Dormant accounts of Holocaust victims found

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The Independent Online

The identities of nearly 11,000 bank accounts dormant since the Second World War were published yesterday in an effort to restore the total of £2.8m to its rightful heirs.

The identities of nearly 11,000 bank accounts dormant since the Second World War were published yesterday in an effort to restore the total of £2.8m to its rightful heirs.

Many of the accounts, also detailed on the internet, are thought to belong to Holocaust victims whose descendants may be unaware their relatives had made efforts to safeguard their money. The British Bankers' Association published the list after two years of research, begun when the Holocaust Educational Trust told them of the dormant accounts.

Under the so-called Trading with the Enemy laws passed in 1939, all bank accounts held by people living in enemy territory were frozen. Accounts held by people in countries that had declared war on the United Kingdom ("belligerent countries") were seized by the Government, which last year started moves to return the money to Holocaust victims.

But the accounts of those who lived in countries invaded by the Nazis, known as technical enemies, were simply frozen. Joanna Elson, director of the association, said: "In some cases, the relatives of people who opened the accounts claimed the money after the war but thousands are untouched. We assume it was because their descendants had no idea the money was there, and by publishing the names we hope they will come forward and we can return their money. We anticipate that most of the account holders and their relatives probably live abroad and the list, which is also in theinternet, will also be given to the foreign press."

All the banks have agreed that where the account is found to have been held by a victim of the Holocaust, the balance will be multiplied 26 times to bring it into line with the equivalent amount of money today. All other interest-gathering accounts are likely to be increased by 10 and 12 times.

"We have no idea how many of the accounts did belong to Holocaust victims," Ms Elson said. "Some of them could just be people who saw what was happening in Germany and decided to put their money somewhere safe as a precaution." The appeal includes accounts at all the high street banks as well as leading investment banks. The list of names can be found at www.restoreuk.org.uk or by phoning 020 7216 8849.

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