English News Archive

News between February 3rd and February 9th, 1999, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For other News look into our News Archive.


Headlines

February 09, 1999:

February 08, 1999:

February 07, 1999:

February 06, 1999:

February 05, 1999:

February 04, 1999:

February 03, 1999:


TOP

Canadian columnist fined for anti-Semitic articles
06:26 p.m Feb 03, 1999 Eastern

By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A Canadian newspaper columnist was fined on Wednesday for a series of articles that officials said promoted anti-Semitism by alleging an international Jewish conspiracy and questioning whether the Holocaust actually happened.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled that four columns by editorial writer Doug Collins published in 1994 in a Vancouver-area newspaper, the North Shore News, broke the law by promoting religious hatred against Jews.

``They repeatedly reinforce some of the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism,'' tribunal member Tom Patch wrote in the decision -- a summary of which he ordered be published by the newspaper, which is owned by Southam Inc (STM.TO).

Patch said Collins did not ``overtly incite'' hatred, but ``publication of these ideas in a credible newspaper increased the likelihood that others will manifest hateful and contemptuous views in a more directly harmful manner.''

Collins, who is now retired, and the newspaper were ordered to pay C$2,000 to Harry Abrams, a Victoria businessman who filed a complaint over the articles. Abrams is active in the British Columbia Jewish community.

Collins and the newspaper refused to participate in the tribunal's hearings last year, arguing it was a rehearing of a complaint by the Canadian Jewish Congress that the human rights panel had already dismissed.

``The decision sets a disturbing precedent as far as we're concerned,'' managing editor Timothy Renshaw said on Wednesday, adding that the newspaper was considering appealing the ruling to British Columbia's courts.

Collins has denied he is anti-Semitic. He contended that the articles were not meant to deny the Holocaust happened, but to complain that Jewish influence on the media and Hollywood led to exaggeration of the number of people who died.

The Jewish religious rights organisation, B'Nai B'rith Canada, which joined Abrams in the complaint, said the ruling provides a new tool to fight religious hatred.

((Allan Dowd, Reuters Vancouver Bureau 604-664-7314, fax 604-681-0491))


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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French Banks Pledge Continuing Support for Initiatives On Behalf of Holocaust Victims in France
01:40 p.m Feb 03, 1999 Eastern

PARIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--February 3, 1999

Banks Welcome Publication of Progress Report by Government

Commission

The French banking community said today that the publication yesterday of the second Progress Report of the Matteoli Commission represents an important step forward in the effort in France by the French Government and other interested parties to address issues concerning the looting of assets during the Vichy regime and Nazi occupation of France. The banks believe the second Progress Report is a thorough and ground-breaking document which demonstrates the significant progress that has been made in the comprehensive historical research now underway in France regarding the looting and restitution of Holocaust-era assets.

The banks welcome the Commission's recommendation, contained in the second Progress Report, that an independent body be set up to address individual claims with respect to assets confiscated from their owners during the Occupation and never returned. The banks had proposed the establishment of such a body some months ago. Pierre Drai, a former President of the French Supreme Court, has been asked to chair the claims body, which will be put in place at the earliest opportunity. The banks pledge their full support for this crucial initiative, and believe that it will lead to a complete and transparent resolution of the issues remaining from this tragic period.

The Matteoli Commission also recommended that no money from asset looting should remain in the hands of French state institutions, nor in the hands of banks and finance houses. This recommendation reflects the position already publicly taken by the banks, who have formally acknowledged that they have no ownership rights in assets in any accounts or safe deposit boxes where last client activity occurred during the Occupation, whether those assets were transferred to the French State or not. In fact, the banks have few cash or securities accounts that have been inactive since the Occupation because cash and securities looted from bank accounts were generally transferred, during the Occupation, to the Caisse des Depots et Consignations (the French national deposit institution). Any remaining assets on accounts which then fell dormant became the property of the French State, under French law, after 30 years of client inactivity.

In relation to the banking and finance sectors, the Matteoli Commission estimates that approximately FRF 333 million in cash and FRF 2 billion in securities deposited with French credit institutions were levied or sold off by the Vichy and German authorities during the Occupation (1940-1944). Assets of approximately FRF 2.4 billion (comprising principal and interest) were restored to their rightful owners after the Liberation (1944-1954).

(These figures are in French francs of the relevant periods.)

In addition, the Supervisory Committee for the Banking Sector, working under the Matteoli Commission and presided by Jean Saint-Geours, has delivered its own Progress Report. The Supervisory Committee has established a working group coordinating the comparison and analysis of account information held independently by the French State, the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation, and the banking sector. A second working group is analysing the question of safe deposit boxes not visited by depositors since 1945.

The banks continue to give their full support to these initiatives, and the major banks have all but completed their own archival research in both these areas. They have submitted, or will submit in the coming weeks, reports detailing the results of their research to the Supervisory Committee and the Matteoli Commission. Further, smaller banks with limited in-house research capability are receiving technical assistance from the French Bankers Association, so as to ensure that they meet the April 30, 1999 deadline for transmission to the Supervisory Committee of the results of their research.

The Supervisory Committee has also published a research guide to enable all of the more than 250 people performing archival research at the various French institutions to follow the same principles and use the same format for their reports. The French Bankers Association has identified 106 currently existing banks which were active in France during the Second World War.

The Banks are pledged to help resolve all remaining questions regarding the seizure `and restitution' of assets during the Nazi Occupation of France.


Copyright 1999, Business Wire


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Deutsche no comment on Creditanstalt document report
08:11 a.m. Feb 03, 1999 Eastern

FRANKFURT, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank AG on Wednesday declined comment on a report that Austria's Creditanstalt had agreed to release secret documents implicating Deutsche in the seizure of Jewish assets in Austria.

Creditanstalt, a subsidiary of Bank Austria, has agreed to pay millions of dollars to Holocaust victims as part of a deal to settle World War Two era claims against the bank, according to a negotiator in the deal.

The negotiator, who asked not to be identified, was among about 30 people who hammered out the agreement to settle Holocaust-era claims against Creditanstalt on Monday night in a meeting conducted by mediator Alfonse D'Amato, a former U.S. Senator, in a New York office suite.

The negotiator, who was on the claimants' side in the talks, said that the agreement to hand over ``hundreds of thousands of documents incriminating Deutsche Bank in the seizure of Jewish assets is more important than any money in the case.''

Jewish groups led by the World Jewish Congress are in negotiations with Deutsche Bank to settle Holocaust-era claims against the giant German commercial bank.

They have threatened to try to block Deutsche Bank's $10 billion merger with Bankers Trust until the claims are settled.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Jewish Congress accuses Bonn of delaying Holocaust settlement
01:03 p.m Feb 03, 1999 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress has accused the German government of paralysing efforts to settle Holocaust survivors' claims against German industry, a magazine reported on Wednesday.

WJC Secretary-General Israel Singer said in an interview with the German weekly Wirtschaftswoche that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's administration had weighed into the dispute without understanding the complexity of the claims.

Jewish groups led by the WJC are in negotiations with Germany's largest commercial bank, Deutsche Bank AG, to settle Holocaust-era claims.

Singer defended WJC opposition to Deutsche's planned 10.1 billion takeover of Bankers Trust of the U.S., insisting it must reach a deal with Holocaust survivors first.

``I always had the impression that Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Rolf Breuer was willing to reach an honourable and swift agreement on this issue,'' Singer said in the interview to be published on Thursday.

``I am disappointed that the German government's intervention has paralysed the negotiations.''

Schroeder defended Hombach's handling of the matter in an interview to be aired later on ARD German public television: ``He is doing a first-class job...I have no reason at all to criticise him.''

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank was not immediately available for comment.

Singer said Schroeder should not have tried to settle claims against the banks over confiscated Jewish property under the Nazis' ``Aryansiation'' laws, and those against companies for their use of slave labour in one blow.

Schroeder appointed Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach to mediate a deal last year after survivors filed a series of class-action suits against top German companies.

Singer said Hombach's brief had been to settle the slave labour claim but he had let Deutsche join the talks too, although the claims against the bank were differrent.

``Hombach interfered in a process that had been going on for a while and slowed down the tempo of our talks with Deutsche Bank,'' he said.

``I am opposed to boycotts and sanctions. But the World Jewish Congress is a large organisation and many members say Deutsche Bank must be forced to fulfil its duty which it should have done a long time ago,'' he said.

Singer stressed that Jewish groups had no direct influence over whether New York regulators would approve the planned takeover, and they could only make recommendations.

