English News Archive

News between December 8th and November 11, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For recent news select English News.


December 8, 1998:

December 7, 1998:December 5, 1998:December 4, 1998:December 3, 1998:December 2, 1998:December 1, 1998:November 30, 1998:November 29, 1998:November 28, 1998:November 27, 1998:November 26, 1998:November 25, 1998:November 24, 1998:November 23, 1998:November 22, 1998:November 21, 1998:November 20, 1998:November 18, 1998:November 17, 1998:November 16, 1998:November 14, 1998:November 13, 1998:November 12, 1998:November 11, 1998:


German court rejects landmark slave labour ruling
10:57 a.m. Dec 03, 1998 Eastern

COLOGNE, Germany, Dec 3 (Reuters) - A court on Thursday overturned a landmark ruling that a Nazi-era slave labourer was entitled to compensation from the German government.

The state court in Cologne rejected the claim of Rywka Merin, a Polish woman who emigrated to Israel in the 1960s, along with those of 20 other Jewish former slave labourers who had worked in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Judge Hans-Peter Prior ruled that Germany's compensation law for the victims of Nazism did not include any provision for payments purely for slave labour. Victims could, however, claim for maltreatment they suffered while working as slave labourers.

The court's ruling was a setback to campaigners who want Bonn to pay compensation for slave labour.

They had hailed a ruling by a Bonn court in November last year which had decided Merin was entitled to compensation.

The Bonn court had dismissed the claims of the others, saying they had already received payments for Nazi injustice. But as Merin had missed her chance to apply for payments, she was still eligible for compensation, it ruled.

But the Cologne court, in overturning that decision, said the Federal Compensation Law had not provided for slave labour payments because West Germany could not have afforded them when the law was drawn up after World War Two.

Prior acknowledged the economic situation had changed. ``But a judge can't change the law,'' he said.

Lawyers for the former slave labourers, who now live in Israel, the United States, Canada and Germany, vowed to appeal against the decision to Germany's Federal Court of Justice.

The German government welcomed the Cologne court's decision and also noted that it was trying to set up a fund to compensate slave labourers together with German industry.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Activists Protest Czech Pig Farm

Friday, December 4, 1998; 4:25 p.m. EST

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- More than 100 activists are pressuring the government to demolish a pig farm on the site of a World War II concentration camp for Gypsies, the CTK news agency reported Friday.

Prague Rabbi Karold Sidon and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were among the activists who sent a letter last week to the government demanding the removal of the pig farm built by the former communist regime and privatized in 1994.

Protester Pavel Theiner told CTK the activists regard the pig farm ``as a desecration of a monument to the victims, as well as an insult to humanity.''

More than 300 Gypsies died in 1942-43 in the camp near the town of Pisek, 60 miles south of Prague. It held only Gypsies, or Roma. Other Roma were sent to Auschwitz. Hundreds of thousands of Roma were killed in the Holocaust, along with about 6 million Jews.

``The government has 30 days,'' Cenek Ruzicka, a descendant of one of the victims of the concentration camp, told CTK. ``If they do nothing, we will put strong pressure on them.'' He did not elaborate.

Government spokesman Libor Roucek said the Cabinet would examine the issue.

``The government realizes how sensitive the issue is, but we have to consider the owners' rights as well,'' Roucek told the news agency. ``Eventually, some sort of removal will probably take place.''

A caretaker administration that governed the country for six months before 1998 elections decided to remove the farm but had no time to enact the promise.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Jews protest Hungarian compensation offer
01:54 p.m Dec 04, 1998 Eastern

BUDAPEST, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Hungarian Jews said on Friday a government plan to cut one-off compensation payments for relatives of Holocaust victims to 30,000 forints ($138.6) from one million forints is discriminatory.

``It is not fair and it is a discrimination against the Jews,'' Peter Feldmajer, president of the Confederation of the Jewish Communities in Hungary, told Reuters.

The confederation and other Jewish groups, in a statement, condemned the government for proposing the cutback, which is buried in the government budget being debated in Parliament.

Feldmajer said the government did not want to give relatives of Holocaust victims the same compensation awarded to relatives of other people ``unlawfully executed,'' many of them in the Soviet-era Gulags.

``They can't understand the real problem. It is not a problem of the money, it is the problem of the equality, the equality of the human being,'' Feldmajer said.

``The government said it has three billion forints for this in the next year so that is 30,000 per person, but we say we can start with say 300,000 forints per capita and the government can pay in three or five years.

``When the German government paid the compensation it took 20 years,'' Feldmajer added.

He said he had written to Prime Minister Viktor Orban two weeks ago regarding the problem but received no reply.

Orban's press office said it had no immediate response.

Hungary had one of the largest Jewish populations in Central Europe before World War Two. But 400,000 Jews were exterminated in the final months of the war and the community today numbers only about 100,000 people.


($1-216.47 Forint)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Israel Knesset Gives D'Amato Award

Friday, December 4, 1998; 1:20 p.m. EST

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Israeli Knesset presented Sen. Alfonse D'Amato with the Conscience and Courage Award on Friday for his fight to gain justice for Holocaust survivors.

``I did what I thought was right,'' D'Amato said. ``This was never really a question of money; it was a case of justice.''

Speaking at the World Jewish Congress, Knesset member Avraham Hirchson called D'Amato a ``Don Quixote'' for scaling the high walls of silence. ``You changed history,'' Hirchson said. ``The people of Israel love you, and we in the Knesset admire you.''

D'Amato's nearly three-year effort helped lead to a $1.25 billion settlement between Swiss banks and Holocaust survivors in August.

Despite all the publicity about the settlement, D'Amato's opponent, Rep. Charles Schumer, dominated the Jewish vote and won the November Senate election.

Since losing the race, D'Amato said, he has been spending more time with his family and practicing law. ``I'm going to try and find my old sailboat,'' he said jokingly. ``I've spent 35 years in elected office, so this a whole new experience.''

D'Amato also said he will not disappear from the spotlight. ``The life of this city and state are too important to me,'' he said. ``Then there's always the year 2000, and we'll look at that.''

Asked if he had any regrets from his losing campaign, D'Amato mustered a smile and replied, ``Yeah. I didn't win.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Holocaust Conference Concludes

By Laura Myers
Associated Press Writer
Friday, December 4, 1998; 1:20 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A World War II concentration camp survivor praised an international conference's pledge to encourage the return of Nazi-looted artworks to their prewar owners.

But Noach Flug, now representing the World Jewish Restitution Organization, told delegates from 44 countries, ``It is important the goals of this conference will be transferred into reality.''

If carried out, guidelines that 44 countries endorsed Thursday could shake up the art world, pressuring major private and public collections worldwide -- from the Louvre in Paris to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, to the Museum of Modern Art in New York -- to identify and return to prewar Jewish owners or their heirs works looted by Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Association of Art Museum Directors already has created guidelines that required a search of collections to ensure they contain no looted art. Members also agreed not to borrow pieces known to be stolen by the Nazis. But, until now, much of such information has been lost or hidden in dusty government and private archives closed to outsiders.

The conference suggested archives around the world be open for Holocaust research by Dec. 31, 1999, but many countries and the Vatican so far have refused.

Some European countries also appear reluctant to reach deep in their archives and reach out to Holocaust survivors and their heirs in attempts to find owners.

The principles approved by the conference leave wide room for interpretation.

France, for example, has been working two years to identify prewar owners or heirs of 2,058 pieces of art that has been in government custody and museums since the war, even putting the list on the Internet. But France insists only on direct restitution.

At the conference, the French delegation promised that by the end of 1999, if the government has not tracked down wartime owners for looted art, it will consider proposals to make reparations ``that seem justified,'' delegate Louis Amigues told the conference.

``There can be no doubt about the determination of France,'' he said.

But the World Jewish Congress remains highly skeptical that the French will ever find prewar owners or make restitution to Holocaust survivors or Jews. The French ``are not treating this art issue honestly,'' said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the group.

Russia announced at the conference that it would try to identify and return ``victim art'' that the Nazis took from Holocaust victims and that was then plundered by Stalin's troops as ``reparations'' for Germany's wartime assault.

On the last day of the meeting, the Russian delegation also surprised the forum by delivering three documents on art looted from Austrian Jews that could help settle claims.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Himmler's Mein Kampf Donated

By Jim Fitzgerald
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, December 5, 1998; 4:19 a.m. EST

NEW YORK (AP) -- Heinrich Himmler was just 27 when he studied a copy of Adolf Hitler's ``Mein Kampf.''

The man who would eventually order construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp evidently liked what he read.

Himmler's copy of ``Mein Kampf'' has been donated to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and historians say his annotations reveal the ideology that propelled him to the head of the Nazi police.

``It shows that the doctrine of anti-Semitism, nationalism and even how to get rid of the Jews was already being considered by Himmler as well as Hitler in the 1920s,'' Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, chairman of the museum's board, said Friday.

Himmler underlined a passage in which Hitler writes that the gassing of 12,000 to 15,000 Jews might have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Germans in World War I, said Richard Breitman, a Himmler biographer and history professor at American University in Washington.

``He took the racial ideology lock, stock and barrel,'' Breitman said. ``It's another line of continuity in early Nazi ideology to the policies of the Nazi regime and eventually to the Holocaust.''

Himmler began reading the book, the second volume of Hitler's manifesto, in 1927, the same year he was named deputy leader of the secret police.

Where Hitler wrote that racial intermingling was a threat to the ``higher'' race, Himmler added in the margin, ``The possibility of de-miscegenation is at hand.''

``De-miscegenation presumably involved eliminating the source of racial intermingling,'' Breitman wrote in a draft for an article to be published in the academic journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

The historian said scholars had been unaware of the book's existence.

Morgenthau said the donor, a New Yorker who wished to be anonymous, found the book in his father's possessions and offered it to the year-old museum in Battery Park.

``It'll be displayed,'' he added. ``It's part of the story of the rise of Nazism.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Bradley Entry Marks New Stage In U.S. Campaign 2000
12:30 a.m. Dec 05, 1998 Eastern

By Joanne Kenen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Exploratory committees, campaign staff hires and trips to Holocaust memorials -- the 2000 presidential campaign is under way.

The first caucuses and primaries are more than a year away, and the front-runners -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush on the Republican side and Vice President Al Gore for the Democrats -- have already been identified.

But lots of competitors are in the wings, or beginning to edge onto the stage, knowing that front-runners can and often do stumble.

Friday, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley became the first nationally known figure to announce he was forming an exploratory committee, the first formal step in setting up a campaign.

``I'm at the top of my game,'' said Bradley, 55, a Democrat and former professional basketball star who made his announcement standing on the basketball court in a Newark N.J. community center gym.

``This announcement is not surprising. We expect other announcements of this type in the coming weeks,'' said Chris Lehane, a spokesman for Gore. He added that Gore and Bradley served in the Senate together and the ``know each other well.''

The next announcement could be in a matter of days. The Omaha World Herald this week reported that Nebraska Democrat Sen. Bob Kerrey will announce whether he has decided to run on Dec. 12 at an international economic conference he is sponsoring. Kerrey's Senate spokesman was unavailable for comment Friday.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has been thinking aloud about another bid for the Democratic nomination. He said in a speech at the National Press Club Friday that his son, Illinois Democrat Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., is encouraging him to run ``and we'll decide after Christmas.''

House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri is also considering whether to challenge Gore, and said this week he would make up his mind over the next month to six weeks.

Given the Democratic gains in the House in the November Congressional elections, many political observers believe Gephardt may decide to forego the presidential race and concentrate on winning the House, which would make him House Speaker.

From the liberal wing of the party, Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone is exploring a campaign. John Kerry of Massachusetts is mulling one as well.

Gore, the clear frontrunner at this early stage of the game,

himself began assembling a campaign staff this week. He heads out to Iowa next week, the traditional site of the first caucuses in the nominating season. The week after that, he heads to New Hampshire, which holds the first primary.

Gore this week gave a major speech that was a not-so-subtle attack on Bush's ``compassionate conservatism.'' Speaking to a centrist Democratic group, Gore trotted out the slogan of ''pragmatic idealism.''

``Compassion is more than a pretty word,'' he said. ``There is a long road between rhetoric and results.''

Bush meanwhile has still not declared his candidacy and maintains for the record that he is still undecided whether to seek the office his father lost to President Clinton in 1992.

But the Texan just took a high profile trip to Egypt and Israel, including a visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and returned home to deflect criticism that the trip was intended to dress up his image as a foreign statesman.

``I was there to listen and to learn,'' he said. ``Now is not the time to decide whether to seek the presidency.''

Bush is likely to face several challengers, mostly from the wing of the party most closely associated with the Christian right. Challengers could include former Vice President Dan Quayle, magazine publisher Steve Forbes, anti-abortion activists Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer, and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, an independent thinker who has clashed with his own party on campaign finance reform and tobacco legislation, is also considering whether to run.

And in Salisbury, N.C., the hometown of Elizabeth Dole, a grassroots movement has begun to draft Dole, a former Cabinet member, current head of the American Red Cross and wife of the 1996 candidate former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Habsburg causes outrage with Jewish remark
05:54 a.m. Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

VIENNA, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Otto von Habsburg, son of Austria's last emperor, caused a storm of protest on Monday by suggesting his son Karl was being hounded in a way comparable to the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

Karl Habsburg, a conservative member of the European Parliament, faces allegations he illegally funnelled charitable donations into his election campaign.

Politicians of all shades, including Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima, have called for his resignation, although he denies any wrongdoing.

``Karl is being attacked because he carries that particular yellow star, the name of Habsburg,'' Otto von Habsburg said in an interview in Monday's edition of the Austrian weekly Profil.

``The poor Jews certainly suffered terrible things. I often think of them in this connection,'' he said.

The ``yellow star'' refers to the Star of David which the Nazis forced Jews to display on their clothing, singling them out for arrest and assault.

Austrian daily Kurier on Monday described Otto von Habsburg's comments as a ``horrible comparison'' and ``self-demolition.''

The liberal Der Standard wrote: ``There is a political consensus that the Holocaust was unique and not to be compared. A responsible politician cannot break this taboo.''

Otto von Habsburg is a long-serving German member of the European Parliament and president of the conservative Paneurope Movement. His father, Emperor Karl I, was forced to abdicate in 1918 after the country's defeat in World War One and the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which once stretched from Ukraine to the Adriatic.

In a statement, von Habsburg said he had been misunderstood and the only parallel he wanted to draw was that his son was being targeted because he belonged to a particular group, in this case the former imperial family.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Britain May Start Nazi Victims Fund

Monday, December 7, 1998; 8:27 p.m. EST

LONDON (AP) -- The government will establish a $40 million fund to compensate victims of Nazi persecution whose assets were seized by Britain during World War II, The Financial Times reported Monday.

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson was expected to announce the fund's creation in a speech Monday to the British-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the newspaper said. But Mandelson gave no details during his talk.

A spokesman for the minister, speaking on customary anonymity, said only that Mandelson would give details of the compensation plan Tuesday in Parliament. The spokesman would not comment further.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, welcomed the fund's creation, saying it was a ``long-overdue rectification of a 55-year-old injustice.''

Property from victims of the Nazis was seized under Britain's 1939 Trading with the Enemy Act, which was intended to stop ``belligerent countries'' using property belonging to their nationals to finance Hitler's war effort.

However, innocent victims, including many Jews who sent cash and valuables to Britain for safekeeping, were also affected by the act and have not yet received compensation.

The newspaper said the plan would involve mainly people from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic whose property was seized by Britain because their countries were believed to be allied with Nazi Germany.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Le Pen's National Front party torn by inner strife
02:57 p.m Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - France's extreme right National Front (FN) party was torn on Monday by a bitter leadership struggle between its blustery founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and would-be heir Bruno Megret.

``They are traitors, they are stabbing the FN in the back,'' party secretary-general Bruno Gollnisch, a key Le Pen backer, said of Megret supporters.

Le Pen ordered the suspension from the party of two key Megret backers including Serge Martinez, head of FN regional branches, after he called for a special congress without consulting Le Pen.

Martinez was accused of organising an uproar at a leadership meeting on Saturday which broke up in boos and catcalls when two Megret allies were expelled from the hall.

Le Pen on Sunday blasted critics within his anti-immigrant National Front as racist extremists and hinted Megret should leave the party.

Bruno Durbec, one of the party's rare blacks and an FN regional councillor from Marseille, said on Monday he had been the target of racist jibes from Megret allies at the meeting.

Durbec, who is of French West Indian origin and an unswerving admirer of Le Pen, said he was called a ``dirty nigger...by people whose models are not in French history but in that of the (Nazi) Third Reich.''

Both Le Pen and Megret have been sentenced by courts in the past for comments about alleged inequalities between races and Le Pen has been sentenced for describing Nazi death camps as ``a detail of the Second World War.''

Accusations flew thick and fast with Megret backer Jean-Yves Le Gallou saying the Le Pen family was trying to turn the party into a private preserve.

Le Pen's daughters and son-in-law all hold key party posts while his wife Jany was proposed several months ago as the possible head of the FN election list head before Megret.

Le Pen said on Sunday about Megret: ``I won't show anybody the door. But if some people think their presence is incompatible with mine, they are free (to leave).''

Gollnisch said pro-Megret rebels were backed ``by big money, by the (French) press, by German courts and by powers like the United States.''

Asked how the United States might possibly intervene, he said: ``The United States intelligence services are very attentive.''

The Front, which wants to ship millions of foreigners home and favours native French for jobs and social services, has been mired in squabbling for months.

Without naming him, Le Pen said Megret's strategy of opening the Front to cooperation with mainstream conservative parties was not the path to follow.

The Front commands the electoral support of about 15 percent of the voting public.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Nazi Victims Meet to Share Stories

By Jenifer Chao
Associated Press Writer
Monday, December 7, 1998; 4:15 p.m. EST

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- Graying and sorrowful, they huddled in small groups, swapping harrowing memories of Auschwitz.

About 750 Dutch victims of World War II atrocities gathered Monday at a symposium to share stories of their suffering -- first in Nazi death camps, and later in an indifferent homeland.

``There aren't enough papers and pens out there to describe how I feel,'' said Benjamin van Beem, 76, who survived the Auschwitz death camp.

With the theme ``Repatriation and Reception: A Matter of Acknowledgment,'' Monday's gathering -- the first of its kind in the Netherlands -- focused on the chilly reception many victims experienced when they finally returned home.

The participants, who included Dutch Jews, gypsies and victims of Japanese soldiers in the colonial Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, said they hoped their experiences would no longer be shunned but remembered.

``We need to give the experiences of victims a place in Dutch history,'' said Conny Kristel, director of the Foundation for Research, Repatriation and Reception, which organized the one-day conference.

Victims split up into small groups where they shared their gut-wrenching stories. Historians from the foundation hope to compile all the experiences into a book to be published in 2001.

But for many survivors, it's too little and too late.

``Why are we doing this 50 years later? Most of the survivors aren't around anymore,'' said Barend Zwaaf, 77, his Auschwitz prisoner ID number still tattooed on his arm.

``People don't understand why I still have my identification number on my arm,'' he said. ``Someone said to me once, `Mister, are you so stupid that you can't remember your own telephone number and you have to write it on your arm?'''

About three out of every four Dutch Jews, more than 100,000 people, died in the Holocaust. Many of those who managed to survive were orphaned, their houses taken over by strangers and their possessions seized by Nazi soldiers. Some said they returned from death camps to find the Dutch government and their compatriots ignorant and unsympathetic to their plight.

``I was the only one left in my family. My house was gone, and I was left with only the old shirt on my back,'' Van Beem recalled. ``What did the Dutch government do for us? They didn't do anything.''

The harsh postwar circumstances were partly to blame, said Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, who opened the symposium.

In his address, Kok explained how the country, bankrupt and in ruins, focused all its attention on rebuilding and tried to avoid dwelling on the past. Victims, he conceded, were left to endure their pain in private.

``Our sights were set on the future and emotions received little attention,'' Kok said.

Monday's government-sponsored conference continued a turnabout for the Dutch, whose WWII memories have mostly focused on the brutal Nazi occupation and the country's bold underground resistance. In recent years, however, a slew of controversies over the poor postwar treatment of Dutch Jews and the mismanagement of their assets have painted a different picture of the past.

In a 1968 incident disclosed only last year, Dutch civil servants auctioned off among themselves -- and at bargain prices -- jewelry and other valuables belonging to Dutch Jews who died in concentration camps.

``Now we're here to talk about acknowledgment,'' Van Beem said, but added bitterly: ``What difference will a book make now? Who will read it?''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Russian nationalism threatens CIS -Berezovsky
03:40 p.m Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

By Larisa Sayenko

MINSK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Boris Berezovsky, the secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent State (CIS), said on Monday growing ethnic chauvinism in Russia might threaten the loose grouping of ex-Soviet republics.

``All (CIS) presidents view with concern Russia's growing chauvinism,'' Berezovsky, a Russian oil-to-media tycoon and former Kremlin aide, told reporters during a visit to Belarus.

``This (chauvinism) is probably the biggest concern for each CIS state, because it would affect all of them without an exception,'' said Berezovsky who had paid flying visits to nine of the 12 CIS states in the last few days.

Earlier on Monday Russian President Boris Yeltsin sacked his chief of staff and three deputies. A spokesman said Yeltsin was disappointed by their response to political extremism in Russia.

Berezovsky praised the move, saying Yeltsin ``is trying to react dynamically to Russia's fast-changing situation, which he has not done for a long time.''

Berezovsky, who is of Jewish descent, led calls last month for a ban on the Communist party after it failed to censure a member for making anti-Semitic statements. He repeated his calls on Monday.

``Yes, I think that the Communist Party should be outlawed in Russia. It's really turning into a Nazi party,'' Berezovsky said.

Last week Communists and their allies in the State Duma lower house of Russia's parliament overwhelmingly backed a call for legal action against Berezovsky for demanding the ban.

He said rising extremism might not only damage Moscow's relations with other former Soviet states but could also worsen tensions in restive regions within Russia, such as Chechnya and Dagestan.

``The process of Russia's disintegration continues -- in Chechnya and Dagestan,'' he said. ``Russia cannot overcome its nationalist complex.''

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FOCUS-U.N. rights accord celebrates 50th birthday
01:26 p.m Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

By Irwin Arieff

PARIS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Human rights champions from around the world launched a week-long birthday party on Monday for the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, praising past progress but warning of fresh battles to come.

From Nobel Peace Prize winners to grassroots campaigners, supporters of justice and democracy gathered in Paris to launch ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the historic text adopted in the French capital on December 10, 1948.

``Who could fail to be dismayed when we compare the reality of the human rights situation around the world with the idealistic aims of the Universal Declaration,'' said Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

``It's painfully clear that inequities within and between societies are not diminishing but growing,'' she said during the celebration's opening ceremonies.

``We can and must do better. It is not sufficient to be appalled by human rights violations ... We must devise new, improved strategies to tackle and prevent abuses.''

UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor urged political leaders to base their decisions on ethical considerations rather than competing special interests.

In an apparent slap at U.S. policy, he criticised economic embargoes which he said ``penalise the most vulnerable population segments without having the desired effect on a country's leaders.''

