Editor's Note: This editorial was originally published in 1997 during the Nazi Gold Controversy and Debate. Many of the issues discussed by Ron in this editorial are relevant to what is occurring today and we are therefore pleased to present his editorial for your reading pleasure. (We apologize for editorial errors that were initially included in this article, but which have been corrected now.) As follows:
This article presents the truth about the Swiss Nazi gold controversy and the involvement of U.S. banks and the Federal Reserve during the Second World War. This report opens up the sordid record of the American financial establishment and how our central bankers put trade before patriotism, profits before our troops during times of war and how this relates to our nation today in the "so called" latest conflict, The War on Terror.
This special report links Switzerland's sometimes regrettable World War II activities with specific evidence suggesting a possible revenue trail from the Nazi gold sales to the Bank for International Settlements, located in Basel, Switzerland. This "bankers bank" was operated by the central banks of numerous other countries including certain American banks and possibly even the Federal Reserve!
Here in this report we trace the profits and financial accountability of all parties involved in these wartime activities and urge that these be investigated. Although Switzerland, certainly looked after her best interests during the war, we believe the finger of blame and any financial restitutions should be shared by all nations and institutions involved in this web of deceit, even those parties in the United States.
Further, we believe the nation of Switzerland has been made a convenient scapegoat by special financial interests in the United States for competitive reasons rather than any basis in fact. We call on the U.S. financial institutions associated with the Nazi gold cover-up and gold trading profits to come clean on their involvement.
There is blame enough for all to share. Let's get to the bottom of the whole Nazi gold trading issue … the whole story.
Trading With the Enemy
As the lone neutral democracy in Europe surrounded by the Axis powers, compromises were made by Switzerland to prevent invasion. Although stolen Nazi gold was liquidated at the Swiss National Bank, the deal making and trail of revenue from these activities may have flowed through the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to their stockholder banks in New York City and Chicago.
While not a pretty picture of how the financial elite made money during the war, it is obvious that the guilt and financial accountability for the wartime Nazi gold activities extend far beyond Switzerland, which I believe has been made a scapegoat in this controversy by special financial interests in the United States.
Other BIS central bank owners, U.S. banks owning BIS stock fronting for the Federal Reserve, and possibly even the Federal Reserve System itself should be prepared to accept their share of the blame. Following are questions to be answered before the files are closed on the issue of the Nazi gold trading and "so- called" lost Swiss accounts.
("What does it matter, whether Switzerland has been able to give us the commercial advantages we desire, or has given too many to the Germans, to keep herself alive? Switzerland has remained a democratic state, standing for freedom in self-defense among her mountains, and in thought she has been, in spite of race, largely on our side." – Winston Churchill, 1944)
It is clear that horrible injustices, as are characteristic of any war, were committed during World War II. However, those committed against the Jews by the Nazi government were so abhorrent, they inspire an immediate emotional response from most people who regard the complete injustice of the situation.
Particularly in light of revelations regarding possible Nazi gold and money stores placed in Switzerland by the Nazi government, many people around the world are prone to jump to the conclusion that Switzerland and Swiss banks, aided by their historic secrecy laws, have profited from millions of dollars of assets pilfered from Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Indeed, these victims were shamefully stripped of all material possessions, down to the heisting of gold teeth out of the victims' mouths in order to fund SS accounts and the German war effort. Ironically, however, the Swiss Banking Secrecy Law, which was enacted before the war ever began, was originally meant to protect those German citizens, including many wealthy Jews, who were hiding their assets in Switzerland to escape the far-reaching hand of the National Socialist government in the German Reich.
Now persons and law firms seeking restitution on the part of these victims of Nazi crimes during the war are certain that these secrecy laws are allowing Swiss banks to benefit from these assets, which rightfully belong to Jewish victims and their heirs. There are many points not fully understood about the situation. Firstly, a majority of the gold, which the German government did exchange in Swiss banks during the war, came from the treasuries of conquered nations, not individual victims.
This gold was certainly not generally funneled through any of the commercial banks now in existence in Switzerland. Most was done through an international bank located in Basel, a cooperative bank set up by the central banks of several countries, including the United States. Through this bank, The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the Swiss National Bank and financial institutions and central banks of many other countries were closely tied financially with Germany and the other Axis powers.
Additionally, most of the profiting done during the war was not accomplished by banks or countries in general, but rather by unscrupulous businessmen and the financial elites of many countries. By hedging all bets and covering all angles, they sought to assure themselves of profits during, as well as after, the conflict.
A majority of the gold the German government did exchange in Swiss banks during the war came from the treasuries of conquered nations, not individual victims. While Switzerland did make concessions to Germany during the war, so did many other countries, some of them supposedly Allied nations, not neutral ones, like Switzerland.
The Bank for International Settlements – The Key Player
To understand this web of duplicity and deception one must begin with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bank for central banks, as it has been called."(1) This bank was set up by the victorious allied nations after World War I to allow Germany to repay the excessive war reparations placed upon them.
Germany's economic system, strapped beyond reason by overwhelming reparations payments, was in a shambles. The debts other nations carried because of World War I, in addition to the depression and generally terrible economic conditions around the world, combined for a desperate world financial condition. (BIS, Bank for International Settlements, World War Two, 1929 Young Conference, J.P. Morgan)
It is ironic that these extreme reparations helped cause the hyperinflation in Germany that brought Hitler to power in 1933. Then later the BIS, originally established to drain wealth out of defeated Germany, was used by Hitler during World War II as a major source of revenue for the war effort.
Realizing that the devastated German economy was not in the best interests of any country, world leaders combined forces trying to solve the problems. In several separate conferences, most notably the Young Conference, which was convened in 1929 to solve the difficulties surrounding Germany's reparation payments, participants outlined guidelines for establishing an international bank, at the behest and acting under the authority of central banks throughout the world.
