Holocaust Swiss Banks Litigation
During the Holocaust, the Nazi SS looted billions of dollars of property, from both the treasuries of occupied nations and individual victims, including artworks, rings, watches, and even gold dental filings, many of them from Jews in notorious death camps like Auschwitz.
In the late 1990s, evidence emerged that Swiss banks took in more than $4 billion in looted assets - including re-smelted gold stolen from Holocaust victims - and held them for decades. The Swiss banks had long denied that they held victims’ gold, claiming that their only holdings were assets from Nazi-occupied governments. Following the war, $4 billion worth of gold was distributed to central banks in Europe: not one ounce of looted gold was returned to Holocaust survivors.
On October 21, 1996, Hausfeld Chair Michael Hausfeld, with a team of lawyers, filed a class-action complaint against Union Bank of Switzerland, Swiss Bank Corporation, and Credit Suisse on behalf of Holocaust victims.
Hausfeld led a historic legal battle in the US courts, alleging that the Swiss banks were the chief financiers of the Nazi regime and laundered stolen funds, jewelry, and art treasures in furtherance of war crimes, crimes against humanity, slave labor, and genocide.
The Swiss bank defendants urged the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York to dismiss the case and force the class of victims to bring their claims in Swiss courts instead. Adopting Hausfeld’s pioneering arguments, the court handed down a definitive rebuke of the banks’ efforts to evade the lawsuit: the courtroom doors in New York were open to Holocaust victims.
Hausfeld and co-counsel shepherded a landmark settlement agreement, resulting in the payment of nearly $1.29 billion to 458,400 Holocaust victims and their heirs in every US state and in more than 80 nations.
Testimony of Michael D. Hausfeld, Counsel Representing the Holocaust Victims, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Hearing on the Swiss Bans and the 1946 Washington Accords, July 22, 1998.