Many in the international community have criticised Washington for spearheading embargoes against Cuba, Iraq and Iran which they say harm the poor and slow economic development.

French President Jacques Chirac urged the United Nations to expand its programmes and called on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to launch an initiative to protect human rights from the effects of globalisation.

But he won the most applause with a reference to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, arrested in London in October after a Spanish judge charged him with responsibility in the death or disappearance of over 3,000 people during his rule.

``Little by little, a new world judicial order is being constructed in which no one -- not even a head of state -- can be shielded in a case of crimes against humanity,'' Chirac said.

The Universal Declaration begins: ``All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.''

The simple statement has been supported by enlightened thinkers for ages. But it was not until after this century's two world wars and the Holocaust that leaders came together to declare certain basic rights inalienable.

Among those attending the ceremonies at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation were numerous Nobel Prize laureates including Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Guatemala's Rigoberta Menchu, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and literature prize winner Wole Soyinka of Nigeria.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar democracy leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent a videotaped message from the semi-isolation which Myanmar's military government has imposed on her at her home in Yangon.

Discussions and other events were to continue on Tuesday, followed by programmes on youth and human rights and the fate of refugees on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the anniversary day itself, participants will gather in the Chaillot Palace in Paris -- better known as the Trocadero museum, across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower -- to commemorate the original signing of the declaration there.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Bronfman hopes Deutsche bank admits war errors
08:43 p.m Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

By Andrew Quinn

PALO ALTO, Calif., Dec 7 (Reuters) - World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman Sr. said on Monday he believes Deutsche Bank Ag's merger with Bankers Trust Corp. will not go through unless the German bank admits its errors during World War II and makes restitution.

Bronfman, who led the fight to force Swiss banks to make a $1.25 billion settlement for unreturned Holocaust-era deposits, made his comment in a response to a question over New York City's objections to the $10.1 billion merger.

But, in an interview with Reuters, he did not indicate whether his group, which is currently in discussions with Deutsche Bank over its seizure of Jewish assets during the Nazi period, would join the New York City Comptroller in active opposition to the merger.

``I think it would be best if they (Deutsche Bank) would do a real self-examination, and say: 'This is what happened.' Tell the truth, and make whatever restitution should be made,'' Bronfman said. He added, ``I think they're going to have to do that before the merger goes through.''

The World Jewish Congress has been in discussions with Deutsche Bank and will renew them within the next two weeks, a spokesman for the group said. He added the talks were constructive and no decision on the group's stand will be made until they are completed.

Bronfman predicted that the current drive to have countries and companies that worked with the Nazis make restitution to Holocaust victims would be completed by 2001.

``I think basically most of the work will have been done by the end of the year 2000, that gives us a year and half, two years,'' Bronfman said in an interview at Stanford University, where he was giving a speech.

Bronfman, chairman of Seagram Co. Ltd, said he was pleased with the overall atmosphere of last week's conference in Washington, where some 44 nations and 13 nongovernmental groups gathered to discuss the return of billions of dollars worth of stolen property, artwork and insurance claims seized by Hitler's forces.

But he said that a major stumbling block to a final accounting for the Holocaust was the Vatican, which has thus far refused to open for inspection archives on the Roman Catholic Church's role in Europe before and during the Second World War.

``I don't think we can really tell the real story of what happened at the end of World War II without getting at the Vatican archives. And this is something that is going to be very difficult, but I think very important,'' Bronfman said.

``The pope has said that he wants the Church to enter the new millennium, the new century, with clean hands. They're not going to be able to do that unless those files are opened, and we know exactly what did take place. History demands it.''

Bronfman said that survivors' groups would continue to push hard for a ``reasonable'' accounting on everything ranging from claims of stolen art -- an estimated $10 billion to $30 billion of which is still missing -- to the use of concentration camp slave labour by major German companies. But he added that the main drive would continue to be for ``moral restitution.''

``We're not trying to blame anybody. We just want the truth,'' Bronfman said, brushing aside complaints by some critics that the push for financial compensation was overshadowing the broader tragedy of the Holocaust.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Chase Manhattan may owe Nazi victims under $5 mln
07:00 p.m Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Chase Manhattan Corp. probably will owe Holocaust victims only a fraction of what Swiss banks have agreed to pay, a financial source said on Monday, estimating the total, with interest, at less than $5 million.

The financial source declined to be named.

What role, if any, U.S. banks might have played in the looting of money, gold, artwork and other assets from Holocaust victims has been a particularly troublesome question for some of Europe's banks because they have felt they were being unfairly singled out.

Swiss, German, and French banks all have come under fire from Holocaust survivors, who are pressing for an accounting of Jewish assets deposited with the banks for safe-keeping during the pre World War II period. Swiss banks have agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement.

Chase Manhattan on Nov. 6 said it was probing if, during the Nazi occupation, the Paris office of one of its predecessor banks froze assets of Jewish customers before it was ordered to do so.

Officials from Chase Manhattan declined to provide any dollar estimates of any restitution, saying that they risked trivialising the matter, and stressed the bank's resolution to fully address the issues.

``From our perspective, it's a moral issue,'' Fred Hill, a Chase spokesman, said.

Newsweek this week said lawyers for Holocaust victims who filed a class-action lawsuit against French and British banks over allegedly frozen accounts told the magazine they expected to list Chase Manhattan in their suit.

Chase Manhattan's possible involvement came to light Oct. 20 in a BBC Broadcast, which also raised questions about the action of British and U.S. banks from the early 1930s through the end of World II. The U.S. bank said it learned of the controversy around its old accounts from the programme and then began a vigorous examination of historical records.

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

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


New York City raises bar for Deutsche Bank
02:11 p.m Dec 07, 1998 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The New York City Comptroller called Monday for a delay in the merger between Deutsche Bank AG and Bankers Trust Corp. until the big German bank resolves billions of dollars of Holocaust claims, thrusting the city again into U.S. foreign policy.

``When federal and state governments review this proposed merger, they should consider how Deutsche Bank is dealing with Holocaust-related claims,'' the comptroller, Alan Hevesi, said in prepared remarks.

Hevesi took a similar approach with Swiss banks earlier this year, helping to convince them to reach a $1.25 billion settlement with victims of the Holocaust. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's administration in the past has deferred to the comptroller on the issue.

The $10.1 billion merger between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust must be approved by the U.S. Federal Reserve and by New York state banking officials as well because New York is a major world financial centre. Holocaust survivors and heirs on Dec. 2 asked the Fed to delay approving the merger until a probe of the German bank's World War II activities was completed.

Hevesi last year organised a network of state and local finance officials whose threat to impose sanctions on Swiss banks helped persuade them to settle with Holocaust victims.

The U.S. State Department worked hard to head off a boycott of the Swiss banks by local U.S. officials, calling it counterproductive.

The World Jewish Congress, whose objections to the merger of Credit Suisse Group and the Union Bank of Switzerland earlier this year were heeded by New York State banking regulators, on Dec. 4 said it was in talks with Deutsche Bank, as well as the German government, and should decide in about two weeks what position it would take.

A Deutsche Bank spokesman at the bank's Frankfurt headquarters referred Monday to comments made by Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Rolf Breuer when the merger was announced. The deal will create the world's largest bank in terms of assets.

``There is nothing new to add,'' the spokesman said.

In those remarks, Breuer said German banks already were looking at ways to resolve issues related to the Holocaust.

He added German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's attempts to intervene in the Holocaust issue meant those matters are now being dealt with collectively by Germany at a higher level.

The New York State Banking Department on Friday said its policy was to refrain from comment on regulatory matters.

U.S. Senator-elect Charles Schumer, a Brooklyn Democrat, was not immediately available to comment. Schumer has said he would continue the battle to see that Holocaust victims get restitution, which was waged fiercely by the man he upset in the November elections, U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a top New York State Republican and close ally of Gov. George Pataki.

Hevesi said he was expecting the report from the World Jewish Congress on how the German bank was dealing with a class-action suit filed against Deutsche Bank and other German and Austrian banks.

The suit, filed in October 1998 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Holocaust survivors and heirs, charged that the banks ``conspired with the Nazi regime to convert and profit from stolen bank accounts and personal assets,'' according to Hevesi.

Further, he said the suit charged: ``The conversion of Holocaust victims' assets and profits therefrom played an integral role in the Nazi Holocaust and war effort, enabling Nazi Germany to trade on the open international market.''

New York City's five pension funds, which Hevesi controls, own a total of 520,084 shares of Deutsche Bank AG (DBKG.F).

While the pension funds do business with Bankers Trust (BT.N), they do not own any of its stock.

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

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


UK to compensate Jews for wartime confiscations
01:23 p.m Dec 08, 1998 Eastern

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Britain on Tuesday launched a scheme which could compensate the families of thousands of Jews who fled Nazi persecution only to have their assets confiscated by British authorities.

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson, who said the confiscations were a blot on British history, indicated the cost to the Treasury could be some 25 million pounds ($41 million).

Under World War Two-era legislation, assets of Germans and natives of other enemy countries which fell into British hands were seized. Jews who escaped to Britain to avoid the Holocaust were hit by the law.

``This was not a glorious chapter in our island's history,'' Mandelson, who has Jewish forebears, told a news conference. ``We failed to differentiate between our enemies and their victims.''

The government has published on the Internet a list of over 25,000 records of property confiscations from people who came from belligerent nations. It expects shortly to add another 5,000 relating to people from countries occupied by the Axis alliance.

Press reports said Mandelson had set up a 25 million pound fund. However, he said there was no fund as such, although he did not steer speculation away from the figure as the likely cost of compensation.

Lord Peter Archer, a senior lawyer who advised the government on the compensation scheme, said plans for claims already known about could, if validated, result in compensation of over 13 million pounds.

Britain's move follows an international conference last week on Holocaust assets at which 45 countries agreed in principle to give back art and property confiscated by the Nazis during the war.

Lord Greville Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust pressure group, called it ``an example to the world and a remarkable gesture of honour from the government.''

Archer will head a three-member commission to determine compensation, which he expects to invite claims in ``weeks rather than months.''

Once the commission is up and running, there will be a six- month period during which Jews who fled from German-occupied Europe -- or more likely their heirs -- can make claims.

Compensation will be adjusted to reflect present-day values of assets, mostly shares and money.

Britain has already handed back most of the actual goods seized from Jews who came to its shores during the war.

All that remain are a bracelet and tie-pin of little value belonging to Marck Kellermann, a Czechoslovak bristle merchant born in 1891, whose family has never been traced.

Before the news conference began, Mandelson and Archer showed the trinkets to press photographers.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German Holocaust Debate Calms Down

By Anne Thompson
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 1998; 2:55 p.m. EST

BERLIN (AP) -- With a single speech, German author Martin Walser touched off a nationwide furor over how to remember the Holocaust.

He complained that media images of the Holocaust are designed to perpetuate German guilt. He said the Auschwitz death camp in particular is used to bludgeon the German people with shame. And he said he personally has learned to turn away from scenes from the Holocaust.

Weeks of fierce reaction followed, and few pundits were as far apart in their views as Ignatz Bubis, the leader of Germany's Jews, and former Hamburg Mayor Klaus von Dohnanyi.

On Tuesday, they reconciled in a meeting -- the first calming in a debate some politicians feared was becoming too divisive ahead of proposals on building a national Holocaust memorial.

Bubis, who had called Walser's speech ``spiritual arson,'' conceded his language might have been too strong and said he did not mean to suggest that Walser was anti-Semitic.

For his part, Dohnanyi (pronounced de-NA-ni) agreed that some of his own statements were misguided -- chiefly, his comment that he wasn't sure Jews would have behaved any better than Germans did under the Nazis if the situation had been reversed.

Both men lost relatives during the Nazi terror: Dohnanyi's father, Hans, was killed in April 1945 for plotting against Hitler, and Bubis' entire family perished in the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

With that history in mind, they said their shared opinions outweighed their differences: Both agreeing that a national Holocaust monument is necessary and that remembering the Third Reich should be an ongoing discussion for Germans.

Despite his conciliatory mood, Bubis emphasized that the debate over Walser's speech was not over.

Many people -- including Dohnanyi -- think the next step toward reconciliation is a meeting between Bubis and the author himself, whose novels about Germans coming to grips with the Nazi past won a prestigious literary prize at the Frankfurt book fair. Walser's acceptance speech for the prize caused all the conflict.

So far, though, Walser has refused to sit down with Bubis, despite offers from Parliament speaker Wolfgang Thierse and Eugene DuBow, the head of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, to mediate talks.

Tuesday's meeting in Bonn was the brainchild of the liberal Free Democratic Party, which hoped the private exchange would generate goodwill and maybe a few new ideas as the nation struggles to settle the Holocaust memorial question. The party's chief sat in on the talks.

Neither Bubis nor Dohnanyi shed light on the controversial topic, although they agreed that none of the proposed plans are quite right.

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, voted out in September, had supported building a massive monument in Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate. The favored design, by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman, features 2,700 concrete pillars that resemble a graveyard.

The new government, led by Gerhard Schroeder, supports the argument that a monument is not educational enough and that a better memorial would be to preserve existing reminders of the Third Reich horror such as former concentration camps -- many of which are in disrepair.

A third idea comes from Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen and, indirectly, from Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. Diepgen proposes combining Spielberg's film archive of interviews with Holocaust survivors with an existing exhibit of the Nazi regime.

That exhibit, called the Topography of Terror, displays Third Reich documents and photographs in the cellar of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters in Berlin, where Nazis tortured political prisoners.

Spielberg already has offered to move his Shoah Visual History Foundation to Berlin, according to German media reports.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Germans Debate Holocaust Memorial

By Verena Schmitt
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 1998; 2:38 a.m. EST

BERLIN (AP) -- The meeting brings together men on opposite sides of one of Germany's fiercest debates: how to remember the terror of the Third Reich.

In one corner stands Ignatz Bubis, leader of Germany Jews. In the other, Hamburg Mayor Klaus von Dohnanyi.

Today, they are expected to discuss a longstanding controversy at the core of the debate -- whether Germany needs a national Holocaust memorial -- as well the recent imbroglio over a German author's speech complaining that media images of the Holocaust are designed to perpetuate German guilt.

Reactions to Martin Walser's comments at the Frankfurt book fair in November have filled the editorial pages of Germany's newspapers for weeks, but few critics have been as outraged as Bubis.

The Jewish leader has attacked the speech as ``spiritual arson'' and the author as giving inspiration and justification to neo-Nazis -- reactions the Hamburg mayor thinks are far too strong.

Walser, who received a prestigious literary award for novels exploring the conscience of Germans rebuilding from the Nazi era, said in his acceptance speech that references to the Auschwitz death camp are used to pummel Germans with guilt about the past.

He also said that he has learned to turn away from images of the Holocaust when he comes across them. And he says that building a giant Holocaust memorial in the center of Berlin -- one plan under consideration -- would be ``memorializing shame.''

Mayor von Dohnanyi (pronounced de-NA-ni) is sympathetic to Walser's views. He himself recently said he doubts Jews would have behaved better than ordinary Germans under the Nazis if the situation had been reversed.

Bringing the two men together was the brainchild of the liberal Free Democratic Party. The party hopes the private exchange, to take place in Bonn, will produce goodwill and maybe a few new ideas as the nation prepares to settle the Holocaust memorial question.

Parliament is to debate suggestions for the memorial early next year. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, voted out in elections Sept. 27, had supported plans for a massive monument in Berlin, near the Brandenburg Gate. The favored design, by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman, features 2,700 close-set concrete pillars that resemble a graveyard.

The new government, led by Gerhard Schroeder, supports the argument that a monument isn't educational enough and that a better memorial would be to preserve existing reminders of the Third Reich horror such as former concentration camps -- many of which are in disrepair.

A third idea on the table comes from Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen and, indirectly, from Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. Diepgen proposes combining Spielberg's film archive of interviews with Holocaust survivors with an existing exhibit of the Nazi regime.

The Topography of Terror exhibit displays Third Reich documents and photographs in the cellar of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters in Berlin, where Nazis tortured political prisoners.

Spielberg already has offered to move his Shoah Visual History Foundation to Berlin, according to German media reports, and Diepgen has written to him encouraging the plan.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Back to the top


Polish general's daughter seeks truth, not revenge
03:06 p.m Dec 08, 1998 Eastern

By Piotr Bazylko

GDANSK, Poland Dec 8 (Reuters) - When 45 years ago Poland's World War Two hero general Emil Fieldorf was hanged by the communists after a one-day show-trial, his daughter Maria almost fainted with shock.

``I could not believe they killed him. I don't know how I got home. I was half-conscious,'' Maria Fieldorf-Czarska, now 73, told Reuters in a Tuesday interview, her voice trembling with emotion.

Today she no longer cares if her father's prosecutor Helena Wolinska-Brus, now a 79-year-old British citizen living in Oxford, will go on trial for the unlawful arrest of the general.

``It really no longer matters whether she stands in court or not. It makes no real difference to me, although I think truth should be revealed,'' Fieldorf-Czarska said.

Poland accuses Wolinska-Brus of signing the arrest warrant for Fieldorf, and says she did not follow arrest rules and kept Fieldorf, a general in the Polish ``Home Army,'' too long in prison without presenting charges.

The Home Army, loyal to the London-based Polish government -in-exile, resisted Nazi German occupation and some of its members later fought against Soviet domination of Poland, making it the chief enemy of the communist-imposed authorities.

Last week a Polish military court ordered the arrest of Wolinska-Brus, paving the way for the justice minister to formally ask British authorities for her extradition. But the procedure is long and complicated.

Fieldorf-Czarska recalls that in 1991 her family wrote to Wolinska-Brus asking the former military prosecutor to explain her role in the arrest and trial of the general.

``Wolinska wrote back that she remembered the Fieldorf case. She confirmed that she had signed the temporary arrest warrant and explained that the lack of charges were in line with the law of the time,'' Fieldorf-Czarska said.

But earlier this year Wolinska-Brus denied all allegations, saying she had not been involved in the Fieldorf case at all becuase she was a military prosecutor, and the general had been sentenced by a civil court.

She has told British media she would not have a fair trail in Poland, which she fled in 1972 after she had been victimised as a Jew in 1968. If convicted, she would face between six months and 10 years in jail.

``It does not matter if someone is a Pole, a German or a Jew. I don't want revenge, but truth,'' said Maria Fieldorf-Czarska. ``If Wolinska-Brus had any dignity, she would come to Poland and testify, whatever she might want to say.''

She does not believe Britain would extradite Wolinska-Brus.

``She will say she is old, sick and does not remember anything. I've seen it all before. I don't believe the British authorities will hand Wolinska over to Poland,'' she said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Monday November 30, 5:18 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: French Bankers' Association

French Banks Support New French Government Initiatives for Holocaust Victims

PARIS, Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The French banking community strongly supports the initiatives taken by the Prime Minister of France, Mr. Lionel Jospin, in favor of victims of the Nazi Occupation of France and their descendants. The banks believe the measures announced represent a crucial and very positive development in the process of identifying stolen or dormant assets and returning them to their original owners or their successors.

Meeting with leading representatives of the French Jewish community in Paris on November 28, the Prime Minister announced a series of measures, including increased resources for the Matteoli Commission and the creation of a body responsible for examining individual claims brought by victims of the Occupation or their descendants. Such a framework for examining individual claims had been sought by the banks.

The Matteoli Commission and the Saint-Geours banking Committee, which were both established by the French government, have until now focused on gathering and reviewing the facts surrounding the seizure, during the Occupation, of assets belonging to the Jewish community in France. The active role of the French authorities is essential because assets and most of the documents relating to these tragic events are held or controlled by French government institutions, pursuant to French law.

The banks have publicly emphasized their commitment to bring to light all facts relating to bank assets of the victims of the Occupation. They are participating actively in the efforts of the Matteoli Commission and the Saint-Geours Committee: the major banks have substantially completed the tasks assigned to them by the Matteoli Commission with respect to their internal banking records; they have also submitted reports to the Commission and the Committee detailing the results of their careful research in their own and public archives into the questions of plundered assets, dormant accounts and unclaimed safe deposit boxes.

The French banking community will continue to fully cooperate with other interested parties in order to uncover all facts and documents relevant to the individual claims process. A major task in the coming months will be to compare the existing records on plundered assets with government data on assets returned after the liberation of France in 1944.

The first consolidated results of the research undertaken by the Saint-Geours Committee are expected in early 1999, and the banks feel that these results should be made public.

SOURCE: French Bankers' Association


Germany wants to conclude Holocaust claims by 2000
11:22 a.m. Nov 30, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Seeking to make a clean break with the Nazi past, the German government said on Monday it wanted to conclude all outstanding claims related to Nazi-era injustice against German industry by the year 2000.

Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach said Germany had provided more than 120 billion marks ($70.96 billion) compensation for Holocaust and other Nazi victims and more funding was in the pipeline. Officials have said it should reach 130 billion by 2030.

After that, state coffers would be firmly closed to World War Two claims, Hombach said.

``There is an intention to send out a signal pledging conclusive funds out of a sense of self-respect, solidarity and justice by the end of the century,'' Hombach said in a statement.

``It is not so much about recognising claims, but taking into account the fate of so many lives,'' Hombach said. ``The initiative of German industry must be seen as complementing state reparations which are now closed.''

German firms are facing a slew of lawsuits from Holocaust victims in the United States that accuse them of profiting from their use of slave labour, their trade in Nazi-looted gold and failing to honour Holocaust victims' life insurance policies.

Hombach was appointed last month by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to chair round-table talks with industry chiefs to find a way of heading off the potentially damaging claims.

He said there was a desire in Germany to make amends for the past not in recognition that claims were legally justified, but rather as a humanitarian gesture toward the elderly survivors.

Hombach was responding to a report in Monday's edition of Der Spiegel news magazine that German firms were close to an agreement with the government on a compensation plan.

He declined to say what stage talks had reached, saying many issues were as yet unresolved, and that industry and government would talk to Jewish groups, Holocaust survivors and other Nazi victimsafter a plan had been agreed.

``As soon as industry's willingess has been established, a dialogue will be opened with individuals and groups, who have been actively responsible in this difficult area,'' he said.

Spiegel said the plan was to set up a private fund financed by German industry that would derive its official status from a bilateral agreement between Bonn and Washington.

Swiss banks recently reached a landmark $1.25 billion deal with Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups after several U.S. states threatened them with an economic boycott.

Schroeder pledged to protect Germany's export-led industry from multi-million-dollar lawsuits after talks with the chief executives of eight of Germany's top firms last month.

These were Deutsche Bank, metals giant Degussa, engineering firm Siemens, chemicals firm BASF, Allianz insurers as well as carmakers BMW AG, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler.

Sources close to the talks have said German officials are becoming increasingly concerned that the lawsuits, though justified in seeking redress, might be used by others to give U.S. business a competitive edge over German industry.

The sources said the upshot might be that Schroeder would probably seek a political solution with U.S. leaders.