The founding members of the BIS were the central banks of Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Japan with groups of commercial banks from the United States and Japan, neither of which wanted their central banks to be directly involved.
In the USA, then, a banking group, which included J.P. Morgan & Company of New York, The First National Bank of New York, and the First National Bank of Chicago, represented the country. (2) Interestingly, Owen Young, key in developing the plan for the BIS (3), was a banker for the J.P. Morgan Group.
These banks are significant, as they were key to providing their clients access to trade in foreign countries during the Second World War, when all such trade should have been stopped by law. After the Young Conference, it took several other meetings to establish the bank. During these meetings the outline originally set forth in the Young Conference was altered to adjust to the political and economic facts of the chaotic world of 1930.
One of the difficulties was deciding how much control the governments should have over the bank, and how much opportunity to interfere in its operations. (4) In fact, in 1930, Paul Einzig speculated, "Opinions are divided between those who fear that the bank will become a power independent of those governments to which it owes its existence, and those who are concerned lest it remain too much under the control of the political authorities. (5)
In the end, both concerns proved to be true; directors from Germany were always very much under the control of its political leaders, while directors from other nations, including the American group, worked completely independent, and in fact, against, their own governments, in some situations. The area of the bank was defined thus: "To promote the cooperation of central banks and to provide additional facilities for international financial operations; and to act as trustee or agent in regard to international financial settlements entrusted to it under agreements with the parties concerned." (6) At the time of the bank's founding in 1930, this meant handling reparations payments and acting as the holding agent for the German annuities used to pay war debts twice yearly.
However, by the time the "Hoover Debt Holiday" ended the need for the payments in a few years, the Bank for International Settlements was firmly ingrained, and had every motivation to stay that way.
The BIS – Always Business As Usual
Very significant in the original constituent charter of the BIS, is "said power" number 10, as follows: "The Bank, its property and assets and all deposits and other funds entrusted to it shall be immune in time of peace and it time of war from any measure such as expropriation, requisitions, seizure, confiscation, prohibition, or restriction of gold or currency export or import, and any other similar measures. (7)
In other words, whatever happened in the world outside, inside the BIS it was going to be business as usual. In any case, the governors of these banks, or in the case of the commercial banking groups, an appointee, were on the board of directors of the BIS.
Germany was given two extra seats on the board of directors. The board consisted of the governors, or heads, of the seven central banks/commercial conglomerates represented; also seven more people, "representative of finance, industry or commerce" and appointed by the governor of each country's bank; and one extra representative from Germany and France, for a total of sixteen members.
This makeup of the board tended to make it difficult for the more distant non-reparation countries to have any influence unless they could unite with the countries historically and geographically closer to bank. Therefore, the countries of Germany, Italy and France had a great deal of influence at the BIS. (8)
The Banker's Bank
Of note in the statues of the BIS is that it is allowed to: “Act as an agent or correspondent of any central bank; (and) arrange with any central bank for the latter to act as agent…" Additionally, the BIS, "may enter into special agreements with central banks to facilitate the settlement of international transactions between."
"For this purpose it [the BIS] may arrange with central banks to have gold earmarked for their account and transferable on their order, to open accounts through which central banks can transfer their assets from one currency to another and take such other measures as the Board may think advisable within the limits of the powers granted by these statutes." (9)
Therefore, the BIS was ready to lend against gold without delay, and could sometimes reduce steps of utilizing gold credit from four steps to one over traditional ways, besides saving much in time and commissions. (10)
Another item of note is that transferring gold to the account of the BIS did not necessarily mean it had to be physically moved by a central bank to the BIS. It would, however, be earmarked in the vaults of a central bank "for the BIS," when in reality, it was providing gold credit for another client country of the BIS. Therefore, the BIS name on the holding would grant it particular immunity, and at the same time, conceal the actual ownership of the gold. (11)
In her treatise on the BIS, Eleanor Dulles commented that the representatives of several central banks and financiers from many countries met at the BIS and worked together in a friendly way, but "it is also true that they were seriously limited by political factors." (12)
As Einzig said, "As to weaknesses and limitations … the BIS is exposed to the pitfalls of political intrigues. Its important decisions are liable to be government largely by the necessity of political compromise. (13)
This political compromise was necessary, even though the bank was forbidden to ever make loans or have deposits in the name of any government. The central banks were responsible for any monies that would be loaned or used by their countries. Thus the accounts at the BIS were held as "Central Banks for the account of others," thereby avoiding direct dealing with the governments. (14)
However, these financiers were closely tied with each country's political leaders, and would exercise their influence in behalf of their own countries.
Per Jacobson, Emil Puhl, Reichsbank, Federal Reserve, German invasion of Switzerland
The bargaining was taken with good nature by the BIS board. For there was a very friendly and close-knit camaraderie joining the members of the BIS board of directors and staff of the BIS. They knew they could discuss their often similar and grim problems with one another. They could get advice, moral support, and help. (15)
By the time war broke out in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, the ties and warm friendships binding this financial elite were too strong for so small a thing as a war to break. Erin Jacobsson, daughter and biographers of Per Jacobsson, the economic director of the BIS and influential policy maker there, said, "In the 1930s, the Bank for International Settlements functioned mainly as a club for central bankers; a club with a serious purpose … ”
"PJ (Per Jacobsson) loved the monthly meetings with the increasingly warm companionship, the exchange of ideas and opinions that took place, the inside information … He found that he was dealing with influential people, and that, if he could convince them of the expediency of a policy, action would probably follow. (16)
While Jacobsson was concerned with economic policy, the same fact held true for trade policy or anything else important to the task of making money. These people at the BIS and their friends could make things happen.
