Nazi Goldby Tom Bower
Praise for Nazi Gold
"A compelling book on one of the greatest robberies of all time."/em>… See more details below
--Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean, Simon Wesenthal Center
"Nazi Gold [is] a compelling, outraged, carefully researched book. . . Tom Bower, one of the finest investigative journalists in the English-speaking world over the past generation. . .is the/em>
Praise for Nazi Gold
"A compelling book on one of the greatest robberies of all time."
--Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean, Simon Wesenthal Center
"Nazi Gold [is] a compelling, outraged, carefully researched book. . . Tom Bower, one of the finest investigative journalists in the English-speaking world over the past generation. . .is the ideal chronicler for this story. Over the past 20 years he has built up a track record second to none in documenting crimes and conspiracies that the Nazis and their collaborators were able to cover up or escape from in the decades after 1945. . .Riveting, outstanding."
--Martin Sieff, Washington Times
"Nazi Gold is an important book that uncovers much new material."
--Saul Friendlunder, author of Nazi Germany and the Jews
--Chicago Jewish Star
"[A] sensational expose. . .Impressively revealing."
--Dade Jewish Star
Some Revelations form Nazi Gold
- In 1942 thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing a Nazi roundup of Jews in occupied France crossed the border into Switzerland seeking asylum but where forcibly pushed back to the waiting Gestapo by the Swiss police. Virtually all of them were immediately shipped to concentration camps.
- During the war thousands of Swiss willingly worked undercover for the German secret service and the Nazis.
- The Swiss accepted for deposit without question gold bullion looted by German from the treasuries of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, and Holland'countries they had conquered. The Swedes and the Portuguese, also neutrals, refused to accept the looted gold.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.96(d)
Read an Excerpt
Confrontation and Tears
BernNovember 17, 1952
Hatred shone in their faces. Distrust echoed in their voices. The chill inside the conference room struck deeper than the winter air in the ancient square outside.
Tragedy had compelled the nine men to sit around the long wooden table, but their common sentiment was anger. None had suffered, but all were suspicious. Humanity was confronting greed and, after seven years of strife, the innocent had finally won one victory: the agreement to gather on the afternoon of November 17, 1952, in the parliament building.
All nine men were Swiss, but the majority regarded two of their number as foreigners, not properly acceptable as ancient Helvetii. These two were both Jews, representatives of an intimidated minority who could not boast of courage or prowess. The majority were lawyers and bankers, protectors of their nation's wealth, proudly successful in excluding their country from the moral conflicts that for centuries had plagued their neighbors. At the head of the table sat Markus Feldmann, the new minister of justice and the police, renowned as an ambitious workaholic but carelessly short-sighted about the conflict he was seeking to broker.
"We're here," announced Feldmann, "to discuss the fate of money deposited by foreigners in Switzerland who were killed because of Nazi violence and wartime events." The sanitization of the vocabulary used to refer to the Holocaust had been perfected in Switzerland ever since Adolf Hitler became chancellor in neighboring Germany. For the twelve years of the Third Reich, none of the non-Jews in that room had protested about the criminality occurring beyond their frontiers and,in the aftermath, none been troubled to consider the truth. Comfortable survival and self-enrichment remained their entrenched gospel, and any challenge to that credo prompted instant suppression. Such a challenge had now arisen. "Parliament has decided," continued Feldman, "that we need a decree or regulations to deal with the money in question."
The "money in question" was the unaccounted-for millions of Swiss francssome insiders would eventually confess to "hundreds of millions"which had been deposited in the Swiss safe haven by Europe's Jews as much as thirty years earlier. Those Jews had been murdered, their records had disappeared and their secrets were known only to their trustees, represented by the Swiss around Feldmann's conference tablesecrets that they were unwilling to divulge.
Naturally, the minister looked to Emil Alexander, the reticent but experienced director of the ministry's Justice Division, to provide an unobjectionable summary of the reasons for their meeting: "At first, when the question of the so-called heirless assets became a reality," began Alexander, "we tried to deal with it practically. People applied at banks claiming that their missing relations had left behind a fortune deposited in a Swiss bank, and the Bankers Association made inquiries among its members." To Alexander's right sat Max Oetterli, the Swiss Bankers Association's pugnacious forty-six-year-old secretary. Oetterli had fought hard to prevent this meeting and had no intention of leaving without expressing his hostility. "The results," summarized Alexander, referring to Oetterli's work, "were usually very thin, which is not very surprising, because the people who came to the banks based their applications on a hunch." Oetterli agreed with that and with what followed.
"Those inquiring at the banks," continued Alexander, "were usually unable to prove that the person was dead or even missing. A further complication is that making inquiries in some countries, especially Eastern Europe, is dangerous. Another great difficulty is that some deposits were registered under false names which the inheritors don't know. And some people did not deposit their money in banks but entrusted it to private people like lawyers, notaries and business associates. Those identities are of course unknown to the people hunting for their inheritance. Finally, after all this time, there is a chance that money could be lost because of the statute of limitations."
Around the table, even men who were foes agreed with the lawyer's summary. Alexander had arrived at the purpose of their meeting. Protests during recent months had persuaded the government to consider a law compelling Switzerland's banks, insurance companies and others to declare any assets in their custody owned by murdered Jews. "The banks," confirmed Alexander, "insist that they do not want to enrich themselves with this money; that they would not apply any time limit to reclaiming the deposits and that we can discuss later what to do with any unclaimed money." Oetterli again nodded, but his face hardened as Feldmann signaled to George Brunschvig, the president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG). Brunschvig's lobbying for a new law had incensed the bankers.
"Experience shows," began Brunschvig, bruised by his past encounters with Oetterli, "that those bankers involved seldom give satisfactory information. The only guaranteed way of discovering these deposits, we believe, is by introducing a new law." Brunschvig glanced for support at his colleague Paul Guggenheim, a respected professor and lawyer.
"We've really got two problems," said Guggenheim. "First, how to find the heirless assets; and then to decide who will receive the money." Glancing at Oetterli, the professor continued, "I don't like the bankers' proposals because they don't guarantee that all the financial institutions will be honest. That's why a law is vital." The Jewish lawyer, outraged by the perfidies practiced by Oetterli and his ilk since 1945, dropped any pretense of courtesy. "I'm not very impressed by the bankers' plea that a law would damage their absolute requirement of secrecy. On the contrary, it seems to me that they are more damaged if they keep on with their denials of having any money." At the last moment, Guggenheim tempered his bluntness with an olive branch: "With goodwill, we can surely find a solution to this problem."
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