English News Archive

News between January 21th and January 13th, 1999, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For other News look into our News Archive.


Headlines

January 21, 1999:

January 20, 1999:

January 19, 1999:

January 18, 1999:

January 16, 1999:

January 15, 1999:

January 14, 1999:

January 13, 1999:


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Many U.S. firms helped Nazis - German historian
02:31 p.m Jan 13, 1999 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Many U.S. companies had closer links with Nazi Germany than previously thought because of trade agreements with German firms that continued for the duration of World War Two, a German historian said on Wednesday.

Hamburg historian Bernd Greiner told Reuters 26 of the top 100 U.S. companies in the 1930s collaborated to some degree with the Nazis before, and in some cases after, Hitler declared war on the United States in December 1941.

``Company headquarters in the U.S. have denied they knew what was going in Germany, but there is evidence to suggest they knew their German subidiaries used slave labour, tolerated it and in some cases were actively involved,'' Greiner said.

In other cases, U.S. industry had links with German companies such as IG Farben -- which produced Zyklon B gas for the Nazi death camps.

Greiner confirmed a report in Die Zeit weekly newspaper based on his findings that showed U.S. corporate involvement in Nazi Germany went beyond allegations of U.S. lawyers and historians last year that automakers General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co collaborated with the Nazi regime.

The report is due to be published on Thursday.

``These were not direct links with the German government but private links with German firms,'' Greiner said. ``They go back to the 1920s when U.S. firms started investing intensively in Germany.''

U.S. lawyers said in November they had evidence GM and Ford worked closely with the Nazi regime and were considering filing class-action lawsuits over the firms' use of slave labourers.

Ford and GM have denied the charges and commissioned historians to investigate their past.

Greiner said many U.S. companies continued to do business with German companies during the war, violating the Trading with the Enemy Act. He said historians knew about the links, but more details had emerged recently about their extent.

U.S. chemicals firm Dupont Co had business agreements with IG Farben, he said, and Chase Manhatten Bank ran a thriving foreign exchange business at its French branch even after the country was occupied by German forces.

Greiner said allegations GM and Ford knowingly used slave labour emerged in Washington in 1974.

A U.S. Senate worker, Bradford C. Snell, accused GM and Ford of active collaboration and the U.S. media published the allegations. The companies denied the allegations.

Greiner said more details were now emerging about the companies, their use of slave labour and their dealings with German companies that collaborated with the Nazi authorities.

``Historians have known about this, but the problem has been getting access to company archives to get a complete picture,'' he said.

``Now, because the issue of slave labour is topical, there is immense political pressure for companies to come clean. This time it will probably not blow over as it did before,'' he said.

Many of Germany's top companies face class-action lawsuits filed by former slave labourers and Holocaust victims, who say their assets in banks were looted, life insurance policies were not honoured and chemicals, car and manufacturing companies have been accused of profiting from slave labour.

The German government is currently trying to mediate talks between Jewish and other survivors groups and German companies to reach a settlement that would avoid costly legal cases.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Deutsche Bank should own up, pay up -Jewish Congress
07:14 p.m Jan 13, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Jan 13 (Reuters) - An influential Jewish group on Wednesday said Deutsche Bank -- whose desire to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth largest U.S. bank, has forced it to confront its Nazi past from a new perspective -- should admit it used slave labourers and pay reparations for that war crime.

This statement was the first time the World Jewish Congress, whose views are closely heeded by U.S. politicians, has set forth one of the standards that Germany's biggest commercial bank would have to meet for the WJC to drop any objections to the proposed bank merger.

Drawing on information revealed in a 1946 U.S. military report, a senior WJC official, who declined to be named but said he spoke on behalf of the Congress, stated: ``It's a matter of accepting the truth, as ugly as it may be, and making the material compensation that is required. They enriched themselves.''

While the WJC says it is fighting for moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims, it adds that it is not accusing any of the bank's present staff of ``any kind of guilt.''

