The forerunner to the CIA suspected a Liechtenstein-based businessman of laundering assets from Nazi leaders, according to documents obtained by JTA.
The release of the suspicions about Martin Hilti come as international Jewish groups are increasing pressure on the European principality to form an independent commission to investigate its companies’ dealings with the Nazis.
Hilti, who died in 1997, was a supporter of Hitler during World War II. He edited a Nazi newspaper in which he called on Liechtenstein’s government to order members of the local Jewish community – which numbered several dozen – to wear yellow Jewish stars. But the government rejected his demand.
While Hilti’s business at the end of the war was relatively small, he produced his goods exclusively for Nazi Germany.
Today the Hilti Corporation, which specializes in supplying fastening and demolition systems to the construction industry, employs more than 12,000 employers in more than 120 countries.
After the Swiss media uncovered his Nazi past in 1995, Hilti admitted that he served an “inhuman regime,” but he never publicly renounced his anti-Semitism.
A spokesperson for the Hilti Corporation said the documents obtained by JTA are accurate, but that an ongoing investigation has not turned up any evidence of money laundering from the Nazis.
Liechtenstein, which has come under heavy pressure from the Swiss media and the World Jewish Congress for helping Nazi officials transfer stolen Jewish assets into Western countries and South America at the end of World War II, also furnished Nazi leaders with diplomatic passports, the Swiss weekly Hebdo revealed recently.
The World Jewish Congress is calling for an independent commission, along the lines of Switzerland’s Bergier Commission, to investigate the allegations.
Liechtenstein, a country of 30,000 that sits between Switzerland and Austria, has appointed a task force to prepare for talks with the WJC in December and ordered the two Liechtenstein banks in operation during World War II to search its archives for evidence of money laundering.
“Liechtenstein is very interested to know its history, especially during World War II,” the prime minister of Liechtenstein, Mario Frick, told JTA.