Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I could not help but think how ironic it is that last week marked the 52nd anniversary of the end of World War II and the collapse of the Third Reich, yet here we are in the United States Congress still trying to come to terms with the horrors inflicted upon the world by the Third Reich. Only this time, we confront the sheer hypocrisy of the so-called bystanders, the neutral countries who played no role in the murder of the Jews, but who wasted no time in participating in the plundering of their possessions.
The Eizenstat report pulls no punches, basing itself on mounds of documents in unmasking for the world the duplicity of the Swiss in profiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in looted gold, including in one instance, the gold teeth of the victims. In 1946, they sought to deceive the world by making a ridiculously low payment of 58 million dollars and then promising to pay the Tripartite Gold Commission an additional 50% of the liquidated German assets held in Switzerland, something they never really got around to doing.
The report also chides the United States who knew all about the Swiss deceit and deliberately sat back and did nothing about it. The question is - where do we go from here? Is it the end of the line? Or is it one chapter in the untold story of the greatest robbery in the history of mankind?
Permit me to say Mr. Chairman, that this report, but even more so the work and prodding of this committee, has forced the Swiss to come to terms with their past. You were unwilling to accept the premise that because Switzerland made a deal 50 years ago on the backs of the survivors of the Holocaust, that we should let bygones be bygones. You rejected such a notion and forced the world to take notice and the Swiss to face up to the injustice they had committed and to make some amends for it.
Now we must ask ourselves Mr. Chairman, is it only Switzerland that should be asked to do that? Are there other wrongs involving the distribution of Nazi Gold that need to righted? That is why we support the call that a conference of the Tripartite Gold Commission and all the claimant nations should be convened in the near future. But the conference should do more than discuss the remaining seven tons of gold. Rather, it should be a conference that forces the nations to come to terms with the truth, however unpleasant that truth may be. It should be a conference that should inform the world about some of the other chapters in the greatest robbery in the history of mankind.
The chapter of why Austria got a large share of the Nazi gold. For it is a fact Mr. Chairman, that in 1947, the Tripartite Gold Commission gave Austria 33.783 tons of gold, and that they disbursed an additional 12 tons by 1952. These sums do not include the 4.7 tons known as the Salzburg gold, which the United States gave Austria unilaterally in 1945. This gold was given Austria in response to its claim that after the 'Anschluss,' Hitler entered Vienna and transferred 100 tons of Austrian gold to the Reichsbank in Germany.
The United States was the leading advocate, along with Great Britain, in giving credence to the Austrian claim. The French at first objected, but the United States and Britain convinced France to go along.
Mr. Chairman, this decision was outrageous, for that gold, worth in excess of five hundred million dollars today, belonged to the victims of the Holocaust. Although it was true that Hitler had transferred the Austrian gold to Berlin, the facts are the gold was quickly used up as Hitler began World War II. The gold first in was first out. The additional hundreds of millions of dollars in gold that the Nazis amassed was all plundered gold taken from the victims. And it was that gold that the Tripartite Gold Commission returned to Austria. But more telling, Mr. Chairman, is why the United States did not simply say to the Austrians, "You are not entitled to this gold simply because your country was a part of the Third Reich that plundered it in the first place."
When Hitler marched into Vienna, more than a million people greeted him at the Heldenplatz and Ringstrasse. In the Austrian plebiscite of April 10, 1938, more than 99% of the Austrian electorate approved the 'Anschluss', an even higher percentage than Hitler received in the German plebiscite. In addition, there were 1.2 million Austrians who fought for Hitler in the German Army and SS. Therefore, Austria's claim should have been disqualified. But the bare facts are she received the gold because of Cold War politics and the Allies' fear of the spread of Communism.
Why should the victims of the Holocaust suffer from such an outrageous decision? If the Swiss were forced to reconsider, why should the Austrians who fought for Hitler do no less?
The world deserves to know who in the Unites States government at the time made the decision to reward those who flew the Swastika with the gold taken from those who were part of the 'Final Solution'. Why should the Tripartite Gold Commission minutes of that decision still be secret after more than half a century?
Let me briefly note another in the greatest robbery in the history of mankind that cannot be allowed to stand and that we must finally face. That 52 years after the Second World War has ended, there has still never been an investigation conducted on the individual wealth amassed by the leaders of the Third Reich and transferred out of the country to foreign banks and companies, as the fortunes of the Third Reich began to self destruct.
As unbelievable as it may sound, no one ever compiled a list of the leaders of the Third Reich from Hitler's bankers to the industrialists that ran the slave labor program, to the leaders of the SS and concentration camp system, as well as those who confiscated the art from Europe's museums.
Whereas in the immediate months following the collapse of the Third Reich, the Allies were still interested in the implementation of the Safehaven Program to prevent the Nazis from regaining power. Gradually the dominance of the Cold War reduced Safehaven's significance. Within a few years, finding Nazis and their hidden assets was no longer a Western priority. Even when it was, we should remember that definitive lists were not yet available, for in those years we really did not know who the criminals were. Murderers like Eichmann and Mengele were largely unknown to the Allies. Lists combining industrialists and bankers were never really circulated to the neutral countries. Thus as the Cold War intensified, the leading Nazis and their hidden accounts in foreign countries were forgotten and off the front pages. The Allies didn't care anymore, and the neutrals and their bankers were eager as always to make money at any costs.
Thus the Eizenstat report talks about the dormant accounts of the victims, those who were running for their lives and in desperation somehow managed to open a bank account in a neutral country. The Swiss government tells us there are thirty two million dollars in those dormant accounts of the victims. Chairman Volker says it will be more than that. Whatever the figure is, let me assure you that those who were targeted for destruction, who ran for their lives, who were powerless, had considerable less opportunities to transfer their wealth than the elite of the Third Reich. But those who had the means and the power and were surely ruthless enough to leave no stone unturned in plundering the gold of the victims, would surely have looked to the neutral countries to store their wealth.
That the Nazis had individual accounts in neutral countries is an indisputable fact. The Eizenstat report cites examples of such accounts on page 12. We know, for example, that Kaltenbrunner and Eichmann headed for the Alpine Redoubt loaded down with stolen gold from the victims in the final days of the war.
We know also about SS Major Kurt Becher who worked with Eichmann in the 'Final Solution' in Hungary. Becher was in charge of confiscating the wealth. Later, he was the point man on the negotiations that exchanged 2,000 Jews for trucks in the so-called Kestner train. At the end of the war when the Allies let Becher go, he withdrew his assets from his Swiss bank account and went on to build one of the largest grain companies in Germany. An investigation of the perpetrator's accounts will finally reveal the truth about Kurt Becher and others.
Last Friday, after constant prodding over the last 6 months, the Ministry of Finance of Germany informed the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the German Government would begin an immediate investigation on the 334 names on the perpetrators list that we compiled. This will give us important clues regarding any foreign financial transactions that have taken place. It will also narrow the search as to who their foreign agents and bankers may have been.
Mr. Chairman, without a full accounting from all the neutral countries on the hidden wealth
and assets of the individual perpetrators, we will never learn the truth of what really happened
to the possessions of the millions of victims of the Nazi Holocaust. I urge this committee to
continue the vigilance it has exercised in the pursuit of the truth, wherever the chips may fall.
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