Historians say Nazi Germany forced as many as 12 million into slave labour, most from the former Soviet bloc. Of those still alive today 1.5 million live in eastern Europe and less than one million elsewhere.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Monday November 30 3:10 PM ET

Texas Governor Bush Pays Showcase Visit To Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Texas Governor George W. Bush, touted as a favorite for the U.S. Republican presidential nomination, praised Israel as a ``country of genius'' at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday.

On a showcase three-day visit along with the governors of Utah, Massachusetts and Montana, Bush toured Jerusalem holy sites and was briefed on Israeli-Arab peace efforts by Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon and defense chief Yitzhak Mordechai.

Bush, the son of former U.S. President George Bush, also laid a wreath at the grave of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and paid his respects at the Yad Vashem memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust.

``Israel is a country of genius. Israel's got tremendous talents,'' Bush said at dinner for the governors hosted by Netanyahu, who in his own remarks repeated his trademark theme of ``peace with security.''

Drawing media attention at each of his stops, Bush declined to comment on the political situation in the Middle East, his father's presidency or his own possible run for the White House.

``No comment. No comment. But thanks for asking,'' Bush quipped in response to reporters' questions.

Bush hammered home a single point during the day of tours and briefings, saying: ``The relationship between Israel and the United States is a very special relationship. It will always be that way.''

While president, Bush's father often found himself at odds with an Israeli government devoted to expanding Jewish West Bank settlements he called an obstacle to peace. Israel said a settlement visit was on the younger Bush's agenda this week.

Monday, wearing a navy, silver-lined skullcap, Bush shook hands and mingled with onlookers during a visit to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, Judaism's holiest site.

Bush's spokeswoman tried to down play the political implications of the visit, saying it was part of a family vacation. ``He's anxious to visit the roots of his faith,'' Mindy Tucker said before Bush left on the trip.

Bush, who leads a Texas Republican party heavily dominated by the religious right, seldom passes up an opportunity to mention his Christian beliefs. The next U.S. presidential election is in November 2000.

Before arriving in Israel, Bush visited Cairo with his father.


Monday November 30 9:04 AM ET

Monet Waterlily Believed To Be Nazi Plunder

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Monet waterlily on display at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts was ``almost certainly'' stolen in 1941 by Nazis from a French Jewish collector, the Boston Globe reported Monday.

Jonathan Petropoulos, an expert on art stolen by Hitler's regime, told the newspaper that during World War II Monet's ''Water Lilies 1904'' was part of a collection of art plundered for Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.

The painting, normally housed in a museum in Caen, France, was probably stolen from Paul Rosenberg, whose family plans to make a claim for the artwork, the Globe reported.

Malcolm Rogers, the museum's director, said he will consult with the French museum system, which loaned the painting for the MFA's ``Monet in the 20th Century'' exhibition, the Globe said. Rogers said the painting will remain on display during the show, which closes on Dec. 7, the paper reported.

The museum said early Monday that it is preparing a statement.


Tuesday December 1 6:35 PM ET

Center Sued for Nazi-Looted Art

By MARILYN AUGUST Associated Press Writer

PARIS (AP) - The heirs of a Jewish art collector whose claims for a Nazi-looted painting were rejected have sued the Georges Pompidou Center for receiving stolen property, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The suit is the first of its kind in France, where the National Museum Authority possesses nearly 2,000 pieces of art looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Antoine Comte, the lawyer representing the heirs of Alphonse Kann, claims the well-known center's art museum acquired Braque's ``Le Joueur de Guitare'' (The Guitar Player) in 1981 knowing of its murky wartime past.

But Pompidou Center President Jean-Jacques Aillagon told The Associated Press the center had bought the painting ``in good faith.''

``The committee had no idea that the painting transited through the Kann collection,'' he said in a telephone interview.

The legal action comes during a major conference on looted Jewish assets in Washington, and in the wake of a spate of comments by French officials eager to show progress is being made.

President Jacques Chirac said Monday that the ``question of reparation has become a top priority.''

Speaking at the inauguration of the new Museum of Jewish Art and History, Chirac addressed the thorny issue of unclaimed art works, a group of which are displayed in the museum.

``Among the works on exhibit in this museum are some that were stolen from families that never returned from their long path of suffering. The place of these works, naturally, is here,'' he said - referring to France's determination to keep the works at home rather than have them sold at auction to benefit survivors, as some have advocated.

The French Jewish community supports that position, but has urged quicker action.

At a Jewish group's dinner Saturday, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced measures to speed up the handling of individual restitution claims. France has returned five works in the last two years.

During the war, Nazi soldiers looted thousands of works from French Jews. Those paintings considered ``degenerate'' were sold off or traded. The Braque, a geometrical collage done in 1914 and today one of the Pompidou Center's most prestigious possessions, was one of them.

Earlier this year, the Pompidou Center rejected the Kann family's restitution claim, saying it bought the $2 million work ``honestly.''

Hundreds of looted works were returned to the Kann family after the war.


French Justice Minister wants judge censured
03:54 p.m Dec 01, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, Dec 1 (Reuters) - French Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou asked the country's Senior Magistrates Council on Tuesday to discipline a state prosecutor on grounds of making an anti-Semitic remark in a union magazine, her office said.

The remark was levelled against Alain Terrail, a Supreme Court prosecutor, about colleague Albert Levy, who was placed under investigation for leaking information about a case he is handling.

Terrail wrote in the publication of a minority conservative magistrates' union, that Levy had ``got too close to the oven...and was burned.''

Terrail denied anti-Semitic motivation and said he was paraphrasing a popular saying using similar terms and which deals with the dangers of becoming too involved in a subject.

The use of the word ``oven'' in the context was however interpreted by critics as related to Levy's Jewish origins and to the ovens in which the bodies of Jews gassed in Nazi death camps were burned during World War Two.

Extreme right-wing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was sentenced and fined several years ago for making a similar remark which sparked outrage in France.

Guigou did not say what type of disciplinary measure she hoped that the Council, officially independent of the ministry, would take against Terrail.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Sweden says probe for missing diplomat ready 1999
11:34 a.m. Dec 01, 1998 Eastern

STOCKHOLM, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Sweden said on Tuesday an inquiry to uncover what happened to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps in World War Two, should finish next year.

Sweden and Russia agreed in 1997 to cooperate on an investigation into the fate of Wallenberg, who disappeared in 1945. Wallenberg issued Jews with passports while he worked as a diplomat in Budapest, helping them emigrate to neutral Sweden.

The issue was revisted on Tuesday when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

``The two ministers said the working group has still a few things to do and that they hope it will be finished next year,'' Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Annika Soder told Reuters at a news conference.

Russia seemed to have changed its tone regarding Wallenberg, Soder said. Last month a sculpture dedicated to Wallenberg was erected in New York near the United Nations headquarters.

``It seems now they also want to honour the memory of Raoul Wallenberg. What was striking was that (Ivanov) spoke in a way that he seemed to want to join everyone else in honouring Raoul Wallenberg,'' Soder said.

Wallenberg was detained by Soviet troops in 1945 for alleged links with U.S. intelligence after the Soviet Union drove the Nazis out of Hungary.

Reports surfaced that Wallenberg was tried for espionage but Moscow denied all knowledge of his whereabouts until the 1957 release of a note from a doctor at Moscow's Lubyanka jail, saying he died of a heart attack in his cell in 1947.

Wallenberg's family always disputed this version of events, questioning the authenticity of the doctor's note and the cause of death since Wallenberg would have been just 34 at the time and in good health.

Over the years reports have persisted that witnesses saw the missing diplomat alive in Soviet jails.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited Stockholm one year ago, at which time Russia vowed to look again into Moscow archives to find any missing documents relating to Wallenberg.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Bell Atlantic Chairman Speaks Out Against Hate Speech on the Internet
12:15 p.m. Dec 01, 1998 Eastern

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Leading the fight against the new phenomenon of "cyberhate," Bell Atlantic Chairman Raymond W. Smith today said "freedom, not censorship," is the only way to combat the threat posed by the proliferation of the more than 1,000 hate sites promoting racism and bigotry on the Internet.

Smith, one of the nation's most prominent business leaders to speak out on this issue, was the keynote speaker at "Internet 2000: Promise and Peril," a day-long seminar sponsored by the Museum of Tolerance, the educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

"More speech -- not less -- is needed on the World Wide Web," Smith said. "The best answer to cyberhate lies in the use of information technology itself.

"We need to think less about ways to keep cyberhate off of computer screens, and more about ways to meet it head on. This translates into fighting destructive rhetoric with constructive dialog, hate speech with truth, and restrictions with greater access."

Under Smith's leadership, Bell Atlantic has contributed to the fight against cyberhate in several ways.

Thousands of inner-city schools, libraries, colleges and community groups are being connected to cyberspace through a variety of Bell Atlantic Foundation and state grant programs. The effort demonstrates Bell Atlantic's commitment to provide minority communities in the company's service territory with Internet access.

Bell Atlantic has also funded Web sites dedicated to fighting racist caricatures and pseudo history often found in cyberspace. Over the past two years, the Bell Atlantic Foundation has funded sites for minority and civil rights groups -- such as the NAACP, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights and the National Council of La Raza -- as well as sites of dozens of cultural organizations, such as the Studio Museum in Harlem.

"At Bell Atlantic," Smith said, "the more we grow -- in both scale and scope -- the greater the emphasis we place on being a good corporate citizen, and the more we're driven to see that digital technology is used for purposes of enlightenment and education.

"The Internet, if properly used and rightly taught, can bridge the gap in understanding between communities -- becoming not a tool of hate, but one of hope."

Copies of Smith's speech, "Civility Without Censorship," are available at http://www.ba.com.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With 42 million telephone access lines and eight million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.

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Copyright 1998, PR Newswire


Tuesday December 1 12:55 AM ET

GM, Ford Deny Collaboration With Nazis During War

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news) and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news) Monday denied fresh accusations that they had collaborated with the Nazi war machine during World War Two by supplying vehicles and raw materials to the German military.

A story in the Washington Post Monday said historians and lawyers researching a class-action lawsuit against Ford turned up evidence of contact and assistance between Nazi Germany and the two companies.

A Russian woman who was captured and forced to work at a Ford plant in Germany filed suit in March against the U.S.-based automaker, alleging the company knowingly profited from slave labor. GM could face a similar suit, lawyers told the Post.

Representatives for both GM, the world's largest automaker, and No. 2 Ford said Monday that Adolf Hitler's regime had taken over the operations of their German subsidiaries during the war years.

``GM categorically denies that it aided the Nazis in World War Two,'' GM spokesman John Mueller said in a statement. ``The stale allegations repeated in the Washington Post today were reviewed and refuted by GM 25 years ago in hearings before Congress, when more individuals with first-hand knowledge of the facts were available.''

Ford spokesman John Spelich said the company, like other businesses and government entities, maintained contact with the Nazi government until the United States declared war on Germany in December 1941.

``We basically had our factory taken away from us by the National Socialist Party government,'' he said, referring to the formal name of the totalitarian Nazi regime, which ruled Germany from 1933 until its surrender to the Allies in 1945.

The Post said a 1945 report by a U.S. Army investigator found that Ford top management agreed to a deal that gave Germany access to rubber and other important raw materials.

Spelich said between 1936-39, Ford's German unit, Ford Werke AG, did in fact participate in a barter program sanctioned by the German government that brought in raw materials and generated hard currency for the cash-strapped nation. But he said the army report misrepresented the situation.

Before the outbreak of war, local managers at the Ford Werke medium-duty truck plant in Cologne, Germany, also refused to share certain information with Ford officials back at the company's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., Spelich said.

``There were things that management in Germany was doing that they kept Dearborn in the dark about,'' he said.

Since the allegations first surfaced in March, Ford has directed its staff of historians and other researchers to review records from the era. Ford will make its findings public when the review is complete.

Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler made public statements in the 1930s that he admired Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor, and the production processes he established. Still, Spelich said a connection cannot be made between the company's actions and comments that Hitler later made.

Ford Werke and GM's Adam Opel AG unit controlled about 70 percent of the German car market when war broke out in 1939. Ford set up its German subsidiary in January 1925. GM purchased Opel in 1929.

When the United States entered the war, both Ford and GM retooled their U.S. factories to produce vehicles, airplanes and other materiel for the Allied war effort.

Chrysler Corp., the former U.S. No. 3 automaker, had a much smaller international presence and was not named in the lawsuit. The company recently completed its merger with Germany's former Daimler-Benz AG, creating DaimlerChrysler AG.


Anheuser-Busch Donates $65,000 to Los Angeles Jewish Federation
03:43 p.m Dec 02, 1998 Eastern

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 2, 1998--Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. has donated $65,000 to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

This is the sixth year that Anheuser-Busch has provided funds to the Federation.

The donation is earmarked to benefit a wide variety of health, education and human-services concerns coordinated through the agency.

"This is a commitment we are proud to make," said Gary Lee, plant manager of the Anheuser-Busch Van Nuys brewery. "We believe in giving back to the communities in which our employees work and live, and are pleased to continue helping to make a difference in the lives of those served by the Federation."

Lee and Tony Jones, director of community outreach for Anheuser-Busch, presented the check on behalf of the company.

"We are grateful for the steadfast support of Anheuser-Busch," said John Fishel, executive vice president of the Federation. "We salute Anheuser-Busch for helping us help others."

This donation is one of 10 being made by Anheuser-Busch to Jewish agencies across the country totaling more than $300,000 in 1998, and more than $2 million since the program began.

In addition to the Los Angeles-area donation, Anheuser-Busch is contributing to the following Jewish organizations this year: United Jewish Appeal Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson, N.J.; UJA-Federation of New York; Anti-Defamation League in Washington, D.C.; Jewish Federation of Greater Houston; Atlanta Jewish Federation; Jacksonville Jewish Federation; Syracuse Jewish Federation Inc.; the Columbus Jewish Federation; and the St. Louis Jewish Federation.

Anheuser-Busch donates funds to hundreds of charities each year. Contributions are focused on communities in which Anheuser-Busch operates breweries and other major facilities, and cover a wide range of local organizations.

Anheuser-Busch, with headquarters in St. Louis, is the world's largest brewer.

             Anheuser-Busch Check-Presentation Attendees:
        Dec. 9, 11:30 a.m., Anheuser-Busch plant, Los Angeles

Sanford M. Gage, 1998 General Campaign chairman
Jake Farber, 1999 General Campaign chairman
Michael Koss, business and professionals division vice chairman
Bill Bernstein, associate executive vice president
John Fishel, executive vice president

Copyright 1998, Business Wire


Wednesday December 2, 7:52 pm Eastern Time

FOCUS-Holocaust survivors ask Fed to delay bank merger

(Adds analysts' comments, Banker's Trust and Fed response)

By Gail Appleson, Law Correspondent

NEW YORK, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Holocaust survivors on Wednesday asked the U.S. Federal Reserve to delay approval of Deutsche Bank's takeover of Bankers Trust Corp. until a probe of the German bank's Second World War activities is completed.

In a letter to Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William McDonough, lawyers for a group of plaintiffs who have sued Deutsche Bank to recover stolen assets urged that regulatory approval be withheld until the bank accounts for profits made through its ``intimate financial collaboration'' with the Nazis.

``Deutsche Bank cannot be permitted to obtain the benefits and protections of doing business in the United States without a full accounting and disgorgement of these assets, which were obtained in violation of international law,'' the lawyers wrote.

The U.S. Federal Reserve confirmed it had received the letter but declined to comment, as did a Bankers spokesman and a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman in the United States.

U.S. banking analysts said the request could stall the approval process but would probably not derail it.

``I doubt that it is a threat to the deal but it could be a threat to timing,'' David Berry, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. in New York said. ``These issues are not necessarily issues that have traction with any kind of law the Fed is supposed to be enforcing. But I do not think the Fed is insensitive to this issue either.''

The letter, on behalf of Holocaust survivors and relatives of victims, asks the bank to condition any regulatory approval of the merger on Deutsche Bank's complete repayment of all stolen assets as well as profits obtained from the bank's financing and control of companies that used slave labor.

On Monday, Deutsche Bank announced it would buy Bankers Trust, the eighth-largest U.S. bank, for $10.1 billion. The deal is expected to be completed by May.

That purchase would be the largest foreign takeover of an American bank and would create the world's biggest bank in terms of assets.

The bank continued its expansion drive on Wednesday when it said it was buying the Belgian business of France's Credit Lyonnais for one billion marks ($593 million) in cash.

``Entrenched in the Nazi economy the Big Six (German banks including Deutsche Bank) conspired with the Reich to dominate the world, in turn profiting from the operations of Hitler's war machine by further consolidating their financial-economic power,'' the plaintiffs lawyers wrote to the Fed.

The lawyers said that although some individual Deutsche Bank officials were held criminally responsible for their actions immediately after the war, Deutsche Bank itself has never accounted for looted monies or profits from slave labor and has never been held civilly accountable for its wrongdoing.

The letter was signed by eight lawyers including those from the Washington, D.C., firm of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll and New York's Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach.

Diane Glossman, an analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York, said of the letter: ``I don't see that it's going to keep the deal from happening. But delay is possible. It happened with Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank.''

Earlier in the year, UBS agreed to settle claims that it stonewalled Holocaust victims seeking the return of dormant accounts, ending three years of confrontation with Jewish groups and avoiding threatened boycotts by U.S. states and cities.


Finland mulling charges against Soviet partisans
10:06 a.m. Dec 02, 1998 Eastern

HELSINKI, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Finland is considering bringing war crimes charges against former Soviet partisans for killing Finnish civilians during World War Two, a state prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Christer Lundstrom told Reuters it was not possible to release any details of the investigation because he was still sorting out basic facts. ``We have some details we need to check up on before we can go forward,'' Lundstrom said.

The two countries were at war twice in the 1939-45 period.

In the ``Winter War'' of November 1939 to March 1940, Stalin's Soviet Union, still neutral in Nazi Germany's conflict with European democracies, attacked Finland and wrested away a border area of 42,000 square km (16,000 square miles).

In 1941 Finland joined Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union in hope of regaining the lost territory. It signed a separate armistice in 1944.

The new investigations centre on alleged attacks by Soviet partisans on Finnish villages in northeastern border areas. Between 100 and 300 civilians, including women and children, were killed in such raids, Lundstrom said.

A foreign ministry official said prosecutors had so far not asked for diplomatic assistance in the matter, but Helsingin Sanomat newspaper quoted Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen as saying the case could be examined as part of the cooperation agreement between Finland and Russia on fighting crime.

Lundstrom said the issue of extradition of any potential suspects was looming large for the investigators as it was not clear if agreements between the two countries would be sufficient.

``We have some conditions for extradition, but we have to see if it is possible to use them in this case,'' he said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


French museum says it is owner of Nazi-seized art
10:59 a.m. Dec 02, 1998 Eastern

By Tom Heneghan

PARIS, Dec 2 (Reuters) - A Paris museum accused of holding art stolen by the Nazis said on Wednesday it was the rightful owner of a Georges Braque painting claimed by the heirs of a Jewish art collector.

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, head of the Georges Pompidou Centre, told Reuters his museum had bought the 1914 cubist work ``The Guitar Player'' in 1981 from a Swiss art dealer who had obtained it legally on the art market.

``We can only consider ourselves owners in good faith,'' said Aillagon, who had not yet seen details of an ownership suit filed by descendants of the French art collector Alphonse Kann.

The descendants' lawyer, Francis Warin, said on Tuesday he had filed a lawsuit against unnamed defendants for receiving stolen goods.

According to the French daily Liberation, the Braque painting was stolen from Kann's large collection in 1940 but the Nazis had no interest in such modern art and ``recycled'' it on the open market.

The work was exchanged for a Dutch nativity scene meant to be given to top Nazi Hermann Goering, it said, and was then bought and sold during the postwar years until the Pompidou Centre finally acquired it in 1981.

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts said on Monday the Claude Monet painting ``Water Lilies 1904'' that it had on loan from a museum in Caen, France, was probably confiscated by the Nazis from its prewar Jewish owner Paul Rosenberg.

The museum in Normandy had no comment on the report, referring questions to national museum authorities in Paris, who were not immediately available for comment.

President Jacques Chirac opened the new Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Paris on Monday containing 27 paintings from the Pompidou Centre that were unclaimed after the war.

He said the families of the former owners should be compensated somehow but that these artworks belonged to France's national heritage and should stay in the country.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, told Le Monde daily the WJC wanted these artworks to be at the centre of discussions at a conference on Holocaust era assets currently being held in Washington.

``Can French museums be allowed to enrich themselves with the remains of Nazi plundering?'' asked Steinberg, who said these paintings should be auctioned off or contributed to a future ``museum of rescued art'' in Israel.

``We will tell the French delegates in Washington: 'The MNR paintings do not belong to you,''' he said, using the official French acronym for stolen artwork recovered after the war.

Museum authorities had not received any demand for the Monet painting on loan in Boston to be restored to the Rosenberg family, Liberation said. But it quoted an unnamed offical as saying: ``If there is any claim, it will be handled in France.''

The head of the French Jewish community, Henri Hajdenberg, suggested the French state could solve the ownership question by paying a sum which would be used to start a foundation to teach younger generations about the Holocaust and human rights.

That would keep the artworks in France, a goal Hajdenberg said he also supported.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Wednesday December 2 1:41 PM ET

Germany Ponders Spielberg Archive

By ANNE THOMPSON Associated Press Writer

BERLIN (AP) - The latest idea for Germany's much-debated national Holocaust memorial would join an existing exhibit of Third Reich terror with Steven Spielberg's filmed interviews of Holocaust survivors.

The plan, pushed by Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, is more appropriate than proposals for building a giant memorial in the heart of Berlin, historians and other top intellectuals were quoted as saying in the current issue of the weekly newspaper Die Woche.

``You don't have to be monumental to touch people's souls,'' said Gyoergy Konrad, president of Berlin's Academy of Art.

Spielberg already has offered to move his Shoah Visual History Foundation to Berlin. The U.S. film director has suggested ``meditation rooms'' where visitors could watch interviews with Holocaust survivors, according to a recent article in the news magazine Stern. The foundation has compiled nearly 50,000 interviews.

Diepgen wants to combine Spielberg's archive with the Topography of Terror, an exhibit of Third Reich documents and photographs in the cellar of the former Gestapo and the SS headquarters, where Nazis tortured political prisoners.

Critics of the large memorial plan have long argued that the Topography of Terror is the most appropriate Holocaust memorial Germany could have, largely because of its location at a site where Nazis planned and executed their crimes.

``Any memorial for the murdered Jews and other Nazi victims should be closely linked to the Topography of Terror,'' historian Heinrich August Winkler was quoted as saying. ``An active memorial at a site of Nazi atrocities can preserve the memory of the crime against humanity.''

Plans for a national Holocaust memorial have been a subject of heated debate for nearly 10 years.

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl supported proposals to build a huge monument, about the size of two football fields, on a central Berlin lot near the Brandenburg Gate. Opponents argued that the monument would not be educational enough, and that a single sculpture could not represent an atrocity as sweeping as the Holocaust.

The new government, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, has advocated scrapping the monument and wants to preserve the remains of the former Nazi concentration camps instead.

Parliament is to debate plans for the Holocaust Memorial early next year.

