Holocaust survivors get Nazi gold

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MORE THAN pounds 36m of gold looted by the Nazis will be distributed to Holocaust survivors worldwide, the Foreign Office revealed yesterday as it published the most definitive account to date of the whereabouts of the treasures.

But it also revealed that the Vatican was one of the few organisations that has failed to respond to requests to open its archives to international scrutiny. Lord Mackay of Clashfern published the final report of last year's London conference on Nazi Gold with a declaration that most countries had realised the importance of compensating victims of the concentration camps.

At the launch of the report, the Foreign Office revealed for the first time a detailed breakdown of those countries that had given back their share of the gold recovered.

The United States has donated pounds 15m to a special fund that will redistribute money to survivors in Europe. The UK has donated pounds 1m, the Netherlands pounds 6.1m, Austria pounds 4.7m, Italy pounds 4.3m, France pounds 2m. Sweden, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece and Poland have offered a total of pounds 1.5m. Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina and Croatia have committed themselves to about pounds 1.4m, but have so far not donated any money.

The Foreign Office also revealed that the archives of the Tripartite Gold Commission, the postwar body set up to oversee the distribution of the gold, would be made public for the first time in the next few weeks. The 800-page report detailed the submissions of more than 42 countries that took part in the conference in London last December. Lord Mackay, who chaired the conference, said that openness was one of the recurring themes of the event, but the Vatican had not complied fully. "There were a number of calls to the Holy See to open its wartime archives, which, it was suggested, might contain relevant information," he wrote in the report conclusions. "The Holy See delegation, which had made it clear from the outset that they were attending only as observers, did not respond." When asked if he was calling on the Vatican to open its files, Lord Mackay said: "I have said there is a general need for openness. I will leave it at that."

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, called the conference as one of his first acts after Labour came to power last May. The Nazis stole gold worth an estimated pounds 4.2bn at today's prices from Holocaust victims, often in the form of jewellery and even fillings from concentration camp victims. The money was held in Swiss banks to fund the war effort.

Mr Cook welcomed the report. "When I opened the conference last year, I said that our aim was to shine a light in corners that had been kept dark for too long," he said. "The publication of the conference report today is another significant step towards achieving that aim." Lord Janner of Braunstone, QC, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said that the report was a permanent record of the "momentous, unique and historic" conference.

Crucially, the conference's detailed independent accounts had put pressure on nations to compensate survivors, particularly the agreement with the private Swiss banks to present $1.25bn to survivors and their families, he said.