Britain accused over war assets

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THE GOVERNMENT came under heavy fire yesterday over its failure to publish a report into cases where Britain refused to return properties and assets to Holocaust survivors after the Second World War.

Lord Janner demanded the publication of the Department of Trade and Industry and Foreign Office investigation.

And he wants the immediate compensation of individuals whom he claimed lost out because of Britain's actions.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Greville Janner asked how Britain could expect action from the Swiss and the Vatican over their links to looted assets and not respond itself.

He said survivors did not understand the delay in releasing the report, which was delivered to the DTI before the conference on Nazi gold held in London at the beginning of December.

During the Second World War, bank balances and assets were blocked to prevent the enemy - which included any citizen or company of a country at war with Britain, therefore including many Jews - drawing upon them.

After the war, treaties allowed the Government to offset its claims and the claims of British citizens in respect of their property taken in enemy country.

Although special arrangements were made for Jews to reclaim assets, the criteria often made it impossible.

Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, wants compensation for the families who lost out. But it is believed that it is the question of whether to offer compensation - and if so, who should pay for it - which has caused the delay.

Lord Haskell, for the Government, said the Jews' losses were an "unintended by-product of necessary action taken to prevent enemy countries from securing assets in this country for their war effort".

He said: "I would like to stress that in general, the compensation arrangements proved successful.

"In all, some pounds 2m was paid to around 1,000 claimants, with only some 16 per cent being refused payment."