US hasn't fully paid debt to Holocaust victims, study finds

A commission appointed by President Clinton to investigate US Holocaust reparations reported yesterday that Washington had failed to pay victims everything they were owed.

"Whether it was the need to rebuild shattered European economies, restore democracy to Germany, wage the cold war or pay Americans for damages suffered during the war, the interests of Holocaust victims suffered," commission chairman Edgar Bronfman, who is president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement.

The two-year study by the Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States was the Clinton administration's answer to charges by European nations that Washington - much like them - still owed Hitler's victims reparations more than half a century after Germany's surrender in 1945.

The summary said that on the whole the US did an "admirable" job, but one reason it might still owe reparations to Holocaust families was that their property was caught up in a general freeze on assets imposed by Washington to put them out of reach of the Nazis.

After the war, some of the assets - from securities to gold - may have been used to pay war-related claims by US citizens and companies, the summary said.

How much the United States might owe Holocaust victims and their heirs was left open for further study, possibly by a new public-private foundation the commission recommended be set up.

The summary said the $500,000 payment to settle outstanding claims authorized by the late President John Kennedy in 1963 was inadequate.

It said other shortcomings by US authorities after the war included allowing Germans and Austrians - some of whom served the Nazi regime - to handle restitution programs in their countries.

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