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US pays out for looting Nazi gold

BBC News | March 12, 2005
By Lesley Curwen

The US is to pay $25.5m (£13.2m) to families of Hungarian Holocaust victims as compensation for the plundering of family treasures in World War II.

US officers took the goods from a train known as the Nazi gold train, heading from Hungary to Germany in May 1945.

It was loaded with gold, silver, china, jewels, 1,200 paintings and 3,000 oriental carpets seized by the Nazis from Jewish families in Hungary.

The money will be handed out to needy survivors of the Holocaust.

The settlement is the final chapter in the disturbing story of the Nazi gold train.

Today it is estimated that the cargo might be worth as much as $90m (£46m).

The train was intercepted by the US army, and never reached Germany. Its treasures disappeared.

'Defrauded and cheated'

More than half a century later, a special commission appointed during the 1990s by then-President Bill Clinton confirmed it had been plundered by US soldiers, including high-ranking officers.

The episode has been seen as a shameful blot on the record of the US army in World War II. The Hungarian families who brought the case have given a guarded welcome to the settlement.

Their lawyers say it was never about money alone, but about having a reckoning with history.

The bulk of the money will go not to the families who lost possessions.

It will be distributed to needy survivors of the Holocaust living in Hungary, the US, Israel and Canada.

Perhaps the most important thing for the families is that the federal government has agreed to acknowledge the US army's role in the affair.

Prominent members of Congress have been urging the Bush administration to reach agreement for some time.

Republican Senator Arlen Specter said the US government should admit the Holocaust survivors had been "defrauded and cheated".

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