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Liechtenstein prince angers German Jews

Liechtenstein's prince has angered German Jews by invoking the Holocaust to defend his country's banking secrecy laws.

Germany has been pressuring Liechtenstein to clamp down on confidential banking practices that, it claims, allow wealthy Germans to evade taxes.

"We and Switzerland saved many people, especially Jews, with banking secrecy," Prince Hans-Adam II told the Liechtensteiner Volksblatt. "Germany should clean up its own act, and think about its past."

The prince noted how some Jews were able to buy their safety during the Holocaust by using money they had deposited in Switzerland or Liechtenstein. Secrecy rules also helped people persecuted by Communist governments and "continues to save life ... in Third World countries run by bloodthirsty dictators," he said.

The prince's comments were met with harsh criticism from Germany's Jewish community. "The comments are a mockery of the Holocaust and its survivors," Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the German Central Council of Jews, told Bild newspaper. "It is historically incorrect for him to portray Liechtenstein as a merciful helper of the Jews. His highness would be better off retiring."

This was just the latest flare-up between the tiny Alpine principality and its much larger neighbour to the north.

The prince, 64, has waged numerous legal battles in Germany to recover art he claims was looted from his family by the Nazis during the Second World War. And, last year, German authorities paid a former employee of Liechtenstein's LGT bank – wholly owned by the Prince and his family – to obtain the names of about 1,400 alleged tax cheats.