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Transfer Fees Waived for Holocaust Reparations

The state treasurer says more than 100 financial institutions will not charge survivors or their families for wire transfers from abroad.

September 06, 2003|Henry Weinstein | Times Staff Writer

State Treasurer Phil Angelides and leaders of Jewish organizations announced that more than 100 large California financial institutions have agreed to waive wire-transfer fees charged to Holocaust survivors and their families on reparations payments coming from abroad.

In July, Angelides and Bet Tzedek Legal Services of Los Angeles called on 170 financial institutions, including banks, savings and loans, credit unions and broker-dealers, to waive what they called "unnecessary and unjust fees."

The letter was sent to every financial institution in the state known to process reparations payments. Among them are 140 institutions that engaged in more than $70 billion in securities transactions with the state treasurer's office last year, said Mitchel Benson, Angelides' spokesman.

On Thursday, Angelides said his office had created a page on its Web site (www.treasurer.ca.gov/holocaust) listing the organizations that have agreed to waive the fees.

"These Holocaust survivors and their families have suffered enough, and the reparations and restitution they receive are a mere token of what is truly owed to them. To charge handling fees is an unnecessary and unjust burden for all, and particularly hurtful for those who can barely make ends meet," Angelides said at a news conference at Jewish Family and Children's Services in San Francisco.

California is home to about 15,000 to 20,000 Holocaust survivors. Mitchell Kamin, executive director of Bet Tzedek, said 6,000 to 8,000 of the group have received reparations or restitution. He said 1,040 get monthly pension benefits averaging $350 from the German government.

About 40% of the survivors who get reparations or restitution are indigent and "need the meager reparations they receive for the basic necessities of life," said Kamin, whose organization has represented about 2,000 survivors free of charge.

Having to pay wire transfer fees, which can amount to as much as $40 a month, "is a true hardship for our clients," he added.

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