The names and bank records of hundreds of Holocaust victims who used Swiss banks to protect their money from the Nazis has been found in U.S. National Archives, a Jewish group said Tuesday.
The discovery by researchers for the World Jewish Congress was described by the organization as a major breakthrough in the effort to discover whether Swiss banks still have millions of dollars in unclaimed accounts held by people who perished in World War II.
WJC Vice President Kalman Sultanik said the discovery "was a dream come true" because it gave investigators an important base from which to discover whether Swiss banks still held large sums belonging to Holocaust victims.
He said the names will be turned over to a joint committee run by the WJC and the Swiss Banking Association, which is investigating the issue. The committee, under the chairmanship of former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Voelker, is to hold its first meeting in Zurich later this month.
The names also have been given to Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which is holding a hearing on the issue here today.
Sultanik said researchers discovered records submitted by three Swiss banks to comply with a June 14, 1941, order by the U.S. government freezing the assets of people living in countries occupied by the Nazis.
The three Swiss banks had to comply with the order because even though Switzerland was neutral in the war, many of the accounts in their banks came from people and businesses in occupied countries.
But the bank records listed only those accounts held in Swiss banks in the United States.
"Many people with accounts in Swiss banks had them transferred to their New York branches because they thought it would be safer," a WJC spokesman said.
He added, "One Swiss bank branch had 500 accounts worth $13.5 million on deposit in New York, and we estimated that about a third of that money represented Jewish accounts."