One of Israel’s largest banks, Bank Leumi, has agreed to an out-of-court settlement after being sued by the descendents of victims of the Holocaust. The Bank kept money deposited by over 3500 European Jews who were later killed in the Holocaust, and profited from those funds rather than returning them to surviving family members.Swiss banks which profited from the Holocaust were sued by survivors and families several years ago, and forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars back, which had been gaining interest for the Bank since the depositors were killed in the early 1940s.
But this is the first time that an Israeli bank has been sued for profiting from the Holocaust. The lawsuit was filed two years ago, and the parties began arbitration last year toward resolution through an out-of-court settlement.
With the agreement, the Bank will pay survivors 130 million NIS (around $30 million USD). This is less than half of the amount demanded in the original lawsuit against Bank Leumi.
Bank officials told reporters this week, “This agreement constitutes the final and complete end of all claims by the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets against the Bank Leumi group. Signing the agreement does not constitute any kind of recognition on the part of the bank of any the company’s claims or demands.”
Bank Leumi was formed out of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which was created in Palestine in the early 1930s. Many European Jews began transferring their assets to the Bank, especially when the Nazi party in Germany and other parts of Europe began seizing Jewish assets.
The family members of over 3500 people who were killed in the Holocaust have fought for decades to get the bank to return their family members’ assets, but say they had no cooperation from the bank and were finally forced to file a lawsuit in 2008.