The New York State Banking Department on Aug. 1 will open an office to handle claims against Swiss banks by Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

"The full resources and power of New York State's government will be at their side, fighting for a just resolution," Gov. George Patakai said Wednesday.

All claims must pertain to accounts in existence between 1933 and 1945. Anyone with a legitimate claim, not just New York residents, may file with the office, said a banking department spokesman. Before pursuing a claim, the department will decide whether it has merit. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato praised the new program Wednesday. "The claims office will in effect be the voice of the common man on this issue," he said in testimony before the House Banking Committee.

Both the Senate and House Banking Committees are investigating whether Swiss Banks have been hiding Jewish assets.

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