Lawyers acting on behalf of
victims of the Jewish holocaust and their families have accused two US
banks of seizing their wealth during the Nazi occupation of France.
The families filed a class-action lawsuit against two leading banks, Chase Manhattan and JP Morgan, alleging that they
were complicit in the seizure of wealth stolen from Jews as they were transported to death camps.
Chase Manhattan and JP Morgan
are the first US banks to be named in legal action; several French
banks are already facing similar lawsuits in the US courts.
A Chase Manhattan statement
described the action as "unnecessary", as they were already working to
reimburse with interest any Jewish customers or their heirs.
It said that only 100 accounts were in question.
JP Morgan said they would examine the allegations carefully.
But lawyers claim that Chase Manhattan's Paris operation was closely allied with the Nazi regime and thrived on its patronage.
They also allege that JP Morgan openly boasted of its anti-Jewish record and policies.
Morgan's response has been
guarded. In a statement it said bank officials understood the
seriousness of the case and would study the allegations with care.
Victories for claimants
A week ago, the United Kingdom's
Barclays Bank agreed to a $3.6m payout to compensate the families of
those whose assets were seized by Barclays branches in France during
the Nazi occupation.
Earlier this year, Swiss banks settled after a long-running battle, with restitution payments to families of more than $1bn.
The banks had been under
pressure from certain US states which had threatened to block business
with the institutions unless they agreed to compensation.
In a landmark case in May,
Estelle Sapir, whose father died in the Holocaust, received a sum
reported to be worth $500,000 from a Swiss bank in compensation for