Liechtenstein to probe its wartime past


ZURICH, Sept. 10 (JTA) — Liechtenstein has created an international commission of historians to probe its wartime history.

The move comes some 15 months after the European principality, located between Switzerland and Austria, was accused by the World Jewish Congress of having helped Nazi officials transfer stolen Jewish assets into Western countries and South America at the end of World War II.

Appointed by the government of Liechtenstein, the commission plans to begin its work later this month.

The panel is directed by Peter Geiger, a Swiss historian living in Liechtenstein. It includes two Israelis, David Bankier and Dan Michman.

Along with creating the commission, officials in Liechtenstein have launched a Holocaust education program.

In an interview with JTA, Ernst Walch, the foreign minister of Liechtenstein, said the commission is his highest priority.

“Liechtenstein is looking forward to conducting this historical investigation in close cooperation with the World Jewish Congress, and of course any advice and support it may have is very much appreciated,” Walch said.

WJC officials were irritated by the delay in creating the commission. They also were displeased that no WJC representative was included in the commission’s advisory committee.

Walch admitted that there had been some “communications problems” in dealing with the WJC and vowed to work to improve relations with the group.

He added that he would be glad to “travel to New York to meet the leaders of the WJC to discuss all the details of a fruitful cooperation.”

More than five years ago, the WJC spearheaded an international campaign to convince Switzerland to confront its wartime record.

As part of their efforts to confront allegations that Switzerland helped Nazi Germany launder gold it looted from Jews and from the banks of countries overrun by the Third Reich, Swiss officials created an international panel of historians in December 1996 to study the country’s wartime past.

In May 1998, the commission issued a report concluding that Swiss central bank officials knew during the war that they were buying looted gold from Nazi Germany, but the officials turned a blind eye and went ahead with “business as usual.”

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