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Nazi Confiscations Held in Switzerland

November 11, 1996

* Re "Long After War, Taint of Nazis Remains in Europe," Opinion, Nov. 3: How tragic to read Walter Russell Mead's article on the Swiss banks' complicity during and after the war in preventing billions in Jewish gold, including, possibly, gold pulled from victims' mouths and jewelry taken from millions of victims on their way to death camps, from being returned. What is even more tragic, the sad story of survivors, clad only in secondhand clothing, housed in barracks frequently the sites of former concentration camps, who lingered in the camps from the moment of liberation in 1945 till 1950 (including this writer).

This gold could have helped the survivors, then known as displaced persons, to more readily obtain emigration visas, to obtain education and skills to resume new lives. And 50 years later the Swiss banking community is so slow acknowledging the hidden funds, which could help the aging survivors, often deprived of financial needs. It seems that the scars that never really healed have only been freshly reopened.

SAM GOETZ, Chair

Martyrs Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, Los Angeles

* Re "Austria's 'Heirless' Heirlooms," Oct. 29: As a member of the younger generation of Austrians--born barely 20 years after the end of the Holocaust and World War II--I cannot understand what the purpose may be to pillory a generation that is well aware of its country's past and recognizes the dark side of its history. Young Austrians had extensive lessons on the Holocaust in school; we went to Mauthausen concentration camp on a publicly financed school excursion; we met Holocaust survivors and had long discussions with Simon Wiesenthal and Leon Zelman. We do not deny history. On the contrary, we are trying to build a common future on the Christian-Judaic values that we all share.

Tracy Wilkinson totally forgets to mention the positive efforts in my country to come to terms with the past. The Vienna City Council paid for more than 120,000 schoolchildren for screenings of "Schindler's List." The National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism is paying out $7,000 each to more than 20,000 people who suffered on racial, political or sexual grounds under the Nazis. This sum can only be interpreted as a gesture and not as full compensation, but the willingness to make up for the past is undeniably there.

The Times is one of the few major international papers that finds fault with the auction [of artworks stolen by the Nazis]. I would like to quote the president of the World Jewish Congress, Edgar Bronfman, who said in an interview with the British Financial Times on Oct. 30 that the auction helped to right an injustice long overdue and set an example of how to resolve restitution issues. Bronfman's words signal an understanding for the positive steps taken to build a new and more trustful future.

GERHARD MAYNHARDT

Deputy Consul General of Austria, Los Angeles

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