U.S. Jewish groups launch drive to collect Holocaust restitution

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American Jewish leaders have launched a new campaign aimed at pressuring Eastern European countries to live up to their promises to compensate Holocaust survivors and to return stolen property to the families of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis. One Jewish leader described the campaign as "a final offensive" to get these countries, most of which are former members of the Soviet bloc, to give top priority to the problem.

"These countries have avoided living up to their promises with a whole range of excuses and some governments have even dismissed our repeated attempts to get them to act," said Dr. Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress. According to Singer, the issue has never been more urgent, with the number of Holocaust survivors dwindling by the day. The opening salvo of the new campaign was a series of meetings this week in New York between Jewish leaders and foreign ministers and senior diplomats from the 11 countries on the Jewish organizations' list.

Singer, who was closely involved in negotiations with the German government over compensation for forced laborers and with Swiss banks that held dormant accounts belonging to Jewish families killed in the Holocaust, headed the Jewish team at these meetings.

"We asked the foreign ministers to ensure that the issues of compensation and confiscated property are once again made a priority in their country," said Singer yesterday. "They have a moral and legal obligation to fulfill their promises."

Among the countries appearing on the list are Poland, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, Lithuania and Belarus.

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