cantons, voted against the proposal, which needed a majority of both voters and states to pass. About 669,200 people -- 41 percent -- rejected it.
Turnout was only 35.3 percent, reflecting weariness with the system of direct democracy that sees Swiss citizens vote three or four times a year on a wide variety of national issues.
A relieved Justice Minister Arnold Koller said the result was ``a big step'' that was hard for many to take but would make ``an important contribution to strengthening national unity.''
The federal constitution was last overhauled in 1874, although it has been modified 140 times since then. Many of the changes approved Sunday involved updating its language.
Right-wingers who opposed the proposal objected that it wasn't Swiss enough -- for example, replacing ``all Swiss are equal before the law'' with ``all human beings are equal before the law'' -- and questioned other changes, including the right to strike.
With the requirement to back the Swiss franc with gold removed, the government plans to use 1,300 tons of gold -- half the Swiss National Bank's 2,600 tons of reserves -- to underpin the currency.
It plans to sell some of the current reserves to finance a proposed $5 billion foundation to aid victims of genocide, war and natural disasters. The foundation is unrelated to Swiss banks' settlement last year with Holocaust survivors, but would be open to Holocaust-related projects.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
(In para 2, corrects to show that Barry Manilow presented a check for $10,000 on behalf of the Jewish Federation; the original story implied that it was a personal donation.)
By Army Archerd, Daily Variety Senior Columnist
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Tuesday was Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Thursday at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Marvin Hier announces that board of trustees member Gary Winnick, founder and cochairman of Global Crossing, is donating $100,000 to create a medical clinic for Kosovo refugees in Macedonia and Albania.
The initial fund will bring doctors, nurses and medical supplies to four clinics. Earlier, Paul Newman had made a $250,000 contribution for aid, and Barry Manilow presented a $10,000 check on behalf of the Jewish Federation.
The Wiesenthal has been a center for screenings this week: Monday, the Oscar-winning ``The Last Days''; Tuesday, ``The Long Way Home,'' winner of last year's documentary Oscar (produced by Hier and Richard Trank), and on Sunday, the Museum screens ``Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story'' (HBO) starring Ben Kingsley and Craig T. Nelson, directed by Brian Gibson. ``I Will Not Forget You: The Life and Work of Simon Wiesenthal'' is now on exhibition at the Center, through Aug. 29.
April 22 is ``Take Our Daughters to Work Day'' and in celebration, the Museum of Tolerance in association with the Ms. Foundation, will hold a symposium and honor women for their achievements as role models for young women. They include Catherine Hicks, who stars in Spelling TV's ``7th Heaven.'' (On screen, she is a role model mother of seven. Offscreen, Hicks has nixed all jobs during the hiatus of the successful show to be with her 7-year-old daughter.) The other honorees and members of a day's panel are Gloria Allred, Robin Kramer, Dr. Erlean Piper Mandy and Martha Escutia. Museum director Liebe Geft moderates.
Susan Sarandon receives the first Raul Julia Global Citizen Award Sunday at ``A Night for a Dream,'' benefiting the Raul Julia Ending Hunger Fund.
Lou Gossett Jr. and ``Walker Texas Ranger's'' David Labiosa head an anti-gang symposium April 22 at the Airport Marriott Hotel. One panel will concern ``Decoding the Rap: Its Effect on Youth.''
Christine Essel, Paramount's senior VP, is the City of Hope's 1999 Woman of the Year and was honored Tuesday and Wednesday at the Beverly Hilton, where $150,000 was raised.
Friday is ``Henry Mancini Day'' in L.A., by proclamation of Mayor Richard Riordan and Gov. Gray Davis. Hank would have been 75. Whatta loss.
There's no showbiz with no snow: ``The Man Who Came to Dinner'' won't be seated at the film table until next year. Danny DeVito says the Jersey picture for DreamWorks is getting a new menu. The necessary snow on the Woodstock, Vt., location won't still be there. ``If we did it now,'' Danny laughs, ``we'd be working in slush, not snow.''
Meanwhile, Danny and his Jersey crew are busy here with Milos Forman, putting the final touches on ``Man in the Moon,'' starring Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman. DeVito is playing his manager, George Shapiro, who says Danny's portrayal ``makes me proud to be George Shapiro!''