Spielberg directed ``Schindler's List,'' a movie about a non-Jewish industrialist who saved thousands of Jews during World War II. He was awarded one of Germany's highest state honors in September.


Polish PM promises to remove new Auschwitz crosses
06:24 a.m. Dec 02, 1998 Eastern

WARSAW, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek has pledged to remove all crosses recently erected by radical Roman Catholics near the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz in southern Poland.

Buzek made the promise in a letter delivered to Jewish leaders at a recent conference in Washington and published on Wednesday by Poland's biggest circulation daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

``All new crosses...will be removed. The Polish government is determined to do it as soon as possible,'' Buzek wrote.

Jewish groups object to any religious symbols near the camp, where 1.5 million people, more than 90 percent of them Jews, were murdered in Nazi gas chambers.

But the prime minister's reference to ``new crosses'' means that the largest, a 21-foot (seven-metre) cross, under which the Polish-born Pope John Paul II prayed in 1979, was likely to stay at the site, just outside the walls of Auschwitz.

Radical Catholics have created a sea of smaller crosses surrounding the ``papal'' cross to defend the presence of Christian symbols at the camp. Polish bishops' calls to remove the crosses have been unanswered.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Russia Said Willing To Help On Holocaust Era Art
12:59 a.m. Dec 02, 1998 Eastern

By Carol Giacomo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia told an international conference Tuesday it would cooperate fully in efforts to ensure restitution for Holocaust survivors whose art work was looted by the Nazis, participants said.

``The bottom line is he pledged full cooperation in the effort to identify and seek to return of victim-related art objects,'' Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), said of the remarks by Valery Kulishov of Russia's Culture Ministry.

Undersecretary of State Stuart Eisenstat called the development ``a real breakthrough.'' The Russians were ''extraordinarily forthcoming about their willingness to participate fully in this process,'' he said.

They spoke as nearly 50 nations and 13 non-governmental groups ended the first of three days of serious discussion on how to compensate survivors for billions of dollars in art, communal property and insurance claims.

The total value of Holocaust era assets, which includes communal property and insurance as well as art, is not yet officially known.

But Ronald Lauder, board chairman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, estimated that ``50 percent -- 110,000 pieces of art worth $10 billion to $30 billion -- are still missing.''

Lauder, who heads the WJC's art recovery commission, said ''every institution, art museum and private collection has some of these missing works.''

Many of the confiscated art works were returned after the war but others are now held by museums around the world, like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, or in private collections.

Lauder, saying ``the list of Nazi collaborators in the art trade is long,'' urged the international art world to cooperate with the WJC in identifying unrecovered Nazi loot.

``If you do not want to work with us in this way, we will review all the (art) publications and find the works with dubious provenance,'' he added.

He faulted the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Switzerland for their handling of the issue.

Steinberg said Kulishov promised Russia would help create a global database of art objects so survivors can locate their missing property and Moscow would ``welcome any approach to them to identify material.''

But Kulishov continued to distinguish between art seized from Holocaust victims and so-called ``trophy art.''

Trophy art ``is still an issue of great contention because there they (Russians) are talking about the issue of what is essentially reparations for the destruction of cultural property in the east,'' Steinberg said.

Earlier, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, invoking her Jewish grandparents who died in the Holocaust, urged the conference to resolve the growing struggle over Nazi-seized assets.

Organizers strove to set a balanced tone, with Albright urging an ``atmosphere free from threats'' and saying ``our goal must be justice ... we must dig to find the truth.''

``The struggle to reveal and deal with the full truth surrounding the handling of Holocaust era assets is wrenching but also cathartic,'' she said.

``Only by knowing and being honest about the past can we gain peace in the present and confidence in the future.''

Albright recalled how she recently learned that her grandparents were Jewish and died in the Holocaust, along with some of her with aunts, uncles and cousins.

``I think of the blood that is in my family veins. Does it matter what kind of blood it is? It shouldn't. It is just blood that does its job. But it mattered to Hitler. And that matters to us all. Because that is why six million Jews died.''

The conference follows one held last year in London that dealt primarily with gold looted from Nazi victims.

This year, Swiss banks reached a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups, allowing attention to shift to other assets.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Wednesday December 2 2:48 AM ET

Russia To Return Stolen Art

By LAURA MYERS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Russia agreed to return to Holocaust victims or their heirs art looted by the Nazis, but the French rejected a plea to auction more than 2,000 works of art the government has held since World War II.

A senior U.S. official called Russia's plan a ``breakthrough'' at an international conference to set informal standards for the return of stolen assets.

But the French delegation rejected a plea Tuesday from a top official of the Museum of Modern Art and the World Jewish Congress to auction, for the benefit of Holocaust victims and their families, more than 2,000 pieces of looted works the government has held at museums since World War II.

``It has been impossible to give back,'' Louis Amigues, a leading member of the French delegation, said in an interview, despite the publication of the list of looted art on the Internet for the past year.

Amigues, like French President Jacques Chirac, said the government would not consider auctioning the paintings and other works to aid Holocaust victims. ``It is not the French way,'' he explained. ``The French way is to try and find the owners or their heirs. The art belongs to them and nobody else.''

The four-day conference, a mostly closed meeting that continues today, involves 44 countries, the Vatican and more than a dozen groups, including Jewish, art, history and insurance organizations.

On Tuesday, Moscow's representative, Valery Kulishov, surprised the conference by pledging to try to identify and return ``victim art'' looted from individuals and religious and community centers by the Nazis and then taken as ``reparations'' by the Soviet government for damage caused and lives lost at Germany's hands. Russia said nothing about returning ``trophy art'' taken from institutions.

Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, head of the U.S. delegation that organized the conference, called the Russian gesture ``a real breakthrough.'' He noted that Moscow also agreed to a U.S.-proposed set of principles that would require return of looted art, if possible, or restitution.

``The political will exists now'' for returning the art, Eizenstat declared at a news conference. He added that delegates seemed to have ``a collective sense of urgency to participate.''

In Russia's case, time will be short for individuals to make claims, according to a law passed by the Duma in April that gives people 18 months to make a government-to-government request for restitution, Eizenstat said. The Russians told delegates they are willing to speed up their work and asked for help in setting up a database to determine the history of plundered artworks, he said.

The Nazis looted an estimated 150,000 pieces of art from Western Europe during the war and some 500,000 pieces from Eastern and Central Europe, the delegates were told.

Ronald Lauder, chairman of the board of the Museum of Modern Art and an official with the World Jewish Congress, estimated 110,000 pieces of art worth $10 billion to $30 billion are still ``missing'' and said virtually every large museum, institution and private collection contains some. A review of 225 museum catalogs over the summer by his group found 1,700 looted pieces of art, he said.

Lauder called on governments and museums to return the art or auction it to help Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors and their families.

``It is time for museums to set the same standard for ownership that they expect of themselves for authenticity,'' he told delegates. ``Is the art genuine? Is the art genuinely theirs?''

The U.S. Association of Art Museums formed a panel in June to address the problem.


British investigators focus on Nazi slave labor
11:44 a.m. Dec 02, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - British investigators on Wednesday named 11 companies that used slave labour from Nazi concentration camps and said the release reflected a new focus with broad implications requiring compensation of survivors.

``This is a massive new investigation with huge implications all over the world, including the United States,'' said British Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust.

Janner said the following companies were found to have used slave labour from Nazi camps in the following pursuits: AEG (electronics); BMW (aircraft engines); Daimler-Benz (aircraft engines); Dresdner Bank (construction); Dynamit Nobel (explosives); I.G. Farben (synthetic fuel); Ford (trucks).

Also: Knorr (food processing); Krupp (munitions); Siemens (electronics, underground factory construction); Volkswagen (munitions, armoured cars, rockets).

Janner said the trust just completed a report on the issue of Nazi slave labour which found that about a million Jews died as a result of slave labour. There were 7.7 million non-Jewish slave labourers under Nazi control in late 1944, he said.

He spoke on the fringes of a U.S.-hosted international conference that was discussing how to compensate Holocaust survivors for billions of dollars in art, communal property and insurance claims seized by the Nazis.

``I believe that these companies which are today run in a moral and decent way by honourable people will wish to make appropriate amends. There may be legal implications of a massive kind -- claims made against them -- but equally there is a huge moral obligation,'' he said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Wednesday December 2 2:35 PM ET

Vatican Accused Of Withholding Nazi-Era Information

By Carol Giacomo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Vatican was accused Wednesday of refusing to fully open its World War II archives as an international conference grappled for a second day with compensating Holocaust era victims for Nazi-looted assets.

Lord Janner, chairman of Britain's Holocaust Educational Trust, said the Holy See's lack of cooperation raised fresh suspicions about its wartime collaboration with Hitler's Nazis.

``If the Vatican has nothing to hide, they should open it (archives) up,'' he told reporters.

He said he did not believe Pope John Paul II was aware of the problem.

Janner also named 11 companies that he alleged had used slave labor from Nazi concentration camps and said the data, based on a new study, reflected a new focus with broad international implications requiring compensation of survivors. He spoke on the fringes of a U.S.-hosted international conference involving 43 countries and 13 non-governmental groups that is discussing how to compensate Holocaust survivors for billions of dollars in art, communal property and insurance claims seized by the Nazis.

Janner said his group repeatedly asked the Vatican for information but received no satisfactory reply.

``We need to know the truth and there is no reason why one of the greatest moral centers in the world cannot find that truth,'' he said.

``We are certain that into the Vatican came not only human beings -- SS (Nazi police) people on their way out (of Germany) -- but property, art, assets. We have no idea what. And we're saying to them, as we do to every other country and authority, please tell us what happened. Please tell us the truth,'' he said.

This was needed so that the truth could be a matter of historical record, and so that -- where appropriate and possible -- restitution could be made to the survivors, he said.

``We do know that many monasteries saved many thousands of Jewish lives. We also know that others cooperated,'' Janner said.

Stephen Ward, another investigator, said the trust complied with a Vatican suggestion that it read 12 volumes ''summarizing'' the Vatican World War II archives.

But the documents, which had to be translated from four or five languages, only showed aid given to refugees and stopped half-way through 1945, he said.

``That means you have no idea what they may or may not have done to shelter war criminals or their money,'' Ward said.

He said the group's inquiry to the Vatican focused on five areas: prisoners and refugees; financial links, if any, to the Reichsbank during the war; how did they manage investments in Germany and Italy during the war; records for Vatican transactions with banks in London, Switzerland and elsewhere.

Turning to the slave labor issue, Janner said: ``This is a massive new investigation with huge implications all over the world, including the United States.''

He said the following companies, most of them German, were among those to have used slave labor from Nazi camps in the following pursuits: AEG (electronics); BMW (aircraft engines); Daimler-Benz (aircraft engines); Dresdner Bank (construction); Dynamit Nobel (explosives); I.G. Farben (synthetic fuel); Ford (trucks).

Also: Knorr (food processing); Krupp (munitions); Siemens (electronics, underground factory construction); Volkswagen (munitions, armored cars, rockets).

It was not clear whether Janner was referring to parent companies or European subsidiaries. In response to earlier reports, some companies have denied involvement.

Janner said the trust just completed a report on the issue of Nazi slave labor which found that about a million Jews died as a result of slave labor. There were 7.7 million non-Jewish slave laborers under Nazi control in late 1944, he said.

``I believe that these companies which are today run in a moral and decent way by honorable people will wish to make appropriate amends. There may be legal implications of a massive kind -- claims made against them -- but equally there is a huge moral obligation,'' he said.

Some legal actions are already underway. Two German banks, Dresdner Bank and Deutsche Bank, asked a U.S. federal court on Nov. 20 to dismiss an $18 billion class-action suit brought against them by five Holocaust survivors.

They denied survivors' allegations that the institutions profited from property stripped away from death-camp inmates by Nazi soldiers.

The conference, which ends Thursday, follows one held last year in London that dealt primarily with gold looted from Nazi victims.

This year, Swiss banks reached a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups, allowing attention to shift to other assets.

Janner said the work of Holocaust-related research and restitution cannot end with this meeting and there must be some ongoing mechanism created to continue the process.


Austria's PSK bank to examine Holocaust charges
11:17 a.m. Dec 03, 1998 Eastern

By Richard Murphy

VIENNA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Austria's post office savings bank said on Thursday it would examine claims that it had discriminated against Jews after World War Two when it reimbursed people whose accounts were seized by the Nazis.

The British-based Holocaust Educational Trust said in Washington on Wednesday that the bank, Oesterreichische Sparkasse (PSK), had reimbursed some account holders in full but had not repaid obligations to Jews.

``The allegation that the Republic (of Austria) behaved in a racist manner when the Oesterreichische Sparkasse was re-established after the war should of course be examined,'' PSK chairman Max Kothbauer said in a statement.

PSK has already commissioned a study of its archives by independent historians to determine how it dealt with assets of victims of the Holocaust.

When Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, the bank was dissolved and incorporated into the German post office. It was reconstituted in 1945.

In October this year, it said it would pay out the remaining balance of accounts looted by the Nazis to relatives of the holders -- some 2.4 million schillings ($191,000) -- but could not return the full balances as these had never been returned to PSK.

Kothbauer told Reuters that present-day PSK had no legal liability for what happened before 1945.

Asked if the state-owned bank would consider compensating anyone found to have been treated unjustly, he replied: ``That is the logical consequence.''

``If we come to the view that there was an unjust solution, then we have to react,'' he added. ``If you ask me what and how much, I cannot give you an answer. The point of the process is that we put everything on the table in front of the public.''

Stephen Ward, associate director of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said on Wednesday that a political decision had been taken in 1945 to reimburse account holders still in Austria but not Jews.

``Every payment to any PSK account holder was an ex gratia payment,'' Ward said. ``They chose to honour the payments to the Austrians but not to honour the debt to the Jews.''

Kothbauer said he regretted the fact that the Trust had made its allegations publicly without first informing PSK or the historian representing Austria at this week's international conference in Washington on the search for assets looted by the Nazis.

He expressed surprise at calls by the Holocaust Educational Trust's chairman, British peer Lord Janner, for the bank to open its books, saying it had already done so. ``Lord Janner is pushing at an open door,'' he said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Thursday December 3, 4:54 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Berger & Montague, P.C.

Holocaust Survivors Seek Looted Torah Scrolls & Other Ceremonial Religious Artifacts, According to The World Council of Orthodox Jewish Communities

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- At the United States Holocaust Memorial Foundation's international conference now underway in Washington, The World Council of Orthodox Jewish Communities called for the return of looted ceremonial religious artifacts used in Jewish homes and synagogues for centuries up until the Holocaust. The World Council delegation, representing tens of thousands of religious Holocaust survivors from around the world, was led by Rabbi Hertz Frankel, a long-time activist in preserving Jewish cemeteries and heritage sites in Eastern Europe, as well as its General Counsel, Mel Urbach, Esq.

The World Council issued a 67-page report at the Conference, describing how the Nazis and their collaborators systematically looted all Jewish synagogues and homes of their religious ceremonial objects. Hundreds of thousands of Torah scrolls and ornaments, menorahs, mezuzahs, ceremonial goblets, and religious manuscripts remain missing since the Holocaust. It is believed that many of these items remain hidden in museums and private collections. In addition, after the Holocaust many of these items are believed to have been seized by Communist governments in Eastern European countries.

``These are religious ceremonial items that were used by our parents and grandparents for centuries prior to the Holocaust. Once a ceremonial item is dedicated to religious service, its holiness can never be removed,'' said Mel Urbach, during the World Council's presentation to the Conference on communal property. Urbach also called upon all forty four governments represented at the Conference to respect Jewish law on this issue so that holy ceremonial objects can be recovered and returned to their owners or, if heirless, to synagogues in need, especially those reopening in Eastern Europe. According to Urbach, several of the Conference delegates from Eastern Europe expressed their willingness to cooperate with the World Council in its efforts to trace and return Torah scrolls and other ceremonial artifacts lost since the Holocaust.

The World Council of Orthodox Jewish Communities, Inc., is based in New York, N.Y. Its constituent members reside in North America, Israel, Europe and Central and South America. The World Council is also a plaintiff in recently settled class action litigation against Swiss banks.

The World Council's full report, and further information, can be obtained by calling Mel Urbach at 212-254-6211.

SOURCE: Berger & Montague, P.C.


Thursday December 3, 4:21 pm Eastern Time

Holocaust Victims Eye Deutsche Bank

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lawyers for Holocaust victims have asked the Federal Reserve to delay approval of Deutsche Bank's $10.1 billion purchase of Bankers Trust Corp. until the German bank pays restitution for its handling of Jewish assets during World War II.

In a letter to the Fed officials in New York and Washington, lawyers suing Deutsche Bank assert that it stole and hid cash and other assets from Jewish families during the Holocaust that have never been returned to survivors or their families. The letter also accuses the bank of profiting from slave labor during the war.

The German giant is preparing to petition the Fed to buy Bankers Trust, the nation's eighth-largest bank. In deciding whether to allow bank acquisitions, the Fed considers, among other things, the ``public interest.'' The New York Federal Reserve Bank acknowledged receipt of the letter but said it would have no comment.

Holocaust victims and relatives sued Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank last June in New York federal court for $18 billion.

The letter from the plaintiffs' lawyers was signed on behalf of 10 named clients and a potential class of ``hundreds of thousands.'' It asks bank regulators to determine whether Deutsche Bank ``continues to retain assets... wrongfully acquired, wrongfully withheld, or profits generated from (the) financing and control of companies that used slave and forced labor.''

``We are asking the Fed to extend consideration of the merger until such time as the war record of the bank is investigated, and then depending on the outcome of the investigation, to condition the merger on complete restitution,'' Michael D. Hausfeld, the lead plaintiffs' lawyer, said Thursday.

Deutsche Bank issued a statement Thursday saying its chief executive, Rolf Breuer, told regulators the bank has long been in a ``constructive dialogue'' with Jewish groups and that it was participating in a private German fund, being organized by the government, to compensate Holocaust victims.

The Deutsche Bank statement said it had no choice but to turn over accounts and deposits belonging to Jews to the Nazi government. If the deposits were still available after 1945 they were returned to account owners who applied, the statement said. Unclaimed accounts and deposits were turned over to a branch of the Finance Ministry in the mid 1970s, the statement said.

Last August the New York State Banking Department and U.S. legislators held up the merger of the U.S. operations of the Swiss banksUBS AG and Credit Suisse until the banks agreed to pay Jewish groups $1.25 billion in compensation for wartime losses.

A second lawsuit against Deutsche, filed last month by a cousin of the late lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, charges Deutsche Bank still has deposits from her grandmother worth $400 million today. Deutsche Bank has denied the claim.


German Court Blocks WWII Payment

By Tony Czuczka
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, December 3, 1998; 11:41 a.m. EST

BONN, Germany (AP) -- A German court today overturned a compensation award to a Polish-born Jewish woman who was forced into slave labor under the Nazis, dampening hopes for other Holocaust survivors in eastern Europe.

The Cologne state superior court threw out a $9,000 award to Rywka Merin for her forced labor at a munitions factory under Nazi SS guard while she was imprisoned at the Auschwitz camp during World War II.

A Bonn court ordered the payment last year because Merin lived behind the Iron Curtain until 1968 and missed a 1965 deadline for seeking compensation from Germany.

But the higher court upheld a government appeal of the award, citing postwar German restitution laws that paid reparations for suffering or health loss, but denied former slave workers the right to sue for back pay.

It also rejected appeals on behalf of 22 other former Jewish slave laborers who were denied back wages in last year's ruling because they had already been compensated by Germany.

All the plaintiffs were slave laborers at Auschwitz during 1943-1945, forced to work 12 hours a day, six days a week for periods ranging from 27 to 68 weeks. Most were Polish citizens.

Germany has paid more than $60 billion in reparations to Nazi victims, but has refused to honor wage claims by slave laborers, who were technically working for private companies.

About 7 million slave laborers were forced to work in Nazi Germany during the war, mostly from Poland and the Soviet Union.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Thursday December 3 4:59 PM ET

Report: Degussa Made Death Camp Gas

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - German television reported Thursday that the chemical firm Degussa AG was primarily responsible for production of the gas used in Nazi death camp executions, not IG Farben as long held.

The report by ARD is based on information taken from files recently made available in Poland.

Degussa, based in Frankfurt, declined to comment on the report's specifics, pointing to a class-action suit charging it with willingly helping the Nazis produce Zyklon B and assisting in processing gold seized from Jews. The suit, filed in the United States in August, seeks all of Degussa's assets, which totaled about $2.1 billion at the end of the 1997 fiscal year.

Degussa and IG Farben owned equal 42.2 percent shares in Degesch GmbH, which delivered to the Nazis the Zyklon B cyanide tablets used to gas hundreds of thousands of concentration camp inmates. IG Farben, a chemical company dissolved after the war, has long been identified as the chief producer of Zyklon B through a subsidiary.

But ARD, citing documents at the High Commission for Investigating Nazi Crimes in Poland, reported that Degussa's sales division actually controlled Degesch, not IG Farben.

The gas was produced by a facility in Dessau under contract for Degussa, ARD reported. Degussa paid for the gas and turned it over to Degesch without receiving commission. Degesch then delivered it to the Nazis.

Degussa also controlled two known Zyklon B production sites east of Prague.

ARD said Degesch earned a profit of $176 million in today's currency through the delivery of 20 tons of Zyklon B to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz from 1942-43.

After the war, Degussa chief Hermann Schlosser denied any knowledge of Zyklon B production. He remained on the board of directors into the 1950s.

Degussa, the largest precious metals refiner in Europe in the 1930s and '40s, has opened its archives to researchers to ``clarify'' its smelting of gold, silver and jewelry confiscated from Jews by the Nazis during that period, as well as its part in making Zyklon B.


Attack Photo Sparks Israel Debate

By Dafna Linzer
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, December 3, 1998; 8:02 p.m. EST

Attack Photo Sparks Israel Debate

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- A single photograph -- that of a young Israeli soldier cowering under the blows of a Palestinian mob -- ignited a fierce nationwide debate Thursday over whether Israel has lost its military nerve.

The photo was splashed across the front pages of every newspaper in Israel.

While the prime minister and others wondered out loud why the soldier never opened fire with his M-16 rifle Wednesday, other Israelis insisted the new recruit would not be alive today if he had acted otherwise.

``What has happened to us, for God's sake? Are we a country with a strong defense force or have we turned into a country of wimps?'' wrote Yaacov Erez, the editor-in-chief of the Maariv newspaper.

His words struck deeply into the psyche of Israel, a country founded on the ashes of the Holocaust and whose aim was to never allow Jews to be vulnerable again.

Cpl. Assaf Meyara, 19, was recovering Thursday from multiple injuries inflicted by a dozen Palestinians who smashed the windows of the car he was sitting in, dragged him out and struck him repeatedly with chunks of concrete.

The mob, fresh from an anti-Israel demonstration, also stole Meyara's rifle as he ran to safety, then set his car on fire.

The ambush prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze troop withdrawals from the West Bank and suspend implementing the latest U.S.-brokered Mideast peace accord.

Netanyahu suggested Thursday that Meyara should have followed open-fire procedures and should have been more prepared.

