Discovered: Hitler's secret Swiss bank account

Bank accounts which may hold Adolf Hitler's royalties from Mein Kampf have been discovered by investigators on the trail of billions of pounds in stolen Jewish money and possessions.

Declassified intelligence documents at the US National Archives show that one of Hitler's closest confidantes opened the accounts at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Bern after the Fuhrer's book became required reading in German schools.

The information, contained in an intelligence report by the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA, was uncovered by World Jewish Congress researchers in Washington under America's freedom of information legislation, and passed to the Jewish Chronicle.

Among reports on movements of money under the heading "Objectionable Activities by Switzerland on Behalf of the Nazis", the late 1944 report says: "Telegram from Bern reported that information received in Bern indicates that accounts are held for Hitler in the Schweizerische Bankgesellschaft [UBS] by a German official named Max Ammann."

Ammann was one of Hitler's closest collaborators in his early days and owner of Centralverlag der NSDAP publishing company, which published Mein Kampf .

The report said: "...it is quite possible that Hitler's foreign exchange revenues from his book and foreign exchange revenues of the Nazi party abroad are held at this Swiss bank in Ammann's name."

The discovery is the latest success for the Congress in its efforts to track down gold, cash and art treasures stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War. It began searching the archives only a few months ago, but has already identified the movement of more than $5.5bn in bullion alone.

"We don't know yet whether the accounts still exist or whether there is anything in them," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress in New York. "But we have secured an agreement with the Swiss Bankers' Association to have full `unfettered' access to files identified by us from this period.

"This is just the beginning. We are finding lots and lots of money and property that was routed through Switzerland. For once, the hackneyed expression `tip of the iceberg' is appropriate."

Last month, the Congress found evidence to suggest that 15 tons of gold was routed to England and used by Nazi sympathisers. Yesterday, it produced a British Ministry of Economic Warfare report which showed that a Titian painting was smuggled into the country by a suspected Nazi agent and deposited in a bank that later formed part of NatWest. Last night, NatWest said it had no record of the painting.

UBS said it was illegal in Switzerland for the bank to discuss individual accounts - particularly whether there had been any withdrawals since 1945.

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