New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has created a new link on his website to help the heirs of Jewish Holocaust victims claim money in the state’s unclaimed funds database.
An initial search of the site against the names of 50,000 Holocaust victims and survivors turned up 4,000 matches. Now, the state is asking those claimants to check the website and confirm that there is truly a match.
The website is: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/holocaust.htm.
Bobby Brown, director of Israel’s Project HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce), which asked the state to conduct the search, said his office plans to also send e-mails to the 4,000 possible account holders.
“We will say to them that we have reason to believe there may be money held by the state comptroller in the name of your relative,” Brown said. “We will ask them to consult the website and apply for the money if they believe it to be their relative’s account. Instructions for applying are on the website.”
He said the e-mails would be sent as soon as his office is funded this year; Israel’s 2013 budget has yet to be approved.
“We know people put money in Swiss banks [before World War II], maybe they also put money in U.S. banks to protect it,” Brown said.
Under New York State law, inactive or unclaimed bank accounts are turned over to the comptroller’s unclaimed funds account.
Brown said the 4,000 accounts were identified when DiNapoli’s office compared them against his list of 28 million unclaimed accounts – in particular those from the Holocaust-era. He said the 50,000 were among the 180,000 Holocaust heirs and survivors who filed claims with his office.
“These were the people who filed claims in English and who had e-mails,” Brown said.
He said he ran their claims first “as a pilot to see if there would be any results. If there had been only one or two matches, we would not have continued. We selected their applications because they were in English and there would be no mistake in spelling – and we had e-mail addresses for them, which makes it less costly to contact them.”
He said he has requested money from the State of Israel to hire staff to translate the other applications.
“None of the 180,000 applicants said he was looking for money being held by New York State,” Brown said, adding that he is grateful to DiNapoli for agreeing to conduct the search.
“We are very encouraged by the 4,000 matches, and we would be happy if we were the vehicle that helped survivors or their heirs get the money due to them,” he added.
The comptroller’s website pointed out also that the office would do a search of its dormant account database to help people who believe it may be holding money from a Holocaust-era Swiss bank account that either they or a relative opened.
“At the beginning of WWII many of the Swiss banks established branch operations in New York,” the website said. “The Swiss banks subsequently transferred funds to their New York branches. After the war, the vast majority of those funds were transferred back to the Swiss banks in Europe. However, in some instances, funds belonging to Holocaust survivors and victims remained in those New York branches. Due to account inactivity, some of those branch offices subsequently reported those funds to the New York State Comptroller’s Office as dormant accounts. While many of these accounts have already been claimed by the rightful owners, some accounts still remain outstanding.
“If you have reason to believe that you are the owner of such an account, or you are an owner’s heir, you may write to this office and our staff will conduct a thorough search of our records: Office of Unclaimed Funds, Re: Holocaust Era Accounts, 110 State Street, Albany, NY 12236.”