P.S., Shapiro also plays a role in the film: ``Mr. Besserman,'' a nightclub owner who fires Kaufman early in his career. Howard West, Shapiro's management partner, is also on camera, as a hard-nosed network executive. Anyone he's dealt with as a manager? The pic has a Nov. 5 release date.
Jersey Films is busy readying the Steve Soderbergh-directed Erin Brokovich biopic with Julia Roberts starring and Albert Finney to costar. While Jersey is now based at Universal with its first look, they still have commitments left at Sony. One still very much alive is the four-year-old bigscreen version of ``Honey West,'' the series that starred Anne Francis as the private eye with a pet ocelot, Bruce. Richard LaGravenese scripted the featured ``Honey.''
``Tony Newley fought a courageous battle with cancer,'' his former wife Dareth (Dunn) told me Wednesday.
``He actually got up to walk today and then sat down on the couch and went to sleep in the arms of (his longtime friend) Gina Frantini.'' Dareth was also there at the British entertainer's condo in Jensen Beach, Fla. His four children and 96-year-old mother are arriving for the private services Saturday.
Newley's rendition of ``What Kind of Fool Am I?'' will forever remind us of his many talents -- and his great warmth for his fellow human beings. He was 67.
``How Paul Robeson Saved My Life'' is one of the stories Carl Reiner narrates Thursday for his Dove Audio version of his upcoming (Christmas) HarperCollins book of semi-autobiographical short stories.
Jerry Seinfeld, now recklessly cavorting through a drug store on his latest (hysterical) American Express commercial, goes back before the cameras in July-August for the next site in an extended three-year pact with the card holders.
Liza Minnelli is ``guest editor'' of the April 26 issue of InTheater, which calls itself ``The Weekly Magazine of Broadway and Beyond.'' It includes her private collection of pix with her parents, Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, plus Hollywood and B'way ``family.'' A portion of proceeds of copies sold through the InTheater Website (www.intheater.com) goes to the charity of her choice: The Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential, for brain injured children.
Press agent Stan Rosenfield's son Zach graduates from the U. of Oklahoma May 8 and goes to work -- for Eddie Michaels' praisery.
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA, 1999 APR 19 (NB) -- By Adam Creed, Newsbytes. The Australian government has come under a great deal of pressure over its controversial Internet regulation proposals with industry experts, online freedoms groups and the ISP industry all speaking out on the plans. But today it fought back saying "any attempt to interfere with protections will have the effect of making it easier for pedophiles, drug-pushers, racists, and criminals to pollute the Internet."
In a remarkable statement, the Minister for Information Technology, Senator Richard Alston, attempted to divide and rule, claiming it was a small section of disruptive elements that were trying to derail government attempts to filter out Internet content on both local and overseas computer servers.
Among those who have criticized various sections of the proposed regime as unworkable and likely to hold back e-commerce in Australia include the head of the Internet Industry Association, respected researchers at the CSIRO, and business leaders of the nation's Internet service providers attending an ISP conference in Melbourne today.
"Although this threat appears to come from only a small section of the industry, Australian parents have cause to be extremely concerned," said Alston, arguing that the regulations would protect children.
Nothing in the Senator's media release answered the detailed criticisms leveled at the proposals by industry experts and organizations. In fact, Alston argued that submissions and debate within the industry was all hot air.
"The Government welcomes an informed debate about its proposals," continued Alston. "Such debate must be based on the detail of the Government's proposals rather than a knee-jerk response to generalized rhetoric."
"Any attempt to interfere with protections will have the effect of making it easier for pedophiles, drug-pushers, racists, and criminals to pollute the Internet," said Alston, setting the example in his own response to the debate so far.
Alston's proposed regime has come under criticism from many sources. The CSIRO said that content blocking would be largely ineffective, the Electronic Frontiers Australia argued that the proposed rules would make no significant change to the amount of offensive material on the Internet, and ISPs and the information industry have warned they could lose out significantly if the growth of the Internet in Australia is slowed.
Reported By Newsbytes News Network
German Holocaust Plans CriticizedBy Verena Schmitt
BERLIN (AP) -- Directors of memorials at former Nazi concentration camps attacked the government's design for a long-delayed Holocaust memorial on Tuesday, arguing that it uses funds that should go into preserving the camps' deteriorating exhibits.
