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'Harsh report' critical of Swiss-Nazi gold

Swiss gold

U.S. criticized for not pressing for accounting

May 6, 1997
Web posted at: 8:15 p.m. EDT

From CNN State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An investigation into the Nazis' confiscation of gold during World War II will fault the United States for not pressing Switzerland hard enough to account for and return gold to the Nazis' victims, CNN has learned.

The results of the seven-month investigation, conducted by 11 agencies of the U.S. government, are to be released by the Clinton administration Wednesday morning.

A senior administration official tells CNN that the study will also come down hard on the Swiss for using their neutrality to "advance their own economic self-interests through the war, even after it became apparent that the Allies would win over the Axis."

It will further charge the Swiss with being "obdurate" immediately after the war when the United States and Britain sought to learn what gold assets were transferred by the Nazis to Switzerland.

Much of the Nazis' gold came from European Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

"The study says that the Swiss repeatedly hid behind legalistic arguments on this issue when clearly there were moral questions involved," said the senior official.

The report was put together by Stuart Eizenstat, nominated to be Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, and William Slaney, the State Department's historian.

The official said that the report will also blame the United States for growing inattention and inaction on the gold issue as the Cold War began and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe began falling to Communist rule.

But the Swiss come in for heavy criticism for indifference to the transfer by the Nazis of $400 million ($4 billion in today's dollars) to the Swiss National Bank. That figure does not account for individual losses suffered by Holocaust victims but that never made it into official channels.

"It is a harsh report -- not for the sake of wanting to be harsh on the Swiss, but to urge them to redress this injustice," the senior official said.

The report will also call on other neutral and non-combatants in World War II -- Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Turkey and Sweden -- to examine their roles in holding confiscated gold.

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