``If a soldier or civilian is caught in a life-threatening situation, it is his right and even his obligation to save himself in accordance with the law,'' he told reporters.

Defenders of Meyara, including President Ezer Weizman, said it was a mistake to judge a young soldier newly assigned to the often violent West Bank. On radio talk shows, many Israelis said Meyara escaped alive because he didn't open fire and risk the chance of having his gun grabbed and turned against him.

``Assaf was in (the West Bank) for all of three weeks, without a full briefing, without experience, he was alone without other soldiers and he acted like any officer, general or even the army's chief-of-staff would have to save his life,'' said Meyara's mother, Lisa.

In a military-minded country where a majority of its citizens are drafted for lengthy army service, many questions regarding standard training and procedures were raised as a result of Wednesday's attack.

Meyara's rifle was not loaded, and some reports suggested it was in the back seat of the car instead of in Meyara's possession at the time -- both serious violations of army regulations.

Moments before the car Meyara was riding in was attacked, an Israeli army jeep drove through the same intersection on the outskirts of the Palestinian-controlled city of Ramallah. The jeep was pelted with chunks of rock by the same group of Palestinians and then drove off, rather than remain on the scene, clear the junction and help protect other Israeli cars.

Veteran Israeli defense correspondent Ronnie Shaked said the images of both Israeli soldiers and civilians fleeing from Palestinians has crushed Israel's deterrent image of strength -- and will encourage Palestinians to further test Israeli troops.

An unnamed army official quoted by Maariv said the army may issue charges against Meyara for not using his weapon. An army spokesman said any possible discipline would only come after an investigation.

Meyara's mother, an immigrant from England, told Israel radio her son was not sure he was permitted to shoot at the crowd. She also said she would leave the country with her son if the army tried to punish him.

``We could have been on the way to a funeral today,'' she declared.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Poland eyes extradition of ex-Stalinist official
11:03 a.m. Dec 03, 1998 Eastern

WARSAW, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Poland moved closer on Thursday to asking Britain for the extradition of a Stalinist-era prosecutor, now a British citizen, on charges related to the execution of a World War Two hero after a 1952 show trial.

A military court ordered the arrest of Helena Wolinska-Brus, 79, a move that paved the way for the justice minister to formally ask British authorities for her extradition.

``The court's decision is only the beginning of a lengthy procedure. It is premature to say what the final outcome will be,'' justice ministry spokeswoman Barbara Makosa-Stepkowska told Reuters. She said it was impossible to predict when the decision on the extradition request would be made.

Wolinska-Brus is accused of failing to follow arrest rules and keeping August Emil Fieldorf, a general in the Polish ``Home Army'' which resisted Nazi German occupation, too long in prison without presenting charges.

Fieldorf, alias Nile, was purged by the post-war Communist authorities at the urging of the Soviet Union because the Home Army had helped foster a spirit of independence among Poles resentful of Soviet domination after 1945.

Wolinska has denied all allegations, saying she had not been involved in the Fieldorf case when she was chief prosecutor.

If convicted, she faces between six months and 10 years in jail.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, son of a former Polish foreign minister of the same name, has said Wolinska-Brus moved to Oxford, England after fleeing Poland in 1968 to escape an anti-Semitic campaign waged by the communist authorities.

She is the wife of an eminent Oxford University professor.

Bartoszewski has said Wolinska-Brus was responsible for keeping his father, a renowned dissident, in prison without charges for 18 months in the 1940s.

Fieldorf, a former deputy commander of Poland's underground resistance army, was arrested in November 1951 and executed on February 24, 1953 for allegedly trying to overthrow the Polish state.

In 1989, the Polish prosecutor-general cleared him of the charges for which he was executed.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Swiss propose conference on Internet racism
06:24 p.m Dec 03, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Switzerland offered on Thursday to organise an international conference on how to stop racists using the Internet to spread their views.

The head of the Swiss delegation to a conference in Washington on Holocaust era assets, ambassador Thomas Borer, said that as early as last year the Swiss police had identified 700 web sites carrying racist and anti-Semitic material.

``The need for international cooperation in this field is obvious ... It is a critical task for every nation to contain the spread of hate propaganda on the web,'' he added.

The Swiss delegation offered no date or venue. It first wanted to sound out interest, a Swiss official said.

``Everyone was quite supportive but obviously it takes a little while to get everything together,'' said Swiss embassy spokeswoman Keri Douglas.

Many European countries, including Switzerland, already have legislation against denying the Holocaust or inciting racial hatred, regardless of the medium.

This has persuaded some racist groups to move their Internet operations to the United States, where the First Amendment protects ``hate'' speech from prosecution.

The head of the U.S. delegation, Stuart Eizenstat, gave a cautious welcome to the Swiss invitation. ``We appreciate the spirit in which the Swiss government has made its proposal on Internet racism and anti-Semitism,'' he said.

At a news conference later, he called censorship of the Internet for racism or pornography a ``difficult issue.''

The Jewish group B'nai Brith organised a similar conference in Toronto last year, with participants from around the world.

At a United Nations seminar on the subject in Geneva in November 1997, experts concluded it would be difficult to stamp out racist web sites, both for technical reasons and for fear of limiting the freedom to propagate other messages.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Thursday December 3 4:34 PM ET

Conference Agrees On Guidelines For Nazi-Looted Art

By Carol Giacomo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An international conference on assets seized from Holocaust victims by the Nazis ended Thursday with agreement on guidelines that are expected to have a major impact on the international art world.

The 11 principles, which are nonbinding on the 44 nations and 13 nongovernmental groups at the U.S.-hosted meeting, would impose on countries a moral commitment to identify and publicize stolen works so the original owners can claim them.

``From now on, the sale, purchase, exchange and display of art from this period will be addressed with greater sensitivity and a higher international standard of responsibility,'' U.S. delegation leader Stuart Eizenstat said.

``This is a major achievement which will reverberate through our museums, galleries, auction houses and in the homes and hearts of those families who may now have the chance to have returned what is rightfully theirs,'' he added.

Despite what organizers called a ``breakthrough'', the complex art issue continued to fan debate. The World Jewish Congress faulted France, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic and Switzerland for not doing enough.

But Eizenstat, in his concluding remarks, cited several countries for ``courageous steps,'' including Switzerland, the Netherlands and France. All hailed Austria as a model.

Some feared the conference would harm the art market by creating greater uncertainty.

The United States called the conference as part of the recent campaign to clear up loose ends from the Nazi era, when Germany plundered and massacred millions of European Jews.

Delegates discussed how to restitute or compensate Holocaust survivors for billions of dollars in art, communal property and insurance claims seized by Hitler's forces.

They also focused on efforts to educate people on the Holocaust as a way of preventing such a thing happening again. Sweden offered to hold a conference on this subject next year.

Chairman Abner Mikva called the meeting a ``landmark'' that made advances in all areas, although Eizenstat said efforts to return communal property to Holocaust survivors were too slow.

Russia, which earlier shifted position and agreed to cooperate fully in restitution efforts, stunned organizers by handing over actual records Thursday to Eizenstat.

One is a 40-page list of several hundred art works, including coins and weapons, taken from Austrian Jews and sent to various museums in Austria.

The second document lists art seized by the Nazis from the collections of two Austrian Jews, Louis Rothschild and Leo Furst. Some of the pieces went to Hitler's museum in Linz.

The third was a letter to Dr. Hans Posse, who chose looted art for Hitler, warning him that Rudolph Gutmann, a Jew, might have fled Germany for Austria with a medieval manuscript.

``This is not proof ... but one of the leads that might help the legal successors of his (Gutman's) family to find his own property. In September 1942, his property was in the Vienna National Library,' Russian delegate Valery Kulishov said.

German delegate Antonius Eitel, in a move hailed by participants as significant, announced that henceforth ``any work of art that belonged to a victim of the Holocaust and may still be in the possession of the German government will be returned to the survivors or their successors.''

``If neither victims nor successors can be traced, the work will be handed over to the Jewish claims conference,'' he said.

The total value of Holocaust era assets is not known.

But Ronald Lauder, board chairman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, estimated that ``50 percent -- 110,000 pieces of art worth $10 billion to $30 billion -- are still missing.''

Lauder, who heads the World Jewish Congress's art recovery commission, has asserted that every institution, art museum and private collection has some of these missing works.

Many of the confiscated art works were returned after the war but others are now held by museums around the world, like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, or in private collections.

Under the 11 principles, countries would make an active commitment to encourage the process of identifying the stolen art and restoring it to the owners. For the past 50 years, many governments have obstructed such claims.

They would also try to set up a central registry of information about art looted by the Nazis, probably on the Internet, so that claimants can have easy access to it.

In addition, Eizenstat said there are plans for a ''mega-website'' as central database for all Holocaust-related information, including the conference proceedings.

He said the conference put a sharp focus for the first time on the contentious issue of communal property -- schools, churches, synagogues -- seized by the Nazis.

He placed special emphasis on urging new democracies in eastern Europe to return property, especially Poland where there are upward of 5,000 claims and the government in recent years has shown more commitment to resolving the problem.

Poland may host a follow-up conference on this issue.


Thursday December 3 2:21 AM ET

Holocaust Conference Focuses on Art

By LAURA MYERS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Paintings confiscated from Jews by Nazi Germany, including Picassos and Cezannes, could be returned to prewar owners or their heirs or auctioned to benefit Holocaust survivors under guidelines being considered by an international conference.

``The art world, insofar as dealing in Nazi-looted art, will never be the same again,'' said Stuart Eizenstat, undersecretary of state and head of the U.S. delegation sponsoring the meeting.

The conference brought together delegates from 44 countries, the Vatican and more than a dozen organizations representing Jewish, art, history and insurance interests, who were to approve the nonbinding principles today.

Delegates, by consensus approval, were also pressing for the return of communal property such as former synagogues, schools, community centers and cemeteries to the care of Jewish groups in Eastern and Central Europe after decades of being in the hands of the Nazis or communist governments.

Outstanding life insurance claims from as many as 800,000 Jewish families would also be paid off within two years, if possible, by an international commission formed earlier this year, under another key conference principle.

Eizenstat said he was ``impressed ... almost overwhelmed'' by what the conference had accomplished in four days in working to set informal standards on dealing with art and communal property that remains unclaimed or outside Jewish control so many years after World War II.

He was especially pleased with Russia's announcement it would try to identify and return art that was looted by the Nazis and then plundered by Stalin's troops as ``reparations'' for Germany's wartime assault.

``The Russia delegation, in effect, opened a new chapter in restitution,'' Eizenstat said Wednesday. ``I am confident that some of the greatest collections in the world will be returned to their rightful owner and a vast storehouse of information about other works will open up.''

Still, many obstacles remain in returning what the World Jewish Congress estimates is about 110,000 pieces of ``missing art'' from the Holocaust that is considered looted and of unclear origin. The estimated value of the artworks is $10 billion to $30 billion, the group says.

Historical records are murky, with the passage of time. The conference called on archives to be open for examination and for sharing information to help investigate claims and the provenance of art.

The various countries also have far different legal obligations.

France has been working diligently for two years to try to identify prewar owners or heirs of 2,058 pieces of art in government custody and museums, putting the list on the Internet, but it insists on only direct restitution and has so far rejected calls by some Jewish groups to hold an auction to benefit Holocaust survivors and their families if owners or heirs can't be found.

Eizenstat suggested museums and collectors be flexible and accept diary entries and insurance listings as evidence of prewar ownership in cases where there's no bill of sale.

The conference principles leave wide room for interpretation. In language European delegates insisted on, the principles declare, ``The conference recognizes that among participating nations there are differing legal systems and that countries act within the context of their own laws.''

The guidelines themselves simply call for reaching an unspecified ``just and fair solution.''


Gypsies seek more than compensation for persecution
12:23 p.m. Dec 03, 1998 Eastern

By Jonathan Wright

WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - For Europe's 12 million Roma or gypsies, this week's conference in Washington on assets looted in the Holocaust goes beyond the horrors of the past. It could help redress the grievances of the present.

The plunder of Europe's Jews, by far the largest group of victims, held centre stage at the three-day meeting, but the Roma, who lost between 200,000 and 500,000 members in Nazi death camps, tried to stake their own claim to justice.

``The main point of this conference is that the Roma should be regarded and treated equally with other victims, Jews and others, on an equal level,'' said Rajko Djuric, president of the International Romani Union.

The Roma may not have lost many Old Masters to Nazi looting but recognition of the tragedy that befell them in World War II is part of an uphill struggle for equality in modern Europe, where once again neo-Nazis pick on them as easy targets, the Romani leader told Reuters in an interview.

``The Roma still suffer very strong prejudice. Racism is rising again. In some countries the neo-Nazis are organising, infiltrating public life,'' Djuric said.

``I see that apartheid was abolished in South Africa but 12 million Roma in Europe are still victims of this kind of apartheid and many of them live in far worse conditions than black people in South Africa,' he added.

But on the international scene, the Roma have made some progress. The United Nations recognises the International Romani Union, Djuric is at the Washington conference and he addressed the opening session.

That's a far cry from the post-war years, when the Roma missed out on most compensation for war crimes, on the grounds that the Nazis did not persecute them as a race.

The internal Nazi evidence tells a different story. In 1942 Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels asserted that ``Jews and Gypsies should be exterminated unconditionally.''

The Romani are the descendants of people who started migrating from northern India more than 1,000 years ago.

Speaking a language closely related to Sanskrit, they came to Europe as nomads but many have since settled, especially in eastern Europe, where Romani farming communities exist.

Roma scholars Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon estimate that 219,700 of Europe's 936,000 Roma died under Nazi rule.

Djuric, with scholarly support from Gabrielle Tyrnauer and others, says the real figure to closer to half a million.

Barry Fisher, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents Romani causes, said there were few coordinated international efforts to seek reparations for the gypsies until 1979, when a young Romani led a march on Bergen-Belsen death camp.

The pace of recognition has quickened. The Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust, set up in 1997, has set aside about 33 million Swiss francs ($24 million) for non-Jews.

Djuric said his union had received 15,000 applications and had organised payments to 2,000 Roma in Germany, Austria, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Macedonia.

Most got between 1,000 and 2,000 francs ($730 and $1,460).

The Romani leader said his immediate priority was to channel any compensation funds to hungry Romani children.

``This is the emergency aspect and there is also the more long-term aspect -- that the structures have to be built so that the Roma nation can live in dignity,'' he added.

``Our people are forced to live without sufficient daily bread in ghettos, denied any meaningful existence. For us Roma the future has not been liberated from the fetters of the past,'' he added.

Asked which mattered more, recognition of a historic justice or help in building the future, Djuric said his sons would have to take precedence over his father.

``My sons represent the future. But I should not forget the sufferings of my father. To my sons I say: 'Do not seek revenge. Seek the truth because without it you cannot even be a human being.','' he added.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Vatican rejects charges of hiding Nazi-era files
09:25 a.m. Dec 03, 1998 Eastern

VATICAN CITY, Dec 3 (Reuters) - The Vatican on Thursday rejected fresh demands for complete access to its World War Two archives.

Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement the Holy See had years ago published 11 volumes of documents covering the period from March 1939 to May 1945, in addition to a more recent volume in French.

``This exhaustive selection of documents from the Vatican archives allows it to be said that there is nothing -- I repeat nothing -- to add to what has already been published,'' he said.

Lord Janner, chairman of Britain's Holocaust Educational Trust, said on Wednesday the Holy See's failure to fully open its archives raised fresh suspicions of wartime collaboration with Hitler's Nazis.

``If the Vatican has nothing to hide, they should open it (the archive) up,'' Janner said on the fringes of a U.S.-hosted international conference on how to compensate Holocaust survivors for billions of dollars in Nazi-looted assets.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Greece asks Germany to pay back war loan
11:19 a.m. Nov 11, 1998 Eastern

ATHENS, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said on Wednesday the new German government should repay a multi-billion dollar loan taken by Nazi occupation forces in World War II from the Bank of Greece.

``The enforced loan is a bilateral issue which remains open and pending,'' Pangalos said during a presentation of a book on the Jewish community in Greece.

``Germany refused to discuss it until now but I believe the new government, which is especially sensitive to human rights issues, will open the discussion to return the loan,'' he said.

Bank of Greece and government officials have said the money taken by the Nazis in the form of loan from 1942 to 1944 amounted to $3.5 billion.

They said that applying a minimum three percent interest lifted the total amount owed today is around $13 billion.

Nazi forces occupied Greece from 1941 to 1944 and the loan was used to fund their army.

Germany has so far refused to discuss the loan issue, saying Bonn's financing of European Union projects in Greece was enough of a payback.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


ADL And Learning Co. Create Hate Filter
10:31 a.m. Nov 12, 1998 Eastern

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Anti-Defamation League, which has been monitoring hate groups for 85 years, has teamed up with educational software maker The Learning Co. to create a filter that screens out hate sites on the Internet.

Dubbed the ADL HateFilter and available from the ADL's Web site (www.adl.org), parents can install the screen on home computers and thereby keep ``bigotry and prejudice out of their homes,'' ADL National Chairman Howard Berkowitz said.

The ADL HateFilter sits atop the Learning Co.'s Cyber Patrol product, a filter that is used by both parents and teachers to block children's access to Internet sites ''containing drug information, sexual text, nudity. Things that parents may consider inappropriate for children,'' a spokeswoman

for Cambridge, Mass.-based software maker said.

The ADL HateFilter does not just screen hate sites, but also provides a link to obtain information about the hate groups, the Learning Co.'s Susan Getgood said.

``We've basically been doing this for 85 years, we just transferred the information to the Internet,'' explained ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum.

The sites filtered are those that in the ADL's judgment advocate hatred, bigotry or even violence toward Jews or other groups on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other immutable characteristics.

The ADL, founded in 1913, is holding its 85th annual National Commission meeting in Boston.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


ADL fears Holocaust's meaning lost in asset war
03:40 p.m Nov 13, 1998 Eastern

By Leslie Gevirtz

BOSTON, Nov 13 (Reuters) - The head of the Anti-Defamation League on Friday expressed fear that the battle over Holocaust-era assets will only rekindle anti-Semitism and reinforce stereotypes of Jews and money.

``I'm concerned that the last sound bite of this century on the Holocaust will be 'Jews and their money. Jews and their property,''' Abraham Foxman told his members at the 85th annual ADL national commission meeting in Boston. Founded in 1913, the ADL's mission has been to combat anti-Semitism through programmes that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, noted the recent settlements with Swiss banks, European insurance companies and others and questioned whether the price of recovering the material assets was worth ``creating hatred and anti-Semitism.''

In August, two Swiss banks agreed to set up a $1.2 billion fund to make restitution for not returning assets of Holocaust victims. On Tuesday, the World Jewish Congress released a 150-page list of artwork looted by Nazis and on Wednesday, six European insurance companies agreed to set up a $90 million humanitarian fund for Holocaust survivors.

``Jews were killed because they were Jews, not because they had gold teeth, not because they had a Monet, not because they had insurance, not because they had bank accounts. They were killed because they were Jews,'' Foxman said.

He said Jewish leaders must always bear in mind ``What is this justice going to cost us ... My greatest concern, most people who don't know by virtue of television coverage in the last three years, think the Holocaust is about money. Jews and their money.

That's too high a price to pay.''

Some 50 years after the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews, the U.S. State Department, spurred by the World Jewish Congress, has scheduled a December conference in which representatives from 42 countries will deal with questions of restitution of stolen Holocaust-era assets.

The World Jewish Congress, which has spearheaded the effort to recover at least some of the looted assets on behalf of Holocaust survivors and Israel, has been aided in its quest in part by the fall of the former Soviet Union and the declassification of Allied wartime documents.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Peres To Head Volkswagen's Nazi Slave Fund
12:55 p.m. Nov 13, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres will head the administration of a 20 million mark ($12 million) fund that German automaker Volkswagen AG launched this year for surviving World War II slave laborers, the company said Friday.

Company spokesman Klaus Kocks said the fund would go ahead whether or not Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's new government agrees to set up a federal fund in conjunction with industry -- something a number of companies have requested.

Volkswagen's move to launch the fund in September followed increasing pressure on German industry from Holocaust survivors and former slave laborers to make some form of compensation for the injustices of the 1933-45 Nazi era.

The company said it had invited Peres, former Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky and former German President Richard von Weizsaecker to administer the fund, which it said was intended as a ``moral gesture.''

The trio met in Berlin Friday to inaugurate the fund's administrative body, or curatorium, Volkswagen said.

They welcomed the Schroeder government's initiative. Kocks said the Volkswagen fund would not rule out joining a joint fund set up by government and industry.

``The curatorium welcomed Volkswagen's humanitarian efforts to establish a fund for the former forced laborers, thus making a contribution toward easing their present living conditions,'' the company said.

Volkswagen said the body also welcomed ``the creation of the German Federal Fund, which is under consideration.''

Kocks declined to say how large individual payments would be, but a source close to the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said each payment would be about 10,000 marks ($5,928).

Kocks stressed that Volkswagen's fund was not intended to provide compensation but ``humanitarian aid'' for the elderly survivors in their twilight years.

Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker, has said it already provided 25 million marks ($14.8 million) since 1988 for humanitarian projects in the home countries of elderly survivors.

Historians say VW bought some 7,000 slaves from Hitler's SS elite force between 1941 and 1945 and put them to work building land mines, V-1 missiles and anti-tank rocket launchers.

Many of the Nazi-era slave-labor survivors, who now live in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, have received little or no compensation for their unpaid work.

Schroeder, seeking to neutralize a raft of potentially damaging compensation lawsuits against some of Germany's biggest corporate names, has asked his chancellery minister, Bodo Hombach, to head a working group to find a solution to the problem.

Schroeder has also said he was eager to create an all-embracing Holocaust fund that would provide compensation for former slave laborers and Holocaust survivors.

U.S.-based lawyers have filed several class-action lawsuits claiming damages against German companies that used slave labor during World War II.

They have also targeted German banks that profited from trading in Holocaust victims' gold looted by the Nazis and unreturned assets in dormant bank accounts, as well as European insurance companies that failed to honor life insurance policies.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FEATURE - Austria forced to face Nazi theft record
09:03 p.m Nov 14, 1998 Eastern

By Karin Taylor

VIENNA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Stung by international lawsuits on behalf of Holocaust victims, Austria has asked historians to investigate its claim that property seized from Jewish citizens by the Nazis was returned in full after World War Two.

Austrian Nazi-era expert Brigitte Bailar-Galanda, one of a six-member commission of historians who will probe the expropriation of Jewish property, said the injustice suffered by Austrian Jews during the Holocaust extended even beyond the end of the war.

``The myth that 'the Jews got it all back anyway' completely misses reality,'' Bailer-Galanda told Reuters. ``Those responsible did as much as they could to give back as little as possible.''

The creation of the commission follows legal action against major Austrian companies and banks for their exploitation of Holocaust victims' assets and labour after the annexation of the country by Hitler's Third Reich in 1938.

Five Austrian historians and one Israeli will begin the job of piecing together exactly how Jews were systematically stripped of their property and why many never saw compensation after the war was over.

Historians estimate the value of assets stolen from Austrian Jews at between 84 billion and 217 billion schillings ($6.69 and 17.28 billion) in today's money.