New York State and federal regulators, who must approve the marriage between Germany's largest commercial bank and the eighth biggest U.S. bank, have been asked to take into account how Deutsche Bank reponds to Holocaust charges. Later this month, the WJC is expected to advise the New York City Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, on whether it will fight the proposed merger. The $10.1 billion deal is expected to close as soon as May.

Deutsche Bank is not the only company to find itself under renewed scrutiny about World War II issues it may have thought were resolved long ago.

In Germany earlier on Wednesday, Hamburg historian Bernd Greiner said that 26 of the top 100 U.S. companies in the 1930s collaborated to some degree with the Nazis before and, in some cases, after Hitler declared war on the United States in December 1941.

The big German bank has made few public comments since its merger proposal shone the spotlight on questions on how it may have profited under the Nazi regime. But the bank, which has been on an expansion drive, previously denied using slave labour, stating on Dec. 7: ``Deutsche Bank did not employ the use of slave labour.''

That statement, however, contradicted the 1946 report by the U.S. military, which found Deutsche Bank responsible for murdering by starvation slave labourers who worked at an industrial company controlled by the bank.

A spokeswoman in New York on Wednesday referred calls for comment to the bank's Frankfurt headquarters.

The charge of slave labour is not the only hurdle confronting Deutsche Bank. The WJC also wants the bank to make reparations for the gains it reaped from aryanization -- buying or brokering assets taken from Jews in Nazi custody.

Deutsche Bank said it has come clean about such transactions.

In mid-December, when some of these charges surfaced in a billion-dollar lawsuit brought by Holocaust victims in New York, a bank spokesman said: ``Deutsche Bank's involvement in aryanization is known and we have never denied it.'' The spokesman added he had not seen the documents in the suit.

Yet, the declassified U.S. military information painted a devastating picture of the bank's role in this area, citing interviews with bank officials who said Deutsche Bank pressed its branches to ``take advantage of all opportunities,'' according to an excerpt of the report obtained by Reuters.

Those opportunities included acting as the main collecting agency for the one billion mark fine imposed on German Jews to pay for the widespread damage done during the Nazi-directed pogrom, Kristallnacht, in 1938, the U.S. military said.

The report said that Deutsche Bank not only profited from snapping up Jewish enterprises for itself -- including the leading private German bank -- it also won new accounts and kept ones it otherwise might have lost. The bank matched buyers and distressed sellers, loaned the buyers funds or helped them purchase businesses -- often at fire sale prices -- with stock, the report said.

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


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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U.N. chief Annan signs Anne Frank declaration
07:13 p.m Jan 14, 1999 Eastern

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday signed the Anne Frank Declaration, committing signatories to ``work together toward a better world, free of bigotry, in the new millennium.''

The declaration is a project of the Anne Frank Educational Trust, established in Britain, which is asking world leaders to add their names to the document. The Trust hopes framed copies will be displayed in schools around the world by the year 2001.

The declaration commemorates Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who died in the Holocaust and whose diary, published around the world, has made her a symbol of the struggle against prejudice and oppression.

Frank and her family hid for two years in the annex of a house in Amsterdam until they were betrayed by an informer. She died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at age 15.

``If Anne Frank, in her living hell, could summon the power to imagine a better, peaceful world, a future free of suffering and persecution, then surely we can summon the will to make that day come to pass,'' Annan said at the signing ceremony.

It was attended by Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Marjorie ``Mo'' Mowlam and by Britain's U.N. ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

Signatories of the declaration pledge to ``remember the millions of children around the world who will not greet the new millennium with us because they were killed in wars and conflict.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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End In Sight To Berlin Holocaust Memorial Row
12:19 p.m. Jan 15, 1999 Eastern

BERLIN (Reuters) - A 10-year row over a Holocaust memorial for Berlin could be settled soon after an American architect agreed to incorporate suggestions by the new German government into his design, an official said on Friday.

Work on the memorial near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate could begin this year, said Peter Struck, head of the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) in parliament.

