Swiss money helped Nazis fight on for two years

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The Independent Online
The Second World War would have ended much sooner but for Switzerland's financing of the Nazi military machine, according to a leading Swiss academic.

In a new book that deals another severe blow to the country's already fragile reputation for morality and neutrality, Professor Jean Ziegler will present detailed evidence that the Swiss kept the war alive at a time when Germany was reeling from defeats in Russia and North Africa.

Prof Ziegler's claims, which are based on German records, will fuel the controversy about Nazi gold. So far, the row has centred on Swiss bankers' desire to boost their profits by receiving Jewish and looted Nazi gold deposits, but Ziegler claims the trade had a profound effect on the progress of the war.

Nazi gold, he alleges, was taken by the Swiss in return for hard currency which enabled the Germans to buy vital metals and raw materials for their armaments industry. Even worse, the Swiss frequently took gold in exchange for high-precision weapons manufactured in Switzerland.

"The Swiss financed Hitler's war of aggression," said Ziegler, "without them, the war would have ended earlier and hundreds of thousands of lives would have ben saved."

In Switzerland, the Gold and the Dead, the professor draws upon historical German Armaments Ministry papers and other official documents acknowledging the Nazis' dependence on Swiss finance and industry.

In one note, Walther Funk, head of the Reichsbank and industry minister of the Third Reich, said he "could not forgo Swiss foreign currency dealings, particularly not the conversion of gold into hard currency, for longer than two months".

The memorandum appeared in May 1943, just at the moment when Germany was suffering heavy casualties on the Eastern Front and in North Africa. From then onwards, says Ziegler, the Swiss were coming under intense Allied pressure to end the aid to Germany, yet continued to provide hard currency and weapons until the end of the war in 1945.

"I consider it proven that the Swiss contributed significantly to the prolonging of the war," he said. Nobody "wanted to buy, cleanse and sell Hitler's gold, apart from the Swiss. Without the fencing of stolen gold, the Reich would have had no currency, no possibility of buying strategic materials and without them, the Wehrmacht would have faltered. Hitler was dependent on the Swiss dealing in stolen gold."

Swiss financial aid to Germany totalled 3 billion Swiss francs, enabling the Nazis to acquire raw materials vital for weapons-making, such as tungsten, chrome and manganese. Even as late as April 1945, says Ziegler, the Swiss were trading with Germany.

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