Some 75% of all gold transactions made by the Reichsbank during World Wart Two were made through Swiss banks.
On Monday December 1st 1997 a panel of experts revealed in London how Switzerland enabled the Nazis to transfer to Switzerland huge amounts of gold stolen from Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Until 1945, Swiss private banks acquired some 61,2 millions dollars worth of Nazi gold, three times more than the amounts estimated so far.
An international conference was held on December 2nd in London to exchange information on the Nazi pillaging in European central banks of occupied countries. The conference was also aimed at estimating the amounts of gold stolen from Jewish victims outside and inside concentration camps. Participants also discussed the setting up of a fund to indemnify the victims of the Holocaust.
Switzerland has been lately the target of harsh international criticism for the role it played in favour of the Nazis during the war. Other neutral countries like Sweden and Portugal have also been accused of having established trade links with Nazi Germany and notably of having received important quantities of gold stolen by the Germans.
According to the investigations carried out by a committee of experts it appeared that Switzerland was involved in huge gold trading operations with Germany during the war. Thanks to these operations Germany was able to purchase strategic raw materials from Turkey, Portugal, Spain or Sweden.
The Swiss national Bank alone bought some US $ 389,2 millions worth of gold from the Reichsbank (US $ 280 millions for its own account) while Swiss private banks acquired US $ 61,2 millions from the same source (three times more than what was previously estimated). It was also noted that The Bank of Romania purchased US $ 54,2 millions worth of gold from the German Central Bank.
Regarding Swiss private banks, the amounts of gold coins bought from the Reichsbank remained unaccounted for. These will thus aggravate the US $ 61,2 millions total so far recorded.
Now, Bern has been under intense international pressure- notably from the World Jewish Congress- to pay compensations which might amount to several billions dollars in favour of the Jews who suffered spoliation from the Nazis.
Those who were deported to Nazi extermination camps had all their jewels confiscated and their gold teeth were instantly removed on arrival. A special unit called the « Melmer group » after the name of the Nazi officer in charge of running it was responsible for collecting and melting the gold stolen from Jewish deportees. However, the gold collected in Nazi extermination camps represented a small fraction (less than 2%) of the gold stolen from civilians in occupied European countries.
It is believed that certain American officials in charge of redistributing the gold seized from the Germans after the war did not hand back all the amounts due to certain parties, notably Italy. The French were also said to have kept some amount to compensate for the losses incurred following the repayment to Belgium and Luxembourg regarding the gold sent by these countries to the care of the Vichy regime and which was later given to the Germans by this government.
Concerning other neutral countries involved in trading gold with Germany, some 130 tonnes were sent to Portugal via Switzerland in exchange of services and goods. To have an idea of the development of such exchanges one should note that Portugal's gold reserves amounted to 1 billion Escudos in 1939 and to 10 billions ten years later. Thus Portugal was one of the major trading partners of Germany during World War Two. However the small Jewish community in Portugal has not made any indemnity claim regarding the gold sent to this country.
Sweden also played an active role in this respect as its Central Bank accepted German gold in quantities during that period. This country received some 20 tonnes of gold from the Nazis in exchange for Swedish iron ore.
It should however be stressed that Stockholm handed back 13 tonnes of this gold after the war. Nevertheless, to avoid problems with the World Jewish Congress the Swedes agreed in 1996 to open an investigation regarding Jewish-owned properties transferred to Sweden during the war.
Such investigation has enabled to cast some crude light on the attitudes of certain Swedish officials of the time notably concerning economic exchanges with Germany. It has been disclosed that certain Jewish-owned companies were ostracised while Jewish share-holders of certain firms engaged in business with the Nazis were abruptly dismissed. Despite being neutral the kingdom was therefore somewhat indulging itself in a veiled collaborationist cooperation with the Nazis, according to some local historians.
It is now a sure fact that Switzerland was involved in huge gold trading operations with Germany during the war. Thanks to these operations Germany was able to purchase strategic raw materials from Turkey, Portugal, Spain or Sweden.