... From: Krystine Tomaszyk Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 20:58:52 +1200 To: Subject: Sybiraki Stefan,Oct 3, 2001 1 of 2View Source
From: "Krystine Tomaszyk" <tomaszkc@...>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 20:58:52 +1200
This message... does not quite refer to the poll and yet may apply to the questions relating to payment of compensation.
Are you aware that Polish citizens who live in Poland do get compensation for having had been deported to the Soviet Union during WW2? It is paid by the Polish government.
I believe that the amount paid is quite reasonable.
By the way, are you also aware that the name 'Sybiraki" refers to all those who had been deported to the S.U.?
I think that the name goes right back to when Russians and then Soviets started deporting Poles to Russia/Soviet Union since 1863, the time of the Polish uprising against Russia when the main focus of deportations were Polish patriots?
What did you, yourself think of the film, 'The Forgotten Odyssey'? Did you use much of the material from 'The Invited' for publicity? Janek Roy Wojciechowski arranged for the film to be shown in Wellington about two weeks ago. I thought it was very well made.
I enjoy reading the correspondence between members of the group and am most impressed by the depth of the young generation's interest in their past.
28° F Hello, GRACE log out Subscribers: Get the Advantage E-mail this story Printable format Search archives Photo Holocaust family gets closer to theJan 24, 2005 1 of 2View Source
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Holocaust family gets closer to the truth (Tribune file photo by Charles Osgood)
January 24, 2005
chicagotribune.com >> Local news
By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 24, 2005
For 60 years, Fritz Gutmann's heirs have fought a running battle trying to track down property from a chapter in the family's history ended by the Holocaust.
Their saga began in a storybook Dutch mansion. It runs through Auschwitz to a Chicago courtroom and the Art Institute. Now, a new installment has been opened by the final publication of a list of Swiss bank accounts "probably or possibly" owned by victims of the Nazis.
The Swiss long refused to divulge the information, citing their tradition of keeping banking transactions confidential. Even now, entries on the list of 3,100 accounts are frustratingly terse: a family name, a comma and a first name.
"It's rather startling news, coming after all these years," said Lili Gutmann, 85, upon learning that one entry on the newly released records reads: "Gutmann, Fritz."
Her parents, Fritz and Louise, died in Nazi death camps.
Lili Gutmann wasn't surprised to learn that her father might have had an account in Switzerland.
"That's what everybody did in those days," she said.
Lili Gutmann, who lives in Florence, Italy, was recalling a time on the eve of World War II, when wealthy European families tried to protect themselves against the Nazi onslaught by sending assets abroad.
Her father, a well-known art collector, sent works to Paris. One of those, by a still mysterious route, wound up in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Lili Gutmann noted that Switzerland was a logical place to hide liquid assets from the Nazis. Its banks protect account holders' anonymity.
After the war, that tradition hindered Holocaust victims and their heirs who believed funds might be due them. Swiss authorities refused to share information with families that, in an age of deportations and concentration camps, had lost sight of the details of ordinary life, like bank-account numbers.
But in the 1990s, Jewish organizations reopened the issue and found support in American political circles. That evoked a poignant sense that if others of the Nazis' victims were to be compensated for what they had suffered and lost, it would have to be done soon. Their generation was fast coming to an end.
Yet it took a long struggle in courtrooms and the court of public opinion to bring closure to the issue.
Michael Hansfeld, one of the lawyers who led the legal battle, said the Swiss took refuge behind their country's well-advertised neutrality in World War II.
"They felt nobody had the right to question them," Hansfeld said. "But we found documents where Swiss banks clearly knew that Jewish depositors' names were being erased and those of Nazi officers were being substituted."
The Gutmann family has often come up against that kind of stonewalling.
Tracking family possessions
Before the war, they were among Holland's most prominent banking families. Jewish by origins, the Gutmanns had converted to Christianity. But according to Hitler's ideology, they were Jews nonetheless.
Lili Gutmann survived, having married an Italian and moved to Florence. After the war, she and her brother Bernard, who lived in England, set out to track down the family's possessions. After his death in 1994, the quest was taken up by his sons, Nick and Simon, who had immigrated to the U.S. and use an Anglicized version of the family name, Goodman.
They found that a pastel by Edgar Degas once owned by their grandfather had been purchased by Daniel Searle, the pharmaceutical magnate and a trustee of the Art Institute, who lent the Impressionist piece to the Chicago institution.
They and their aunt Lili Gutmann sued Searle in 1996, noting that the work, "Landscape With Smokestacks," was among those sent to Paris by Fritz Gutmann. There it passed through the hands of a German art dealer who was a notorious conduit for Nazi loot.
Searle countered that he had acquired the work through a reputable American dealer, and the ensuing lawsuit drew considerable attention.
Searle and the Goodmans and Lili Gutmann essentially fought to a Solomonic draw. By a settlement in 1998, each side recognized the other's claim, with Searle donating his interest in the work to the Art Institute, which bought out the family for an undisclosed price (but estimated to be about $500,000).
In the years since, the family's struggle has been eased by increasing recognition that, in the Nazi era and its aftermath, not all the unclean hands were German. Furnishings, antiques and art objects from the Gutmann estate were taken to Germany during the war and returned to Holland afterward. But the government refused to restore them to the family until 2002, when a Dutch investigating commission acknowledged the Gutmanns' claim.
"They started with one tea cup and turned over 200 objects, so maybe things are on a roll," said Nick Goodman, a Hollywood production designer. "I've always thought there could be a Swiss bank account. My grandfather was a shrewd businessman. Wouldn't he have stashed money away?"
The answer to that question might never have been known except for an American politician and a low-level Swiss bank employee.
Swiss suit settlement
In 1996, then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York began championing the cause of Holocaust survivors who wanted the Swiss to release a list of bank accounts unclaimed and dormant since World War II. That campaign got a spectacular public-relations boost when a security guard in a Swiss bank reported that documents relating to wartime accounts were about to be shredded. The disclosure made the officer, Christoph Meili, a pariah in Switzerland, and he had to be resettled in the U.S.
But under threat of American boycotts, the Swiss agreed in 1998 to a $1.25 billion settlement to a class-action lawsuit that had been filed in a federal court.
Yet it has taken until now to bring that deal to a close. After releasing a list of account holders in 2001, the Swiss resisted further disclosures until, under pressure from U.S. District Judge Edward Korman, the banks agreed to make the new list available.
A Swiss Embassy spokesman said the government would have no statement on the settlement because it was entered into by private enterprises.
Under the settlement, survivors and their heirs have six months to file claims. How many will be honored remains to be seen, said Greg Schneider, chief operating officer of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the agency appointed by the court to process claims.
The surviving information available is often exquisitely slim, he noted. Like the Gutmanns/Goodmans, names often changed from one language and continent to another.
Piecing together history
Rick Hirschhaut, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, said some names on the list posted this month on the Internet seem to ring a bell with people familiar with Chicago's survivor community. But it will take time to check out those leads.
Said Schneider: "You're trying to piece together 70-year-old documents with 70-year-old family memories. People are trying to remember how their grandparents spelled their name. But the effort has got to be made. Time is running out for that generation."
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