Report says bank knew gold looted from camps

A Swiss government panel of experts has admitted for the first time that the plundered gold channelled to the Swiss national …

A Swiss government panel of experts has admitted for the first time that the plundered gold channelled to the Swiss national bank from Nazi Germany during the second World War included that looted from concentration camp victims.

While keenly awaited report by a government commission of historians did not confirm whether the smelted gold bars included fillings ripped from the mouths of camp inmates, the experts said it was beyond doubt that the scores of tonnes of Nazi gold which went to Switzerland included 119.5 kg in ingots smelted from watches, coins and jewellery of Holocaust victims.

The volume of so-called "dead gold" mentioned in yesterday's report was less than that estimated by some researchers and US organisations who contend that as much as 600 kg of victims' gold was moved into Switzerland. However, yesterday's figure was triple that suggested in last year's US government report on the dealings between Nazi Germany and the Swiss banks.

Historians from Switzerland, the US, Israel, Britain, and Poland, in a 200-page interim report, said the Swiss National Bank could not have known the origins of the gold which was passed by the SS to the Reichsbank, then to the German smelting firm Degussa for processing into ingots before being sent abroad.


The Swiss National Bank came in for some unequivocal criticism for its wartime activities. From 1941 when the Holocaust got under way, the SNB executives were "increasingly aware that Jews and other persecuted groups were being robbed. In 1943 at the latest, the SNB had knowledge of the systematic extermination of victims of the Nazi regime. Nonetheless, SNB decision-makers neglected taking measures to distinguish looted gold from the other gold holdings."

The report estimated the Holocaust victims' valuables at 582,000 Swiss francs in wartime prices, while the overall value of the Nazi gold handled by the SNB was put at $280 million, the equivalent of £1.56 billion in today's prices.

The report was seen as a crucial stage towards settling the two-year dispute mainly between the US and Switzerland over the Nazi gold scandal. It appeared amid US threats of Swiss bank boycotts, pending law suits and ongoing argument over the level of compensation to be given to Holocaust survivors or their relatives.

The wartime Allies were "very well-informed" over the SNB's gold transactions with Nazi Germany, the report added. The SNB responded by voicing regret it had handled valuables stolen from the Nazis' victims, but said reparations already agreed meant it did not need to take further action.

The central bank has already agreed to make 100 million Swiss francs available to a humanitarian fund to help Holocaust victims.

"The report . . . contains no elements that would call for a fundamentally modified assessment of the national bank's policy during the second World War. The governing board therefore considers the measures taken so far appropriate."

Prof Jean-Francois Bergier, the Swiss history professor who chairs the panel, told journalists in Zurich that the Swiss national bank pursued a policy of "business as usual" with Hitler's bankers although "it was clear that Germany was appropriating gold illegally."

The report also revealed that as early as 1942, the SNB considered resmelting the Nazi gold to disguise its origins. Until the very last days of the war, said the re port, the SNB, Swiss commercial banks and Swiss insurance companies were arguing vehemently in favour of continuing to buy and trade in Nazi gold, despite Allied warnings. SNB officials also contended that buying gold from the Reichsbank helped to dissuade Hitler from invading Switzerland.