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Governor Pataki Opens Holocaust Claims Processing Office

September 15, 1997

Governor Pataki and Senator D'Amato were at 2 Rector Street this afternoon for the Grand Opening of the Banking Department's Holocaust Claims Processing Office. The Governor's Office issued the following press release:

Governor George E. Pataki today officially opened the New York State Banking Department's Holocaust Claims Processing Office set up to assist Holocaust survivors and their heirs in their search for assets rightfully belonging to them that have been withheld by European banks and insurance companies. The office, located at 2 Rector Street in New York City, will assist individuals of all backgrounds seeking to recover assets deposited in Swiss banks between January 1, 1933 and May 9, 1945 and to recover proceeds from uncollected insurance policies in force during the same period.

"Worldwide attention is now finally being focused on the fate of dormant accounts belonging to Holocaust survivors and their heirs," Governor Pataki said. "A complete and thorough investigation into this matter has been long overdue. By shining a light on one of history's darkest eras, it is our hope we can reach a just resolution of all unresolved legitimate claims and we can at last achieve some measure of justice for those who have suffered so much."

The staff at the Claims Office will use their special investigative and language skills, their expertise, and their sensitivities to make each claimant feel that they have a committed advocate who will be responsive to their concerns at every step in the process.

"These people have suffered more than any others in this century," U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato said. "It's time for the Swiss government to make good on legitimate claims. This Holocaust Claims Processing Office is an important part of that process."

Anyone with reason to believe that assets belonging to them or a family member are currently held by Swiss banks may submit a claim with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, provided the assets were held or deposited between January 1, 1933 and May 9, 1945. For the purposes of filing a claim, assets include any property deposited with a Swiss banking institution, whether into an account or a safe deposit box.

President of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors Ben Meed said, "Much of my life has been devoted to helping the survivors tell the world what happened to them. In every way, Governor Pataki has not only understood our message, but has been able to convey it to the public in a way that only we ourselves could do. But beyond this, he has performed deeds to assist the survivors in achieving justice. The opening of this claims office is the latest in a series of moves for justice for Holocaust survivors by the Governor."

Anyone with reason to believe that the proceeds from an insurance policy belonging to them or a loved one are being held back by a European insurance company may submit a claim with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office. The policy must have been in force between January 1, 1933 and May 9, 1945.

"The World Jewish Congress hails Governor Pataki for his initiative in establishing the Holocaust Claims Processing office, "World Jewish Congress Executive Director Elan Steinberg said. "This office is a vital step in achieving justice on behalf of Holocaust victims and others persecuted by the Nazis."

President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Martin Begun said, "The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York commends Governor Pataki for establishing a Claims Processing Office for the victims of the Holocaust. New York State once again, under the leadership of Governor Pataki, leads the country in this first specific state effort to assist people who have legitimate claims for Holocaust Restitution."

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office will accept all claims and provide assistance in the preparation of the claim form. Assistance is available at the Office by appointment or by calling the Office's toll free telephone number. All information will be submitted to the appropriate authorities and organizations with a request that a complete and thorough search be made.

Additionally, the Office will maintain contact with these entities on a regular basis regarding the status of the claims and all search efforts. Claimants will be kept informed about the status of their claims. The Office will also assist claimants in securing documentation or suitable alternatives which will establish ownership of any property located.

"The Governor's support for this undertaking has been unwavering," said Acting Superintendent of Banking Elizabeth McCaul. "The first-rate professional staff we've assembled at the Banking Department is able to process written and verbal inquiries and claims in eight different languages. Additionally, the Office staff brings an extensive knowledge of the Holocaust-era to this important endeavor. I am proud that our Department will be the first federal or state agency to offer this service free of charge".

Superintendent of Insurance and Chairman of the Governor's Commission on the Recovery of Holocaust Victims' Assets, Neil D. Levin said, "The opening today of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office is critical in tipping the scales of justice in favor of Holocaust survivors and their heirs. Governor Pataki, in providing all of New York State's resources and powers in this historic effort, will help ensure that justice is finally served and that Swiss banks and European insurance companies fulfill obligations which are long overdue. We will do everything we can to provide assistance in the preparation and expeditious processing of their claims."

"New York State has assumed its rightful role of national leadership in establishing this office," State Senate Insurance Committee Chairman and member of the Governor's Commission on the Recovery of Holocaust Victims' Assets, State Senator Guy Velella said. "Let the chips fall where they may. Those who have avoided responsibility must make proper restitution -- they won't be able to hide anymore in New York."

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office is committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that claims are given the proper attention by the Swiss banks and banking authorities, and the European insurance companies and insurance authorities. Through the talent and expertise available in the Claims office, the burdens and costs encountered by claimants proceeding on their own will be alleviated.

"Our Holocaust Claims Processing Office is aimed at serving all individuals who have legitimate claims, or believe they do, but don't know where to turn," Governor Pataki said. "This is the first time an American government agency is allocating the resources needed to assist individuals who have claims against Swiss Banks and European insurance companies.

"More importantly, we will utilize our jurisdiction and regulatory oversight of the world's financial institutions to insure that those who do business in our state will not be permitted to disavow the debts they owe to survivors."


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