Struck said architect Peter Eisenman had toned down his original plan for a landscape of 2,700 concrete pillars.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government called for a less ''monumental'' plan that would include a networked library, a permanent exhibition and a ``Genocide Watch'' center to prevent future mass exterminations.

Struck told journalists after an SPD meeting that Eisenman had included these ideas in his latest plan and reduced the number of columns.

Eisenman's original plan was favored by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and had been tipped to win an architectural competition for the memorial which was put on hold because of last September's general election.

Struck said Social Democrat lawmakers would have a free vote when parliament decided before the summer recess which design to adopt.

Lea Rosh, head of a lobby group that backed Eisenman, welcomed the new design.

``I do not know all the details of the new design but it seems at last to have the makings of a compromise,'' she told the Berliner Tagesspiegel newspaper's Saturday edition.

Eisenman told the newspaper he did not regard the new concept as a ``compromise'' but as an ``improvement.''

He said he would have to show the new model to party leaders in the Berlin state assembly next Friday before presenting it to the public.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Israeli official urges Lithuania not to forget
09:24 a.m. Jan 15, 1999 Eastern

By Jonathan Leff

VILNIUS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Israel's parliament speaker on Friday urged ex-Soviet Lithuania to remember the large Jewish community that once thrived in the Baltic state as it struggles to bring two alleged Nazi-era war criminals to trial.

Two men -- 91-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis and 90-year-old Kazys Gimzhauskas, both former U.S. citizens who returned to Lithuania this decade -- have been charged for allegedly handing over Jews to Nazi death squads.

But their trials have been repeatedly delayed due to claims of poor health.

Dan Tichon, on a three-day visit, told Reuters in an interview that he had pressed officials in Lithuania's capital Vilnius -- once a major centre of pre-war Jewish culture -- to move the trials forward.

``(The defendants) have said that they are old and sick...but they should live and know and understand that everybody will know there was a punishment and they got what they deserved,'' Tichon told Reuters in an interview.

``But the history, history is more important than everything...that here they (the citizens of Lithuania) will understand that there was such a period when Jews were killed like nothing. Justice should be done.''

Lithuania's pre-war Jewish community was among the biggest in the world, numbering some 240,000. Vilnius, then a part of Poland, had over 100 synagogues and was a one of three major capitals of Yiddish culture.

But over 90 percent of the community was murdered by the Nazis, sometimes assisted by local minions, and the 50 years of repressive Soviet rule that followed did nothing to resurrect their memory or teach about the Holocaust.

Critics say that since regaining independence from Moscow in 1991, Lithuania, a predominantly Catholic nation, has not moved fast enough to correct this.

``We have lots of doubts whether they do enough to preserve the Jewish legacy, the Jewish life here,'' Tichon said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Poland to discuss compensation for Nazi victims
03:46 p.m Jan 15, 1999 Eastern

WARSAW, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Poland will next week ask Germany to provide compensation for Polish slave labourers employed by German firms during World War Two, PAP news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying on Friday.

Wieslaw Walendziak, the prime minister's chief of staff, will address the issue when he travels to Bonn at the invitation of the German government, Jaroslaw Sellin said.

Germany has already allocated 500 million marks ($300 million) to a fund that is doling out compensation to Polish survivors of Nazi concentration camps and other victims of the occupation.

Now the German government, together with firms which employed slave labour during World War Two, plans to create a fund to deal with compensation payments to slave workers. A number of Poles believe they are eligible to receive money from this fund.

Holocaust survivors living in the West after World War Two received compensation from Bonn, but those in the Communist bloc were barred until the late 1980s because of Cold War politics.

($1-1.676 Mark)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Germany To Pay U.S. Holocaust Survivors
12:10 a.m. Jan 16, 1999 Eastern

By David Storey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Germany has agreed to pay reparations to U.S. citizens held in Nazi concentration camps, U.S. and German officials said on Friday, settling an issue that has rankled for more than 50 years.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said the two countries agreed on a sum to be paid ``under the second phase of a 1995 agreement on compensation for Americans, who as U.S. nationals, were subjected to Nazi persecution.''