These directors and board members kept coming to the BIS, even during the war. According to Jacobsson, the governors of nearly all the European central banks were regular visitors. This included the governors of the central banks in France, Hungry and Romania, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as regular visits by the vice- governor of the Reichsbank, Dr. Emil Puhl, especially during the second half of the war.
This fact is significant in that the BIS gave Dr. Puhl a reason to be in Switzerland. Here he met, virtually unnoticed, with influential bankers from Portugal, a "neutral" country who did important trading with Germany, as well as contacts from the U.S. and other allied nations.
Besides "business" of banking and trade, there was the "inside information" passed from one of these "friends" to another passed from one of these "friends" to another. PJ's brother-in-law was Sir Archibald Nye, Vice-Chief of the Imperial General Staff for the British Army.
There is a record of at least one bit of information passed along by PJ to Nye, which was used to the benefit of British intelligence. There are family rumors of many other such messages." (18)
If intelligences were flowing from the Axis powers to the Allies, then we can be absolutely certain the reverse was also true; probably many pieces of strictest intelligence which should never have been disclosed probably went in the other direction.
The Swiss Role in the Gold Transfers
Keep in mind the banks that were considered "Central Banks" – the Reichsbank in Germany, Central Bank of France, the Central Bank of Italy, the Swiss National Bank, as well as the First National and J.P. Morgan banks in the United States, (fronting for the Federal Reserve) come to mind.
One can see how simple it would be for these members of the BIS board of directors to facilitate large exchanges of gold into Swiss francs and other currencies or surreptitiously channel large payments for war goods between citizens of countries who were at war, therefore making it appear that they were not trading with each other during the war, when, in fact, they were.
Although this was not the reason for these provisions being put into the statutes of the bank in the beginning, they did facilitate the ability for secret and consistent trading with the enemy on both sides of the conflict.
Yes, Switzerland is the location where most of the looted and legitimate Nazi gold sales were handled. But the reasons have more to do with Switzerland's neutrality than with any attempt to accommodate the Germans.
At the outbreak of the war in Europe, President Roosevelt froze the gold holdings of most of the belligerent nations that were on deposit at Fort Knox here in the United States. The Swiss National Bank also held gold deposits for most major nations including the U.S. but however due to Swiss neutrality, Switzerland continued to transfer gold between all nations as the respective national governments dictated. Remember, as a major financial center, Switzerland alone in the world has never imposed exchange controls on its citizens, outside world investors or governments.
As a neutral nation during the war, with all their Swiss National Bank storage vaults open to all trading nations during war or peace, the Swiss continued gold transactions and trading with all governments with gold on deposit at the Swiss central bank. So, if Germany wanted to sell gold to Portugal for grain or fuel, for example, the Swiss National Bank basically moved the gold from Germany's area of gold in the National Bank vault to the section reserved for Portugal's gold. The same type of transactions were carried out for all nations with gold on deposit including the United States. This is how Germany's gold was transferred, sold and liquidated to other governments as payment for agricultural, manufacturing and war materials.
It's logical to assume that the Swiss National Bank charged a fee for this service; so the critics of Switzerland are correct. Switzerland helped launder looted Nazi gold but this was the result of international transactions and not some sinister plot to help the Nazi regime. Chances are some of this gold came from holocaust victims and from looted commercial and central banks of conquered nations but as we go into more of the story, we will learn how all the world's major central banks benefited from these transactions.
Switzerland's Unique & Honorable Role During World War II
There is no question that Switzerland did trade heavily with Germany during the war. It is apparent that to survive and forestall a Nazi invasion, Switzerland was forced to produce for the Third Reich. For example, in Oerlikon, located between Kloten airport and downtown Zurich, some of the best anti-aircraft guns in the world were produced during the war and some were exported to Germany.
But let us set the stage for the tiny neutral nation of Switzerland during World War II. They have little in the way of natural resources and much of its land is totally unusable for agriculture. It's an exporting nation, very dependent on the exchange of manufactured goods with other countries.
Switzerland must import all fuel, including coal and oil, plus much of its food. The country is landlocked and their only direct trading route for ocean commerce is through Germany. All the shipping of Swiss exports are sent down the Rhine river northward to the North Sea.
During the difficult period of World War II, Switzerland stood alone in Europe. It stood as a single democracy surrounded by the victorious Axis powers; to the north was Nazi Germany, to the east was the Osterrich, formerly Austria and now a part of the German Reich, to the west were the German-occupied areas of France; and in the South was Hitler's fascist ally, Italy.
The only window of trade not controlled by the Nazis was a narrow strip of territory stretching west from Geneva into the Vichy Republic of France. Even this export avenue was cut off in 1942, when the German army occupied the remainder of France. Switzerland was under constant threat of invasion during the war, although the German plan to invade was only close to activation twice, first in 1940 and later again in 1943.
The real threat of invasion was in 1943 after the allied forces conquered North Africa from German and Italian armies. Hitler was concerned about Switzerland being located between an increasingly wavering Italian ally putting German troops at risk of allied invasion. If allied forces invaded Italy, German forces and reinforcements could be easily cut off as there were only three rail passes to access Italy from the German Reich. Austria's Brenner Pass was very vulnerable to allied air attacks and the other two were through Switzerland. This placed Switzerland between Germany and the survival of her forces in Italy.
Hitler Did Not Invade Switzerland for Three Reasons:
The Swiss plans were to fight to the death, if necessary, in the Swiss Alps where the vital north-south tunnels and communication links were located. If invaded the destruction of these tunnels would have been imminent and these plans were well known to the Germans. The demolition of these rail lines and tunnels would have cut off German access to their forces in Italy.