The state comptroller's office in New York has said it would take the Holocaust claims into consideration and not approve the merger until these were settled.

``This is why I think it is not such a bad idea sometimes to hold a gun to the head,'' Singer said, noting that time was running out for elderly Holocaust and slave labour survivors.

``It would be better for all concerned to have a settlement in place by the end of the year,'' Singer said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Schroeder says young need feel no Nazi guilt
12:21 p.m. Feb 03, 1999 Eastern

By Robert Mahoney

BONN, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Wednesday young Germans should feel no guilt for Nazi crimes but he also reassured Germany's neighbours his new ``Berlin Republic'' had no designs on dominating Europe.

Schroeder, the first leader of modern Germany with no direct experience of World War Two, waded into the controversy about how the country should remember its past in an interview with the weekly Die Zeit.

He explained why he rejected the design for a Berlin Holocaust Memorial favoured by his predecessor Helmut Kohl but said he dared not try to kill the project altogether.

Schroeder, 54, denied he was trying to forget history but he said young Germans had to remember and come to terms with the past in a different way.

``People who have no experience of their own -- that includes my generation and those generations that came after -- do not need to run around with a guilt complex,'' Schroeder said.

He disagreed that moving the seat of government back to Berlin in September might rekindle suspicions, especially in France, of a German desire to dominate Europe.

The older generation had felt bound to embrace the ideals of a united Europe to avoid raising fears abroad of what he called, ``furor teutonicus.''

``Now we have to say, 'Germans are not Europeans because they have to be but because they want to be,''' Schroeder said.

He said Germans had become a ``quite normal people,'' although they could not shake off their history and their responsibilty to ensure that the horrors of Nazism were not repeated.

Schroeder said he backed a revised design for a Berlin memorial to the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis. But he said he would have preferred memorials on the sites of the Nazi death camps themselves.

``For this reason I could have lived without a memorial in Berlin,'' he said.

``(But) against the backdrop of the debate that was going on a 'No' would have had fatal consequences,'' he added.

Germans have been arguing for 10 years how to commemorate the Holocaust in Berlin. Parliament is expected to decide the issue this year.

Schroeder favours a revised design by New York architect Peter Eisenman that adds a library and exhibition to the stark field of tomb-like concrete slabs originally planned.

Schroeder said the new plan would help Germans confront their history.

``That is what I meant when I said I did not want (a place) to which schoolchildren would be dragged because that was what was right.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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FOCUS-N.Y State presses Deutsche Bank on Nazi past
08:11 p.m Feb 03, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The New York State Comptroller, who helped lead a boycott threat against Swiss banks over their response to Holocaust issues, on Wednesday joined New York City in pressing Deutsche Bank to resolve similar claims.

State Comptroller H. Carl McCall is closely watching how the big German bank, whose desire to buy Bankers Trust has put its Nazi-era past under fresh scrutiny, is dealing with claims from Holocaust victims, his spokesman said.

``Obviously, the goal here is to make sure that Holocaust survivors and the heirs of Holocaust victims receive what's rightfully their's,'' Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman, said.

Deutsche Bank's World War II record has come under intense scrutiny since late last year, when it announced an ambitious, $10.1 billion plan to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth-largest U.S. bank. The review now threatens to take some of the gloss off that union and perhaps hurt the German bank's reputation.

``Deutsche Bank has to resolve this issue, with or without this deal,'' Mark Gross, an analyst at Fitch IBCA, said.

Deutsche Bank, which refers calls for comment to its Frankfurt branch, has admitted taking part in Hitler's so-called Aryanization programme -- buying Jewish assets at fire-sale prices.

The company has said it did not use slave labour, contradicting one of the grimmest findings of a 1946 U.S.

military probe that said Deutsche Bank -- where Herman Goering, Hilter's chief lieutenant, banked -- was as guilty of murdering slave labourers by starvation as the affiliates it controlled.

The U.S. military wanted the bank's top officials tried as war criminals.

The German bank's chief executive, Rolf Breuer, earlier Wednesday said Deutsche Bank wanted to participate in a national German solution to claims by Holocaust victims instead of negotiating with individual Jewish groups.

Concerns that the merger with Bankers Trust might unravel or not be finalised by the May-June target date have started to bite into the performance of U.S. bank's stock, which Wednesday fell $2.19 to $85.875 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. That compares with a 52-week high of $136.31.

``That's why you are trading at a bigger discount than you usually see. Normally, as the date gets closer, the discount would shrink but that doesn't seem to be happening here,'' said Stephen Biggar, an analyst at S&P Equity Group.

On the Frankfurt exchange, Deutsche Bank's stock fell 1.05 to end at 47.95.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who chairs the committee of local and state finance officials, on Dec. 7 said the proposed merger, which would mark the biggest-ever foreign takeover of a U.S. bank, should be delayed until the German bank settled billions of dollars of claims brought by plaintiffs in class-action suits in New York.

Hevesi's move again thrust New York City into U.S. foreign policy. Although neither he nor McCall, the state comptroller, has the power to approve or reject the merger plans, they could recommend a boycott of the bank by the network of state and local officials. New York City's status as a global financial capital lends its decisions added weight.

The World Jewish Congress, an advocacy group whose views are heeded by U.S. officials, has signalled it would oppose the merger once Deutsche Bank sends in its application to the state banking department, the only New York State body that has the power to approve such unions. Hevesi likely will take the same approach as the WJC because that group helps lead the effort to see Holocaust victims get what it calls moral and economic restitution.

A spokeswoman for the banking department said the German bank had yet to submit its paperwork.

In Deutsche Bank's official history, published in 1995 on its 125th anniversary, the bank said its directors could not control affiliates that used slave labour because they served on too many boards.

While the bank's history refers to the U.S. military report, which was released along with declassified material in 1977, some of the gravest charges are not mentioned. Still, the corporate history, in the sections the bank provided to Reuters, criticises Herman Abs, a top bank board member.

Abs, a Catholic who was in touch with Resistance leaders, served on on the board of I.G. Farben, the chemical maker. It is not known if the Farben board discussed using workers from the Auschwitz death camp, the book said.

``The public culture of Germany under the dictatorship required an avoidance of discussion, and as a result, partial acquiescence and complicity,'' it added.

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


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Thursday February 4 5:11 PM ET

Catholic Group Chides Clinton On Hitler Comment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Calling the remark ``pure nonsense,'' a Roman Catholic group Thursday asked President Clinton to apologize for saying Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler preached a ``perverted form of Christianity.''

During a speech Thursday at the annual prayer breakfast hosted by members of Congress, Clinton observed that ''throughout history people have prayed to God to aid them in war. People have claimed repeatedly that it was God's will that they prevail in conflict.''

``I do believe that even though Adolf Hitler preached a perverted form of Christianity, God did not want him to prevail,'' Clinton said.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, asked Clinton to apologize for what he called ``a remarkably ignorant comment about Hitler and Christianity.''

``Anyone who has studied Hitler knows that this is pure nonsense,'' Donohue said in a statement issued from his New York office.

``Hitler was a neo-pagan terrorist whose conscience was not informed by Christianity, but by pseudo-scientific racist philosophies,'' he said.


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FOCUS-German Holocaust ``fund'' dogged by wrangling
06:12 p.m Feb 04, 1999 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The revelation on Thursday that Germany's largest bank helped finance the building of Auschwitz came as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder tried to make good his pledge to protect German business from Holocaust-era lawsuits.

The giants of German industry and banking face a tide of class-action suits filed in the United States by Holocaust survivors and those used as slave labourers by the Nazis.

Schroeder, in office just 100 days, is sending senior aide Bodo Hombach to Washington on Monday to try to break a logjam in compensation talks. Schroeder wants companies to pay into a compensation fund in return for protection from further claims.

Hombach will meet U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat and members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Sources close to the talks said at issue was whether to set up a compensation fund, a state foundation or a combination of the two.

Der Spiegel magazine reported this week Hombach would propose what it said was a private foundation initiative of German companies called ``Memory, Responsibility and the Future.''

This would be split into a Fund for Memory and Responsibility to provide compensation for survivors primarily from eastern Europe, as well as Jews and Gypsies who worked in ghettoes, concentration camps or forced labour camps.

A separate budget would be earmarked for a Foundation for Memory and Future which would promote international projects aimed at reconciliation, Spiegel said.

The sources said the German government wanted companies to pay into a fund worth a total 1.5 billion marks ($869 million).

But Bonn has ruled out state contributions, saying it has already paid 120 billion marks in World War Two reparations.