Lawyers representing the claimants expected that about 230 people could stand to gain anything from $10,000 to more than $200,000 depending on the length of time they spent in camps and the physical or psychological damage they suffered.

Under the first phase of the settlement, reached in 1995, 11 original claimants received compensation. This second phase followed a public search for other U.S. citizens who qualified and is the final opportunity for such payments.

The actual payments now await formal approval in the German parliament and are expected to be made in the first half of this year, Rubin said, a delay which irked some of the claimants.

``I am very dismayed that they are not going to pay up for another six months,'' said Greta Rhodes, 65, a Jewish woman who survived 17 months in Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen camps after being detained by the Nazis in Hungary, where she was born.

``Let's face it, I'm not exactly a spring chicken but there are a lot of people in this deal who are a lot older than I am and time is of the essence. People would like to get some of this money to maybe enjoy themselves a little bit,'' she said.

Rhodes, of Reseda near Los Angeles, who said she expected a payment in February last year, survived with her sister, Barbara, and mother while many relatives died.

Her father had gained citizenship during an earlier visit to the United States and she said that gained them special treatment when they were betrayed and arrested after hiding from the Nazis for three months in their home town of Munkacs.

Rubin, and German officials in Bonn, declined to discuss the amount of money involved, but reports in Washington indicated it could be up to $25 million.

Washington lawyer Steven Perles said they would be paid under a formula which included $10,000 for each month spent in a camp.

The resolution, agreed in December but confirmed officially only on Friday, is one of several international settlements being worked out to settle unresolved issues stemming from the holocaust, including the return of seized Jewish assets.

In Bonn a government statement said the arrangement ``covers compensation payments for all the U.S. citizens who suffered serious damages but have so far been excluded from compensation and support payments for formal reasons.Di

The release of the funds requires the approval of the German parliament's budget committee, and German officials did not say how long that would take. ``The German government regards this as a gesture of good will and humanity,Di it said.

Germany paid more than 100 billion marks ($60 billion) in reparations to some Holocaust survivors, while others, including Americans held in camps, were left empty-handed.

U.S. citizens held in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War were excluded from reparations until 1995, when survivor Hugo Princz of New Jersey and 10 other Americans reached a $2.1 million settlement with Bonn.

After that settlement, the U.S. government established a Holocaust claims program, which allowed other U.S. citizens held in concentration camps to file for restitution.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress in New York, welcomed the agreement but noted that many other claims against Germany and big German companies were still pending.

``It still excludes large numbers of people who may have been persecuted but were not held in concentration camps, such as prisoners of war,Di he told Reuters, adding that he hoped all Holocaust victims ``would eventually receive justice.Di

Many of those affected by the new agreement will be the children of U.S. citizens who had returned to ``the old countryDi or who found themselves trapped in Europe during the war, Steinberg said. Others were born in the United States, giving them U.S. citizenship, even though their parents were German.

``The important thing is that at the time they were held, they were technically American citizens,Di Steinberg said.

Princz won his case in September 1995, settling a 40-year claim. Princz had sought reparations from Germany since 1955, but was turned down because he was a U.S. citizen when he and his family were captured in Slovakia in 1942.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Swiss list more owners of unclaimed wartime wealth
09:08 a.m. Jan 18, 1999 Eastern

By Michael Shields

ZURICH, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Switzerland on Monday published the names of 580 people whose Holocaust-era wealth left unclaimed in Swiss banks was given to charity two decades ago.

Berne posted the names on the Internet (www.switzerland.taskforce.ch) and gave heirs until September 30 to apply for part of some three million Swiss francs ($2 million) in funds, which will be paid with interest to successful claimants.

Many of the names sound Jewish and have only sketchy contact details, if any.