In May 1938, the Nazi regime passed a law requiring Jews to register all their possessions with a central authority. The regulation meant Jewish assets -- from homes and businesses to personal effects -- were up for grabs.

``People who were forced to sell their belongings were only allowed to keep a fraction of the sum. The rest of the money was transferred to an account to which they had restricted access,'' said Bailer-Galanda.

The accounts themselves were soon swallowed up by further Third Reich rulings.

Pursuing exactly how assets were looted by the Nazi state is the easier part of the historians' task which is expected to take three to four years.

Tracking what was taken during three months of wrecking and plundering by Nazi thugs before the theft was institutionalised will prove much tougher because no documents exist.

``Looting took place to a totally inconceivable extent,'' Bailer-Galanda said.

``The Nazi authorities stepped in, not out of humane reasons, but because they thought if their party colleagues could get their hands on so much property, the state should also cash in,'' she said.

Even household goods such as radios, electric irons, sports gear and fur coats were confiscated. The deportation of thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps followed.


Although the Austrian republic returned major assets after the end of World War Two, a substantial amount of property was held back from exiled owners or the heirs of families killed in the Holocaust.

Objects of moderate value seized by neighbours and lesser Nazi officials are hard to trace.

``We will have difficulties with household furnishings and works of art that are not Rembrandt,'' said Bailer-Galanda.

Austria this month approved legislation allowing art treasures confiscated by the Nazis and quietly incorporated into national museums after 1945 to be returned to their rightful owners.

But many paintings and antiques that are not museum exhibits may still grace the homes of looters, their children or grandchildren, Bailer-Galanda said.

Because so many Austrians profited from the pickings, politicians of all parties after 1945 were not keen to relieve voters of their recently acquired riches and actively deterred exiled Jews from returning to stake their claims.

``Austria did everything it could to prevent exiles from coming back,'' said Bailer-Galanda.

A persistent minority did come back to regain apartments and businesses. A group of Jews who returned to a Vienna suburb from exile in Shanghai were received by the local mayor, only to be told ``they needn't think they are going to be presented with apartments or work,'' Bailer-Galanda said.

Those who had lived and worked in rented accommodation -- and they were the majority -- had no homes to return to at all. A law intended to allow tenants turned out of their apartments on racial grounds to take up residence in their former homes was never passed.

``Many exiled Austrians say they would in fact have gladly come back if there had been a gesture of invitation,'' said Bailer-Galanda.

Among them could have been this year's Nobel Chemistry prize-winner Walter Kohn. Kohn, whose family owned a postcard business in Vienna, was forced to flee Austria in 1939.

The business was restored to the survivors of the Kohn family after the end of World War Two. But a top-location shop on Vienna's elegant Kaerntner Strasse shopping street was withheld.

Bailer-Galanda hopes the commission's work will contribute to exploding the myth that ``Austrians were all innocent victims.''

``I hope what we dig up will have consequences, whether they are political consequences or whether they lead to greater public awareness,'' she said.

($1-12.56 Schilling)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Ex-Nazi hideout Argentina studies Holocaust museum
05:12 p.m Nov 16, 1998 Eastern

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Argentina, once a hide-out for Nazi war criminals and the site of bloody anti-Jewish attacks in the 1990s, is studying building a Holocaust museum to record the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler's Germany.

Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella said Argentines were ashamed of sympathies felt by their governments for the Nazis during and immediately after the Second World War.

``We are going to try and open a Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires,'' Di Tella told reporters at the inauguration of a commission investigating Nazi activities in Argentina.

Argentina, home to one of the world's largest Jewish communities, has tried to change its image as a Nazi haven since bombing attacks on the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and a Jewish centre in 1994 killed more than 100 people.

In 1995 Argentina deported former S.S. officer Erich Priebke to Italy to face charges connected with the mass execution of 335 men and boys in 1944. Priebke had lived under his own name in the picturesque Andean ski resort of Bariloche for half a century.

Argentina was the hiding place of Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust architect kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents in 1960 and hanged for crimes against humanity. It also gave refuge to concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele, the ``Angel of Death.''

They came in a wave of 40,000 postwar German emigrants attracted by President Juan Peron's open-door policy.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Paris denies blame in looting Jewish property
12:18 p.m. Nov 17, 1998 Eastern

By Lee Yanowitch

PARIS, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Seeking to put an end to a two-year uproar, the city of Paris on Tuesday declared itself blameless in the widespread seizure of Jewish property during the World War Two Nazi occupation.

Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi, breathing a sigh of relief, told a news conference that the French capital owned no real estate seized from Jews under the collaborationist Vichy regime's programme to rid French society of Jewish influence.

``Indeed, it appears that the city does not own any property confiscated from owners considered 'Jewish' by Vichy's legislation,'' Tiberi said.

He spoke as an expert commission issued its report on a year and a half of research into the archives of state agencies and the war-time General Commission for Jewish Questions.

The Paris city council ordered the report in 1996 after the book ``Private Estate'' by journalist Brigitte Vital-Durand accused the city of seizing many buildings in the capital's Marais district, a neighbourhood once heavily populated by Jews killed in concentration camps.

Commission president Noel Chahid-Noura told reporters that the city of Paris had taken over real estate in the Marais district during the Occupation solely for an urban renewal project. Virtually all the owners had been compensated, he said.

Though the city ``paid all that was due,'' the commission is uncertain whether the money ended up in the owners' hands.

In some cases the funds were deposited in accounts in their names, but the state institution in possession of those accounts since the end of the war is still investigating its archives and will need two years to reach a conclusion, he said.

In other cases, owners or their heirs never claimed the money and it was turned over to the Treasury after 30 years.

The city said the neighbourhood in question, dubbed parcel 16 by the city administration, was made up of centuries-old buildings infested with dirt and disease at the time of the war.

The report said most local residents were poor immigrants from Eastern Europe who rented rather than owned their flats.

Of 3,694 buildings acquired throughout Paris by the city during the Occupation, the report identified 49 owners as Jews.

``The city of Paris does not appear to have had a discriminatory policy of an anti-semitic nature,'' Noura said.

``There were only a few isolated cases that could be considered as possible examples of uncompensated seizures.''

Among the properties owned by Jews, two were seized outright while compensation for five others was well below market value.

The population of the Marais slumped to 5,000 from 25,000 during World War Two as Jews fled persecution or were deported.

In all, 76,000 Jews -- a quarter of France's Jews -- were deported to Nazi death camps during World War Two.

Noura said the commission will continue an investigation into whether Jews evicted from their flats were compensated.

A separate commission was formed by former Prime Minister Alain Juppe in 1996 to investigate whether banks, insurance companies and other state agencies were still holding Jewish assets.

  ((Paris newsroom, +33 1 4221 5339, fax +33 1 4236 1072,

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


FEATURE-New project tells victims' tales of Holocaust
10:02 p.m. Nov 17, 1998 Eastern

By Jon Kalish

LOS ANGELES, Nov 18 (Reuters) - At a secret location in Los Angeles, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation has started making the videotaped testimonies of tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors accessible by computer.

With $15 million worth of computer and video hardware donated by companies such as Sony and Silicon Graphics, and free access to a high speed fiber optic network worth tens of millions more, the first of what will eventually be 100,000 hours of heart-wrenching eyewitness accounts of the Nazi genocide is being distributed initially to a handful of repositories in the United States and Israel.

``We want to make this material available in a way that allows you virtually instantaneous access to it,'' said Michael Berenbaum, executive director of the foundation that was started by Steven Spielberg with profits from his Oscar-winning movie about the Holocaust, ``Schindler's List.''

``We are essentially documenting the experience of the Holocaust as described by thousands of people, phrase-by-phrase, moment-by-moment, event-by-event, person-by-person,'' Berenbaum said.

The first CD-ROM produced from oral histories videotaped by the foundation was unveiled in New York recently. Spielberg and three Holocaust survivors demonstrated it for a group of predominantly black and Hispanic high school students.


``It is our duty to tell you about it again and again and again,'' said Sylvia Grohs-Martin, who was active in the Dutch resistance and survived Auschwitz. ``That CD-ROM will show your children, too. And your grandchildren. Long after we are gone you're going to see my face.''

``This is the medium that young people are most familiar with. They absorb it the most. I feel this is the future of all education for the 21st century,'' Spielberg said of the CD-ROM.

The massive video archive created by the foundation in Los Angeles is arguably 21st century technology. It is searchable because the foundation is spending years cataloguing survivor testimonies. The first of five repositories connected to the archive is the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles.

Next year the archive will be accessible at Yale University's Fortunoff Video Archive and at Holocaust museums in Washington, New York and Jerusalem. The material, which will also be used to make educational software and documentaries, is being made available to scholars before the general public.

``This is going to change the way research on the history of the Holocaust is done,'' said Margarete Myers, a history professor at the University of Indiana at South Bend.

``What's so exciting is the amount of oral histories the foundation has collected. I will have access to testimonies of survivors in the former Soviet Union who I never would have been able to get to,'' said Myers, who is writing a book about displaced persons after the Second World War.


``The amount of storage we have and what we're accessing is comparable to what you'd find at oil companies or maybe the IRS,'' Sam Gustman, the foundation's 29-year-old director of technology, said during a tour of the technical facilities.

Gustman pointed to two huge purple boxes the size of refrigerators, explaining that one was a ``very large computer'' and the other was a casing for what was essentially the operation's RAM, a whopping 200 gigabytes of memory.

Nearby in a small glass room were a robot and towers holding hundreds of video cassettes with the survivor testimony.

``Our archive is 150 terabytes,'' Gustman said as the robot searched bar codes on the video cassettes to retrieve a requested testimony. ``That's the equivalent of 150,000 gigabytes or 100 million floppy disks!''

Two trailers on the foundation's site have 40 work stations with video tape players and computers for cataloguing the testimonies, more than 48,000 of which have been recorded so far. There are 45 cataloguers who work two shifts that begin at 7:30 a.m. and run past midnight. It takes about two days for a cataloguer to go through a typical two-hour testimony.

``The process is very detailed,'' Kim Beauchamp, director of cataloguing, said. ``It requires you to watch the story, break it down into little pieces, summarize each of those pieces and apply a controlled vocabulary to contextualize the content of that story. We have a vocabulary of about 10,000 terms that we use to index the testimony. That enables people to search for testimony about a given person, subject, event or place.''


Beauchamp estimates it will take the foundation several years to complete the testimonies in English. Testimonies have been taken in more than 30 languages.

``You hear stories that are so beyond what you're able to comprehend,'' Beauchamp said. ``There are moments where it is very difficult to listen, and I've seen people break down in tears because a story is so moving. And there have been days when I've seen people walk away high as a kite because of some triumphant story they heard.''

Beauchamp says about 60 people have moved to Los Angeles expressly to work in the cataloguing department in the last three years, some from as far away as Greece. At least five people in the department are children of Holocaust survivors.

Chaim Singer-Franks, a 31-year-old supervisor whose father is a survivor, said that as soon as he heard about the job he decided: ``I think this is where I need to go.''

Occasionally he leans over the shoulder of a cataloguer and notices his father's hometown on a computer screen, and often he phones his dad to ask if he knows the survivor. ``It becomes a very personal, almost a selfish, greedy little trip that I go on,'' he said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Anti-Nazi Probes To Be Stepped Up In Latin America
02:53 a.m. Nov 18, 1998 Eastern

By David Haskel

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine President Carlos Menem and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris want to step up Nazi hunting in Latin America, aides said Tuesday.

They said that while Argentina has its own anti-Nazi commission, created two years ago, it believes such activities should be expanded across the region.

At a meeting next month of the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile, Menem will propose that they create their own Nazi-investigating panel, said Argentina's Minister of the Interior Carlos Corach.

``The president asked me that for next month's meeting... that the possibility of extending these types of activities in South America... be brought up,'' Corach said.

The nations at the meeting, set for Dec. 9-10 in Rio de Janeiro, form the so-called Mercosur trading bloc and customs union.

Shimon Samuels, a representative for the Nazi-hunting Wiesenthal Center in Paris, said he will recommend next week in Sao Paulo the establishment of an multinational agency, similar to Argentina's Commission to Clarify Nazi Activities (CEANA).

``I'm going to suggest the creation of a CEANA on a Latin American or Mercosur level,'' Samuels said in an interview while on a visit to Buenos Aires to attend a CEANA meeting.

Argentina has been trying in recent years to erase its image as a haven for Nazi criminals. It deported former S.S. officer Erich Priebke to Italy in 1995. A number of former Nazi's, including Adolf Eichmann and Joself Mengele, have sought refuge in Argentina.

The government created the CEANA in 1996, and is expected to produce a report on its findings and accomplishments next year.

Samuels, the Wiesenthal representative, said he welcomed Argentina's proposal for a regional committee, adding that it was he who first suggested it to Menem this week.

``If Corach is talking publicly about a CEANA for Mercosur, we have similar ideas and I congratulate him,'' Samuels said. ''He's taking my idea, because I proposed that to Menem at yesterday's (CEANA) meeting.''

Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Stuart Eizenstat, who was also at the meeting, endorsed the idea, Samuels said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


German Court Convicts Neo-Nazi

Friday, November 20, 1998; 12:44 p.m. EST

MANNHEIM, Germany (AP) -- A neo-Nazi was found guilty Friday of defaming a Jewish leader and threatening to kill a policeman. He was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison.

The Mannheim state court convicted Guenter Deckert, 58, of defaming Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, by calling him a ``Jewish Fuehrer.''

Deckert, former leader of the radical rightist National Party of Germany, was also found guilty of threatening to kill a police officer sent to arrest him in 1995.

Deckert is currently serving a four-year, three-month term for denying the Holocaust took place, defamation and incitement.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Hitler's alpine retreat to become tourist resort
11:27 a.m. Nov 20, 1998 Eastern

By Dorothee Stoewahse

BERCHTESGADEN, Germany, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Adolf Hitler's Obersalzberg retreat, perched on the edge of the Bavarian alps, is to be converted into a luxury tourist resort, the southern state of Bavaria said on Friday.

Bavarian Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser said that Munich firm Gewerbegrund would pull down the old Hotel Platterhof, which was once part of a holiday complex for the Nazi elite, to build a four-star hotel on its grounds.

The company would invest 55 million to 70 million marks ($32.6 million to $41.5 million) in the 106-hectare (262-acre) site to build a 200-bed hotel which would open in 2002, he said.

Bavaria is already building a historical documentation centre there which is due to open mid-1999.

``The Obersalzberg is a very sensitive place and investors have not fought blindly to invest here,'' Faltlhauser told a news conference in Berchtesgaden at the foot of the 1,834-metre (6,000 foot) mountain on Germany's border with Austria.

``These plans will open a new chapter in the history of Berchtesgaden which will offer the region attractive prospects for tourism.''

The Obersalzberg mountain complex was Hitler's official summer residence. Hitler is said to have planned Germany's 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union from the retreat.

Allied bombers reduced Hitler's chalet, the Berghof, and the chalets of top Nazis Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann to ruins in the dying days of World War Two.

Most of the remains were razed by U.S. forces in 1952.

Faltlhauser said Gewerbegrund was a 100 percent-owned subsidiary of the official Bavarian state bank, the Bayerische Landesbank.

He said it was vital the project was managed by a company like this -- accountable to the Bavarian state -- to prevent entrepreneurs exploiting its Nazi past as a tourist pull.

``The state of Bavaria will do its utmost to prevent the grounds from becoming a shrine for neo-Nazis or old Nazis,'' he said, adding that Gewerbegrund was contractually obliged to ban any Nazi activities there.

Hitler used the Platterhof Hotel to put up his guests and it was also subsidised by the Nazi state for hordes of visitors who flocked there to catch a glimpse of him.

The U.S. military renamed it Hotel General Walker and converted it in to a leisure centre for their troops stationed in Germany. They added a ski centre and golf course which will remain part of the future complex.

Plans to turn the Platterhof into a tourist centre drew criticism from the Los Angeles-based Jewish group, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, when plans were first announced a year ago.

Bavaria started building a historical documentation centre on the grounds last year and historians from Munich's Institute of Contemporary History are compiling the exhibits.

The concept, aimed at demystifying the site and putting it in its historical context, was approved by a panel of some of Germany's most respected historians, including Andreas Nchama, then head of a similar centre on the site of the Gestapo secret police headquarters in Berlin.

Each year neo-Nazis make a pilgrimage to mark Hitler's birthday there on April 20.

The Eagle's Next tearoom on the top of the mountain was built by the Nazi party as a present for Hitler on his 50th birthday. It was one of the few building which survived the Allied bombing and has long since been a state-run cafe.

($1-1.685 Mark)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Hypnosis of Hitler may have affected history-study
12:58 p.m. Nov 20, 1998 Eastern

By Jua Nyla Hutcheson

BATON ROUGE, La., Nov 20 (Reuters) - Adolf Hitler's belief he was meant to rule the world may have stemmed in part from a hypnotic suggestion given during treatment for hysterical blindness in 1918, a Louisiana psychiatrist said in the November Journal of Forensic Science.

Dr. David Post, a forensic psychiatrist at the state's forensics hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, based his theory on a book he believes used material from a German military hospital where Hitler was treated after he was temporarily blinded in a mustard gas attack in the First World War in October 1918.

Hitler was a corporal at the time, but the hospital records from that period were later destroyed by the Gestapo, although Hitler wrote of his sudden blindness and his resolve to enter politics if he regained his sight.

After Germany's surrender on Nov. 11, 1918, Hitler wrote that he had ``a supernatural vision ... A miracle came to pass'' and he could see again.

In a book called ``Eyewitness'' by Ernst Weiss, an exiled German doctor and novelist, a German psychiatrist in a military hospital uses hypnotic suggestion in a still-accepted medical protocol for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

He tells the patient A.H.: ``I am a simple doctor. But perhaps you yourself have the rare power, which occurs only occasionally in a thousand years, to work a miracle. Jesus did it. Mohammed. The saints. ... An ordinary person with such a condition would be blind for life. But for a person of particular strength and will and spiritual energy, there are no limits.''

``You have to have a blind faith in yourself, then you will stop being blind ... You know that Germany needs people who have energy and blind self-confidence. Austria is at an end, but not Germany,'' the book passage stated. Hitler was born in Austria.

Post believes that passage was based on the German Pasewalk Military Hospital notes and records of Weiss' friend, Dr.

Edmund Forster, chief of the Berlin University Nerve Clinic, who treated Hitler at Pasewalk in 1918.

``It was chilling and disturbing to me to read what I believe may have been an account of his hypnotic session,'' Post told Reuters.

Weiss wrote the book for a literary competition in Paris in 1933. He committed suicide as the German army marched into the city and the book was not published until the 1960s.

Weiss also was on the board of a German exiles newspaper Forster contacted in Paris in 1933, taking copies of his records from Pasewalk. Forster warned the editorial board not to be surprised if he were killed.

Shortly after returning to Germany, Post said, Forster was picked up by the Gestapo on charges of ``harboring a subversive attitude toward the new (Hitler's) regime.'' After 13 days of interrogation, Forster was reported to have killed himself.

The records of Hitler's 29-day stay at Pasewalk later were destroyed by the Gestapo, Post said.

Although Hitler suffered what are now considered classic symptoms of mustard gas poisoning, including depression, he was diagnosed as a ``psychopath with hysterical tendencies'' by Forster even before the hysterical blindness, Post said.

Post is a faculty member at the Louisiana State University Medical Centre in New Orleans and a former fellow in forensic psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School, where he began his research on Hitler.

Post documented connections between Weiss and Forster through interviews with historians, a Hitler biographer, a copy of a 1943 U.S. Naval Intelligence report declassified in 1973, and records of the German exiles' newspaper.

``Because of the deaths and the records' destruction, we'll never be able to prove definitively if Weiss' book is a direct account from Forster's reports or just an incorporation of key passages,'' Post said. ``But I'm convinced the account is true.''

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Sandpoint groups working to stamp out hate
Racist mailings spark broad effort to constructively respond to attack

Susan Drumheller - The Spokesman-Review

SANDPOINT _ Racist mailings and white supremacist visitors at a recent human rights meeting here have spurred community efforts to combat hate.

``People are starting to get angry, and we want to diffuse it constructively,'' said Gretchen Albrecht-Hellar, chairman of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.

The immediate plan by human rights advocates, business leaders and politicians is to have Emergency Hate Response Kits ready and available to citizens the next time racist mailings blanket the area.

The kits will include suggestions of how to respond, bumper stickers and window posters supporting human rights, copies of human rights booklets, cards designed by Sandpoint children and a list of the 10 best ways to turn racist literature into something other than its intended purpose.

A communitywide contest will be announced Tuesday to come up with the 10 best uses for the literature.

Albrecht-Hellar said she has never seen such widespread and well-financed hate literature campaigns as the two that recently invaded Bonner County and Kootenai County homes.

The first mailing came out two months ago and consisted of an anti-Semitic booklet and 6-foot-long poster that asserts the superiority of whites. The second mailing included videotapes of an interview with Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler.

Both mailings went to thousands of households in Kootenai and Bonner counties. Two wealthy Sandpoint men -- Carl E. Story and R. Vincent Bertollini -- are behind the mailings.

Since then, the posters and booklets have been found on windshields of churchgoers in Sandpoint. And early last week, two men distributed an anti-Semitic comic book to Sandpoint students. The book was published by Michael Hoffman II of Coeur d'Alene, who publishes a Web site and literature claiming the Holocaust is a myth.

The literature helped pack the room at the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force meeting last week. But to the dismay of human rights advocates, Butler, Hoffman and Bertollini also attended the meeting.

``The meeting scared me to my bones,'' said Sandpoint Mayor David Sawyer. ``The intense conviction Hoffman and Bertollini display make it clear that this is not an issue we're going to debate with these folks.''

Sawyer met with other community leaders afterward, who decided to embark on a long-term effort to counteract the white supremacist efforts. Sawyer also met with Bill Wassmuth of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment to pledge his active support for the cause.

``There's a lot at stake here,'' Sawyer said. ``It's more than image. It's more than an abrasive act that happens every once in a while. It's the quality of the atmosphere of this town that's going to be called into question.

``I don't like having people in our Community Hall dressed like Nazi soldiers.''

Also jumping into the fray are Frederic and Cynthia Wiedemann, who moved to Sandpoint about a year ago. The two run a nonprofit foundation called the Unifying Fields Foundation, which is dedicated to building a sense of connectedness in communities.

``It's easy for our community to hate the haters,'' Frederic Wiedemann said. ``How do we have a community that in some way has compassion for that, but not stand for it?''

The emergency kits are just the beginning of a concerted effort to find a way to prevent racism from festering and growing in the area, human rights advocates said.

``The real work is going to be long-term,'' Wiedemann said.