The disclosure by an independent historian of Deutsche Bank AG, that the bank lent money to companies building the Auschwitz death camp follows months of controversy about the relationship of German business to Adolf Hitler's regime.

Deutsche together with Dresdner Bank AG and Commerzbank AG face an $18 billion class-action lawsuit from surviviors in the U.S. after revelations they traded in concentration camp gold.

German auto companies Daimler-Benz AG, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG

and truckmaker MAN AG have been named in a number of lawsuits filed in the U.S. over their use of slave labour.

Lawyers are also mulling legal action against U.S. carmakers General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co. Several Austrians have also been named in lawsuits.

Metals firm Degussa AG faces a U.S. lawsuit claiming the company's total assets worldwide. It accuses the firm of profiting from the refining and smelting of looted Nazi gold, including teeth ripped from Holocaust victims' mouths.

Volkswagen launched a 20-million-mark fund for slave labourers last September under former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in the hope of averting claims.

Electrical engineering giant Siemens AG, accused of using slave labour, announced a fund for the same amount.

Chemical giants BASF AG, Hoechst AG and Bayer AG. have also been cited in slave labour suits.

Germany's Allianz AG, along with other European insurers, has been accused of failing to honour life insurance polices of Holocaust victims.

Allianz and five others agreed in November to set up a $90 million humanitarian fund for victims and to audit their books to identify unpaid Holocaust-era claims.

($1-1.725 Mark)


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Deutsche Bank to hold Holocaust talks with WJC
08:17 p.m Feb 04, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Revealing it helped fund construction of the Auschwitz death camp, Deutsche Bank on Thursday set up talks with Jewish leaders that might lead to a settlement of Holocaust claims and remove a potential obstacle to Deutsche's purchase of Bankers Trust.

Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, organised a meeting with leaders of the World Jewish Congress to discuss both the historical record and compensation.

The WJC has pressed Deutsche Bank to settle questions about the bank's conduct under the Nazis and compensate victims. It had been expected to block Deutsche Bank's $10.1 billion purchase of Bankers, the eighth-largest U.S. bank, because Deutsche Bank had not met its demands.

But the latest development was not enough by itself to cause the New York City comptroller to back down from a threat to try to block the Bankers deal because of charges Deutsche Bank it used slave labourers during the Nazi era.

``I continue to believe that federal and state officials should take no action on the proposed merger between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust until these issues are fully resolved,'' Comptroller Alan Hevesi said in prepared remarks.

Deutsche Bank has denied using slave labour though it has admitted to taking part in Aryanization -- buying or brokering assets from Jews detained by the Nazis at firesale prices.

Just hours before a news conference in Frankfurt disclosing that Deutsche Bank helped finance the building of the Auschwitz death camp where 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War II, the bank's chairman set up a meeting with Jewish leaders.

A source in Frankfurt who is close to the controversy said Deutsche Bank Chairman Rolf Breuer called World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Israel Singer seeking a meeting, which was expected to take place by Monday.

Elan Steinberg, the WJC executive director, declined to comment on who called the meeting, saying only the talks were ``mutually agreed to.''

U.S. stock analysts say Bankers Trust's shares have underperformed due to concerns that its merger with Deutsche Bank will be delayed, or even come undone, due to the recent controversy about the bank's conduct under the Nazi regime.

Deutsche Bank would not have to immediately settle all the questions about its conduct under 12 years of Nazi rule for the group to drop objections to the merger.

``We want to be in a position to say after these talks that there is a mechanism in place, a process, an arrangement at hand, by which Deutsche Bank will honestly confront its past and make material restitution for the misdeeds of the past,'' Steinberg told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The WJC is one of the prime negotiators in what it sees as a battle to resolve the last historical questions about the Holocaust and win compensation for the victims' suffering.

U.S. politicians place great weight on the WJC's views, and as of Jan. 29, the WJC was expected to oppose the Deutsche Bank-Bankers Trust merger because the bank had not met its demands for a process under which it would address the Nazi era and make restitution.

While the New York City comptroller lacks the power to approve or reject the $10.1 billion merger, Hevesi leads a network of state and local officials whose threat last year to boycott Swiss banks helped bring about a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust victims and their heirs.

The New York City comptroller appeared willing to have his committee of local and state finance officials take a more active role in the late negotiations, saying ``I encourage Deutsche Bank to report directly to us.''

Talks between the WJC and Deutsche Bank on reparations for Holocaust survivors and their heirs have been complicated by a German government decision to adopt an umbrella plan that would cover all German companies that used slave labour.

The question holding up a settlement is whether Deutsche Bank should negotiate separately or be included in the German government plan, sources close to the talks said.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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FOCUS-Deutsche role in WW2 camp won't doom BT deal
07:05 p.m Feb 04, 1999 Eastern

By Mary Kelleher

NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank AG's revelation on Thursday that it helped finance Nazi death camp construction in World War Two cast a cloud over its plans to buy U.S. giant Bankers Trust Corp., but analysts said it should not hold the deal back by more than a few months.

The disclosure by Germany's largest bank that it lent money to firms involved in building concentration camps at Auschwitz rekindled concerns surrounding its $10.1 billion plan to buy Bankers Trust, a deal it wants to wrap up by the end of the second quarter.

Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed at the camp during the war.

Bankers Trust stock is trading at a significant discount to $93 per share, the cash offer Deutsche made to the U.S. bank, because of seemingly unshakable fears that the merger might be derailed by the pressures of having to meet claims from Holocaust victims.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi kept up the heat on Deutsche Bank on Thursday, saying the merger should be delayed until Holocaust claims were settled.

But analysts said Deutsche Bank, expected to meet soon with a leading Jewish group and German officials to try to settle claims, would not pull out now even though its time line to close the deal might be pushed back.

``This issue should not have any bearing in the deal,'' one industry source said. ``There is no reason to think the deal is not en route. I am being told the deal is still very much on track and the second quarter is very feasible.''

Deutsche Bank has already taken steps to address its role in World War Two and would likely make a financial settlement to resolve its past, analysts said.

``It looks as though Deutsche Bank is grasping the bull by the horn to get past this, which is obviously a positive, but I don't really know where it goes from here,'' Lawrence Cohn, an analyst at Ryan Beck & Co. said.

Last year, New York state and local officials threatened to boycott Swiss banks, helping to bring about a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust victims and their heirs.

This process, which likely would include U.S. regulators holding public hearings on the matter, could make it more difficult to complete the purchase of Bankers by April or May but it should still get done by June or July, they said.

Also Deutsche Bank, which filed its merger application with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in January, has operated in the United States since 1978 without regulators questioning its wartime activities, another analyst said, adding the claims were an issue for the courts not regulators.

``Why didn't the Federal Reserve deny Deutsche Bank banking privileges?'' Roy Smith, a professor of finance at New York University said. ``Who didn't know that Deutsche Bank was a wartime German bank?...If I were on the Federal Reserve I don't think I would be able to summon up enough courage or wisdom to deny this (merger deal). There are remedies for resolving claims in the courts, and the Fed is not a court.''

Burt Ely, a banking consultant with Ely & Co. said: ``Ultimately, this is some kind of a settlement issue, an issue that gets resolved through money.''

Bankers Trust shares eased to finish off $0.56 a share at $85.31 in New York on Thursday, while Deutsche Bank stock ended up 0.35 euro at 48.30 euro in Frankfurt.

Deutsche Chief Executive Rolf Breuer was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday as saying Holocaust claims have made the ``economic reasoning'' of its takeover of Bankers Trust Corp.

questionable, but this should not end or hurt the deal.

Bankers Trust Chairman Frank Newman has repeatedly said the deal was on track to be completed in the second quarter 1999.

The World Jewish Congress said on Thursday it would meet soon with Breuer and German officials, and hoped the meetings would lead to a resolution of the matter.

When Deutsche Bank announced plans to buy Bankers Trust toward the end of last year, it received some criticism among the analyst community because the U.S. bank had just posted large losses in the third quarter. But analysts said Bankers Trust's fourth quarter results were much better, easing worries about the economics of the deal.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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New York official wants Deutsche Bank merger delayed
06:04 p.m Feb 04, 1999 Eastern

NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi Thursday kept up pressure on Deutsche Bank, whose desire to buy Bankers Trust reignited a 50-year-old controversy over whether it used slave labourers in World War II, saying the merger should be delayed until Holocaust claims were settled.

``I continue to believe that federal and state officials should take no action on the proposed merger between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust until these issues are fully resolved,'' Hevesi said.

