Cook pledges fund for war Jews

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Britain is setting up a fund for survivors of the Holocaust, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, will announce at the opening of the Nazi gold conference in London today.

All 15 countries who stood to benefit from pounds 40m of gold from the Second World War settlements have agreed in principle that it should be bequeathed to thefund.

Thousands of victims of the Nazis are to benefit from the sale of the remaining 5.5 tonnes of gold recaptured from the Nazis and the Axis powers at the end of the war.

Instead of the gold being returned to nations whose reserves were looted by the Germans, months of negotiations have secured agreement in principle that it should go to Holocaust survivors and their families.

Mr Cook, who will launch the fund when he opens the international conference on Nazi gold at Lancaster House this morning, will also appeal for other governments to make donations. He outlines the plans in an article in The Independent today.

Legislation going through the US House of Representatives has proposed a US contribution to such a fund of up to $25m. The Foreign Office last night refused to say how much Britain would contribute.

The gold has been held for more than 50 years by the Tripartite Gold Commission (TGC), comprising Britain, America and France. Legal wrangles held up the final payouts which gave Jewish organisations the opportunity to plead that people, not nations, should be the beneficiaries.

Files found in the last year have shown that some of the TGC gold must have been stolen from Jews, including gold teeth fillings extracted in the concentration camps.

A fiery press conference held by the World Jewish Congress and the Holocaust Educational Trust in London yesterday suggested that million-pound offerings will not be enough for Jewish organisations who see this week's 40-nation gathering as the last chance to help Holocaust survivors.

Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, said they were expecting "10-figure" compensation - several billion dollars - from Switzerland alone. "Holocaust survivors are dying every day. I'm not waiting," he said.