Fred Jenny, the Atlanta-based Swiss consul general for the Southeast, has taken a proactive role in advising Jewish people who think that they may have dormant accounts in Swiss banks how to proceed in their attempts to reclaim their assets.
Over the past year, as wartime documents were declassified, Swiss banks have been accused of having hoarded the wealth of Holocaust victims while helping to finance the Nazi war effort by purchasing Nazi gold.
As a result of ongoing international investigations, Holocaust survivors may benefit from financial reimbursements. But relations between some Jewish communities and Swiss diplomats assigned to the U.S. have been tense.
“Contrary to other cities and areas like New York City and Washington D.C. our relations in Atlanta and the Southeast have remained friendly,” Mr. Jenny told GlobalFax in a telephone interview.
The cordial relations between Switzerland and Israel were evident last week at a reception to honor Israel’s 49th anniversary at the Ahavath Achim Congregation, which Mr. Jenny attended. Ayre Mekel, the consul general of Israel, commended Mr. Jenny for maintaining close relations with the Jewish community throughout the controversy, and remarked that the 100th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress, which approved the creation of a Jewish state, will be held in August in Basel, Switzerland.
Mr. Jenny said that the office of an ombudsman for Swiss banks in Zurich is processing the claims and that he personally is involved in assisting people by providing necessary information. “Often the problem is getting enough information to help the ombudsman, he said, but acknowledged that “oftentimes there is no information at all.”
He also said that he did not think that Swiss business has suffered because of the controversy. “There have been some difficulties but no real damage to our business relationships,” he said.
And he mentioned the Swiss government’s establishment of a humanitarian fund for which Swiss banks, other Swiss companies and the Swiss National Bank have so far pledged some $200 million for the victims of the Holocaust.
In addition, he said that a “Swiss Foundation for Solidarity” would be established valued at almost $5 billion to alleviate pressing human needs in Switzerland and abroad.
Mr. Jenny may be reached calling (404) 870-2001.