GENEVA (Apr. 16)
The Swiss National Bank has admitted, in a study written by its former archivist, that it helped finance the Nazi war machine during World War II by accepting more than 1.6 billion Swiss Francs’ worth of gold looted by the Nazis from Jews and from the treasuries of occupied countries.
The study, by Robert Vogler, just published in the Bank’s quarterly bulletin, demonstrated that while the Third Reich had the equivalent of no more than 22 million Swiss Francs’ worth of gold when the war started in 1939, it exchanged gold for 1.638 billion Swiss Francs in transactions with Swiss banks between 1939 and 1945.
The Allied powers had warned the Swiss that the Germans were selling them gold stolen from the Belgian National Bank, among others, and from Jews deported to Nazi concentration camps. The bank gold was in the form of coins; the gold of the concentration camp victims was melted down from teeth fillings, eyeglass frames, wedding rings and other personal jewelry.
The Nazi Reichsbank sold most of its gold to Swiss banks to pay debts and to pay for vital war material such as fuel, chrome and tungsten purchased from Portugal, Spain and Rumania. Those countries refused to accept gold. They demanded Swiss Francs instead to buy items available only in neutral Switzerland during the war.
CLAIMS BANK WAS ‘EXTREMELY NAIVE’
A spokesman for the Swiss National Bank declared this week that the Swiss bankers of the war period showed a serious lack of political sense and must have been “extemely naive” to accept the claim by Reichsbank president Emil Puhl that Germany’s sudden gold windfall was legitimate. It was on the basis of Puhl’s word that the Swiss government permitted the banks to enter into transactions with the Third Reich.
Vogler, in his study, drew on documents from the Swiss National Bank which were classified secret until five years ago and on a book,” Looted Gold From Germany” by historian Werner Rings.
He appeared to question whether the Swiss bankers were really acting out of incredible naivete when he observed that “Only so-called looted gold could explain the difference (in Germany’s gold reserves before and after 1939) even if one adds the gold ‘legally’ taken over from Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939.”
According to Vogler’s study and Rings’ book, 300 tons of Belgian, French and Polish gold was shipped from Dakar, Senegal, to occupied France whence it was transported to Berlin, melted and recast into Prussian coins bearing a pre-war date. The coins were shipped to Switzerland in exchange for Francs.
The trading continued until the end of the war. The Swiss deal with Germany was terminated by an agreement signed in Washington May 1, 1946 by the U.S., Britain and France. Switzerland pledged to put at the disposal of the three Allied powers 250 million Swiss Francs payable in gold in New York. The Allies issued a receipt to Switzerland for all the gold it acquired during the war from Germany.