Swiss manufacturing played a major role in the German war effort. In case of invasion, the Swiss army planned to fight only a delaying action in the populated Metelland region, the Swiss industrial area. Any fighting there would have destroyed the manufacturing capability of the Swiss thus affecting their exports to the German war effort.
Swiss military and industrial exports were exchanged for badly needed fuel oil, coal, and food, and yes, sometimes, German gold. Swiss exports helped held off invasion and maintained their independence unfortunately at the price of accepting gold from Germany.
The third, and most important reason, Germany did not invade Switzerland was the Bank for International Settlements was located in Basel, Switzerland. The BIS helped conclude the deals for much of the looted gold sales and transfers.
Germany's invasion of Switzerland would have cut off their access to their forces in Italy, ended Swiss exports, closed the German gold window with the BIS and stopped the gold sales utilizing the neutral vault location at the Swiss National Bank. The price of Swiss invasion was just too great for Germany to bear.
The Secret Federal Reserve Role Regarding the Nazi Gold
Because of fear of Congressional overview and disapproval, the Federal Reserve had wisely not become an official stockholder of the BIS. Instead they had several major American banks front for the Federal Reserve as the official owners. Even though the Fed was technically not a member of the BIS, when PJ made a trip to the United States in 1941 at the request of BIS president Thomas McKittrick, (surprisingly a United States citizen), he met with and discussed post-war -debt and such things with the Federal Reserve President Allen Sproul.
Surprisingly, the Federal Reserve remained listed in the Rand McNally directory as a correspondent bank for the BIS in Washington from Pearl Harbor on until the president. (19) Additionally, the Federal Reserve had the power to veto operations in America, and the BIS operated on principles which met the approval of those in charge of the Federal Reserve. (20)
In 1931, the Federal Reserve began active participation in the BIS, by taking in credits from Austria and Hungry. More connections developed, and soon, more than two-thirds of the BIS funds in America were held at the Federal Reserve.
Therefore it seems clear the Fed profited from transactions taking place in the BIS. However, it was the U.S. commercial banks, which had no injunction to protect the public welfare, but only the mandate to make a profit, which had the voting control in the BIS. They used their connections there to make money, regardless of how they did it or who was hurt in the process.
Illustrating the close ties of BIS board members, regardless of nationality: In 1942, PJ was invited to visit the Reichsbank, as well as the Bank of England. He cleared the trip to Germany with Emil Puhl, asking and taking Puhl's advice on which cities to travel through and how to arrange his stay and speech in Germany. In his defense for taking Puhl's advice, Jacobsson said, "I didn't say one world in argument. I accepted what Puhl had said as definite. I knew full well to what extent the future of the BIS depends on Puhl's possibilities of holding the fort in Berlin."
PJ also informed Puhl of his brother-in-law's appointment as Vice-Chief. Puhl responded, in part, "…These things are much easier to handle if one knows in advance." (21) After his trip to the U.S., Jacobsson reported to Puhl the attitudes and opinions of Americans regarding the war and the Germans. (22)
Members of the BIS had fierce loyalty to one another and to the bank itself. They were intent that the BIS survive, and would do what was necessary to make sure it did. And it did survive largely because the central bankers, who knew it best, decided that they needed the institution. (23)
While no one officially determined that the BIS should supplant other centers for discussion, there was a growing tendency for monetary and banking affairs to be referred to Basel. Because of this it became increasingly natural for the Central Banks to find out what was happening in other countries in times of crises.
Inquiries by telephone could give them information as to gold movements and exchange rates in a number of countries. They could sometimes get the most direct news from New York through Basel. And each country's own representative in Basel could keep them in touch with the shaping of plans and theories, if they wished to do so. (24)
Ironically, Dulles speculated on what might happen to the BIS in the case of war. "It is necessary for those at the BIS to act as if the treaties and exemptions regarding the Bank would be respected, even if there should be a break in the diplomatic relations between countries … There is no reason to suppose, however, that even war would interfere completely with the work of the Bank. Governments at war would continue to need foreign exchange, and there is grounds for considering funds would be safer with the BIS than they would be in any one center. They should enjoy certain immunities and would be to a certain extent anonymous, and might therefore be less subject to seizure … (25)
Indeed, her words proved to be prophetic.
According to Jacobsson, "The surprising result of the evacuation (of the city of Basel during the war) was the harmony in which the mixed international staff of the BIS, with belligerents on both sides, managed to live side by side, in the closest of quarters, with no dissension … At the outbreak of war, all the staff had been told, by their own central banks, to work amicably together so as to keep the BIS running… (26)
And keep it running they did. With the structure in place allowing for secrecy and quick communication between members, the BIS became a key factor in allowing "Business as Usual" to continue during the war.
Who Really Traded With the Enemy?
In the years leading up to and during the war, huge American business conglomerates and their corporate leaders were in cooperation with Nazi corporations. These connections continued even after Pearl Harbor. These companies were represented nationally by National City Bank or Chase National Bank, and by the Nazi attorneys, Gerhardt Westrick and Dr. Heinrich Albert. And all were connected to Emil Puhl, or the Reichsbank and the BIS. (27)
These names, of course, will sound familiar as one of the founding banks of the BIS and as one of the directors of the BIS was Puhl. The other figures are connected to one another and thus develops the web of duplicity and illegal dealings which characterized the war years. For example, the first BIS president was Gates W. McGarrah, a former employee of both Chase National Bank (key in the Trading with the Enemy transactions) and the Federal Reserve.
The second BIS president was Leon Fraser. He had many contacts high up in the business world, but no previous background in finance or economics. Still, when he left the BIS presidency in 1935, he took over as president of First National Bank of New York, one of the founding BIS banks. (28) We can see how all of these ties are interconnected, and allowed for the corruption which took place.