Germans have been debating building a national Holocaust memorial in the heart of Berlin for a decade. The leading design -- by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman -- was criticized as too abstract and monumental, so it was reworked to add a documentation center and exhibition space.
The result is the first that seems acceptable to both politicians and Jewish leaders.
But Guenter Morsch, head of the memorial at the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp, told parliament's culture committee, which is supposed to approve a design, that plans to add the center were ``absurd.'' He said a memorial should speak for itself.
He and other memorial directors argued that the projected $100 million cost of the center would be better spent renovating the exhibits at the former concentration camps, which they called the ``authentic sites'' of Nazi crimes.
The former camp Dachau has 700,000 visitors a year and only five permanent employees, said Volkhard Knigge, head of a working group of camp memorials and museums. ``Isn't that a joke?'' he said.
Reinhard Ruerup, director of the Topography of Terror exhibit of Nazi crimes, said his museum, housed in the unearthed cellar of the former Gestapo headquarters in Berlin and currently under renovation, covers much of the same history as the center would and is only a few blocks from the proposed memorial site.
Alternatives to the current proposal include returning to Eisenman's original design -- which involved a field of about 2,700 closely set concrete pillars -- without the center. Another proposal involves a pillar inscribed with the words: ``Thou shall not kill.''
Parliament is expected to vote on how to proceed before its summer break, or in early September at the latest, said culture committee chairwoman Elke Leonhard. ``There will be a memorial in the foreseeable future,'' she said.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Tuesday April 20, 1:06 pm Eastern Time
By Sean Maguire
WARSAW, Tue 20 (Reuters) - A U.S. lawyer said on Tuesday he had launched class action suits in a New York court against German firms, including Daimler Chrysler(quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: DCXGn.F), to try to win compensation for all Polish victims of the Third Reich.
Ed Fagan said the case was the first legal attempt to unify claims against German companies from Polish slave labourers and other Polish victims of Nazi German oppression in World War Two.
The first suit targeted the newly created German/U.S. motor giant, steel firm Fried Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: FKHG.F) and Henkel KGaA (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: HNKG_p.F), while a second named industrial group Siemens AG (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: SIEG.F) as the defendant.
His case added to the pressure on firms and the German government to resolve technical issues blocking the creation of a German industrial fund, said to be worth around $1.7 billion, to recompense wartime forced labourers and Holocaust survivors.
``This is a way of bringing to the table all legitimate survivors representatives so we can reach closure on this issue,'' Fagan told Reuters after a Warsaw press conference.
The dozen German companies backing the fund have balked at finalising its arrangements without a guarantee they will be protected against any future claims.
The firms, the U.S. and German governments and worldwide survivors' associations are due to discuss the difficulties at a meeting in Washington in early May.
The issue has cast a cloud over Deutsche Bank's (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: DBKG.F) planned takeover of U.S.-based Bankers Trust (BT - news), which New York City officials have said they would stall unless outstanding claims against Germany's biggest bank were definitively settled.
Fagan said he had already launched a similar class action suit on behalf of World War Two survivors living in Australia and other suits would follow that seek to represent the interests of Israelis, Britons, Hungarians and Russians.
Other American lawyers are already suing German firms in the United States on behalf of 11 individual Poles and further law suits are expected as competition hots up to represent the tens of thousands seen benefiting from the industrial fund.
``More and more U.S. lawyers are coming to Poland to represent Polish survivors in American courts. This is a good business opportunity for them and a chance for Polish slave labourers,'' said Polish government advisor Bartosz Jalowiecki.
Fagan has also launched a $18 billion class-action claim on behalf of around 10,000 alleged Holocaust victims, which targets 12 German firms and four Austrian and German banks.
Polish associations say 500,000 out of two million Poles who were forced to work in Germany or in occupied Poland still survive, though officials have cast doubt on the figure.
Most missed out on post-war compensation because of the refusal of communist authorities to approve individual claims and the Polish government is keen they are treated equally to survivors in other countries when funds are distributed.
