Swiss Holocaust Settlement: Is $600 Million Enough?

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The long-running Holocaust reparations dispute isn't over yet. Switzerland's three biggest banks decided Friday to offer a maximum of $600 million to settle class actions from concentration camp inmates and their descendants. "By all legitimate criteria," said a joint statement from Credit Suisse, Swiss Bank Corp and Union Bank of Switzerland, "this is a fair offer."

Tell that to the survivors: Most Jewish groups claim Holocaust victims own a total of $7 billion in assets and interest sitting untouched in Zurich vaults. "My 31,000 clients will not stand for this," said claimant lawyer Edward Fagan. Until now, Fagan believed a $1 billion deal was in the works -- and even that wouldn't have satisfied his clients.

Still, this does represent a significant shift on the Swiss banks' part. For years they've only owned up to a possible $32 million in unclaimed assets that "could have belonged to European Jews or other non-Swiss residents." But the big bankers have been severely embarrassed by recent revelations that the Nazis stashed concentration camp gold in secret Swiss accounts, and that trade with this nominally neutral nation helped prop up Germany's war effort. Will $600 million make the bad publicity go away? Not if the victims of that war effort have anything to do with it.