Nazi gold, Czech gold, Thomas McKittrick, Bretton Woods Conference
In March of 1938, when the Nazi's marched into Vienna, much of the gold of Austria was looted and packed into vaults controlled by the BIS. German board members, of whom there were three, asked that the seizure not be officially discussed, and it was not. The "neutrality" and close friendships of the BIS began at once to cover up the Nazi gold moves.
The gold was immediately credited to Reichsbank accounts, where they could then receive credits in any country's currency from the BIS. (29)
March 15, 1939 brought another dark day to the BIS. The Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, and storm troopers entered the Czech central bank, holding them at gunpoint, requiring that they order the transfer of the national store of gold, which they had put for safekeeping in a BIS account in the Central Bank of England. The Nazis wanted the gold transferred to the Reichsbank account.
After some discussion, the transfer was carried out. The entire Czech store of gold was passed on for the use of Hitler's war machine.
In a feeble defense, Jacobsson said, "[Once the war broke out] the BIS had immediately to find means to remain in business. [Neutrality rules] at the bank included special protective measures in respect of all transactions, and especially gold transactions, from occupied countries … Therefore there could be no repetition of the incident in March 1939 when the BIS received an authentic order to transfer Czech gold to the German Reichsbank, (and) only later discovered that the order had been extracted at the point of a pistol. The Czechs never held this against the BIS."
As further evidence, she points out that the Czech delegation never voted to dissolve the BIS in later meetings, even though a certain Paul Einzig, editor of The Financial News, (and incidentally, author of a comprehensive book covering the formation of the BIS) made it a major point in his attacks on the bank.
Nevertheless, Jacobsson said, "The neutrality rules were strictly adhered to." (30)
Defending the Undefendable
This defense is ridiculous; it implies that the people involved at the BIS should have no idea that an order to transfer a country's entire store of gold to the central bank of another country that had just taken them over was perhaps not a voluntary order. That is impossible to believe.
These were intelligent and capable men very much aware of world conditions. They were certainly aware that Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia, uninvited, therefore could have easily surmised that the order to transfer a country's entire store of gold was forced.
As further evidence, Paul Einzig, who uncovered the story with the help of a contact at the Bank of England, found that English banking and government leaders denied that the transfer had even taken place, when it clearly had. Its completion was reported by the Associated Press in Switzerland on May 31. (31)
One of the leaders who denied the transfer was Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Interestingly enough, Chamberlain was a major shareholder in the Imperial Chemical Industries, a partner if I.G. Farben, whose Hermann Schmitz was on the board of the BIS. (32)
This is the same Chamberlain, of course, whose policy of concession and compromise gave Nazi Germany a huge step up on Britain when real war broke out. Now we see that the ties that bind wound around the top heads of state.
Many years later when Einzig asked J.W. Beyen, who had been the BIS president at the beginning of the Czech gold scandal, if the gold was transferred, he replied that it was, "Purely technical. The gold never left England." (33) This may be true, but of course, the way the BIS did business, gold did not have to be physically transferred. The amount was simply deducted from the Czech account and credited to the Reichsbank account held in the name of the BIS, "for the Reichsbank." The gold did not have to be physically transferred.
Naturally, rules of neutrality held true during the was, as Jacobsson insisted. Neutrality is treating everyone equally, regardless of politics, nationality or affluence. So all that the BIS said when it insisted that "strict rules of neutrality were followed," during the war was that they continued to trade with all countries; trading gold into Swiss francs or U.S. dollars or English pounds for the Germans … and the Americans … and the Czechs .. .and the French … and the Italians – everyone equally.
McKittrick, American Traitor – President of the BIS
Thomas McKittrick, was the American BIS president from the time of the Czech scandal through the war. The Italian and German governments approved his continuing as president, once saying, "McKittrick's opinions are safely known to us." Apparently, those Axis powers liked what they knew.
In 1940, McKittrick traveled to Berlin, meeting with Kurt von Schroeder of the BIS and the Gestapo to discuss doing business between the U.S. and German if war should erupt between the two countries. (34)
McKittrick was also president when in June of 1940, a Belgian BIS director intercepted $228 million in gold sent by the Belgian government to the Bank of France, and had it shifted to Dakar in North Africa on its way to Reichsbank accounts.
Later, in 1943, he was somehow able to obtain an Italian diplomatic visa, (despite not being Italian or a diplomat, and despite the fact that the government of his country was at war with Italy) and traveled to Rome, Lisbon, then to the United States. After visiting with Leon Fraser of First National Bank of New York and leaders of the Federal Reserve, he traveled back through Berlin, exchanging intelligence with Emil Puhl at the Reichsbank. (35)
Several Americans, troubled by the rumors and facts they had heard regarding the BIS, introduced a resolution to dissolve the bank at the 1944 International Monetary Conference at Bretton Woods.
The BIS came under attack largely for the publicized Czech gold scandal. Other abuses were less widely known, and the motion was weakened by the fact that the Czech government did not support the resolution for dissolution, and neither did the Dutch delegation (led by former BIS president J.W. Beyen) even though Holland's national gold stores had also been looted by the Nazis. Ned Brown, an American tied to the Chase and First National banks, also vetoed the resolution to disband.
Nevertheless, Morgenthau saw the BIS for what it was. At Bretton Woods, he said: "I think in the eyes of the Germans, they would consider this as the kind of thing which can go on, and it holds out to them a hope, particularly to people like Dr. Schaacht and Dr. Funk, (president of the Reichsbank) that the same [associations] will continue [between the U.S. and Germany] after the war. It strengthens the position of people like Mr. Leon Fraser and some very important people like Mr. Winthrop Aldrich, who have openly opposed dissolution." (36)
Finally, Morganthau's delegation approved the dissolution of the BIS. However, McKittrick began immediately on a campaign to retain it. He sent letters full of one-sided information, insisting that in the post-war period, the help of the BIS would be necessary. In all his discussions and attempts to save the BIS, McKittrick let out many incriminating bits of information about the BIS and its directors.