Most of the account holders are people from central and eastern Europe who Swiss authorities intentionally did not seek out in the 1960s to prevent them getting in trouble with their Communist rulers, said Urs Mueller, head of the foreign ministry section coordinating the search.

``It is mostly people from eastern Europe, but also people from east and west who had less than 1,000 Swiss francs,'' Mueller said. ``There are also people who were sought and never found, but this is the small minority.''

In an initial search for Holocaust victims' wealth, the government in 1962 ordered asset managers to report funds in Switzerland that belonged to foreigners or stateless persons who had lost contact since World War Two and who had probably been persecuted for racist, religious or political reasons.

It found some of the rightful owners or their heirs, but eventually turned two million Swiss francs over to Switzerland's Jewish community and one million francs to a refugee relief agency in the late 1970s.

The list excludes practically all people from Poland and Hungary who were supposed to be compensated directly by their governments under treaties that Switzerland struck after the war, Mueller said.

In a gesture of solidarity, the Swiss government declared in 1997 it would compensate owners of dormant accounts or their heirs whose assets had not been found or searched for, but which could still be traced now.

Successful applicants can get the balance of their accounts plus 3.5 percent in annual interest, a level based on Swiss inflation since 1965. The foreign ministry will decide on claims, but appeals to the courts are possible.

Stung by accusations that they stonewalled the families of Holocaust victims, Swiss banks in 1997 published their own lists of thousands of unclaimed wartime accounts that still remained on their books and which contained around 80 million francs.

Independent auditors commissioned by banks and Jewish groups are also probing banks' books for such accounts. They are due to present their report by mid-year.

The search is separate from a $1.25 billion settlement that big Swiss banks agreed on last August to resolve U.S. class-action lawsuits over their wartime activities and head off threatened boycotts by U.S. cities and states.

($1-1.382 Swiss Franc)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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German carmaker Opel centenary marred by Nazi probe
12:34 p.m. Jan 19, 1999 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Celebrations to mark German company Adam Opel AG's 100 years of making cars opened on Tuesday with an exhibition and a tribute, but were overshadowed by allegations of Nazi collaboration and fears of flat sales.

Chief Executive Wolfgang Strinz of Opel, which is owned by U.S. automaker General Motors Corp, paid a multi-media tribute to the company with video clips and a speech as he opened an exhibition charting its 100-year history.

It traced the carmaker's development from making sewing machines and bicycles in the 19th century to becoming Europe's biggest carmaker in 1936, six years after GM took it over.

In a chronology, the exhibition said the Nazis took charge of Opel in 1940 and switched from car to war production, making cockpits and bullet-proof fuel tanks for German warplanes.

Ironically, GM's German subsidiary Opel was working as part of Hitler's vast World War Two machine manufacturing arms which were used against U.S. forces and the other allies.

But there was no mention of recent accusations Opel collaborated with the Nazis or profited from slave labour.

``We have nothing to hide,'' Opel board member Horst Borghs told a news conference.

``In the past we have looked into these allegations ourselves and not found them to be substantiated. Now we have commissioned independent historians to research our history,'' he said.

  Borghs said Opel had wanted the exhibition, which is due to
tour around Germany this year, to be ``neutral.''

``We didn't address the issue head-on because we are waiting to find out what the historians come up with,'' he said.

U.S. lawyers and historians said last November they had evidence GM and the other U.S. automaking giant, Ford Corp, which also has a German subsidiary, had worked closely with the Nazi regime.

The lawyers said their investigations could form the basis of class-action lawsuits over the firms' use of slave labour.

GM and Ford say Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime took over their production in Germany during the war and they deny charges of collaboration or profiting from slave labour.

Many of Germany's top companies face potentially costly class-action lawsuits filed by Holocaust victims, who say their assets in banks were looted, life insurance politics were not honoured while car, chemicals and manufacturing companies have been accused of profiting from slave labour.

German historian Bernd Greiner said last week his research showed that U.S. corporate involvement went deeper than U.S. lawyers and historians have suggested.

