Jewish Journal


July 26, 2001

Hero Can’t Support Mom


A former Swiss bank security guard who prevented the shredding of vital Holocaust-era bank records four years ago now claims he is going broke.

In an interview with the Swiss newsmagazine Facts, California resident Christoph Meili described his financial situation as dire.

"I have not yet received a single dollar" of the $1 million he says he was promised as part of a historic 1998 settlement in which two major Swiss banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion to settle all claims surrounding Switzerland's handling of Holocaust victims' assets.

In May 1997, Meili testified about some of the documents he had saved at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. Two months later, President Clinton signed into law a bill unanimously adopted by Congress granting permanent U.S. residency status to Meili, his wife and their two young children.

In 1998, Meili accepted a full four-year scholarship at Chapman University, a private university in Southern California.

In addition, a group of Holocaust survivors provided Meili with a $5,000 check each month to help him and his family with living expenses. Meili also found a substantial source of income on the lecture circuit.

But, he lamented in the Facts interview, "most of the money is already gone."

In a hint that his spending habits have not exactly been frugal, Meili told the magazine that during a trip to Italy last year, he spent more than $25,000.

His financial situation came into question earlier this year, when he was sent a letter by Swiss local authorities asked him to cover the needs of his mother, who was receiving welfare checks from her local village. (Under Swiss law, family members are required to pay back all welfare payments made to close relatives if they can afford to do so.)

In April, Meili wrote back saying it was not financially possible for him to cover his mother's welfare payments.

He also said that he had no objections if Jewish groups would support his mother.

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