Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for inviting me to testify about a subject which, in one way or another, I have spent twenty years researching and reporting in television documentaries, articles and books.
The Eizenstat report, in its thoroughness, competence and objectivity, achieves the laudable target of establishing much of the truth - warts and all - about a very complicated succession of events which you, since April last year, have sought to expose in the hope of assisting the many distraught victims who remain impoverished too many years after the Second World War.
Naturally, the Eizenstat report, relying upon American archives, concentrates on the American perspective. My brief testimony urges you to consider what I found - and is reported in my recently published book Nazi Gold - in other archives, especially those in Bern.
Eizenstat reports the frustration felt by American officials and politicians when confronted by Swiss officials obstructing and rejecting the moral, moderate demands made by the Allies during and after the Second World War.
My research in the Bern archives, reading through the Swiss government minutes of meetings between Swiss bankers, industrialists, officials and politicians, reveals the reason for the frustration endured by those American officials.
The Swiss government archives reveal that those in power in Switzerland after 1945 pursued a calculated policy of delay, deception and dishonesty towards not only the Allies but also towards the Jewish organizations pleading for fairness. Unaware that the records of their discussions would be read by a foreign journalist years later, those involved in the discussions were shockingly candid about their motives and intentions.
The object of Swiss policy was to protect the nation's huge wartime profits, to protect the looted gold accepted from the Reichsbank, to protect the loot deposited by the SS and Nazi party plunderers in Switzerland's banks and safety deposit boxes, and to protect German investments in Switzerland. In that selfish endeavor, the Swiss government coolly exploited the Jewish predicament, using the Jews as pawns to deny the truth and to compel the Allies to abandon their just claims.
My interest is not so much what happened during - as to what happened after the war. Moving the spotlight to the period after May 1945 when Switzerland was no longer surrounded by the Nazis undermines the current, favoured Swiss excuse of having no alternative but to collaborate with the Nazis.
After May 1945, free of that terror thanks to Allied sacrifices, Switzerland had the opportunity to prove its true credentials and to make amends for any wartime collaboration. Were its rulers genuinely anti-Nazi, did they genuinely want to help the victims of the war, and did they genuinely not seek to profit from the devastation of war? The government archives which I found in Bern prove that Switzerland has much to explain.
According to those records, repeatedly in the post war era, those in power in Switzerland agreed upon a policy of deceit, not least towards the Jews. For example, in 1949 when the Swiss government concealed from Jewish representatives a secret agreement with Poland; in 1952, when Switzerland's foreign minister signed a letter to the Allies testifying that there were no heirless Jewish assets in Switzerland; and after 1962 in the dishonest administration of a law introduced allegedly to help Jews find their inheritance in Swiss financial institutions. Recent research has shown that half of the heirless Jewish assets admitted by the banks were returned to the banks rather than transferred to the Jews. The utterances to government officials by Max Oetterli, one of the secretaries of the Swiss Bankers Association, were so violently anti-Semitic that it is now clear why the issue is unresolved 50 years after the war.
Among all the documents I found, none is more revealing than the letter in 1959 from Harold Huber, a Swiss politician and later the president of Switzerland's supreme court, addressed to the then minister of Justice. Huber revealed that in his small area, Swiss banks were known to have retained unclaimed Jewish deposits worth 'hundreds of millions of francs'. Moreover, Huber believed that some bankers had stolen some of this money. Huber's indignant revelation was of course just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr. Chairman, this version of history has not attracted much sympathy in Switzerland. Not surprisingly, my book has been derided by all those with interests and prejudices to protect. Pleasingly, the book has been welcomed by young students and those few politicians who are outraged by the suppressive controls exerted by Switzerland's political and financial establishment.
Among the Swiss lines of defense is that there is nothing new in these allegations. Were that to be true - that would be shocking. It would mean that Swiss historians have known for many years about the deception but have refused to publicize deprecatory information. In fact, the creation of the Swiss historians commission proves that the Swiss are ignorant about their own history. However, there are grave doubts whether that commission will provide an acceptable account.
In my judgment, Switzerland's archives reveal that the Swiss government will never
voluntarily agree to a just solution to the claims of the dispossessed Jews - which was the
original motivation for these hearings. Only continued pressure from your committee, the
New York banking authorities and the White House will bring this issue to a satisfactory and
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