He said 26 of the top 100 U.S. companies in the 1930s collaborated to some degree with the Nazis and in some cases after Hitler declared war on the United States in December 1941.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Jewish group attacks France over disputed art
07:23 p.m Jan 19, 1999 Eastern

LOS ANGELES, Jan 19 (Reuters) - A Jewish group called on Tuesday for France to remove more than 2,000 works of art from display at leading museums, where they have been exhibited for the last half-century, saying their ownership was in dispute and the French were not trying to find their rightful owners.

The 2,058 artworks -- half of them paintings by such masters as Picasso and Matisse and the rest sculptures and ceramics -- were taken from France during its Nazi occupation and returned by the Allies after the Second World War. Many were from Jewish-owned collections.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, called on the French government to order the paintings removed from such museums as the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre.

``For 50 years, French museums have failed to return these works of art to their rightful owners. It is time to terminate their temporary custodianship over these works and transfer the research files on their ownership to people willing to return stolen goods,'' Steinberg said in a statement.

The works of art in question include paintings and drawings by Picasso, Renoir, Rembrandt, Matisse, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Braque, Degas, Goya, Rubens, Velazquez and Leger.

Many came from Jewish collections that were targeted by the Nazi art looting unit known as the Rosenberg Task Force, named after Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler's ideologist.

The World Jewish Congress last month charged that a famous Picasso at the Pompidou Centre, ``Head of a Woman,'' belonged to noted Jewish collector Paul Rosenberg. A Cezanne, ``The Bathers,'' on display at the Louvre, came from the collection of the Jewish collector Josse Hessel, the group said.

``In one sense, there is no controversy, because the French admit that these 2,000 works of art do not belong to the museums and are only held in trust,'' Steinberg said.

After the war, the Allies returned 61,257 works of art that had been taken by the Nazis, of which 45,441 were returned to their rightful owners and some 13,000 sold at auction, with the money going to the French state. The remaining 2,058 works of art were selected to hang in French museums, where they remain.

``We want (the French) to release the research files on these works of art so that those with identifiable owners can be returned and ... heirless property can be sold off at auction to benefit Holocaust survivors,'' Steinberg said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Berlin's mayor opposes new Holocaust memorial plan
01:35 p.m Jan 20, 1999 Eastern

BERLIN, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, a leading opponent of the city's planned Holocaust memorial, said on Wednesday he was opposed to a revised design for the monument backed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Diepgen, who also opposed the original plan, said the new one ``raises more new questions than it answers'' and added he did not want the monument to the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust to be located in the centre of Berlin.

The mayor, a leader in the Christian Democratic party who clashed with Chancellor Helmut Kohl over an earlier design, said the revised memorial by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman was, like the original, too massive and too abstract.

``There should be no forced decision,'' read the text of a speech the mayor was to deliver in Bonn on Wednesday evening.

Schroeder had also expressed reservations about the original plan but has backed a toned-down design that he hopes could end a 10-year-old row about how Germany remembers the Holocaust.

Eisenman originally proposed an austere field of 2,700 concrete columns near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, which some called an eyesore that would dull rather than sharpen young people's curiosity about the past.

The compromise design envisages only 1,500 pillars and a ``Wall of Books,'' a 20-metre (65 ft)-high, 115-metre (377 foot)-long stack containing one million volumes covering the extermination of Europe's six million Jews.

The memorial would also house a ``Genocide Watch Institute'' to monitor conflicts to prevent further mass killings.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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INTERVIEW-1999 could be decisive for Austria's Haider
09:28 a.m. Jan 20, 1999 Eastern

By Rolf Soderlind

VIENNA, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Joerg Haider, Austria's charismatic far-right leader, said on Wednesday he would abandon his ambition to become chancellor if he becomes provincial governor of Carinthia in elections six weeks away.

This year could be a make-or-break year for the controversial leader of the Freedom Party, the strongest far-right party in any European Union country with 22 percent support in the 1995 general election.