He said the German government allow the BIS to exist and continue working because, "… In the complicated German set-up, certain men who have their central banker' point of view are in very strategic positions and can influence the conduct of the German government with respect to these matters."
(Here we are, a nation actually assisting an enemy in time of war, and not only that, but stating through our Ambassador, that we stand ready to continue and extend such help …)
He admitted that a group of German financiers had been certain from the outset of the war that Germany would eventually lose, and felt their contacts on the BIS would help them arrange post-war reconstruction loans.
McKittrick would not name these men, except Emil Puhl. He insisted that Puhl did not share the Nazi point of view, even though the State Department knew it was Puhl who had authorized the looting of Allied gold and its transferal to Switzerland.
In addition, McKittrick also admitted that the Belgian gold was in the Reichsbank. But that it was being held in safekeeping for Belgium until after the war. He insisted that all gold transactions within the BIS would be opened for review after the war, and that the gold was all carefully segregated and documented. The books were, of course, never released. And the German regularly melted down looted gold, restamping it with a date prior to the outbreak of hostilities." (37)
Despite the efforts of Morganthau and others of his mind, the BIS was not closed down, nor was it audited, as they finally resolved to do.
Emil Puhl, Federal Bank of New York, BIS, Switzerland
However, after Bretton Woods, McKittrick was under pressure from Emil Puhl to ensure that looted gold would continue to flow into Europe. McKittrick was running scared at that point, realizing he had stuck his neck way out at Bretton Woods, and did not wish to authorize direct receipt of the gold. Instead, he had the Swiss National Bank, chair by Ernst Weber, BIS director, take it into their vaults. The Swiss National Bank had promised not to receive it, so they did sometimes disguise the loot as payments to the American Red Cross and German legations in Switzerland.
The U.S. State Department, in the person of Orvis Schmidt, asked the Swiss National Bank executives about the looted gold. He was told that a member of the Reichsbank, whom they regarded to be trustworthy, had to authenticate each gold shipment, validating that it was from Germany's reserves, not looted gold. This "trusted member" was none other than Emil Puhl. (38)
Under pressure from the U.S. Treasury, the BIS handed over only $4 million in looted gold to the Allies in 1948, and Thomas McKittrick, whose activities Morganthau insisted, "bordered on treason," was rewarded by the Rockefellers and Winthrop Aldrich. He was made vice-president of the Chase National Bank, where he served for many years after the war. He invited Emil Puhl to the U.S. as his guest in 1950.
The Deal Makers – Profits At Any Price
Of course the BIS was never dissolved. The BIS, finding its niche in the world racked by war, thus became a clearinghouse for all kinds of under-the-table activities, both between countries and between businesses.
"While the BIS bought little gold from the Nazis itself, a scant $15 million – it was a crucial facilitator, lending the laundering an aura of honor among thieves. The BIS was a central transmission place where deals were struck, where deals were struck, where the Portuguese representatives would meet the Reichsbank representatives," says Harold James, a Princeton University historian. And that's what kept money flowing into Nazi coffers. (39)
In 1943, gasoline and petroleum products equaling the full capacity of the Spanish tanker fleet were traveling to Spain. From there, they were going directly to Germany. In addition to oil, sulfate of ammonia and cotton, both commodities in short supply in the U.S. were being shipped in huge amounts to Spain and from there on to Hitler.
Economist Henry Waldman said it like it was: "Here we are, a nation actually assisting an enemy in time of war, and not only that, but stating through our ambassador, that we stand ready to continue and extend such help … Spain is an enemy, and yet we help her."
Although the argument from that model of honesty, Dean Acheson, was that we were supplying neutrals like Spain with needed raw materials so they would not supply such things to the enemy. It was an outright lie – both on the part of Franco in Spain, who was collaborating 100 percent with Hitler, and the part of Dean Acheson, who was collaborating 100 percent with Standard Oil and related companies to provide petroleum products to Germany.
Overcoming incredible opposition, honest members of the State Department presented such evidence of collusion to the President, showing that Franco in Spain was exporting oil, platinum, industrial diamonds and liver extract (from which Germany made a tonic for fliers). All were traveling from South America on Spanish ships straight through the British blockade on American licenses.
In January 1944, the British cut off all oil, gasoline and other petroleum products to Spain. This embargo, though, lasted only a few short months. The oil interests lobbied hard, pulling all their considerable weight and influence, until they were allowed to resume shipments. In return, Franco agreed to expel Nazi agents from Spain, and did a half-hearted job of it. No one asked, and he never would have agreed, that he break off diplomatic relations with Germany. Soon after the embargo was lifted, oil and other vital raw materials found their way directly into Germany again.
Why did the American government, which clearly had knowledge of most of these collusions and betrayals through the efforts of the State Department, never expose them or shut them down? The president used the executives concerned, keeping an eye on them and allowing them to indulge, under license or not, in their international trading. While his actions made winning the war a certainty, he also kept the public from knowing what is should not know.
(What excuse, other than profits at any price, can certain U.S. financial interests use to defend their treasonous activities of trading and financial dealings with the Nazi's while our nation was fighting a war of survival?)
Why did even the loyal figures of the American government allow these transactions to continue after Pearl Harbor? According to Higham, a logical deduction would be that not doing so would have involved a public disclosure and scandal. The procedure of legally disconnecting these alliances under the anti-trust laws would have resulted in a public scandal that would have drastically affected public morale, caused widespread strikes and perhaps even provoked mutinies in the armed forces.
