Top: Jewish World Conspiracies: Restitution Issues: The Great Swiss Bank Robbery
Holocaust survivor assails lawyer Woman in lawsuit says her attorney misled her
Sunday, June 28, 1998
The Associated Press
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The lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by 31,000 Holocaust victims against Swiss banks to recover wartime assets has accused her attorney of lying and keeping his clients "in the dark." Gizella Weisshaus, 67, a survivor of Auschwitz, accuses attorney Ed Fagan of lying and acting unethically, according to court documents obtained Friday by The Associated Press. "I suspect she believes there's some deal between the World Jewish Congress and me over who gets the money - and nothing could be further from the truth," Fagan said. Weisshaus has written to the federal judge in the case, asking him to mediate the dispute. While three Swiss banks are trying to negotiate a settlement with Jewish groups, Weisshaus said she was "trying very, very hard to retain another attorney but to date, I have been unsuccessful," according to a letter she wrote June 3 to Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn. That letter and one dated April 26 were both filed at the federal courthouse and faxed to the AP by a source close to the Swiss banks who requested anonymity. The Romanian-born Weisshaus says she and other plaintiffs are facing a dilemma to which they "have unethically been subjected to by Mr. Fagan." She said the attorney promised that the federal suit seeking class action, filed in October 1996, would be limited to private claimants. He later added what she calls questionable claims like those by various Jewish organizations and Gypsies whose wartime personal assets were looted. Fagan said he believes Weisshaus is worried that Jewish groups trying to recover the dormant Swiss assets - including the World Jewish Congress - "may end up with the money. I have assured her that I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that survivors get their money." Switzerland's three biggest banks - Credit Suisse, Swiss Bank Corp. and Union Bank of Switzerland - have offered $600 million to settle lawsuits claiming the banks had failed to return assets from the victims' wartime accounts. top of page
ZURICH, Sept 21 '98, (Reuters)- Irked Swiss officials were still mulling on Monday whether Israel's prime minister was welcome to attend a business seminar after he congratulated the World Jewish Congress for helping retrieve Holocaust victims' wealth.
In a letter to WJC President Edgar Bonfman that made its way into the Swiss press, Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Bronfman for his efforts to win compensation for Holocaust victims who alleged Swiss banks withheld their wealth after World War Two.
This angered Swiss officials who say Netanyahu had distanced himself from Bronfman's aggressive efforts to wring compensation from Switzerland and its big commercial banks when Swiss President Flavio Cotti visited Israel in May.
Big Swiss banks agreed last month to pay $1.25 billion to settle the allegations that they stonewalled victims.
The foreign ministry in Berne said it was still examining now whether Netanyahu was welcome to attend a high-level economic seminar set for late November that was designed to improve bilateral business ties.
"The question we are dealing with is the coming of the prime minister in this context. We are still evaluating the questions," ministry spokeswoman Yasmine Chatila said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Eytan Bentsur spoke by telephone with the Swiss ambassador to Israel on Friday to offer reassurances, she said.
"Now there might be more explanations to come. These are going to be evaluated and a decision will be taken later," she said, declining to say what Berne was still waiting to hear or how long it might take to decide on the case.
A diplomatic source in Jerusalem confirmed a confidential letter was sent to Bronfman within the past month.
"This letter sparked great anger in Switzerland because Bronfman is not so popular there. They took it as an insult to the country and President Cotti," the source said.
The letter did not mention Switzerland, he said, adding that Bentsur had sought to clarify that the missive was not meant to harm Switzerland and that relations between the two countries were important to Israel and Netanyahu.
Bilateral relations, normally good, suffered this year when Switzerland arrested a man it said was a Mossad spy during a botched eavesdropping mission in Berne. Israel apologised for the incident, allowing Cotti's trip to Israel to proceed.
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BERN, Switzerland, Sept. 18, '98, (AP) - A letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising the head of the World Jewish Congress for his efforts on behalf of Holocaust victims has cooled relations with Switzerland.
Swiss Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Yasmine Chatila said the government was reconsidering whether to go ahead with a high-level Swiss-Israeli economic seminar planned for November.
Israeli officials tried to smooth things over Friday.
Sources in Tel Aviv said Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Eytan Bentsur phoned Pierre Monod, the Swiss ambassador in Israel, to explain that the letter was not meant to insult Switzerland.
Bentsur stressed that Israel respected the steps taken by Switzerland to make amends for its role in World War II, the sources said.
Switzerland stayed out of the war but was later accused by Jewish groups of profiting from the Holocaust and acting as banker to the Nazis.
After a campaign led by the World Jewish Congress, Swiss banks agreed in August to pay $1.25 billion to Holocaust survivors to compensate for World War II losses.
The Aug. 28 letter from Netanyahu thanks Edgar Bronfman for his efforts ``to redress a terrible injustice inflicted on the Jewish people.''
``You have provided moral leadership in a long and tough struggle against those who profited from the unspeakable suffering of millions of Jews. You have done this with great pride, dignity, skill and aplomb,'' Netanyahu said.
The letter was leaked and printed in a regional Swiss newspaper, the Thurgauer Zeitung.
The Swiss government is angry with Bronfman for what it considers unfair attacks and his remarks about ``total war'' on the Swiss.
When Swiss president Flavio Cotti visited Israel in May, Netanyahu criticized such bellicose statements. And in a veiled reference to Bronfman, he said that Israel was ``not at war with Switzerland.''
Diplomatic sources said Cotti and other government leaders were irritated that Netanyahu would then praise Bronfman's methods.
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