A Deutsche Bank historian said earlier Thursday that the bank, Germany's biggest, helped finance construction of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, where some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died.

Deutsche Bank has denied using slave labour though it has admitted to taking part in Aryanization -- buying Jewish assets at firesale prices.

While Hevesi lacks the power to approve or reject the $10.1 billion merger between Germany's biggest bank and the eighth largest U.S. bank, the New York City comptroller leads a network of state and local officials whose threat last year to boycott Swiss banks helped bring about a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust victims and their heirs.

The World Jewish Congress said Thursday that by Monday it would meet with Rolf Breuer, the Deutsche Bank chairman, and German government officials, in an effort to resolve the Holocaust claims.

The city comptroller appeared willing to take a more active role in the negotiations, saying in prepared remarks, ``I encourage Deutsche Bank to report directly to us.''


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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U.S. Says Disappointed In Lithuanian Nazi Trials
10:05 a.m. Feb 05, 1999 Eastern

By Jonathan Leff

VILNIUS (Reuters) - The United States Friday voiced disappointment that Lithuania had not brought any alleged Nazi-era war criminals to justice but welcomed efforts to open medical examinations of suspects to outside experts.

``The U.S. government is deeply disappointed that no accused war criminals from the Nazi era have stood trial in Lithuania,'' the U.S. embassy in Vilnius said in a prepared statement issued in response to queries.

``These crimes are among the most heinous in history, and vigorous prosecution of Nazi war criminals, wherever they may be found, is the obligation of all democratic nations,'' it added.

Aleksandras Lileikis and his wartime deputy, Kazys Gimzhauskas, both 91-year-old former U.S. citizens, are accused of handing over scores of Jews to Nazi death squads during the German occupation of the Baltic state in World War II.

But in early January, their trials were suspended after only a few hearings for medical exams of the defendants. Both were subsequently found to be too ill to take part. According to Lithuanian law, a trial is impossible without their presence.

Although the court must make a final ruling at its next sitting Feb. 9, it is expected to approve the doctors' findings, effectively ending the prosecution.

The medical panel also said it was unlikely the defendants' conditions would improve.

``Only the most fundamental concerns of due process of law could justify not bringing these cases to trial immediately,'' the U.S. statement said.

``The U.S. government welcomes the offer of the Lithuanian government to provide the medical records and findings on Lileikis and Gimzhauskas to outside experts,'' it added.

Lileikis, a former Boston-area resident stripped of his U.S. passport in 1996, is accused of handing over 75 Jews to Nazi murder squads as head of the Vilnius region Saugumas (Security Police) during the German occupation of the Baltic State.

Nazi-hunters say he is responsible for tens of thousands more deaths. He denies he is a war criminal and claims he fought in the resistance against the Germans.

When he appeared in court last November wearing a neck brace, he had to be carried up two flights of stairs in a wheelchair to reach the court and was rushed from the courtroom complaining of heart pains.

Lileikis, whom Justice Department officials say is one of the worst World War II criminals ever found in the U.S., was indicted in mid-1997.

Gimzhauskas, a former Florida resident, returned to his native Lithuania in 1993.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Dresdner Bank faces probe of its Nazi -2
01:52 p.m Feb 05, 1999 Eastern

Dresdner Bank faces probe of its Nazi -2

``There was the same U.S. military investigation of Dresdner as there was of Deutsche Bank,'' the WJC source said referring to a 400-page 1946 U.S. military investigation of Deutsche Bank. The WJC provided the report to Reuters. The study was released in 1977 along with declassified material by the U.S.

archives.

The report has gained new significance because of Deutsche Bank's effort to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth largest U.S.

bank. As a result of the merger plans, Deutsche Bank is under intense scrutiny by New York and U.S. regulators.

Both banks, along with a few other German and Austrian banks, are being sued in New York by Holocaust victims, including former slave labourers. Deutsche Bank has denied using slave labour, though it has said it took part in Aryanization, the buying or broking of assets from Jews detained by the Nazis.

The World Jewish Congress, whose views carry great weight with U.S. politicians, plans to meet on Monday in Washington with Deutsche Bank and German government representatives. The participants are expected to discuss a possible umbrella settlement of Holocaust claims.

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


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Dresdner Bank faces probe of WWII conduct - WJC
01:40 p.m Feb 05, 1999 Eastern

NEW YORK, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress, which is seeking reparations for Holocaust victims from Germany's biggest bank, Deustche Bank, has started a probe of another big German bank for its World War II conduct, a WJC source said on Friday.

The source said that the group next will be investigating Dresdner Bank, the country's third biggest bank, which like its big rival, is the subject of class action lawsuits by Holocaust victims.


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Dresdner Bank Faces Probe Of WWII Conduct - WJC Source
12:46 a.m. Feb 06, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress has decided to widen its probe of the collaboration between German banks and the Nazi regime to include Dresdner Bank, the country's third-biggest bank, a WJC source said Friday.

The WJC is currently in negotiations with Germany's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, on reparations for Holocaust victims, and might try to block its planned merger with Bankers Trust of the United States if the issue is not resolved.

A New York spokesman for Dresdner Bank declined comment.

Along with a few other German and Austrian banks, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank face billion-dollar class-action lawsuits by Holocaust survivors, including slave laborers.

Deutsche Bank has denied using slave laborers though it has admitted that it took part in Aryanization -- the buying or brokering of assets owned by Jews who were in Nazi custody.

The Jewish group has released a 400-page U.S. military government study conducted in 1946 that called for Deutsche Bank to be liquidated and its top leaders tried as war criminals.

Dresdner Bank does not face the same intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators that confronts Deutsche Bank because of the latter's planned $10.1 billion merger. Thursday, Deutsche Bank historians said they discovered documents showing that the bank financed companies that built the death camp at Auschwitz.

U.S. politicians place great weight on the WJC's views in light of its global campaign to clear up remaining questions about the history of the Holocaust and win compensation for the victims and their heirs.

A WJC source said that in his opinion, ``There was the same military investigation of Dresdner as there was of Deutsche Bank, and Dresdner does not come out any better, and in some ways it is worse.''

The WJC plans to meet Monday in Washington with representatives from Deutsche Bank and the German government. The participants are expected to discuss a possible umbrella settlement of Holocaust claims.

The group also expects by next week to have a post-World War II report by the U.S. military on Dresdner Bank. The Deutsche Bank report makes a number of references to Dresdner Bank. For example, the two banks were competing to some extent in the buying of Jewish assets at fire-sale prices.

The study on Deutsche Bank quotes a manager of its Berlin head office as saying that a leading member of the management board pushed the bank to intensify its efforts.

``I do not remember the exact contents of these communications, but they stated first of all that Aryanizations were now quite common and then pointed out that the Dresdner Bank was deriving appreciable profits from such transactions,'' the Deutsche Bank manager said.

The Deutsche bank investigation also said ``the smaller, but aggressive'' Dresdner Bank was a rival in the synthetic fuel field. Oil was a strategic commodity.

While Dresdner Bank lost out to Deutsche Bank in a bid for some of French bank Societe Generale's business, the report also said both Dresdner and Deutsche bank participated in various syndicates, including ones that gave credits for arms purchases to Germany's potential allies and Axis partners.

But Deutsche Bank dominated one area -- remitting the pay of foreign workers to their home countries. ``Even the Dresdner Bank, which proved itself such a faithful servant of the Nazi regime, was relegated to a negligible role in this type of business,'' the 1946 U.S. report said.


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WJC keeps pressure on Deutsche Bank
01:33 p.m Feb 07, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress on Sunday was weighing possible sanctions against Deutsche Bank a day before the group meets the chairman of Germany's biggest bank to try to resolve Holocaust claims, a WJC source said.

Late last year, Deutsche Bank announced a $10.1 billion takeover of Bankers Trust as part of an ambitious expansion drive, only to see the deal imperilled by charges its affiliates used slave labour during World War II.

Deutsche Bank denies using slave labourers, though on Thursday its historian said the bank had helped to pay for the building of the Auschwitz death camp, where some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed.

The influential WJC wants the bank to make ``material reparations'' to Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

Germany is sending its trouble-shooting chancellery minister, Bodo Hombach, to Monday's talks in Washington, at which U.S. officials will also be present, and he is expected to float a solution which could involve the establishment of a fund, a foundation, or a combination of the two.

``If, in fact, a resolution isn't reached, we are planning to go far beyond blocking a merger between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust,'' the WJC source said. ``In effect, we would try to impose a kind of disinvestment campaign, following the pattern of South Africa under the apartheid regime.''

