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Settlement in WWII 'Gold Train' Theft

Associated Press
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page A14

MIAMI, March 11 -- The federal government reached a $25.5 million settlement Friday with the families of Hungarian victims of the Holocaust and will acknowledge the Army's role in commandeering a trainload of the families' treasures during World War II.

Under the settlement, the money would be distributed to needy Hungarian Holocaust survivors rather than to those who lost family possessions. The agreement is subject to the approval of a federal district court judge here.

"The case never really was about money alone. It was about having a reckoning with history," said Sam Dubbin, one of the families' attorneys.

The Justice Department, which negotiated on the government's behalf, issued a statement saying it was "very pleased to announce" the settlement but said it would be inappropriate to comment on a pending legal matter.

A commission appointed by President Bill Clinton concluded in 1999 that Army officers and troops plundered the train after it was intercepted on its way to Germany in May 1945 in the closing days of the war.

The train carried gold, jewels, 1,200 paintings, silver, china, porcelain, 3,000 Oriental rugs and other heirlooms the Nazis seized from Jewish families. The cargo would be worth $45 million to $90 million today.

About $21 million in funding for humanitarian services would be distributed to social service agencies worldwide based on the percentage of survivors, including 40 percent in Israel, 22 percent in Hungary, 21 percent in the United States and 7 percent in Canada.

Up to $3.85 million is proposed for legal fees and costs. A total of $500,000 would fund an archive on the Nazi "Gold Train" for scholarly and educational uses.

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