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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Judge Gives $1.25Bln Award to Holocaust Victims

NEW YORK -- More than a half million Holocaust victims Wednesday moved a big step closer to recovering assets confiscated by financiers during World War II, when a U.S. federal judge in New York approved a $1.25 billion settlement of a class action lawsuit against Swiss banks.

The ruling is one of the last steps in a historical lawsuit brought by Holocaust survivors and their heirs, who accused Swiss bankers of betraying them by refusing to pay back assets deposited in the country as Germany and its allies dominated Europe. It comes two years after a settlement was proposed.

U.S. District Judge Edward Korman now must approve a plan for distributing the money to some 600,000 people around the world f including some whose gold, jewels and other assets were seized by the Nazis and hidden in Swiss accounts.

Government and banking officials worldwide praised the decision as a proper outcome of the case, and two of the largest Swiss financial institutions, UBS and Credit Suisse Group, announced that the Swiss Bankers Association would publish on the Internet the names of people who may be eligible to receive part of the settlement.

"The banks hope that these Holocaust survivors or their heirs with an entitlement to the monies from the fund will receive the amounts they are due as soon as possible," the banks said in a joint statement.

The Swiss government expressed relief, saying the decision "provides for complete legal and material resolution of World War II-related issues for the Swiss economy as well as Swiss public entities."

In a three year study, former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker determined as many as 54,000 Swiss accounts may have belonged to victims of the Holocaust. Volcker found evidence that some Swiss banks intentionally misled victims who were trying to recover their assets after the war.