Haider, who has campaigned against immigrants and the enlargement of the EU, is seeking to become governor of his powerbase Carinthia in a state election on March 7 or, failing that, to lead his party in the general election later this year.

``I will win in Carinthia, become number one,'' he told Reuters. ``All opinion polls show we are ahead of the Social Democrats, and that means I will be elected governor.''

The small southern province of Carinthia, which has a population of 560,000, is now being run by a coalition of the Social Democrats and conservative People's Party.

``If I get to be governor I will remain governor and we will present someone else as top candidate in Vienna. If I don't make it in Carinthia I will probably be the top candidate for the national election,'' he said.

Haider had previously said he may use the potential governorship in Carinthia as a springboard to national power.

He threatened to resign last year when his party was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal and his authority was openly challenged by close aides, but he eventually restored order in the party he has succesfully led since 1986.

Political analysts say Haider may have lost his public appeal, but the 48-year-old amateur marathon runner shrugged.

``We had to take some tough decisions last year and we are now back in full force,'' he said.

Victory in Carinthia would be sweet revenge for Haider, who had to quit as governor of the province in 1991 after saying Hitler had his faults but at least had decent labour policies.

Haider sought to dispel the notion of him as far-right, saying his role models in Europe were German Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder and British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.

``We are neither right nor left. We are ahead because we always force the other parties to react to us by presenting new ideas,'' he said.

The Freedom Party is the third-largest party nationwide and the main opposition to the governing coalition of Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party.

``We are the only party to say a clear no to EU enlargement because we fear it would lead to a higher influx of foreigners to Austria,'' he said.

Haider, who on Wednesday unveiled a job-creating programme for women and fairer taxation for families, said he was also seizing the chance to win more votes by pursuing social issues.

If elected governor, Haider has promised to give families in Carinthia an across-the-board 5,700 schillings a month in child support until the baby is four years old.

This would give the mother more choice whether to stay at home with her baby or work.

Haider's most eye-catching poster for the Carinthian election is one showing three babies clutching cheques of 5,700 schillings each under a banner saying ``Thanks Joerg.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Gypsies Deny Holocaust Payment Scam

By Monika Scislowska
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, January 21, 1999; 5:59 p.m. EST

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A Polish Gypsy association rejected accusations it skimmed money from payments to Holocaust survivors, saying Thursday that auditors overseeing the process have found no wrongdoing in how the Association of Roma in Poland is distributing money.

Last week, a Gypsy organization in Germany said it filed embezzlement complaints in Poland and Switzerland against the Swiss fund set up for Holocaust survivors and against an affiliated Gypsy organization in Poland, which it did not name. Gypsies also are known as Roma.

In the complaint, the Roma National Congress in Germany alleged that $1.2 million had been skimmed from payments intended for victims of the Nazis and that 29 people in Poland were involved in the fraud by distributing lower payments and keeping the difference in some 200 cases.

The Swiss fund, established in March 1997, has denied the allegations and said all payments were made correctly.

The Association of Roma in Poland, the largest nationwide Roma organization in Poland, said in a statement Thursday that the Swiss fund and its Atag Ernst and Young auditors who were overseeing the distribution saw ``no irregularities whatsoever, not to mention a fraud.''

Roman Kwiatkowski, head of the Roma association, said in the statement that the group felt ``particularly injured by the mere suggestion of preying on the suffering of our nation during World War II.'' Letters of support for the group signed by 35 Roma representatives from across Poland -- some victims of the Nazis who confirmed they received their payments -- accompanied the statement.

Tens of thousands of Polish Roma were killed during World War II; about 21,000 perished at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz alone.

The $200 million fund for Holocaust victims was established with money from Switzerland's three largest banks, with contributions from smaller banks, insurance companies, industry and the Swiss central bank. By the middle of November, $28 million had been distributed to 40,000 people.