Moreover, as some corporate executive were never tired of reminding the government, their trial and imprisonment would have made it impossible for the corporate boards to help the American war effort. Therefore the government was powerless to intervene. After 1945, the Cold War, which the executive had done so much to promote, made it even more necessary that the truth of these collusions not be revealed. (41)
(…We also forget the close connection the Federal Reserve had with the BIS throughout the war, making the U.S. government a conspirator in the whole messy process.)
Following the war, those American patriots who tried to expose the conspiracy of business-as-usual men were destroyed, while those who were part of the group soon flourished again. The BIS, First National Bank and Chase Bank all not only survived, but escaped all censure and kept all profits resulting from their cooperation with Nazi Germany.
In fact, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York gave the BIS a clean bill of health and McKittrick and the other leaders of the BIS moved on to their new cushy banking jobs. (42)
(We also forget the close connection the Federal Reserve had with the BIS throughout the war, making the U.S. government a conspirator in the whole messy process. Did the Federal Reserve also profit from these business dealings and gold exchanges? Undoubtedly so.)
How many times was the Federal Reserve a holding company for "German or Italian gold in the name of the BIS." Without a doubt immoral dealings were engaged in all around. While most research is available regarding the workings of this particular cartel and conspiracy of mostly American, German and South American business leaders, European countries, too, played a role in allowing the Nazis to continue their war efforts.
Franco's Spain, as has been noted, was a key trading partner. Doubtless many millions of dollars worth of Swiss francs the Germans received in exchange for their gold went to Spain.
Many millions more are known to have been given to the government and business leaders in Portugal. Portugal was know to have gathered raw materials from throughout the world, using its position as a neutral, then selling them directly to the German government in exchange for gold or Swiss francs, the only currency stable enough to be of value in the war years.
"We acquired a lot of gold coming from Germany because, as you know, we sold a lot of goods and services to Germany," said Nuno Jonet, of the Portuguese Central Bank in Lisbon. "I suppose one or two bars are left with swastikas on them, but they're museum pieces." (43)
"Neutral" Sweden also made many concessions to the German government, including allowing troops to march across her borders and facilitating trade arrangements under the Swedish flag.
There's Enough Blame To Go Around
Clearly we can see that while the neutral Swiss government during World War II does share some blame in hindsight for exporting and trading with the Nazi the blame also extends to most other major nations in the world. Also Switzerland, a surrounded nation, help buy its freedom from invasion and contributed substantial amounts of western intelligence through their policy of trading with Nazi Germany.
In fact, the Swiss even stole and copied the secret German enigma machine during the war as the trains sped from Germany south through the Swiss rail passes to Italy. Looking at the United States, what excuse, other than profits during war time at any price, can certain U.S. financial interests use to defend their activities of trading and financial dealings with the Nazis while our nation was fighting a war of survival? The Nazi gold controversy centers on finding the gold that was funneled through Switzerland and the BIS, as well as the smaller amounts sent through France, Portugal and other countries.
While some may be quick to condemn Switzerland for agreeing to participate in exchanges with Germany, we must remember the position Switzerland was in during the war.
Swiss Neutrality Also Helped the Allies
Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers. There was a very real threat of invasion from Germany, since if they refused to cooperate it would greatly hamper the Nazi supply effort to their armies. While Switzerland was valuable to Germany as a trading partner, the Nazis undoubtedly would have invaded if the Swiss cooperation faltered in any way.
Public records in Switzerland at the time reveals that there were a few Swiss who were ambivalent, and perhaps even sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Most however, were not and there was a plan in place for ferocious resistance to any German invasion. The Swiss had built mountain fortresses high in the Alps for that very reason.
Surely the Allies would have preferred to have Switzerland firmly committed to their cause; however, to have done so would have been suicide for the Swiss nation. Germany controlled all their sources of imports, upon which the Swiss are heavily dependent. While they are an active industrial nation, Switzerland has virtually no natural resources other than running water for hydroelectric power and the wits of their citizenry. The nation could not afford to have the Germans cut off their supply routes to the sea and other countries in Europe. It would have meant starvation as well as the threat of extinction in a German attack for Swiss citizens.
Switzerland's conduct was not without blame during the war. While it did provide a haven for 27,000 German Jewish refugees, it also turned away 30,000 others; even requesting the Nazis stamp a "J" on their passports to identify them, as a concession to the Germans, who threatened them." (44)
However, Switzerland also provided an invaluable base of operations for the CIA and Allen Dulles to gather vital intelligence about the German movements. They also harbored downed U.S. fliers who crashed or were shot down in Switzerland or the surrounding Axis territory.
During the war, the International Association of the Red Cross also found Switzerland invaluable in aiding countless persons displaced by the war and in improving conditions for Allied prisoners of war.
What Happened to the Lost Swiss Bank Accounts of War Victims
Banking secrecy can, in fact, be a dangerous financial double-edged sword if the depositor with a "secret" account dies without revealing the existence of the account. Looking back to the World War Two years, we must remember the penalty in Nazi Germany for a foreign unreported bank account was death. Therefore with the death penalty facing the owner of a secret Swiss account, many Germans chose not to reveal the existence and location of their accounts to anyone, even a family member. After all, most expected to survive the Hitler regime, but then the war came.
The Nazi agents often used deplorable tactics now copied by American government agents. For example, agents posed as clients requesting their funds or attempted to make deposits thereby exposing the existence of a secret bank account.
