Cash to be restored to Jewish victims

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The Independent Online
FOR more than a year Miklos Breuer and his family lived a secret life, hiding from the Nazis in a fifth-floor flat in a tenement block in Budapest.

"It was pretty awful. We could barely leave the flat or else we would have been shot because we were Jews," he recalled yesterday. "During many of the bombing raids we had to stay there rather than go to the shelters. And there was also very little food."

In 1939, with the outbreak of fighting just months away, Mr Breuer's parents had hidden away their assets - pounds 659 - in a London bank. Twenty- one years later, when Mr Breuer, then aged 33, came to London to recover it, he was told by the National Westminster Bank's branch in Moorgate that the money had been seized under Trading with the Enemy legislation. Since then he has not seen a penny.

Yesterday the names of Mr Breuer's parents, Imre and Mariska, were among those of 25,000 foreign nationals and businesses, published by the Government, whose money was seized during the Second World War.

Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, said the names were being published to help people who believe they are owed money, to make their claims. A claims procedure is being established and a fund of pounds 2m has already been set aside with more promised if necessary.

Mrs Beckett told the Commons that claims would be considered "on the principle that confiscated assets placed in the UK by victims of Nazi persecution should be returned where practicable and where claims can be validated".

The names, which were published on the Internet, are of people from Germany, Bulgaria, Japan, Hungary and Romania. Many of the names are of people who will now be dead and claims will have to be made by surviving relatives.

The Government's announcement follows pressure from the Holocaust Education Trust, which last September revealed the extent of people whose money was seized, using the documents held within the Public Records Office. Later this year, details of abut 5,000 asset-holders from the former Yugoslavia, the former Czechoslovakia and Poland will be added to the Government Website.

A total of pounds 367m at pre-war prices was seized by the Government. All but pounds 33m - worth about pounds 600m today prices - was returned after the war.

n The HET has set up a helpline for anyone wanting to check if their name or that of a relative is on the list. The number is 0171 222 5115. The website address for the list is www.enemyproperty.gov.uk

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