WASHINGTON (Oct. 7)
Nearly one-third of all gold looted by the Nazis came from individual victims and private businesses, according to a new report issued by the World Jewish Congress.
The report, released Tuesday, claims that the amount of such privately held gold amounted at current valuations to $2.6 billion out of a total of $8.5 billion worth of gold looted by Nazi Germany.
A U.S. government report released earlier this year estimated that the Nazis had seized $7 billion worth of gold at today’s prices, but made no estimate of the amount of privately held gold involved.
The WJC report, written by international economist Sidney Zabludoff, draws from the scrupulous records Nazi Germany kept of all the gold it confiscated between 1933 and 1945 from German citizens, European Jews and the treasuries of occupied countries.
“The precision is down to a single bar of gold,” said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC, which has been combing archives in the United States and abroad during the past two years in an effort to locate missing Jewish assets deposited in Swiss banks and probe Nazi Germany’s wartime financial transactions.
The report, based primarily on recently declassified documents from the Federal Reserve Bank and the U.S. Treasury, states that Switzerland was the first stop for 85 percent of the $5.2 billion worth of gold at current prices that Germany shipped to foreign locations to buy strategic goods and services.
The total amount of gold known to have passed through Switzerland represents $2 billion to $3 billion more than Switzerland returned after the war, the report said, concluding that Switzerland still owes that amount if it is to conform with a 1943 Allied declaration that all looted gold handled by neutral nations be returned after the war.
Under an agreement reached in 1946 with the United States, Britain and France, Switzerland agreed to pay $58 million — worth $580 million at today’s prices – - to the gold pool administered by the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold.
The Swiss government questioned the report’s findings, saying that the Swiss National Bank had already opened its records and provided a full accounting of its wartime gold transactions.
“I am somewhat surprised by these results because there is hardly anything that is better known than the gold transactions of the Swiss National Bank,” Swiss Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger told the Swiss Parliament on Tuesday.
He said he doubted any new facts could emerge that would change the government’s position that the 1946 agreement reached with the Allies had fully absolved Switzerland of any future reparations claims.
The WJC released the report in advance of an international conference on Nazi gold scheduled to take place in London in December. The conference, to be convened by the Tripartite Gold Commission, is expected to address, among other things, the question of how the last bit of recovered Nazi-looted gold — 5.5 tons valued at some $65 million — should be distributed.
Meanwhile, Rep. James Leach (R-Iowa), chairman of the House banking committee, introduced legislation that would authorize the United States to make a $25 million contribution to organizations serving Holocaust survivors in the United States.
Leach said that such a move might prompt countries that received Nazi-looted gold after the war and others to make similar contributions. The legislation also calls for the restitution of artwork looted by the Nazis.