Warsaw's preconditions for approving a deal include equality of treatment, an increase in the number of firms paying out and a means to compensate agricultural labourers.
Half of all Polish slave labourers toiled on farms and German companies are reluctant to pay agricultural workers.
Polish victims groups want 10,000 German marks ($5,600) for each survivor but no sums have yet been disclosed publically.
``We count on negotiations for compensation progressing fast -- the issue is pressing as it concerns old people,'' said Jalowiecki.
Tuesday April 20, 11:28 pm Eastern Time
NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress said on Tuesday it expected payouts from a proposed German Holocaust fund to begin on time and would soon try to get more companies that allegedly profited from Nazi crimes to join the fund.
Israel Singer, the congress's secretary-general, met late on Monday with German Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach, who was more pessimistic, saying talks had deadlocked over the crucial issue of how to protect the companies from civil suits.
``Most corporations and companies are cooperating. A few are not. We will shortly identify those that are not,'' Elan Steinberg, the congress's executive director, told Reuters after being briefed by Singer on his meeting with Hombach.
Negative publicity has been one of the main weapons used by the U.S.-based Jewish advocacy group to try to persuade companies to grant Holocaust victims' claims for compensation.
The congress considers that clearing up the historical record is just as important as winning compensation, however.
For example, the influential Jewish group said in mid-January that Deutsche Bank (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: DBKG.F) -- whose desire to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth-biggest U.S. bank, forced the German bank to confront its Nazi past from a new perspective -- should admit it used slave laborers and pay reparations for the war crime.
Deutsche Bank has said it did not use slave labor.
The World Jewish Congress and New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi have said Deutsche Bank should settle Holocaust claims before state and federal regulators approve its merger with Bankers Trust. Last week, though, they agreed that enough progress had been made to make it unnecessary to discuss other sanctions.
At least 14 German banks and companies have agreed to join the proposed Holocaust fund, whose size has been estimated at as much as $1.7 billion.
A number of these enterprises have been sued by U.S. Holocaust victims, including former slave laborers. That fact gives the companies a big incentive to join the fund, provided they get legal protection -- referred to as closure -- from lawsuits and future claims.
``There are difficulties to overcome, such as the technical issue of legal closure, but we believe it's doable,'' Steinberg said.
Hombach, however, said no way had been found to provide a guarantee of legal protection.
The issue is critical. Deutsche Bank, which plans to participate in the fund, has said it must have a promise that the settlement will be global -- meaning that the U.S. Holocaust lawsuits will be included, as well as any such future liabilities.
Nevertheless, the Jewish group said ``substantial progress'' had been made at the talks, with working groups expected to step up their activity in May. ``We're on track, Hombach assured (Singer), for the Sept. 1 payout,'' Steinberg said.
Sept. 1, 1999, is the 60th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, which is why it was chosen as the date for Holocaust payments to begin.
Wednesday April 21 2:58 PM ET
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress Tuesday opened a new front in its battle to win compensation for Holocaust victims, charging that Dutch banks owe Jews and non-Jews $300 million worth of gold looted by the Nazis.
``In fact, it is clear that the larger portion of this gold came from the non-Jewish population,'' Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Further, the U.S.-based Jewish advocacy group made it clear that gold was not the only stolen asset for which it would hold Dutch banks responsible, saying the value of looted securities, which mainly were owned by Jews, would exceed the value of the gold that was confiscated.
The World Jewish Congress has taken on a number of European nations in what it sees as a battle to win moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims. Last year, it helped persuade Swiss banks to settle $1.25 billion on Holocaust victims.
At a conference last week that was sponsored by New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who also has taken a lead role in pushing countries to reach Holocaust accords, the WJC said that it would tackle the Netherlands and Belgium after settlements were reached with France and Germany.
However, when it comes to both Jewish and non-Jewish funds that were looted during and after World War II, Dutch banks might believe they have little to fear from an investigation.
The director of the Dutch Banking Association, Hein Blocks, Tuesday told Reuters that discovered funds that were not accounted for during the war years and that were not claimed after Germany was defeated totaled 400,000 guilders ($193,400). That sum also included non-Jewish bank accounts that went unclaimed.
