FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ The late head of West Germany’s Jewish community may not have acted alone in the apparent embezzlement of millions of dollars of government funds earmarked for Holocaust survivors, prosecutors say.
The family attorney for Werner Nachmann, who died in January, said on Wednesday that he had been unable to determine where the missing money had gone and that Nachmann may have squandered much of it.
The family has filed for bankruptcy in Karlsruhe, where Nachmann lived and ran a wholesale textile business.
Nachmann, who headed the Central Jewish Council for 23 years until his death from a heart attack at age 62, may have had accomplices in the scheme, said Manfred Roething, a spokesman for the Karlsruhe prosecutor’s office.
He said investigators would seek to determine ″whether other parties may be liable for prosecution as accessories.″
Government officials have vowed to bring the truth to light. A top aide to Chancellor Helmut Kohl is to meet Friday with Heinz Galinski, who succeeded Nachmann as council president.
Jewish leaders have expressed shock and outrage. They say they believe Nachmann had for years embezzled money earmarked for Holocaust survivors around the world, which he was in charge of disbursing.
Galinski said Nachmann appears to have stolen more than $6 million.
But Peter Paepcke, the Nachmann family attorney, said he believes the late Jewish leader may have embezzled up to $15 million and used some of it to bolster his failing business.
Paepcke, who said he had worked for Nachmann for a decade, indicated he believed Nachmann had squandered some of the money. He said he filed for bankruptcy March 30 for Nachmann’s heirs and the Karlsruhe-based company.
″I do not understand this yet,″ he told West German television. ″The sums of money that were apparently taken should have been more than enough to cover (the Nachmann business’) debts.″
″I can only conclude that perhaps the money also went elsewhere,″ he added without elaboration.
Eberhard Braun, a court-appointed investigator who has been examining Nachmann’s financial records, told The Associated Press he found unexplained income of $13 million in Nachmann’s company records.
Jewish leaders vowed to launch their own investigations to help clear up the case.
″We will use all legal means at our disposal to take action against everyone who took part in this,″ Hanover Jewish leader Michael Fuerst said in a telephone interview.
Nachmann, who became Jewish Council president in 1965, was in charge of disbursing about $236 million that had been allocated by the government in 1980 for Holocaust survivors who had not previously made reparations claims.
Those funds were in addition to the $47 billion already paid by West Germany to Holocaust victims or their families.
Nachmann is suspected of having taken interest that accumulated from the funds appropriated in 1980 and transferring it to other accounts, including his private business, according to newspaper and other media reports.
Nachmann’s family fled Nazi Germany to France in 1938. He returned to Karlsruhe in 1945 and began working toward re-establishing Jewish communities in the country.