The Swiss government stated in its 2012 Green Paper on Immovable Property that immovable property was not confiscated or otherwise wrongfully seized in Switzerland during WWII, and thus “legislation and administrative measures regarding specifically immovable (real) property were not adopted or prepared.” Separately, a U.S. Department of State interagency task force in 1997 detailed ways in which the Swiss Central Bank knowingly converted Nazi-looted gold bullion stolen from countries occupied by Nazi Germany into Swiss francs and that these funds assisted German war efforts. Historical investigations undertaken by the Independent Commission of Experts in the 1990s came to similar conclusions about the role of the Swiss Central Bank and included anecdotal evidence that Swiss banks and insurance companies were implicated in immovable property transactions involving Jewish property and assets elsewhere in Europe.
In 1998, the Department of State’s Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust-Era Issues and the World Jewish Congress identified more than 20,000 bank accounts as belonging to Jews who had moved their money to Swiss private banks for safekeeping. These funds were never returned to them or their heirs. In 1998, class action lawyers and the World Jewish Restitution Organization reached a $1.25 billion settlement with defendant Swiss private banks for their handling of Jewish-owned bank accounts, including the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) and Credit Suisse. The settlement resolved all outstanding restitution claims against Switzerland (i.e., against the Swiss state, cantons, private persons, and businesses) involving nearly all forms of wealth, including real estate, cash, shares, precious metals, and jewelry, among others. Of the $1.25 billion awarded, $800 million was earmarked for repayments to victims or targets of Nazi persecution (such as Jews, Roma/Sinti, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others) whose money had remained in Swiss bank accounts after the war. Another $425 million was distributed to other classes in the settlement agreement, including victims who were forced laborers or were allowed entry into Switzerland but were abused or mistreated; victims who were forced laborers at German companies (as the proceeds were sent to Switzerland); and an allocation was made on account of those victims who had the proceeds of their looted assets pass through Switzerland.
While the Swiss government did not take part in the settlement, it co-created a $300 million special memorial fund for Holocaust victims with the Swiss Bankers’ Association. The fund drew on contributions from the country’s private sector to offer assistance to Holocaust survivors and relatives of victims whose assets lay dormant in Swiss banks since the war.