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Monday, December 1, 1997 Published at 14:11 GMT


Swiss confirmed as main Nazi bankers

Nazi gold

A report by the Historical Commission studying Switzerland's conduct during World War II paints a blacker picture of Switzerland's links with the Nazi's than previously thought.

The interim report by the Bergier commission says 76% of Nazi gold transactions went through Switzerland and the volume of trade between Swiss private banks and war-time Germany was at least three times higher than earlier estimates indicated.

[ image: Swiss commercial banks bought $61.2m worth of gold during the Nazi era]
Swiss commercial banks bought $61.2m worth of gold during the Nazi era
The report says Swiss commercial banks bought $61.2m worth of gold during the Nazi era, the current value would be more than $700m. The commission says the Swiss National Bank, SNB, acquired $389.2m, worth more than $4bn at today's prices. The SNB had previously admitted to buying 1.2bn Swiss francs worth of gold.

The Bergier commission also accuses the Nazis of stealing $146m in gold from holocaust victims, including at least $2.5m seized by the SS from inmates of Auschwitz and other death camps in eastern Europe. The full report is due to be published in 1998.

The report comes after more allegations about Swiss misconduct over Nazi gold emerged in a newspaper. The Sunday Telegraph claimed that Nazi Germany secretly shipped a ton of gold coins to its diplomatic mission in Switzerland in the final days of World War II. It is not known what happened to the money, which would be worth $10m (£6m) at today's prices.

Conference on Nazi Gold

These revelations and the publication of the report come ahead of a major conference that opens in London on Tuesday, focusing on the origins and disposal of Nazi gold.

[ image: Conference will focus on origins and disposal of gold]
Conference will focus on origins and disposal of gold
The head of the Swiss delegation to the conference, Thomas Borer, has denied different allegations that Switzerland misappropriated funds meant for Allied prisoners-of-war held by Japan.

Many believe that much of the wealth the Nazis looted from their victims in World War II is being held in Swiss bank accounts. Earlier this year a concerted international campaign to shame Switzerland over the issue led to the country's famously secretive banking system opening some of its records to scrutiny.

Swiss officials say they have proved that they are willing to face up to their past. The Swiss government set up the historical commission, the country's banks provided information on dormant bank accounts and both proposed to set up a multi-billion-dollar humanitarian fund.

Despite these actions, international criticism of Switzerland is still very fierce and some states in the US, such as California, are boycotting Swiss banks until there is more progress on the issue of dormant accounts held by Holocaust victims.

The aims of the conference

Representatives from over 40 nations will meet on Tuesday to investigate what happened to the gold the Nazis plundered.

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said: "The Government shares the concern of the international community about the origins and disposal of Nazi gold.

"I hope that the London conference will pool international knowledge and reach conclusions on this important issue."

The conference aims:

  • To pool available knowledge on the historical facts relating to gold looted by the Nazis.
  • To examine the steps taken so far to reimburse countries and to compensate individual victims.
  • To examine the case for further compensation.

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