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi will base his decision on whether to fight Deutsche Bank's purchase of the eighth largest U.S. bank on the outcome of Monday's talks.

The comptroller, who says he lost at least 55 relatives to the Holocaust, leads a network of state and local officials whose boycott threats last year helped push Swiss banks into a $1.25 billion settlement with Holocaust victims.

Like the Swiss banks before it, Deutsche Bank faces the risk that the officials would impose a series of boycotts if no progress is made during Monday's talks.

``It would be a rolling series of sanctions that would begin first with forbidding overnight deposits, then not doing business with them, then moving on to actual disinvestment,'' the WJC source said.

New York City in early December said its five pension funds, which Hevesi controls, owned a total of 520,084 shares of Deutsche Bank stock. While the pension funds do business with Bankers Trust, at that time they did not own its stock.

Deutsche Bank is not the only German financial institution facing questions about its role in Nazi-era Germany. Dresdner Bank has also been named in billion-dollar class-action lawsuits brought by former slave labourers in New York.

German auto companies Daimler-Benz AG, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and truckmaker MAN AG also have been named in lawsuits over the use of slave labour. So have electrical engineering giant Siemens, and chemical-makers BASF AG, Hoechst AG and Bayer AG.

Dresdner Bank will be the next to have its conduct probed by the WJC, which expects this week to get a post-World War II report by the U.S. military on Germany's third biggest bank's activities.

``We're not aware of any special probe,'' a Dresdner Bank spokesman said on Sunday. ``If they want to do something more, obviously they can and I'll be interested to know what it turns out to be.''


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Hitler's Favorite Filmmaker Defends Record
12:52 a.m. Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

POTSDAM, Germany (Reuters) - Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite filmmaker and one of the Third Reich's last surviving personalities, is at 96 still fending off criticism that she was among the most powerful of Nazi propagandists.

Riefenstahl, who was in Potsdam near Berlin Saturday to view an exhibition of her work at the city's film museum, gave a rare news conference afterwards.

``I cannot see these films as propaganda. It was possible to use them as such, but they were not made as propaganda.

``It was a completely different time,'' she told reporters. ''There wasn't information about the horrible things that we learned about after the war. It wasn't imaginable.''

Riefenstahl has attained pariah status in Germanybecause of her refusal to apologize for work she did during Hitler's rule and the role her films might have played in promoting him.

Her film ``Triumph of the Will'' documented the 1934 Nuremberg Rally and depicted Hitler addressing cheering crowds. She described the event as ``boring.''

``Making a documentary film was like a punishment for me,'' she said. ``I was a passionate actress and wanted to get better roles. But then I saw that I had the talent of making interesting documentaries out of minimal content.''

Dressed in white pullover and silk scarf and looking far younger than her age, Riefenstahl said she was thrilled with the Film Museum Potsdam exhibition, the first comprehensive show of her work in Germany.

The exhibition brings together material from a documentary she made of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, photographs of the Nuba tribes in southern Sudan and pictures taken under water.

Riefenstahl started diving when she was 72 and is trying to complete an underwater film by the end of the year.

A smaller show two years ago in a Hamburg gallery met with outrage among some Holocaust survivors and protests by local leftists who called it a tribute to fascism.

Riefenstahl said she was bitter that her work had never been judged purely on its artistic merits in Germany, but always in the shadow of the Nazi legacy.

``Abroad, no one was interested in these seven months that I worked for Hitler,'' she said. ``People were only interested in my films, my work, how I did it as a woman, the techniques I developed that some cameramen are still learning from. Not 'Did she have an affair with Hitler?' -- that was all nonsense.''

Riefenstahl has consistently denied speculation that she was romantically linked with Hitler or his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

She said she had not made ``Olympia'' just for the Nazi party, adding that it was completed with the encouragement of the International Olympic Committee and only with Hitler's begrudging support.

``Hitler had nothing to do with that film,'' Riefenstahl said. ``I always heard that he was bitterly disappointed that I made it and wanted me to work on other films. At least at first, Hitler was not interested in the Olympic Games. He didn't like it that black athletes won top events.''

The Potsdam exhibition, which has drawn more than 20,000 visitors since it opened in early December, is scheduled to close on March 14.


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Nazi-hunter calls for exam of Lithuania Nazi trials
07:59 a.m. Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

VILNIUS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre called on Monday for an investigation into Lithuania's prosecution of two alleged Nazi war criminals just as their trials are set to reconvene for a possibly final sitting.

Aleksandras Lileikis and his wartime deputy, Kazys Gimzhauskas, both 91-year-old former U.S. citizens, are accused of handing over scores of Jews to Nazi death squads during the German occupation of the Baltic state in World War Two.

But in early January, their trials were suspended after only a few hearings for medical examinations of the defendants. Both were subsequently found to be too ill to take part. According to Lithuanian law, a trial is impossible without their presence.

Although the court must make a final ruling at its next sitting on February 9, it is expected to approve the doctors' findings, effectively ending the prosecution.

Their trials would have been the first of Nazi-era war criminals in a post-Soviet country.

``We are calling upon the EU and the U.S. Congress to investigate this travesty of justice,'' Efraim Zuroff, head of the centre's Jerusalem office, said in a statement.

``We cannot imagine that a country which adopts such a conciliatory policy towards high-ranking Nazi murderers will ever be able to gain admittance to (the EU and NATO) and we will urge NATO and the European Union to make this a major consideration in their deliberations,'' it added.

The United States government on Friday voiced disappointment that no Nazi-era war criminals had been brought to justice and welcomed offers to open the recent medical examinations.


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FOCUS-UK Nazi war crimes trial to visit Belarus
08:39 a.m. Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

By Jill Serjeant

LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - An English judge and jury decided on Monday to make an unprecedented official visit to the former Soviet republic of Belarus as part of Britain's first full-scale Nazi war crimes trial.

The judge, jury and lawyers for the prosecution and defence will visit the small town of Domachevo next week to see for themselves the site where Polish-born Anthony Sawoniuk, now 77, is alleged to have killed four Jews in late 1942.

Court officials said it was the first time an English judge and jury had travelled abroad as part of a criminal trial.

The court heard that Sawoniuk was a police officer serving in German-occupied Domachevo where it is alleged that he ``helped the Germans in putting into effect the policy of mass murder of the local Jewish population.''

Sawoniuk, a stocky white-haired man who came to Britain in 1946, is pleading not guilty to the four counts of murder against him. The prosecution will begin outlining its case on Tuesday and the trial is expected to last about eight weeks, taking evidence from elderly witnesses from Britain and abroad.

He is the first person to come to trial on war crimes charges since the British parliament controversially agreed in 1991 to hunt down those who slipped into the country after the war with blood on their hands.

Judge Francis Potts told the four women and eight men on the jury that they should not serve ``if either you or your family suffered as a result of the German actions against Jewish or other races or religions.'' Warning them not to discuss the case with anyone outside the court, he said: ``This is a highly unusual case. It is the first time a jury has been arraigned to try a case of this sort in this country. There will be a good deal of interest.''

Sawoniuk is being tried under the 1991 War Crimes Act, which for the first time extended British jurisdiction to cover alleged war crimes committed by non-British nationals in German-controlled territory during the war. Much of his trial is expected to rest on the question of identification.

The legislation was passed after heated debates pitting those who argued that alleged war criminals could not expect a fair trial after so many years against others who insisted Britain must not become a hiding place for former Nazis.

Official enquiries at the time estimated there were about 300 war criminals in Britain -- most of them former members of police units from the Baltic states and eastern Europe who were admitted by a government desperately in need of manpower to rebuild its war-ravaged mines and factories. Most later took British citizenship.

More than half the cases never got to court because of lack of evidence, and scores more suspected Nazis have since died.

A 1996 case involving Szymon Serafinowicz, who was accused of three specimen murder charges of Jews in Belarus, collapsed before reaching trial when the 86-year-old was found to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, heart problems and cancer. He died seven months later, still maintaining his innocence.


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Britain's Nazi War Crimes Trial Gets Under Way
06:41 a.m. Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

By Jill Serjeant

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's first full-scale Nazi war crimes trial started Monday, eight years after parliament controversially agreed to hunt down those who slipped into the country after the war with blood on their hands.

Anthony Sawoniuk, 77, a Polish-born former railway worker, is accused of killing four unnamed Jews in late 1942 in his home town of Domachevo in what is now Belarus but which at the time was in German-occupied Poland.

Sawoniuk, who has lived in a working-class district in East London for many years, is pleading not guilty to the charges and the trial is expected to last for six to eight weeks.