Swiss bankers and insurance companies complied with demands by German agents. And Germans wishing to leave, many of them Jewish, refrained from opening bank accounts in Switzerland under their own name. Mr. E. Witzig, then director of Swiss Credit Bank branch in Kreuzlingen, always warned foreigners not to use their own name. He asked his friends whether they would open such an account in their name and act as fiduciaries. He believed this to be a measure of precaution, also where his employees were concerned, since he no longer absolutely trusted all of them given their personal ties to the new Germany. (45)
Millions died during the war. Merchants and businessmen who had entrusted funds to Swiss banks went to their graves in internment and concentration camps without revealing their account information to their heirs. Sons, daughters and others who then tried to retrieve the accounts were unable to do so because of the Swiss secrecy laws that had been put in place for the benefit and safety of clients.
It is certainly clear how Swiss bank privacy is indeed a double-edged sword, useful but not without risk. American investors foolishly choosing to break U.S. law and reporting requirements should realize the high penalties for failure to report a foreign financial account plus the risk of the assets one is trying to protect being lost forever due to an accidental death.
Will the U.S. Also Come Clean on the Nazi Gold?
Just as Switzerland is reappraising its actions during World War II, so should the U.S., the Federal Reserve and certain banking interests collaborating with the BIS during the war. Former President Clinton indicated that an independent committee under former Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volcker would conduct their own investigation. Even Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eisenstat stated, "We have to be willing to follow the trail of assets into our own treasury." (46)
In the years that have passed since this promise to review the U.S. actions regarding the Nazi gold, it is apparent that a Fed chairman, and the Federal Reserve were unable to provide an objective account of U.S. banks actions during the Second World War.
Since neither the U.S. government, the Federal Reserve or the American banks involved in this matter never owned up to their questionable actions, we view the attacks on Switzerland and Swiss banks to be quite hypocritical at the very least.
It is extremely unfair to persecute Swiss banks and the nation of Switzerland for their roles in buying and moving German gold and in handling loot for the war while ignoring the roles played so many other European and western nations. While the Swiss record is less than spotless, so to is the record of every other nation during those times, including the United States, England, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Sweden, France just to name a few.
Efforts should be made by all parties involved to recognize and try to mitigate, in whatever way possible, the suffering and financial loss caused to peoples and countries during this dreadful tine of our world's history.
But rather than pointing fingers and casting blame on one particular country, shouldn't we all bear together the weight of allowing these crimes to take place?
… Of not respecting Swiss neutrality?
… Of not investigating individual victim's claims thoroughly immediately after the war?
… Of allowing Nazi officials to regain office in Germany in the years following the end of the conflict?
… Of allowing many Nazi officials to escape with millions of dollars to lead comfortable lives for the rest of their days?
… Of allowing American and British businessmen and their banking partners to profit from gold sales and trade while consorting with high-ranking enemy officials while our troops fought and died on the battlefields of Europe?
Yes, certainly there is blame enough to be place for the financial dealings during World War II. But it doesn't belong only to Switzerland.
There is blame enough for all to share – enough to go around the world.
A Special Message From Ron Holland
The destruction, death and property confiscation during the Second World War is blight on the history of the world. Many evils were perpetrated on innocent civilians during the war and it is time we set the record straight. The Swiss should be congratulated on their efforts rather than attacked and the U.S. and all other countries involved should rightfully follow the Swiss example.
The holocaust and Jewish property confiscation are extreme examples of what desperate and tyrannical governments can do to their own citizens. It is important to remember that democracy is no guarantee of good government as the Nazis were the legally elected government of Germany and they sadly received wide popular support for their activities prior to and during the early years of World War II. The scary lesson of Hitler and Nazi Germany shows that democracy does not provide total protection from tyranny when the government or politicians control the press and media outlets.
Government Is the Problem Not the Solution
In the German example, most of the looted gold sold, the civilian deaths resulting in lost bank accounts, and property confiscated were all the product of lawful government actions and extreme measures taken under wartime conditions. While these actions weren't right or moral, they were legal under the German legal system.
Also most of the civilian deaths in German concentration camps and the millions killed in the Allied firebombing of German cities were all atrocities but considered legal by the various governments committing these actions again under wartime emergency conditions.
1 For a complete history of the Bank for International Settlements, see either Eleanor Dulles, The Bank for International Settlements at Work, Harvard Press, 1932, The Macmillan Company, New York, or Michael Eizner, The Bank for International Settlements, much of the history of the BIS found in this paper comes from these sources as noted.
2 Dulles, Eleanor, The Bank for International Settlements at Work, p.578
3 Higham, p.2
4 Dulles, p.2
5 Einzig, p.9
6 From the "Statutes for the Bank for International Settlements."
7 Dulles, p.580.
8 Dulles, p.49.
9 Dulles, p.586.
10 Dulles, p.79.
11 Dulles, p.81.
12 Dulles, p.499.
13 Eizner, p.10
14 Dulles, p.46
15 Jacobsson, p.190
16 Jacobsson, p.95
17 Jacobsson, p.152
18 Jacobsson, p.153
19 Trading with the Enemy, p.10
20 Dulles, p.50.
21 Jacobsson, p.165
22 Jacobsson, p.163
23 Jacobsson, p.192
24 Dulles, p.209
25 Dulles, p.97
26 Jacobsson, p.141
27 TWTE, p.xiv. For a fascinating and complete look at these interconnections, and many others, read Charles Highams complete book, Trading with the Enemy.
28 Higham, p.2
29 Higham, p.4
30 Jacobsson, p.140
31 Higham, p.6
32 Higham, p.6
33 Higham, p.7
34 Higham, p.7
35 Higham, p.8
36 Higham, p.14
37 Higham, p.16. Also found in the 1945 Senate Committee on Military Affairs Hearings.
38 Higham, p.17
39 Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, Nov. 4, 1996, p.48
40 Higham, p.61
41 Higham, p.xvii.
42 Hirsh, p.48
43 Hirsh, p.48
44 Henson, p.2
45 Bilanz, Schweizer Wirtschafts-Magazin, February 1997
46 Hirsh, p.47