Some newspapers have said Dutch banks pocketed some two million guilders from Nazi funds. But Blocks said that was based on an estimate that the figure would rise to 1.2 million guilders if all Dutch industry, including funds as yet undiscovered, were included, plus a big safety margin.
These figures were attacked by the WJC, which also raised the stakes by including securities.
``We think their estimation of how much has to be restituted in terms of accounts is premature. And moreover, we believe that the larger amounts to be restituted would be in looted securities, which we know were in the hundreds of millions of dollars,'' Steinberg said.
The securities were confiscated under anti-Jewish measures that were enacted after the Nazis in May 1940 invaded the Netherlands.
Shortly after the invasion, the Nazis compelled Dutch citizens, under pain of death, to hand over their gold -- which totaled about 35-1/2 tons -- in addition to looting the central bank's deposits, Steinberg said.
After the end of World War II, the Tripartite Gold Commission returned the looted gold. The Netherlands received just under $1 billion, he added.
About a third of the looted gold that now is worth about $300 million came from Dutch citizens, and the government has never returned it to them, Steinberg said, citing research that the WJC has conducted using documents from the U.S. national archives.
Wednesday April 21 11:52 AM ET
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Volgograd, site of the most savage battle in human history, has dashed plans for a ceremony to mark the official opening of a graveyard for German soldiers killed in World War Two, officials said Wednesday.
NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia has stoked opposition to the cemetery, where thousands of German soldiers killed in the Battle of Stalingrad have been reburied over the past three years.
``The situation in Kosovo is very bad for the opinion of Russian people toward this project,'' said Fritz Kirchmeier, spokesman for a memorial group that oversees the construction of German war cemeteries in Russia.
``They find it hard to understand why, on the one hand, there is a war in which German soldiers are taking part, and on the other hand, we want to have a ceremony for foreign soldiers who died almost 60 years ago,'' Kirchmeier said from Kassel in Germany.
Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad but renamed after the death of dictator Josef Stalin, has struggled to heal the scars left by the deaths of about one million Red Army soldiers in savage fighting from July 1942 to February 1943.
The authorities halted construction of the cemetery last year after an outcry from local people, who said they despised the idea of German soldiers being buried where Russians died. About 200,000 Germans were killed in the fighting.
The Battle of Stalingrad marked a turning point in Nazi Germany's fortunes in World War Two and left the entire city in rubble. A massive statue of Mother Russia holding a sword towers over a hill where the fiercest fighting took place.
A petition presented to Russia's parliament, the Duma, last month read that NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia ``violated the numerous assurances of its leaders that no more threats to peace will come from German soil,'' a Duma spokesman said.
The Duma approved the petition, ruling that the ceremony should not take place on May 15 as planned. A final decision still has to be taken by the head of the city's administration, the spokesman said.
Kirchmeier said a decision had been taken to cancel the ceremony, which was to be attended by Volgograd's leaders and the German ambassador to Russia. But relatives of the deceased could visit the cemetery as tourists, he said.
``There are a lot of German people who want to go there in May, and they can go there and I hope will be welcome,'' he said, adding that between 400 and 500 Germans might travel to visit about 20,000 graves.
``We will continue to bury the deceased. In the future there will be about 40,000 German and Austrian soldiers,'' he said. ''There are some people who say the NATO action has nothing to do with what we are trying to do.''
Papal Cross to Remain at AuschwitzThursday, April 22, 1999; 11:52 a.m. EDT WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Poland's Senate amended a law on former Nazi death camps Thursday to allow a giant cross erected in 1988 to remain by the Auschwitz museum, but to remove some 200 smaller crosses planted around it over the past year.
Jewish organizations had said the crosses disturb the memory of more than 1 million Jews killed at Auschwitz and nearby Birkenau and should be removed.
The Senate voted 58-7 with 26 abstentions for the amendment, which now goes to the lower house, the Sejm. A vote could be held as early as Friday.
The tall cross, which stands 26 feet high, was used during the 1979 mass celebrated by Polish-born Pope John Paul II at Birkenau. It was placed outside the gates of Auschwitz in 1988 to commemorate 152 Poles executed on that site by Nazis in 1941, and is visible from inside the camp.
Roman Catholics from across Poland planted scores of smaller crosses around it to protest the demands for its removal.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
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