Evidence, some of it recorded on video film, will be given by at least two elderly villagers still living in Domachevo.

Sawoniuk is the first person to reach a full-scale trial under the 1991 War Crimes Act, which for the first time extended British jurisdiction to cover alleged war crimes committed by non-British nationals in German-controlled territory during the war.

The legislation was passed after heated debates pitting those who argued that alleged war criminals could not expect a fair trial after so many years and those who argued that Britain must not become a hiding place for former Nazis.

Official inquiries at the time estimated there were about 300 war criminals in Britain -- most of them former members of police units from the Baltic states and eastern Europe who were admitted by a government desperately in need of manpower to rebuild its war-ravaged mines and factories. Most later took British citizenship.

More than half the cases never got to court because of lack of evidence, and scores more suspected Nazis have since died.

The only other case to get to court involved another Eastern European national, Szymon Serafinowicz, who was accused of three specimen murder charges of Jews in Belarus.

His trial collapsed in 1996 when the 86-year-old was found to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, heart problems and cancer. He died seven months later, still maintaining his innocence.


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Germans, Jewish leaders meet on Holocaust claims
01:12 p.m Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

By Knut Engelmann

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A German minister and the head of the country's largest bank met Jewish leaders in Washington on Monday on a plan to settle Holocaust and slave labour claims in return for immunity from future lawsuits.

The series of talks could be crucial to the future of Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant awaiting Washington's approval for a $10.1 billion takeover of Bankers Trust, the eighth largest U.S. bank.

The bank's historian cast a shadow over the deal last week when he announced that Deutsche Bank helped finance the building of the Auschwitz death camp during World War II.

The talks opened with a meeting between German Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach, Deutsche Bank Chairman Rolf Breuer, World Jewish Congress (WJC) Secretary-General Israel Singer and representatives of two other Jewish groups.

``The aim is ... a solution that ensures that there will be humanitarian help for the people forced into slave labour by the Nazi regime,'' said Hombach's spokesman Walter Jakobs.

But any deal should also ensure that German industry is shielded from ``unjustified attacks and claims, some of which even aim at destroying whole companies,'' Jakobs told Reuters.

On Monday afternoon, Hombach and Singer will see U.S.

Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, the U.S. government's expert on Holocaust and Nazi-era claims, officials said.

Hombach is hoping to break a deadlock on reparations before German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visits Washington on Thursday, and Jakobs was upbeat on Sunday about the prospects.

``The German government is optimistic that it can find a solution together with the other involved parties in the near future,'' Jakobs told Reuters.

He said details still needed to be worked out, but that the proposal basically called for German companies to pay into a survivor compensation fund in return for immunity.

Hombach has said that if the visit goes well, Bonn will unveil its ``solution'' to the claims by the end of February.

The World Jewish Congress said on Sunday it could pursue sanctions against Deutsche Bank if it did not come to terms.

``If, in fact, a resolution isn't reached, we are planning to go far beyond blocking a merger between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust,'' the WJC source said. ``In effect, we would try to impose a kind of disinvestment campaign, following the pattern of South Africa under the apartheid regime.''

A decision on whether to fight Deutsche Bank's purchase of Bankers Trust would depend on Monday's talks, the source said.

Jakobs said German government officials and business leaders were aware of the group's threat, but remained confident that an agreement could be hammered out.

The key issue, he added, was to ensure that German companies that contributed to the compensation fund were legally protected from further class-action lawsuits.

Deutsche Bank is one of many German companies facing a tide of class-action suits in the United States filed by Holocaust survivors accusing them of profiting from slave labour or the Nazi expropriation of Jewish assets.

The delicate negotiations aimed at making a clean break with the Nazi past and helping to solve some Cold War-era mysteries represent a major diplomatic challenge for Schroeder, who came to power 100 days ago.

Singer said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag he understood Schroeder's desire to settle the matter before 2000 and urged Bonn to reach a speedy settlement.

``I cannot imagine the Germans want to go into the next millennium without having solved this problem. We must make a clean break,'' he told the Sunday newspaper.

Asked whether Jewish groups could guarantee this ``clean break,'' he said: ``Yes, I am convinced. If we reach a satisfactory agreement, the U.S. and Israeli governments will have to help Germany. They must make it clear the matter has been addressed to prevent new claims being filed.''

Hombach is also expected to ask for the return of ex-East German intelligence files obtained by U.S. agents in the chaotic aftermath of the collapse of communism in 1989.

The files, thought to be in the hands of the CIA, could blow the cover of former agents in communist East Germany's international espionage network.

The CIA and the State Department have declined to comment on the German request, but the Washington Post, quoting U.S.

government sources, reported last month that the United States had no plans to give the files back.


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WJC unlikely to push NYC to boycott Deutsche Bank-source
03:55 p.m Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The World Jewish Congress is unlikely to try to block Deutsche Bank's blockbuster purchase of Bankers Trust by calling for a boycott because enough progress has been made in resolving 50-year-old Holocaust claims, a WJC source said Monday.

``It would seem very unlikely that there would be a boycott at this point,'' the WJC source, who declined to be named, said.

The WJC is at the forefront of a battle for what it calls moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims, and U.S. and local politicians, from the State Department to the New York City comptroller, closely follow its recommendations.

After a late-afternoon meeting at the State Department in Washington, D.C., the WJC was expected to issue a report to New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Hevesi has no power to approve or reject the $10.1 billion union between Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, and Bankers Trust, the eighth largest U.S. bank, but he leads a network of state and local finance officials. That group's threat last year to boycott Swiss banks helped push the banks into a $1.25 billion settlement.

German Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach is representing Germany in the discussions in Washington on Monday, while Deutsche Bank sent its chairman, Rolf Breuer.

Breuer, responding to rumours that the merger, the biggest-ever foreign takeover of a U.S. bank, was unravelling, told reporters in Washington that he expected the merger to proceed as planned, winding up by the end of the second quarter.

As a result of the talks, German firms were likely to finance an umbrella fund to pay Holocaust settlements, the WJC source said.

Such a fund would carry a major incentive for German firms, because it also would aim to settle any liability they have from billion-dollar lawsuits pending in New York. Those suits charge Deutsche Bank with using slave labour -- a charge it denies -- and profiting from Aryanization -- buying or brokering Jewish assets at fire sale prices.

``We've established from the German industrial and business side that they should expect closure on the material compensation... There's no such thing as closure on moral responsibility,'' Elan Steinberg, WJC's executive director, said.

Working groups soon will be set up, one of which will be charged with determining the size of the umbrella fund, Steinberg said.

``There has been talk of the fund starting to pay out by September 1, the 60th anniversary of World War II. We hope to do that even before September,'' he said. ``We are proceeding with the cooperation and active involvement of the governments of Israel, the United States, Germany, as well as world Jewry and survivor organisations.''

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


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WJC unlikely to ask NYC to boycott Deutsche -2
02:35 p.m Feb 08, 1999 Eastern

WJC unlikely to ask NYC to boycott Deutsche -2

The WJC is helping to lead the battle for what it calls moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims, and U.S. and local politicians, from the State Department to the New York City comptroller, closely follow its views.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi has no power to approve or reject the union between Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust, but he leads a network of state and local finance officials. That group's threat last year to boycott Swiss banks helped push the banks into a $1.25 billion settlement. After a late-afternoon meeting at the State Department, the WJC was expected to issue a report to Hevesi.

The so-called umbrella fund, which likely will be paid for by German industry, holds a major incentive for German firms: it also will aim to settle any liability they have from billion-dollar lawsuits pending in New York, which charge Deutsche Bank with abusing slave labour -- a charge it denies -- and profiting from Aryanization -- buying or brokering Jewish assets at fire sale prices.

``We've established from the German industrial and business side that they should expect closure on the material compensation... There's no such thing as closure on moral responsibility,'' said Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director.

Working groups soon will be set up, one of which will be charged with determining the size of the umbrella fund, Steinberg said. ``We are proceeding with the cooperation and active involvement of the governments of Israel, the United States, Germany, as well as world Jewry and survivor organisations, he added.

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


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Deutsche warns Bankers delay may wreck takeover
12:35 p.m. Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

By David Crossland

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank AG Tuesday warned that its takeover of Bankers Trust could be thwarted if it were delayed too long by Holocaust-related claims, as class-action lawyers dampened hopes of a quick resolution.

Deutsche Chief Executive Rolf Breuer said in a German television interview that the takeover would make no economic sense if delayed too long, and that new revelations about its past should not lead to fresh claims.