•Susan Drumheller can be reached at (208) 263-6441, or by e-mail at [email protected]

FEATURE-Stranded Russian enclave ponders identity
09:07 p.m Nov 21, 1998 Eastern
By Olga Popova
KALININGRAD, Russia, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad is suffering from an identity crisis.
Wrenched from the Nazis by Russian troops and then folded in behind the Soviet Union's vast Iron Curtain, the tiny outpost on the Baltic Sea has been physically cut off from the rest of Russia since the independence of Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia.
Kaliningrad may be closer to Berlin than Moscow but the enclave is still very Russian. The once bustling free economic zone is feeling the pinch of Russia's economic crisis as well as the twin scourges of drugs and AIDS.
Foreign-made cars and European-style homes outside the airport might at first convince a visitor that the enclave, which was part of Germany until the end of World War Two, has kept its European roots.
But once you set off down Kaliningrad's bumpy roads, you forget the charming Baltic scenery and feel as if you had never left Russia.
``Yes, we are already in Europe,'' Russian visitors often say. ``Well a poor partner, maybe.''
Kaliningrad's western cars and cheap beer are the last remnants of the privileges once provided by the enclave's status as a free economic zone.
``If privileges remain they only cover car imports. So that's a (free economic) zone. We could get more,'' one resident said.
The imported cars are not cheap to run. Petrol imported from Lithuania costs more than one and a half times as much as in Moscow.
Other sectors of the economy are also struggling to survive in the wake of Russia's crisis.
Farms are being forced to close or cut back production as Lithuanian and Polish produce floods Kaliningrad's market.
It does not matter that farmers in the mild climate can gather five harvests, locals say. Imported food is beating out the local competition and now only four-fifths of the harvest is brought in.
``The fields have been given up,'' pensioner Alexei Semyonovich told Reuters.
But the decline in farming has yielded some benefits.
``At least salmon come to our shores now. Before they did not come because the waters were poisoned by fertiliser,'' Semyonovich said.
Fishing has brought the region much-needed income. Ten percent of Kaliningrad's catch is sold in the Russian Federation.
But the Baltic Sea port is a double-edged sword and has been widely blamed for bringing drugs and AIDS to the enclave.
The rate of HIV infection, the virus which can cause AIDS, was last year projected to be nearly twice as high in Kaliningrad as in Los Angeles.
Alexander, 16, laid the blame for the surge in AIDS and HIV on drugs. ``In the port the drug dealing is out of control,'' he said, adding that young people were most at risk.
Despite the traditionally high quality of education in Kaliningrad, most youngsters seem very uncertain about their future.
In Russia, Kaliningrad is well known for producing mathematicians, astronomers and philosophers. The region boasts six universities and around half a dozen technical colleges.
But many youngsters quizzed by Reuters aspired to nothing more lofty than being a car dealer, as they can make between $500 and $1,000 a time by selling Western vehicles.
``In my opinion the most profitable professions for youngsters nowadays are to be homeless or to trade cars,'' said Mikhail.
Russian World War Two veterans bristle when asked about the future of the land they captured from Nazi Germany.
After the war, the new Soviet authorities in Kaliningrad drove out the remaining German population and brought in people from regions across the Soviet Union whose homes had been destroyed in the Nazi invasion.
Most buildings were cleared from the bombed-out centre of the Prussian city, whose islands and bridges inspired 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant.
The economic crisis, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the appearance of newly independent Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia between Russia and Kaliningrad, has made local people consider independence as an option.
``The people are in a daze and wonder who they can lean on. Now there is a very strong urge to separate,'' said one man who declined to give his name.
People are constantly reminded of their military past. Every street in central Kaliningrad bears the name of a Soviet general.
``Probably the most popular holiday is May 9 (Victory Day). Then all statues are bedecked in colours,'' pensioner Semyonovich said.
But what was once a victorious army now fails to provide shelter from the current crisis.
``Now they say that we have an army here nearly as big as NATO and we feed them nothing,'' Semyonovich said. People in the armed forces are paid about 600 roubles ($34) a month.
``I don't know how we can go on living,'' said Galina, who works with her husband in the border guards. ``We received our wages four days ago and now we've got only 100 roubles.''
($1-17.79 Rouble)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Bankers to Sue Over Hitler Retreat
Sunday, November 22, 1998; 3:40 p.m. EST
MUNICH, Germany (AP) -- Arab investors who say they lost $595,000 competing to install a tourist center at Hitler's Alpine retreat plan to sue Bavaria state over its decision to retain control of the complex, a magazine reported Sunday.
The Munich-based Focus magazine said the group had offered to invest $107 million in the project during two years of negotiations with the Bavarian Finance Ministry.
The group's lawyer, Ralf Brueckner, said the investors were misled about their chances.
``Only at the end of the talks did Bavaria inform us that with this highly sensitive project it was clear from the beginning that Arabs would have no chance,'' he was quoted as saying.
State finance ministry officials were not available to comment.
The Obersalzberg area, 60 miles southeast of Munich, was a retreat where the Nazi elite skied and received foreign guests. The area became a U.S. Army recreation spot after World War II.
On Friday, Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser said a hotel at the site would be razed and a new luxury resort would be built and opened in 2002. The complex will include a nine-hole golf course and six ski lifts.
To dispel any concerns that the site might become a shrine for neo-Nazis, Faltlhauser said the state would maintain ownership to keep a say in its use. A private operator will carry out the $36 million project.
State officials are preparing a documentation center on Obersalzberg's history on the ruins of Hitler's former Nazi guest house. It is to open next year.
The project has been criticized by some as marketing the history of the Nazis. Critics have called for a memorial to Holocaust victims.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Latvian President refuses to apologise for ad
12:08 p.m. Nov 23, 1998 Eastern
By Alan Crosby
RIGA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis refused on Monday to apologise to the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre for a recent Latvian advertisement in the Israeli press.
The centre said the advertisement published in the name of Ulmanis last Wednesday to celebrate Latvia's independence in 1991 noted the positive elements of the history of the pre-war Jewish community in the Baltic nation.
But, the centre demanded an ``unequivocal apology'' for the omission of any mention of the Holocaust and Latvia's role in the killing of Jews.
A spokeswoman for Ulmanis, however, said that given his previous statements on the Holocaust where he expressed contrition, the president did not feel it necessary to mention the subject in an independence advertisement.
``The article devoted to Latvia's 80th anniversary was published in 12 newspapers, including one in Israel, and the president has spoken about the Holocaust on numerous occasions, not on this one, that is all,'' Vita Savicka told Reuters.
``To apologise for something unsaid would be kind of strange,'' she added.
A Wiesenthal Centre statement said the failure to mention the Holocaust was in effect a ``denial of the role played by numerous Latvians in the murder of the local Jewish communities, (and) the annihilation of thousands of German and Austrian Jews deported to Latvia.''
``We urge you (Ulmanis) to unequivocally express your regret regarding this painful omission and take concrete measures to expedite the prosecution of Latvian Nazi murderers as quickly as possible,'' the statement added.
Ninety-five percent of the 70,000 Jews living in Latvia before World War Two were murdered during the Holocaust and Nazi-hunters say local collaboration was widespread.
The most notorius Latvian Holocaust killers were in a murder squad called the Arajs Kommando, which travelled around in a blue bus seeking out Jews.
Since gaining independence in 1992, the Holocaust has been a sensitive subject for Latvia, where German occupation was followed by almost 50 years of Soviet rule.
The subject was rarely touched upon in schools throughout the region during communism and religion was also suppressed.
Lithuania is currently trying to prosecute Aleksandras Lileikis, a 91-year-old former U.S. citizen, in the first war crimes trial held in the former Soviet Union.
But Lileikis, who is accused of handing over 75 Jews to Nazi murder squads while he was head of the regional Saugumas (Security Police), is in fragile health and the trial has been delayed several times due to his illness.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Nazi-hunting group criticises Latvia,seeks apology
06:21 a.m. Nov 23, 1998 Eastern
RIGA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre on Monday sharply criticised the Riga government for not addressing Latvia's World War Two activities and demanded an apology for a recent advertisement it put in the Israeli press.
The centre said the advertisement published in the name of President Guntis Ulmanis last Wednesday to celebrate Latvia's independence in 1992 noted the positive elements of the history of the pre-war Jewish community in the Baltic nation.
But, the centre demanded an ``unequivocal apology'' for the omission of any mention of the Holocaust and Latvia's role in the killing of Jews.
``In effect, this ad is a public announcement that the denial of the role played by numerous Latvians in the murder of the local Jewish communities, the annihilation of thousands of German and Austrian Jews deported to Latvia...has become official policy,'' a statement issued by the centre said.
``We urge you (Ulmanis) to unequivocally express your regret regarding this painful omission and take concrete measures to expedite the prosecution of Latvian Nazi murderers as quickly as possible,'' it added.
Ulmanis's office was not immediately available for comment.
Ninety-five percent of the 70,000 Jews living in Latvia before World War Two were murdered during the Holocaust and Nazi-hunters say local collaboration was widespread.
The most notorius Latvian Holocaust killers were in a murder squad called the Arajs Kommando, which travelled around in a blue bus seeking out Jews.
Since gaining independence in 1992, the Holocaust has been a sensitive subject for Latvia, where German occupation was followed by almost 50 years of Soviet rule.
The subject was rarely touched upon in schools throughout the region during communism and religion was also suppressed.
Lithuania is currently trying to prosecute Aleksandras Lileikis, a 91 year-old former U.S. citizen, in the first war crimes trial held in the former Soviet Union.
But Lileikis, who is accused of handing over 75 Jews to Nazi murder squads while he was head of the regional Saugumas (Security Police), is in fragile health and the trial has been delayed several times due to his illness.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Library's Internet Block Shot Down
By Dale Hopper
Associated Press Writer
Monday, November 23, 1998; 8:18 p.m. EST
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A Virginia county's effort to block Internet pornography from computers in its public libraries is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said Loudoun County libraries are not required to offer Internet service but they must not violate the right to free expression if they offer access.
The county just west of Washington, D.C., installed filtering software, called X-Stop, in library computers to block access to Internet sites that contain certain words or phrases in an attempt to keep children from accessing sexually explicit sites on the World Wide Web.
The library system violated the First Amendment because the filters were not necessary to further any compelling government interest, were too broadly applied and had inadequate procedures to ensure prompt judicial review, the ruling said.
The judge cited alternatives such as using different terminals for children and adults or having a terminal with a switch allowing the filter to be easily turned off for use by an adult.
The library was sued by a group of residents last December who claimed that using the software was a form of government censorship, and the ACLU intervened in the case to represent several sites which were blocked by the library.
``Any library censoring any material on the Internet will have to think very hard whether this is acceptable in light of this opinion,'' said Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney for the ACLU.
Ken Bass, an attorney for the library, said the judge left some room for libraries that want to restrict Internet access for children.
``What she found unconstitutional was primarily that it used the same standard for adults as for children,'' he said.
Bass said he would ask for a 15-day stay of the ruling to give the library board of trustees time to decide whether to turn off the computers or the filter.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Catholics Told to Improve Relations
By Amanda Covarrubias
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 1998; 7:43 p.m. EST
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Roman Catholic Church must continue to work to eliminate vestiges of anti-Judaism from its teaching to improve relations between the faiths, Cardinal Roger Mahony told Jewish leaders Tuesday.
Addressing criticism over the Vatican's failure to offer a clear apology for its actions during the Holocaust, Mahony told The Board of Rabbis of Southern California that the church is committed to expanding Holocaust studies in Catholic schools and religious education programs.
``The United States is uniquely situated to implement the mandates by the Holy Father and the Holy See in confronting the painful memories of the past,'' said Mahony, head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the country.
Some Jews claim the Vatican has not shed full light on the role of the World War II pope, Pius XII, who they say could have done more to save European Jews from the Nazis. The Vatican forcefully defended Pius in a document earlier this year on the church and the Holocaust, and the document did not apologize for any failures by church leaders.
When asked if the church would condemn Catholics by name who stood by in silence while millions of Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, Mahony said it was doubtful.
But he said the Pope will expand on the Vatican report on the church and the Holocaust during the 1999 Lenten period leading up to Easter.
``Rather than naming names, you will see the Pope asking forgiveness for the actions of people in a variety of religious roles at a variety of times,'' said Mahony, a key adviser to Pope John Paul II. ``During Lent, you will see a significant change.''
Rabbi Harold Schulweis, who hosted the event, said afterward, ``I like everything I heard.''
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

France lends out art Nazis looted - Jewish group In LOS ANGELES
07:56 p.m Nov 25, 1998 Eastern
France lends out art Nazis looted - Jewish group In LOS ANGELES story headlined ``France lends out art Nazis looted - Jewish group,'' please read in first paragraph ...
routinely sending abroad ... instead of ... routinely sending aboard ... (correcting typographical error).
A corrected story follows:
By Arthur Spiegelman
LOS ANGELES, Nov 25 (Reuters) - French museums have for 50 years been routinely sending abroad for exhibit art masterworks that were looted by the Nazis, a Jewish group said on Wednesday.
The World Jewish Congress said works by Picasso, Matisse and Leger had been placed on display in Berlin, London and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art without any indication that the artworks were stolen and technically were not owned by France.
Museums involved include the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre, the group said.
In one instance, a looted impressionist painting by Maurice Utrillo was sent to Israel in 1954 for exhibit, the WJC said, basing its findings on a study of exhibition catalogues. These were compared with the names of more than 2,000 Nazi-looted artworks that France admitted receiving after the war and not returning to their rightful owners.
The Jewish group made its finding public before a 44-nation meeting scheduled to begin in Washington next Monday to consider measures for returning Holocaust-era assets, including artworks. France is among the nations that will attend.
The meeting is a follow-up to an international conference on Nazi gold held last year in London.
``At the London conference, France said they were temporarily holding these paintings. We are expecting that at this conference, they will announce they are releasing them.'' Elan Steinberg, the WJC's executive director, said.
Ronald Lauder, chairman of the WJC's art recovery unit, is expected to call at the conference for the freeing of ``these last prisoners of war,'' Steinberg said.
Among the works of art that France has exhibited aboard that were looted by the Nazis was Max Ernst's ``Fleurs de Coquillages,'' which was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1968 and then exhibited in Boston and Moscow.
Leger's ``Woman in Red and Green'' was shown at London's Tate Gallery in 1950, and Picasso's ``Head of a Woman'' was exhibited in Tokyo in 1996.
After the war, France received more than 15,000 works of art that had been looted, partly from private French collectors. Of that number, French museums are still holding 2,058 works of art ``in temporary safekeeping.''
Lauder is expected to urge the French and other European nations still retaining looted works to sell them at auction and give the proceeds to Holocaust survivors.
Austria held such an auction of looted art in 1996.
A 1945 document from the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, estimated that the Nazis looted about one-fifth of Europe's art treasures, especially targeting Jewish collections.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Thursday November 26 12:41 PM ET

Czechs To Return Jewish Property

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - The Czech government has established a commission to return Jewish property confiscated during World War II, a Jewish community official said Thursday.
The commission, to include members of the government and the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, is to map out by March all property that has not been restituted, Alena Rubesova said.
The state has already returned about 80 percent of confiscated Jewish properties which it held.
Restitution was delayed by 40 years of communism, which ended here in 1989, and subsequently by insufficient legislation. About 120,000 Jews lived on Czech territory before the Holocaust. Now there are about 6,000.
The government plans to return to surviving Holocaust victims all remaining property confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. It will also create a fund for compensation where restitution is impossible.
Besides the state-held properties, the Federation of Jewish Communities demands return of property now owned by municipalities and individuals. About half of the 202 properties are yet to be returned.

Thursday November 26 10:58 AM ET

Ex-Nazi Charged in 17,000 Deaths

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) - German prosecutors charged a 79-year-old former Nazi soldier Thursday as an accessory in the deaths of 17,000 people, mostly Jews at the Majdanek concentration camp.
The Ukrainian-born man, arrested at his home in Stuttgart in March, is accused of participating in systematic killings at the camp in November 1943, while he was a Nazi officer and Gestapo agent in Lemberg, in present-day Ukraine.
State prosecutors did not identify the man in a statement announcing the charges. However, security sources previously said his name is Alfons Goetzfried.
At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said he admitted personally shooting 500 adults and children. He is accused of helping load weapons for the other killings, prosecutors said.
Despite his alleged direct role in hundreds of the killings, he was charged as an accessory because he did not hold a command position, the statement said.
The investigation against the suspect continues in 45,000 other killings near Lemberg as well as near Lublin, Poland.
The man volunteered for the German army in 1941 and first worked as a horse caretaker. He later became a translator, then a member of the security police in Lemberg in 1943.
He was imprisoned in a Siberian camp for 13 years after World War II, and lived in Kazakstan until 1991, when he moved to Germany and became a citizen.
Prosecutors said at the time of his arrest that he had been tried previously for war crimes by British and Soviet authorities during the 1950s and 1960s. No date has been set for a trial.

Thursday November 26 7:19 AM ET

Israel: Open Holocaust Archives

By NICOLAS B. TATRO Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel wants greater access to international Holocaust-era archives and has published a list of repositories that officials say have put obstacles in the way of researchers.
In a letter released this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's adviser on Diaspora affairs, Bobby Brown, named a dozen archives in Europe and Russia that ``have refused or have been uncooperative in sharing information.''
The state institutions named included the Vatican archives, the French National Archives, the files of the British Custodian of Enemy Property, the British MI5 intelligence agency and the central state archives and Prague Jewish Museum in the Czech Republic.
``We appeal to each institution listed to open their files so that we may learn why civilized society failed in its basic commitment to ensure the safety, lives, liberty and property of our people,'' said the Nov. 22 letter. It was addressed to the head of Israel's delegation to an upcoming Washington conference on Holocaust assets.
Publication of the letter, which did not give details of non-cooperation, drew fire from a number of the institutions named.
``We've given them everything they wanted, every single document,'' Czech Interior Ministry spokesman Jan Decker said, adding Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum still owed $4,600 for microfilmed documents provided by the Jewish Museum.
Other critics questioned whether Israel, itself the target of boycotts, should be issuing blacklists.
``Blacklists are something that we as a people should shy away from,'' said Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. Singling out archives is ``irresponsible and counterproductive,'' Foxman told The Associated Press.
The controversy arose in advance of a four-day conference on Holocaust-era assets that opens Monday in Washington. Delegations from 44 nations will discuss looted art, insurance, communal property and the opening of files belonging to private companies and public agencies.
Brown said Israeli and German officials had met to discuss unresolved issues from the Holocaust era. These included the opening of private archives to document the use of slave labor in Nazi-run factories.
Citing specific examples in an interview, Brown said the British custodian had allowed historians to look at World War II-era bank accounts but not records of safe deposit boxes. He also said that MI5 had not provided all material from secret British agencies from that period.
``(M15) is reviewing its World War II archive, but to the best of our knowledge there is nothing on MI5 files that is relevant to the Holocaust,'' a Home Office spokesman in London said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Philippe Delaval, head of the French National Archives, said he was ``astonished'' the archive was accused of restricting access, especially since it recently welcomed a delegation from the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Israeli officials said, however, that the archive would not allow documents to be copied or taken out of the country.
The Vatican, which said only that it has made everything available that it could, has been involved in a long-running dispute with scholars over access to all its archives. Israeli officials said interest focused on documents of Pope Pius XII, whose silence during World War II has been questioned by Jews.
Brown also said the Tripartite Gold Commission, set up in 1946 by the United States, Britain and France and which recently wrapped up its work, should turn over its information on gold stolen from Jews - including gold teeth and jewelry melted down and sold as bars by the Nazis.
``Jews were not only the victims of murder and robbery, but (we) lost most of our history, and we need it back,'' he said.
Brown said the archives of the former Soviet KGB intelligence agency and the military archives in Podolsk were effectively closed, while the Federal Archives in Russia charged exorbitant rates to foreign researchers.
Yelena Palshina, who oversees use of documents at the archive in Moscow said access to documents is free. The archive charges $1 to copy a page, however, ``because we are very poor,'' adding that the institution got only 40 percent of its budget from the state.
Roni Stauber, an expert on the Holocaust at Tel Aviv University, said pressure needs to be applied to free up documents but that Israel should not compile blacklists or criticize publicly.
``It's possible that government pressure will not be productive because it could become a political matter instead of a research matter,'' he said.

Friday November 27 4:48 PM ET

Pope Calls for Penance, Forgiveness

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER Associated Press Writer
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Calling Christianity's 2,000th anniversary a year of mercy, new decrees from Pope John Paul II offer the faithful a chance for forgiveness - and say the church will seek forgiveness as well.
John Paul's papal bull, being issued Sunday, upholds a 700-year-old tradition of celebrating church anniversary years, or Jubilees, by offering ``indulgences'' - acts of penance that allow followers to be forgiven for their sins.
For individuals, John Paul says, the penance can be as simple as giving up smoking for a day.
Expanding the tradition, the pope also is inviting such acts of atonement by the church and its clerics - and by nations, in the form of forgiving Third World debt.
``As a successor of Peter, I ask that in this year of mercy the church, strong in the holiness that she receives from her Lord, should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters,'' John Paul writes.
Papal bulls are solemn edicts, emphasized by the use of fine paper and lead seals. The Vatican released copies of the bull on Friday.
John Paul wants the church to enter the third millennium with a clear conscience. He has expressed regret for some past actions of Catholics, including the church's overall failure to do more to help Jews against the Nazis.
Jewish groups and others have urged a specific recounting of church wrongs.
After calling for Catholics' ``humble recognition of our faults,'' John Paul's edict pointedly adds, ``At the same time, there will be no lack of fair-minded people able to recognize that past and present history also records incidents of exclusion, injustice and persecution directed against the sons and daughters of the church.''
The papal bull also addresses Israel's claim to the entire city of Jerusalem, a claim that the Vatican does not recognize. Church leaders want the city's holy sites of all faiths protected by international statute.
``May the Jubilee serve to advance mutual dialogue until the day when all of us together - Jews, Christians and Muslims - will exchange the greeting of peace in Jerusalem.''
For individuals, the bull outlines acts of penance as simple as volunteer work for charities, or giving up ``superfluous consumption'' such as smoking or drinking.
Jubilee indulgences are a tradition going back to Pope Boniface VIII, who marked 1300 by offering ``abundant remission and pardon of sins'' to those who made pilgrimages to St. Peter's Basilica that year.
Strapped for cash, the medieval church increasingly resorted to taking money for indulgences - Martin Luther's top complaints among the famous 95 theses he nailed to a church door in Germany in 1517.
Excommunicated for his dissent, Luther founded Protestantism.

Saturday November 28 9:11 PM ET

France To Compensate Jews

By MARILYN AUGUST Associated Press Writer
PARIS (AP) - Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said Saturday that France will create a centralized body to investigate restitution claims from heirs and descendants of Jews whose property was confiscated during World War II.
Jospin told Jewish leaders that the government would put an additional $1.75 million to boost staff working on satisfying individual claims.
``For France, it's a question of learning from its history and of making reparations where necessary,'' Jospin told the annual dinner hosted by the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions.
Fifty-three years after the close of the war, France is still plagued by accusations that it is hesitant to face its pro-Nazi collaborationist past.
Jospin denied suggestions that a government-appointed commission of experts investigating the widespread, systematic plundering of Jewish property met resistance from French banks and insurance companies thought to hold unclaimed Jewish assets.
``The deliberate discreet nature of its work should not mask the scale and quality of the results it has already achieved thanks to the active participation of the state agencies concerned,'' Jospin said.
Jospin said the commission would complete its probe by the end of 1999. He said a French delegation of officials and experts would attend the meeting in Washington D.C. that starts Monday on looted Jewish assets.
He praised France's national museum authority for doing its utmost to track down the owners or heirs of some 2,000 pieces of unclaimed art in its possession.

