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Report: U.S. did too little to press Swiss for accounting

graphic

May 7, 1997
Web posted at: 1:35 p.m. EDT (1735 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government report on U.S. involvement in the Nazi gold injustice declares that Washington did too little at the end of World War II to press Switzerland to make reparations for its dealings in assets looted by the Third Reich.

But the massive report released Wednesday lays primary blame with the Swiss.

"In the unique circumstances of World War II, neutrality collided with morality; too often being neutral provided a pretext for avoiding moral considerations," says a cover document to the study that was coordinated by Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat. Eizenstat has been nominated by President Clinton to be Under Secretary of State.

"Many of the neutrals had a rational fear that their own independence was only a Panzer division away from extinction. But if self-defense and fear were factors in that rationale for neutrality, so too were profit in all neutral countries and outright Nazi sympathy in some," the Eizenstat cover document declares.

At the same time, the report said no evidence was found that the neutral countries knew the origin of the gold they accepted.

gold victims

The study also reported conclusive proof that gold, jewelry, coins and melted down dental fillings of concentration camp victims were taken by the Germans, mixed with plundered bank gold and resmelted into bars that were traded abroad.

Responding to the study, a senior Swiss official said Wednesday that Switzerland should be judged by its actions over the last few months on the Nazi gold issue, not on its actions during World War II.

"If you judge Switzerland you shouldn't do it so much on how Switzerland behaved 50 years ago. You should judge Switzerland by the steps it took over the last months," said Swiss Ambassador Thomas Borer.

While writers of the study declared they were not out to get any one country, they said the evidence kept leading to Switzerland and could not be ignored.

"Switzerland's 'business as usual' attitude persisted in the postwar negotiations, and it is this period which is most inexplicable. The Swiss team were obdurate negotiators, using legalist positions to defend their every interest, regardless of the moral issues also at stake," says the introduction to the study written by State Department Historian William Slaney.

swiss bank

The report says that between January 1939 and June 30, 1945, Germany sent gold worth $400 million ($3.9 billion at today's value) to the Swiss National Bank. More than half that amount was bought by the bank, the rest put into accounts of third countries which had sold war material to Germany.

The United States, Eizenstat's introduction said, showed "a demonstrable lack of senior level support for a tough U.S. negotiating position with the neutrals."

"Neither the U.S. nor the allies pressed the neutral countries hard enough to fulfill their moral obligations to help Holocaust survivors by redistributing heirless assets for their benefit," he wrote.

The United States Great Britain and France settled for $58 million from Switzerland in 1946. Jewish groups believe up to $7 billion worth of assets of Holocaust victims may still be in Swiss banks.

State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst contributed to this report.

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