Papers reveal secret trail of Nazi gold

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Two tons of Nazi gold were handed over to Britain and may have been claimed by highly placed Hitler sympathisers in this country after the Second World War, it was claimed yesterday.

Secret documents only now made public in the US government archives show that the gold, part of a 15-ton haul from the German Foreign Ministry, was sent to a British-controlled zone of north Germany in 1945.

According to a letter in 1948 written by Robert Kempner, a senior US prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, the two tons were then "allegedly turned over to the British".

The 15 tons made up what was apparently called the Ribbentrop Gold Fund, after the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who had been ambassador in London before the war.

There is no record of whether this gold ever reached Britain but the Labour MP Greville Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said there was concern about the gold's fate. He said: "There is a possibility that this gold was sent by Ribbentrop to the British zone and got into the hands of his British friends, some of whom were very highly placed.

"He was a renowned hater of the British but he did have friends here, upper-crust Hitler sympathisers. We may have opened a Pandora's box."

The news of the Ribbentrop gold follows revelations that the Allies, including Britain, knew that the Nazis had placed millions of pounds' worth of gold in Swiss bank accounts, much of it stolen from Jews murdered in concentration camps. There was also an Allied deal with the Swiss to split the proceeds. The Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Treasury have launched parallel inquiries into the matter. A Foreign Office spokesman said the latest disclosures would also be investigated.

The letter from Mr Kempner, unearthed by the World Jewish Congress in the US, states that, from his interviews with "several hundred" German diplomats during the course of his war crimes inquiries, he discovered that 11 tons of the Ribbentrop Gold Fund was "hurriedly" moved from Berlin in 1945, and that 6.5 tons went to an American-controlled zone in Austria, two tons to the British-controlled Schleswig-Holstein area, and three tons to the shores of Lake Constance, also American-controlled.

Addressing the political division of the US Army, Mr Kempner urged that the matter should not be dropped because of the potential "force of evil" such gold could constitute in the hands of the wrong people.