In Poland, $437,000 has been paid to about 400 Roma, according to the fund.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press


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Germany Unveils Disputed Holocaust Memorial Plan
12:33 p.m. Jan 21, 1999 Eastern

By Robert Mahoney

BONN (Reuters) - Germany took the wraps off a compromise American design for a Holocaust memorial in Berlin on Thursday, hoping to end a bitter row over how to remember the Nazi slaughter of Jews.

But the twice-altered plan by New York architect Peter Eisenman did little to silence the 10-year-long debate between supporters of a somber monument and advocates of a Holocaust museum similar to those in Washington and Jerusalem.

``My hope is that parliament will opt for the project,'' Culture Minister Michael Naumann said, unveiling a model in the lobby of the Bundestag.

``The chancellor supports it,'' he added.

But the final word does not lie with the new Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder but with members of parliament who will have a free vote.

Naumann, who worked as a publisher in New York before joining Schroeder's new Social Democratic government in October, said he hoped for a vote before the summer recess.

But opposition to the plan could delay the decision until the end of the year, members said. Eisenman's is the leading contender of four designs.

``The new design resolves the contradiction between commemoration through a monument and remembering through a library,'' Naumann said.

Naumann said Eisenman's initial plan for a field of 2,700 concrete blocks south of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate did not go far enough in reminding Germans of their responsibility and educating them about the Holocaust.

After the election defeat in September of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who backed the original plan, the Schroeder administration asked Eisenman to include a Holocaust archive and other educational features into a new design.

Eisenman added a ``House of Remembrance,'' a glass and steel library, research center which cascades down to a smaller field of pillars that resemble tombs. Glass-sided tunnels under the field house a Holocaust exhibition.

Planners are also considering including elements from Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, a library of 50,000 videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors.

The main feature is a ``Wall of Books,'' a 20-meter (65 ft)-high, 115-meter (377 ft)-long stack containing one million volumes covering the extermination of Europe's six million Jews.

``The new dimension is the book,'' Naumann said. The Nazis started out to destroy the people of the book by burning books, he said.

``Now books will stand as a reminder that those people are still here,'' he said.

``It was always my fear that actually building this monument and then walking away from history would be a danger,'' he said.

But Lea Rosh, head of a lobby group that backed the first Eisenman design, rejected the compromise, saying Berlin did not need another documentation center.

``Exactly what we were afraid of has happened,'' Rosh told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper, ``The House of Remembrance will reduce the size of the memorial by half.''

``The number of critics is growing,'' she said.

Rosh said the inclusion of a House of Remembrance under the direction of Berlin's Jewish Museum violated the original principle that the memorial be built by non-Jewish Germans.

She said the estimated cost of 150 million marks ($88.97 million) was too high, saying the money should be put toward the preservation of former concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald.

($1-1.686 Mark)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Vandals wreck tombs at Jewish cemetery in Poland
11:37 a.m. Jan 21, 1999 Eastern

KRAKOW, Poland, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Vandals have destroyed 57 tombs in a Jewish cemetery in the southern Polish city of Krakow, a local police spokesman said on Thursday.

``Initial investigations suggest it was done by hooligans. So far we were unable to detain them,'' Dariusz Nowak told Reuters.

The attack most likely took place on Tuesday night, with some of the tombstones smashed to pieces and others knocked over.

It was the second time in six months that the same cemetery has been vandalised, with a similar attack in August last year.

Poland had the largest Jewish population in Europe until World War Two when Nazis killed all but some 300,000 of the country's 3.5 million Jews.

An anti-Semitic pogrom in 1948 and a campaign to drive out Jewish intellectuals in 1968 forced many survivors to flee, leaving what had once been the vibrant heart of European Jewry with only some 10,000 resident Jews.

After the defeat of communism in 1989 the democratic Polish authorities began to condemn past episodes of anti-semitism and sought strenuously to promote dialogue with Jewish groups.

But Jewish suspicions of Polish anti-Semitism linger, fuelled by attacks on Jewish cemeteries, slow progress in restoring confiscated property and the government's inability to resolve a row over crosses set up at a former death camp.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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