Bank of England gold `was looted in Holocaust'

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The Independent Online
Millions of pounds' worth of Nazi gold held in the vaults of the Bank of England was looted from Holocaust victims, according to a report published yesterday.

The Holocaust Educational Trust said its report contained new evidence which showed that the gold should be returned to the survivors and their families. Some of the gold bars included metal from items such as gold teeth and jewellery which the Nazis had stripped from Jews.

The report, which is based on a detailed study of British government and Nazi archives, said the Bank of England gold should not be given to the governments of countries which are claiming reparation for Second World War losses inflicted by Germany.

Five-and-a-half tons of gold, worth pounds 39m, is being held in America and Britain, awaiting distribution to the victims of the war.

The trust researchers examined the methods of the Tripartite Gold Commission (TGC) which was set up in 1947 by Britain, France and the US to organise the restoration of "monetary gold" to the 10 countries which are claiming losses.

Monetary gold was looted by Germany from the treasuries of countries it had invaded.

The trust researchers found that much of the gold in this pool was, in fact, looted from private individuals and companies. The TGC was supposed to pass such "non-monetary" gold to the Inter-Governmnetal Committee on Refugees.

The researchers found that officials who helped to manage the Nazi treasure were beset by a "considerable degree of confusion and doubt about the provenance of certain gold bars".

One American government document refers to a "question mark" against a shipment of 8,307 gold bars. It notes: "These gold bars may, after proper assay and expert consideration, be determined to represent melted-down gold teeth fillings, and therefore classifiable as non-monetary gold."

In July 1948, a number of bags containing medals, plaques and tokens arrived at the Bank of England. Bank officials concluded that they could never have been currency but recommended that they be melted down and "turned into good delivery bars".

The trust report said: "If this occurred, this is evidence of individual possessions being ultimately returned to national treasuries."

The report, which was announced by the trust's chairman, Labour MP Greville Janner, said that governments did not intend to deprive the refugees of what was rightfully theirs, but "amid the chaos" of post-war reconstruction, errors were made. As a result, some of the people who had lost most as a result of Nazi brutality were denied a proportion of the restitution owed to them," it said.

The trust believes that the gold ought to be divided between the World Jewish Restitutional Organisation and a similar non-Jewish organisation, which would help the non-Jewish victims of the Nazis.