``If there were delays then of course there are natural, economic limits for that,'' said Breuer, who together with German Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach held talks in Washington on Monday to discuss setting up a fund to compensate Nazi victims.

``From a certain delay period onwards the acquisition of Bankers Trust becomes economically unreasonable.''

Market watchers said Breuer's comments were intended more to put pressure on U.S. authorities to approve the takeover of the U.S. bank than to cast doubt on the deal going ahead.

``His comments were designed to concentrate minds among those who need to be got on side than to really question the strategic value of the acquisition,'' said Bryan Crossley, banking analyst at ABN Amro Hoare Govett.

Speaking to reporters Monday, the German bank's boss said he ``definitely'' expected the takeover to be completed as planned in the second quarter.

Meanwhile New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who has played a central role in mobilizing U.S. cities and states against European companies deemed to have liabilities from the Nazi era, reiterated Monday that U.S. regulators should not sign off on the merger until Deutsche settled the claims.

Breuer's comments came as class-action lawyers for victims of Nazi slave labor camps cast doubt Monday on reports that the Washington talks had made progress.

Lawyer Michael Hausfeld told reporters after four hours of talks at the State Department that nothing had occurred to ``cement any conclusion. ... There is no agreement.''

``We haven't refused or accepted anything nor has anything been put to us that we either have to refuse or accept. This process is not over,'' Hausfeld added.

Earlier Monday, after a meeting in which the lawyers did not take part, Hombach and World Jewish Congress (WJC) Secretary-General Israel Singer said they had made progress on a fund that would compensate the victims and lift the threat of claims against German firms.

Breuer told Deutsche Welle television that revelations such as last week's announcement that Deutsche helped finance construction of the Auschwitz death camp were ``definitely not the last revelations of this kind.''

But he added that new facts emerging from the Nazi era must not mean new claims and that Deutsche needed to be able to make plans with certainty that it would not be legally challenged.

It remained unclear how much compensation Deutsche would be prepared to pay. Along with other German and Austrian banks, it faces claims totaling some $18 billion in class-action suits brought by lawyers on behalf of Holocaust victims and their heirs.

Business daily Handelsblatt Tuesday quoted unnamed sources in the German delegation as saying Deutsche was ready to pay at least 500 million marks ($289.5 million) but that the offer had been rejected by lawyers.

Handelsblatt also reported that German companies had offered to pay a total of 1.3 billion marks ($2.2 billion) in compensation.

One source close to the talks said Monday that a report of a $1.3 billion offer by Deutsche was too low to be acceptable.

A Deutsche spokesman Tuesday declined to comment on the various compensation sums being reported. ``I don't know where they get those sums from,'' the spokesman said.


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BDI's Henkel urges fast help for forced Nazi labour
05:31 p.m Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

FRANKFURT, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The head of the BDI Federation of German Industry, Hans-Olaf Henkel, on Tuesday urged German companies that employed slave labour during World War Two to offer assistance to survivors as quickly as possible.

Speaking on German television, Henkel said companies that employed slave labour should, ``disclose the past in an honest and unambiguous way as quickly as possible.''

Henkel said his comments did not refer to all German industry as many companies did not employ slave workers and others had already moved to account for their actions during the war.

But for those who had not, time was of the essence.

``At the moment, I consider it of foremost importance (to help those who are still able to receive help),'' he said referring to forced labourers. ``The longer we talk about what to do, the fewer people there will be alive.''

The television network conducting the interview, made a summary of Henkel's comments available to the media.

  ((Frankfurt Newsroom +49 69 756525,
frankfurt.newsroom+reuters.com))


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FOCUS Germany's No. 3 bank to join Holocaust fund
06:11 p.m Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Dresdner Bank, following the lead of Deutsche Bank, has agreed to contribute to a Holocaust fund that will be financed by German companies and used to make restitution to Holocaust victims, a source close to talks on the fund said Tuesday.

A spokesman for Dresdner Bank, Germany's third largest bank, declined to comment.

While both Dresdner and Deutsche Bank face billion-dollar class action lawsuits that were brought in New York by Holocaust victims, Dresdner's war record has not been as closely scrutinised as Deutsche Bank's, which is seeking to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth largest U.S. bank.

During World War II, Dresdner was where the Nazi elite guard known as the Schutzstaffel (SS) banked. After the war, one of its bank board members, Karl Rasche, who was a member of the Nazi party, was convicted of war crimes.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi on Tuesday said he would not recommend that Deutsche's merger with Bankers Trust be approved until there was a written agreement on how Germany's biggest bank would settle Holocaust claims.

Deutsche Bank chairman Rolf Breuer, in a German television interview, said that the biggest-ever takeover of a U.S. bank would make no economic sense if delayed too long, and that new revelations about the German bank's past should not lead to fresh claims.

Deutsche last week made a surprise disclosure that it helped build the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland, where 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, died. But the bank has denied one of the most explosive charges in the class-action suits, that it used slave labour.

Hevesi, speaking at a news conference, said he would continue to monitor the Holocaust negotiations, and wanted a report in 30 days from officials involved in trying to settle the Nazi-era claims against Deutsche Bank.

Asked about the bank chairman's remarks, Hevesi told reporters: ``We're not here to give Deutsche Bank a hard time.''

Siemens and Volkswagen have made ``unilateral'' compensation offers which the World Jewish Congress said it has not accepted because it wants a global settlement wrapping up all the Holocaust claims facing firms that did business in Germany during the 12 years of Nazi rule.

The WJC, whose views carry great weight with U.S. politicians and which joined Hevesi at the news conference, also took part in talks in Washington Monday with Deutsche Bank and U.S. and German government officials about setting up the fund. The group said it did not know the other names of the 20 or so firms that have agreed to the proposed umbrella fund.

``It was a great breakthrough because a process is in place,'' Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, said.

WJC Secretary-general Israel Singer added that ``until yesterday, we had been making very little headway.''

Hevesi and the Jewish officials declined to say how big any umbrella fund might be, adding that these determinations were complex, and would be made by a working group that next week will hold its first meeting.

Germany's case is different from Switzerland's, whose banks last year reached a $1.25 billion accord with Holocaust victims, because Bonn since the war has paid billions of marks in reparations and because the German government is the engine behind the latest Holocaust talks, the WJC officials said.

``Therefore, it has to be looked at differently than other issues,'' Singer said.

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


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Germany drops offensive terms - Holocaust group
07:25 p.m Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK, Feb 9 (Reuters) - A survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, who took part in the latest talks on Holocaust claims, said Tuesday that German officials finally were willing to ditch two terms for compensation from a draft agreement that Holocaust victims called offensive.

The two words were Wiedergutmachung, which means restitution, and Notbeduerftige, which means needy people, according to Benjamin Meed, president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and Max Liebmann, the group's treasurer, who also attended the talks.

The new word that will be used is Entschaedigung, which means compensation, according to Liebmann.

Meed told reporters at a news conference: ``For the first time, they agreed there is no such thing that they can repair for money... They changed the terminology saying that we are needy people.'' He was referring to a meeting he and Liebmann attended Monday in Washington with German Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach.

That meeting preceded negotiations between the World Jewish Congress, Deutsche Bank 's chairman Rolf Breuer, and U.S. and German government officials.

Deutsche Bank's wartime record has been subjected to tough scrutiny because of its desire to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth largest U.S. bank.

The WJC, one of the most influential groups leading what it sees as a fight to win moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims, said those meetings produced a breakthrough -- an accord to set up an umbrella Holocaust fund that aims to wrap up outstanding Holocaust claims, including billion-dollar class action suits in New York.

Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, and Dresdner Bank, DRSD.F the country's third largest, were named in those suits, and both have signed onto the umbrella fund.

Meed's sentiment was echoed by the secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, who summed it up in five words: ``You can't repair the dead.''

Later, when asked if he would support an education fund as a way of paying compensation for those who died as slave labourers or who were put to death in camps like Auschwitz, Singer replied: ``Somehow, you have to be able to feel that moral restitution has taken place through a material form.''

Critics have attacked efforts to compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs for focusing too heavily on reparations and ignoring the ethical underpinnings.

``We do not want to have that plan like a social programme,'' Meed said. ``We paid dearly for all that has come back to us.''

Meed made it clear, however, that some form of compensation was due, saying: ``This was also one of the greatest robberies of mankind ... but what we achieved yesterday is something of great importance to us, morally.''

While the class-action lawsuits filed in New York are seeking $18 billion, it is not clear whether the lawyers will be able to set their usual fees.

Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said: ``We do not believe there should be any kind of special fees ... on a moral issue like this.''

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


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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Nazi Massacre Of Jews Relived In UK War Trial
09:28 a.m. Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

By Jill Serjeant

LONDON (Reuters) - The horror of a Nazi massacre of Jews in a small Eastern European village more than 50 years ago was re-lived in a London court Tuesday at the start of Britain's first full-scale war crimes trial.

Anthony Sawoniuk, now 77 and a British citizen, was a volunteer policeman in his German-occupied hometown of Belarus in 1942 who was ``not only prepared to do Nazi bidding but carried out the policy of genocide with enthusiasm,'' the court heard.

Sawoniuk, who came to Britain after the end of World War Two, denies four specimen charges of murdering two Jewish men and two Jewish women in the border town of Domachevo between September and December 1942.

But lawyer John Nutting, opening the prosecution case, said Sawoniuk was either seen to have shot the four, or seen taking them to a place where shootings had occurred and returned empty-handed, or had boasted about their fate subsequently.

Nutting said Polish-born Sawoniuk, then aged 20, was one of the first volunteers in the local police set up by the Nazis after they took Domachevo in 1941. He became a senior officer and left the town with the retreating German army in July 1944.

The court heard how the 3,000 Jewish population in Domachevo -- a spa town of about 5,000 people -- were hounded into a ghetto surrounded by wire gates and prevented from leaving with out permission on pain of death.

In September 1942, on the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur, 2,900 of them were marched along what became known as the ``road of death'' to sandhills outside the town.

Nutting said one eyewitness would tell the court of hearing cries and screams when the Jews were rounded up and ordered to undress before being starting the march to the hills under guard by Nazi troops and local police.

``There they were shot in batches by machine gun fire. The shooting lasted a long time,'' said Nutting.

Nutting said there was no evidence that Sawoniuk -- now a stocky, white-haired man who walks with a stick -- had participated in the massacre of 2,900 Jews on that day.

But there was evidence of his ``active role in the search and kill operation that followed the September 20th massacre.''

During the search of the ghetto for those who escaped the massacre, Sawoniuk was seen taking an 80 year old Jew into the street, setting fire to his beard and stabbing him.

``It is alleged that this defendant played a prominent part in the rounding up and murder of Jews who had fled from the forest in anticipation of the massacre,'' Nutting said.

``This defendant executed Jewish men and women whose only offence was to be Jewish,'' he added.

The judge, jury and lawyers for the prosecution and defense are to visit Domachevo next week in an unprecedented excursion abroad for an English court. The site of the massacre is marked by a memorial plaque but much of the evidence against Sawoniuk will turn on the question of identity and will rely on the evidence of elderly witnesses.

Sawoniuk is the first person to be tried under the 1991 War Crimes Act, which for the first time extended British jurisdiction to cover war crimes committed by non-British nationals in German-controlled territory during the war.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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FOCUS-Suspect in U.K. war trial says accusers lied
12:42 p.m. Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

By Jill Serjeant

LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The first man to be tried in Britain for war crimes has strenuously denied allegations of murdering Jews more than 50 years ago, saying his accusers lied to destroy his name, a court heard on Tuesday.

Anthony Sawoniuk was a volunteer policeman in his German-occupied home town in Belarus in 1942 who was ``not only prepared to do the Nazi bidding but carried out their policy of genocide with enthusiasm,'' said prosecuting lawyer John Nutting.

Nutting told the Central Criminal Court that Sawoniuk -- 77 and a British citizen -- had dismissed allegations by at least four of his contemporaries in Domachevo as malicious rubbish.

``No-one can put a finger on me that I killed a Jew,'' he was quoted as telling police in pre-trial interviews.

``The people over there will tell you anything for a couple of bob (cents)...They destroy other people's lives.''

Sawoniuk, who came to Britain after the end of World War Two, denies four specimen charges of murdering two Jewish men and two Jewish women in the border town of Domachevo between September and December 1942.

Nutting said Polish-born Sawoniuk, then aged 20, was one of the first volunteers in the local police set up by the Nazis after they took Domachevo in 1941. He became a senior officer and left the town with the retreating German army in July 1944.

The court heard how the town's 3,000-strong Jewish population was hounded into a ghetto surrounded by wire gates and prevented from leaving on pain of death.

In September 1942, on the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur, 2,900 of them were marched along the ``road of death'' to sand hills outside the town and shot dead by machinegun fire.

Nutting said there was no evidence that Sawoniuk -- now a stocky, white-haired man who walks with a stick -- had participated in the massacre that day.

But he alleged that Sawoniuk ``played a prominent part in the rounding up and murder of Jews who had fled from the forest in anticipation of the massacre.''

One witness would relate how he saw Sawoniuk shooting dead 15 Jewish women. Sawoniuk is also alleged to have beaten a Jewish woman so hard she dropped the baby she was carrying.

Another witness said Sawoniuk set fire to the beard of an aged Jew and then stabbed him. A fourth says he was told to dig graves for two Jews after watching Sawoniuk shoot them.

Acknowledging the case rested on the question of identity, Nutting said: ``After such a long time, may the witnesses' memories be at fault or do they describe events which are literally unforgettable, events which once witnessed would remain with them for the rest of their lives?''

The judge, jury and lawyers for the prosecution and defence will visit Domachevo next week.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.


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FOCUS-Germany optimistic on holocaust fund deal
07:15 p.m Feb 09, 1999 Eastern

By Knut Engelmann

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The German government on Tuesday said it had come one step closer to setting up a fund financed by German industry to settle all Holocaust-era claims, but stopped short of saying how large it would be.

After two days of talks with Jewish leaders as well as U.S.

and Israeli government representatives, a top German official said 17 of the country's biggest companies and banks had agreed to contribute to the fund, which could be up and running before Sept. 1 -- the 60th anniversary of the start of World War Two.

``German industry is intent on offering a material sign,'' German chancellery minister Bodo Hombach told a news briefing.

``We agreed to develop a cooperative, not a confrontational, concept to resolve in a speedy, unbureaucratic and humanitarian fashion all unresolved claims pending from the Nazi era.''

He declined to say how big the fund would be, saying the details had yet to be worked out.

A host of German companies and banks that did business during 12 years of Nazi rule in Germany face billion dollar lawsuits in New York brought by Holocaust victims. Germany's top bank, Deutsche Bank, has come under particular scrutiny because of its plan to buy Bankers Trust, the eighth-biggest U.S. bank, for $10.1 billion.

Hombach's talks, just days ahead of a meeting between German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Bill Clinton in Washington, appeared to have made progress in resolving the issue and toward avoiding ``unilateral'' compensation offers.

The World Jewish Congress, whose views carry great weight with U.S. politicians, also sounded an optimistic note. ``It was a great breakthrough because a process is in place,'' Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, said in New York.

Hombach said all sides had agreed the umbrella fund should shield German industry and banks from any future claims related to the Holocaust, such as those charging them with using slave labourers and profiting from the sale of Jewish assets.

Hombach said the fund would both provide compensation for Holocaust victims and earmark money for educational work aimed at making sure that ``such a tragedy will not be repeated.''

He dismissed suggestions that class action lawyers for Holocaust victims, who on Monday appeared to dampen hopes of a quick resolution, were likely to hold up the deal. ``There are surprising signs of a will to cooperate,'' he said.

Speedy resolution of Nazi-era claims is crucial to Deutsche Bank's proposed merger with Bankers Trust, the biggest-ever foreign takeover of a U.S. bank. Deutsche Bank is keen to wrap up the merger by April or May, and its chairman Rolf Breuer has warned the deal could be thwarted if it were delayed too long.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who has played a key role in mobilising U.S. cities and states against European companies deemed to have liabilities from the Nazi era, said on Tuesday he would not recommend the takeover be approved until there was a written agreement on how the German bank would settle Holocaust claims.

Deutsche Bank last week made the surprise disclosure that it helped build the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland, where 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, died. But the bank has denied charges that it used slave labour.

Hombach said Breuer had told the WJC he was eager to avoid a unilateral settlement of Holocaust-related claims and noted that ``all sides agreed that one fund in which the banks, including Deutsche Bank, take part has great advantages.''

In New York, a source close to the talks said earlier on Tuesday that Dresdner Bank, Germany's third-largest, had followed Deutsche Bank's lead and agreed to contribute to the fund. A Dresdner spokesman declined to comment.

Moves to resolve claims against German companies follow a series of initiatives to settle compensation issues outstanding since the Nazi era, like those involving gold and art works.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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