Saturday November 28 2:14 PM ET

Report: German Firms Near Slave-Labor Deal

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - German industrialists are nearing agreement on a compensation plan for wartime slave workers in talks with the government and the ambassadors of Israel and the United States, Der Spiegel news magazine said Saturday.
``The plan is to set up a compensation fund financed by industry and an agreement between the government and the United States that would give official status to the private fund,'' it said in a summary of a report in Monday's edition.
Bodo Hombach, minister in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's office, reportedly promised in the talks with leaders of Siemens, Krupp, DaimlerChrysler, BMW and other major firms, that the government would support German companies facing U.S. lawsuits seeking compensation for slave laborers.
But Der Spiegel said Hombach made clear Bonn, which has paid billions of marks in compensation to victims of the Nazis and World War Two, did not intend to pay state money into the fund.
``This initiative lets society complement the official policy of compensation, which we consider completed,'' he was quoted as telling the business leaders. No figures were mentioned.
Under the Nazis, millions of slave laborers, mainly from Eastern Europe, were forced to work for German firms. Those who still live in the former communist bloc have often received little or no compensation.

Saturday November 28 11:01 AM ET

Ownership of Ship Wreckage Debated

By HELEN O'NEILL AP National Writer
Richard Steinmetz knew exactly what the federal marshals wanted when they pounded on his door: his nicotine-stained shipwreck treasure, the Alabama bell.
For years the bell, a relic of the notorious Confederate raider, the CSS Alabama, sat in his antiques store in New York. In 1990, strapped for cash and facing heart surgery, Steinmetz put it up for auction.
Then the feds came calling.
``They accused me of stealing government property,'' Steinmetz says, wheezing in indignation when he recalls the scene. ``I told them they were stealing if they took it from me.''
Wrong, he was told. The Navy doesn't abandon warships. All of them, even rusting confederate ones, belong to the United States government.
Never mind that the bell had spent 73 years in the murky depths off the coast of France, that it had been fished out by an English diver in 1937, that he had traded it for drinking rights at an island pub, where for years it was rung as last call for locals. War erupted. The pub was bombed. The bell wound up in an English antiques store, where it was eventually bought by Steinmetz.
Today it sits in a Washington Navy museum, still black from years of pub smoke.
Steinmetz, who fought his claim in court unsuccessfully for years, wasn't the only one left shaking his head at the peculiar brand of justice that rules the high seas.
There are thousands of shipwrecks around the world and thousands of treasure hunters searching for them, spinning dreams of gold as they scour the ocean blue.
These days, something strange is happening. Technology is making those dreams come true.
Little underwater robots that roam the deep, plucking pieces-of-eight from Spanish galleons; deep diving submersibles that ferry tourists to the North Atlantic to view the ghostly remains of Titanic; mixed-gas scuba gear that lets divers glimpse bones in German U-boats at depths unheard of a couple of decades ago.
Titanic. Lusitania. Andrea Doria. Britannic.
In recent years divers have explored them all and more, hauling up all sorts of booty. Delicate blue-and-white porcelain from 17th century Chinese junks, gold from the California gold rush, bronze sculptures from ancient Roman vessels, a pirate's 280-year-old black walnut pistol - and his silk sock.
The discoveries bring lawsuits and questions: Who are the rightful owners of the wrecks and their belongings: descendants, the state, salvors?
And a trickier question. Who has the power to decide, particularly when a wreck lies in international waters far from the jurisdiction of any one country?
Who owns the gold at the bottom of the deep blue sea?
Even as courts try to grapple with answers they raise more questions.
``It's like the Wild West with a showdown at high noon and afterwards everyone says 'where was the sheriff?','' says Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard. He is referring to the salvors, treasure hunters, sports divers, archaeologists, scientists, oceanographers and military all scrambling to stake their claim to the ocean floor.
This year saw its share of high noons on the high seas.
- Titanic: A Virginia court ordered Australian, German and American tourists to stay away from the remains of the luxury liner, which sank 400 miles off Newfoundland in 1912. The tourists laughed. Try to stop us, they said, clambering into tiny submarines and dropping into the waves.
- The La Galga and the Juno: Spain objected when the same court granted an American company rights to two treasure-laden ships that sank about a mile off Virginia in the 1800s. Those ships weren't abandoned, Spain huffed. Now, hand over the loot. Spain has yet to file a formal claim in court.
- The Brother Jonathan: The Gold Rush-era paddle-steamer sank off California in 1865 and washed up in the U.S. Supreme Court last spring. The treasure trove: $50 million. The contenders: treasure hunters who spent 20 years searching for the ship and the state of California that demanded a cut. The Supreme Court chucked the case back to the federal courts to decide.
Court battles are only part of the picture. In the emerging world of the deep ocean, wrecks are being discovered all the time.
Just last year, Ballard discovered the remains of the USS Yorktown, which sank during the Battle of Midway in World War 11. Divers in Egypt pulled up a 2,000-year-old Sphinx. Trolling the Mediterranean for a gold-laden British warship, Florida treasure hunters stumbled on a 5th century Phoenician wreck. Bullion from the two world wars was found off the coast of Ireland.
And, teased by a trail of gold coins, treasure hunters finally located the hull of ``Black Sam'' Bellamy's pirate ship, the Whydah, which sank off Cape Cod in 1717. Is a five-ton chest of gold buried inside?
``Technology is taking us to the Pyramids of the deep,'' says Ballard, president of the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn., who discovered Titanic with a French team in 1985. Since then, he has peered at the guns and swastikas of the Nazi battleship Bismarck, photographed ceramic containers of ancient Roman wrecks, gasped at the hull of Titanic's sister ship Brittanic, which lies virtually intact in the Aegean Sea.
``The question,'' he says, ``is do we use technology to plunder or to ponder.''
Those on the side of pondering - archaeologists and historians - are desperately pushing for measures to halt the plunder. Maritime museums now refuse to display treasures from ``looted'' sites - those salvaged by for-profit ventures. States include underwater resources in their historic preservation plans. There are 12 National Marine Sanctuaries and hundreds of underwater sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Internationally, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, is pushing for protection of the world's underwater heritage by declaring most shipwrecks to be the property of the world's governments.
But archaeological ethics are having a hard time keeping up with technology. And conflicting national interests and cultures make agreements difficult. Is a wreck historic if it is 50 years old, or 500?
War tombs, like a Japanese submarine bombed in the mid-Atlantic in 1944, pose more questions. Three years ago, an American group beat a rival British team in a race to find the sub, the I-52, which sank in international waters about halfway between the Cape Verde Islands and Barbados.
Can Japan claim the remains of 109 bodies or the two tons of gold?
What about policing? How do countries enforce ``no trespassing'' when the waves are 10 feet high, the salvage ships are circling and gold gleams seductively in the depths below?
Eventually, Ballard and others suggest, rules and laws will be developed similar to those that protect archaeological sites on land. Meanwhile, he says, ``I feel like I've walked into a bar fight.''
Smack in the center is the most famous wreck of all: Titanic.
Today Ballard cannot return to the wreck he discovered without the permission of the man who owns it - a wealthy car dealer from Connecticut.
How do you own the Titanic? You drop 21/2 miles to the bottom of the ocean, scoop up a wine decanter from the site, haul it into a Virginia court and - in legal jargon - ``arrest'' the wreck.
George Tullock and his company, RMS Titanic Inc. (OTC BB:SOST - news), did precisely that, winning first salvage rights and later exclusive access and photography rights to the site. The court reasoned that the salvors, who have since yanked thousands of plates, wine bottles and personal belongings from the ocean floor, are preserving the artifacts ``for the benefit of all mankind.''
How can an American judge decide the fate of a British wreck in international waters, and anoint a cultural savior?
Easy. If no one else claims jurisdiction over the site, then any admiralty court - which, in the United States means a federal court - can assume jurisdiction and make decisions for the world.
Never mind that the Titanic Maritime Memorial Act of 1985 speaks in lofty terms about respecting the integrity of the wreck. Or that the man who discovered the ship believes it should rest in peace.
In maritime tradition, whoever arrests a wreck has the right - with court restrictions - to dispose of it.
The tradition endures because it works, say those who risk life, limb and bankruptcy to find sunken ships. The profit motive, they argue, has always been part of deep sea exploration.
``If someone is going to use private capital to raise these objects and put them on display, why is that not for the benefit of all mankind?'' asks diver Peter Hess, a Delaware lawyer who specializes in representing salvors. ``How else is mankind going to see them?''
Admiralty law is clear, Hess says. ``From the days of the Phoenicians, the concept that the person who voluntarily rescues a ship from marine peril, who takes all the risks in finding it, should be entitled to compensation.''
Finders keepers, sort of.
Titanic's arrest was preceded by that of the Central America, a side-wheel steamer loaded with the gold of California prospectors, that sank in a hurricane in 1857 about 180 miles east of South Carolina. The drama of the ship's sinking, women and children huddling in the saloon while men desperately bailed out water, was matched more than a century later by the hi-tech drama of its discovery.
Circled by competitors who threatened to ram their salvage boat, a band of Ohio adventurers (backed by a consortium of investors) used a three-ton underwater robot to pluck a piece of fuel from the wreck. In a move worthy of a James Bond movie, they swung it onto a low-flying seaplane, which hightailed it back to a Virginia court.
They arrested their ship of gold with a lump of coal.
It was one of the biggest treasure troves ever recovered. Gold dust, nuggets, bars, coins: In all the salvors claimed they had found about 21 tons of gold.
``The bottom was carpeted with gold,'' expedition leader Tommy Thompson says in a recent book about the group's exploits (Gary Kinder's ``Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea'').
``Gold everywhere, like a garden. The more you looked, the more you saw gold growing out of everything.''
No wonder when the adventurers finally sailed back into port, the dock was lined with representatives of insurance companies claiming to have underwritten portions of the ship's cargo.
Ruling on the salvage award, the court praised the pioneering spirit of the discoverers as ``a paradigm of American initiative, ingenuity and determination.''
But one man's hero is another man's villain. Especially on the high seas.
Take the Lusitania, torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in 1915 with the loss of 1,200 people, including Americans. The sinking helped draw the United States into World War I.
History? Heritage? Tomb?
The wreck lies in about 300 feet of water, 12 miles offshore, a heady challenge for ``extreme'' divers who want to touch its hull and live to tell the tale. With dry-suits and decompression tables and hi-tech scuba gear, they do just that. If they are careful, and lucky, they spend about 20 minutes exploring the liner and surface without suffering the bends.
There's just one problem. Owner Gregg Bemis of Santa Fe, N.M., doesn't want them near his wreck.
Rogues, he calls them. Trespassers, who ``don't give a damn about archaeology or property rights or the law.''
Bemis wants to salvage the Lusitania himself, maybe put some relics in an underwater museum in Las Vegas, maybe produce a documentary.
After all, he spent more than 10 years wading through the British, American and Irish courts, spending a small fortune in the process. To Bemis, the wreck is his, fair and square. No different from owning the Chrysler Building.
To others, laying claim to Titanic or Lusitania is like staking a claim to the moon.
``A wreck is something bigger than the size of someone's wallet,'' argues John Chatterton of Springfield, N.J., one of the ``rogues'' who dived 295 feet to the Lusitania without Bemis' consent. ``You can't own the history of the Lusitania. You can't own the memories people had of families and friends who lost their lives. I've touched the Lusitania, Beamis hasn't. Who has more feeling for the wreck, him or me?''
Chatteron, a commercial diver, points to other famous wrecks that are open to the public. This summer he dived to the Britannic, which lies in nearly 400 feet of water off the Greek Island of Kea. He had to get the permission of the Greek government, and the British owner, to do so.
Chatterton also has made dozens of dives to the Italian luxury liner, the Andrea Doria, a virtual floating art gallery, which sank off the coast of Nantucket in 1956. The Andrea Doria is a favorite wreck for decompression divers, who fill their little underwater bags with plates and cups and any other goodies they can find. The owner of the wreck, another New Jersey diver, lets them. He salvaged the most valuable items, artwork and friezes, himself.
``We are not plunderers,'' says Chatterton, who arrested his own New Jersey wreck, the S.S. Carolina in 1995. ``We are not pillaging and raping. We do it for the thrill of discovery, the interest in history. We do some hairy diving, but it's not about searching for gold.''
Tell that to the museums. Rape and escape, they call it. Plundering at its worst, for private gain.
Whether it's Titanic, Lusitania or the Andrea Doria, the major museums say treasure hunting is incompatible with scientific archaeology. Institutions that display objects retrieved by commercial salvors should be shunned.
``We would like to see sites properly salvaged and the information made available for everyone to study, rather than see a wreck ripped apart for one company's profit,'' says Paul F. Johnston, curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian Institution. ``Once you rip apart a wreck site, you can't put it together again.''
The Smithsonian will not exhibit artifacts from Titanic, Andrea Doria, the Whydah or many others.
But even among purists, there's a sense things have to change. For one thing, museums face too many awkward decisions when fabulous treasure turns up at their doors. Rejected, the treasure hunters can simply take their goods - and patrons - elsewhere.
``Museums can't afford to take an all-or-nothing position, especially with all this new technology,'' says John Carter of Philadelphia's Independent Seaport Museum. ``There are just too many shipwrecks being discovered out there.''
These days, finding them means more than technology, time and a thirst for adventure. Increasingly it means big money. Many of the investors in the Central America venture sank between $50,000 and $100,000 in the search.
Today, there are dozens of consortiums backing dozens of treasure hunts, everyone trying to out-race everyone else while keeping their targets secret.
Among the most sought after treasure ships: the San Jose, an 18th century Spanish Galleon that sank off Colombia, and the Flor De La Mar, a Portuguese galleon that foundered off the Malacca Straits in 1508 with treasure estimated at $1.7 billion.
Eventually, a fuzzy sonar image will tell someone they have struck their dream.
Their discovery - and others - will raise more questions, about patrolling and protecting the ocean, about science and salvage, about archaeology and profit, about who owns the bounty still buried in the deep.
As one court, trying to resolve yet another shipwreck dispute observed: ``There is gold beneath the ocean, while above ground there are men who covet it.''

Sainted Second-Guessing
By Mary McGrory

Sunday, November 29, 1998; Page C01
John Paul II caused great consternation to many Jews when he bestowed sainthood last month on Sister Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun who was born a Jew. Now he is pushing the canonization of Pope Pius XII, the World War II pontiff whose silence during the Holocaust has made him one of the most controversial figures of his time. To Jews, it is adding insult to injury. What makes it particularly painful is that Jews have seen John Paul II do great things. The distinguished author and commentator of Italy's Corriere della Sera, Arrigo Levi, whom I recently saw in Rome, mourned: "He is the best Pope for the Jews in this century."
Levi recited the litany of John Paul's historic efforts to reach out to the Jewish community: He was the first pope to visit the Grand Synagogue of Rome, calling Jews "our elder brothers"; he appointed a commission to examine the roots of anti-Semitism in the church (the commission did not have to look far or hard); he recognized Israel. But with another grating canonization, there is dismay in the Jewish community.
"It isn't what Pius did," said Levi. "It's what he didn't do. He protested the bombing of Rome, but not the bombing of London or Naples. People wished that when the Nazis rounded up the Jews for deportation, he had marched with them."
Levi, who comes from an ancient northern Italian Jewish family, knows firsthand the asylum the church provided. An uncle was given refuge in the Vatican; an aunt hid out in a convent in Modena. There is no question that at least 700,000 Italian Jews were saved by Catholic priests and nuns--whether that happened at the explicit direction of Pius XII is not certain. The truth is hidden in Vatican archives, which have not yet been opened.
The rap against Pius XII is that although he might have saved hundreds of thousands of Jews through the practical actions of his Catholic clergy, he could have saved millions by condemning Nazism. He was thought by his contemporaries to have a "horror" of communism, a scourge of the church.
His defenders also point out that public protest could have made matters worse. For them, the story of Edith Stein proves it. In 1942, the Gestapo stormed her Carmelite convent in Echt, Holland, after the Dutch bishops had made an impassioned denunciation of the Final Solution. Sister Edith, a distinguished philosopher, might have been spared because of her habit. But she chose to go to the gas chamber at Auschwitz. Whether she wanted to share the martyrdom of the Jews or whether she wished to accompany her sister Rosa--also a convert to Catholicism but not a nun--is a matter of contention. Some Jews say, "She was born a Jew, she died a Jew."
Had Pius XII spoken out more strongly about the atrocities that were daily occurrences in occupied Europe, it is possible the Nazis might have responded by invading convents and monasteries to rout the Jewish refugees.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a strong voice against the proposed canonization of Pius XII, is one of the "hidden children" whose lives were saved by courageous and compassionate Catholics. When the Nazis seized his Polish parents, his Catholic nursemaid took him in as her own, had him baptized and kept him safe. He thinks that John Paul is trying to "christianize the Holocaust"--that is, make it a catastrophe for non-Jews as well. Hitler gassed indiscriminately, and many Polish Christians died at Auschwitz. But the founding of a Carmelite convent at the site and the introduction of crucifixes cannot change the math: Six million Jews died.
Overt criticism of John Paul's choice may come primarily from Jews, but there is murmuring among the faithful, especially in the absence of a consensus about the shining saintliness of Pius XII, an aristocratic and austere guardian of the institution he led. "We don't need a Pope-saint," said a Jesuit whose name could not be revealed. "What is the point? Leave out the Holocaust. He is not a model for real people."
Papal authorities seem to be defensive about the fast-track, ready-by-Jubilee Year treatment of Pius XII's nomination. Dispatches tell of a nasty scene when Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, Aharon Lopez, visited the priest in charge of the Pius XII "cause" and asked him to wait 50 years. The priest, the Rev. Peter Gumpel, called the Israeli diplomat's remarks "imprudent and provocative" then made some imprudent and provocative, not to say unfortunate, remarks of his own: "I would not be surprised if it led to a rise of anti-Semitic feeling. Many Catholics feel outraged by these attacks."
Many Catholics also feel outraged by the rush to put a halo around the head of a man whom many people say did no evil, but could have done more good.

Sunday November 29 7:43 PM ET

Patience Urged Over Holocaust Issue

By SARI BASHI Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) - A Jewish leader Sunday cautioned countries attending an international conference on Holocaust-era assets to remain patient, noting that full restitution of lost Jewish property could take 10 years.
Jewish Agency chairman Avraham Burg, who will head the World Jewish Restitution Organization's delegation to the Washington conference, said the task of identifying and recovering property looted during the Holocaust was greater than conference members were willing to admit.
``This committee shouldn't try to solve the problems quickly and go home,'' Burg said at a news conference Sunday. ``We're talking about a process that will take at least a decade.''
The four-day conference was to open Monday with a speech by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Delegations from 42 nations will discuss looted art, insurance, communal property and opening files belonging to private companies and public agencies.
Burg accused some nations of trying to strike deals for partial restitution rather than see a full investigation into millions of dollars worth of Jewish assets looted by the Nazis. He said others, including the Vatican, have refused to cooperate outright.
Meanwhile, Jewish humanitarian groups, lawyers and concentration camp survivors were battling over distribution of the $1.25 billion paid by Swiss banks to settle Holocaust-related lawsuits.
Burg said the WJRO would demand authority to negotiate on behalf of individual Jewish claimants and the Jewish people as a whole at an as yet unscheduled hearing before a U.S. Federal District Court judge in New York.
The WJRO has hit upon a disbursement formula in which assets traced to individuals would be turned over to survivors or family members, while non-traceable assets and restitution money would be used for Holocaust education and to help needy survivors and Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
Meanwhile, a Spanish newspaper reported Sunday that a government report to be presented at the Washington conference found Spain played only a minor role in trafficking art stolen by the Nazis from Holocaust victims.
The daily El Pais said the report recognizes that dictator Gen. Francisco Franco's government protected five alleged art smugglers from extradition, and that a further 15 operated in Spain.
But this gave Spain only a ``modest'' role in the looted art network, the report found, as there were an estimated 2,000 art traffickers working in Europe as a whole, according to El Pais.

Chirac Wants France To Keep Art Nazis Looted
11:44 a.m. Nov 30, 1998 Eastern
By Tom Heneghan
PARIS (Reuters) - President Jacques Chirac, opening a new museum of Jewish art and history in Paris Monday, said paintings looted by the Nazis in France and never claimed by their original Jewish owners should remain in the country.
Speaking only hours before a conference on lost Holocaust era assets opened in Washington, Chirac said the issue of compensating descendants for their artworks plundered during World War Two was now ``a top priority.''
But he echoed calls by French Jewish leaders for unclaimed artworks to stay in France rather than be auctioned off, possibly to foreign buyers, to raise funds for Holocaust survivors.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) said last week these homeless works, which include paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Leger, were the ``last prisoners of war'' and should be ''freed.''
``Among the works on exhibit in this museum are some that were stolen from families that never returned from their long path of suffering,'' Chirac said at the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter of Paris.
``This is, of course, where these works should be.''
The museum, which traces Jewish life in France and Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day, has a small corner exhibiting 27 of the 2,058 seized artworks still being held ``in safe keeping'' by French museums including the Louvre.
A catalog detailed fruitless efforts to establish the exact ownership of the paintings in 1940, when the Germans occupied France, or explain why some survivors did not claim them after 1945 even though they knew art was being returned.
French Jewish leader Henri Hajdenberg told Reuters the artworks belonged to France's national heritage and should not be auctioned off as the WJC recommended.
``These artworks were here in France and it's normal that they should stay here,'' he said.
Since their owners could not be found or ownership not established, the French state should become their legal owner by paying compensation for them to the French Jewish community.
This sum would fund a foundation -- ``a national institution, not just a Jewish one,'' Hajdenberg stressed -- to teach younger generations about the horrors of Nazism, the history of the Holocaust and the need to defend human rights.
Historians say the Nazis plundered about 100,000 artworks from France during the war, of which 61,257 were later returned from Germany by Allied forces. A total of 45,441 items were handed back to their original owners or their families.
Of the 15,816 unclaimed artworks, 2,058 were chosen for safe keeping in French museums while the others -- works judged of little artistic value -- were auctioned off. Some of the unclaimed items are believed to have belonged to families which were entirely wiped out.
Five paintings were claimed by their owners and returned after being exhibited last year.
France plans to publish a catalog of all the confiscated artworks in its museums by the end of next year.
The Washington conference, held in the Holocaust Museum there, aims to forge an international consensus on returning thousands of Nazi-confiscated artworks and religious buildings to Holocaust survivors.
The museum, co-funded by the French state and the city of Paris, is housed in a 17th-century mansion that had been split up into workshops for Jewish craftsmen in the 19th century.
Names of the occupants during a 1942 roundup of Jews are listed like gravestones on one courtyard wall. Thirteen of them died in concentration camps.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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