Swiss savaged in US report on Nazi gold

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The United States yesterday accused Switzerland of having prolonged the Second World War and caused thousands of needless deaths by dealing inplundered gold on behalf of Nazi Germany. It also condemned post-war US administrations for not trying hard enough to recover gold that had belonged to European Jews.

The accusations were in a report, compiled by 11 US government agencies, which also confirmed Jewish suspicions that some "Nazi" gold held in Swiss banks contained jewellery, coins and dental fillings removed from concentration-camp victims. These had been combined with gold looted from banks and melted to disguise their origins.

The report absolved Switzerland and other neutrals of knowingly accepting this "tainted" gold: "No proof has been found that the countries to which Germany traded gold robbed from persecutees knew of the origin of such gold."

Definitive proof of the gold's origins was apparently obtained by the US three weeks ago from records of the Reichsbank that had been thought lost.

The report was commissioned by President Bill Clinton and is the result of seven months' work. It was overseen by Stuart Eizenstadt, UnderSecretary for Commerce, who set out to establish what was known about Switzerland's dealings in plundered gold and to consider the role of neutral countries and the US during and after the war.

In a forceful introduction, Mr Eizenstadt said: "In the unique circumstances of World War Two, neutrality collided with morality; too often, being neutral provided a pretext for avoiding moral considerations." The report said that from 1939 to 1945 Germany transferred $400m of gold (worth pounds 2.4bn today) to the Swiss National Bank in Berne. Three-quarters of it was stored; the rest was sent to third countries to pay for goods and raw materials.

The report noted that many neutrals dealt with the Nazis for fear they would be invaded but it also cited the profit motive. It accused Switzerland and other neutral countries of ignoring "repeated Allied entreaties to end their dealings with Nazi Germany" and said that whatever their motivation, their action in continuing to trade "had the clear effect of supporting and prolonging Nazi Germany's capacity to wage war. Most inexplicable was the persistence of a `business-as-usual' attitude by Switzerland."

On the attitude of the US at the end of the war, the report spoke of a "demonstrable lack of senior-level support for a tough US negotiating position with the neutrals".

But it also quoted US records from the time as saying that if Sweden's attitude was "intransigent", the attitude of Switzerland was "intransigence cubed". The Swiss negotiating team was said to have used "legalistic positions to defend their every interest, regardless of the moral issues also at stake".

The US released its report the day after the British Foreign Office published a report admitting some of the Nazi gold in the Bank of England may have come from camp victims. Publication, coinciding with the arrival of Robin Cook at the Foreign Office, was accompanied by an announcement that London would host a conference to determine what should be done with the gold.