Nazi Gold: Hard currency looted from treasuries of countries occupied by the Axis powers during World War II. Ingots consisting of gold melted down from the teeth of murder victims and weddings bands and jewelry. About two thirds of an estimated $660 million ($7.8 billion in today’s dollars) in stolen Nazi gold passed through Switzerland during the war. And like any sharp businessmen with hot goods, the Swiss disposed of much of their gold quickly – through Portugal mainly, but also to Sweden, Spain, and other central banks (Hirsh 48). Probably no more that $140 million remains unaccounted for, and a good portion of that was probably sold onward as well. But what remains of the known Nazi hoard (none of which has been returned to the Jewish community) is worth no more than about $65 million according to the Brussels-based Tripartite Gold Commission, set up after World War II to return stolen gold to national treasuries. Recently the Clinton administration created a commission to search for any Nazi funds that might have ended up in U.S. Federal Reserve vaults. “We have to be willing not only to focus the spotlight on Switzerland,” says Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat. “We have to be willing to follow the trail of assets into our own treasury” (qtd. in Hirsh 47).
This trail though, suggests that there is no huge stash of Nazi gold in Switzerland. The loot has scattered worldwide through numerous transactions and is probably irretrievable. Also, because so many banks were involved, the
amount of gold left in Switzerland is probably negligible, contrary to what investigators have until now presumed. At this point the cost or returning the Nazi Gold to its rightful owners is not worth the trouble and inconvenience it would create.
Documents released in recent months have made it clear that Swiss banks traded in looted Nazi-gold, and that Swiss businesses made a fortune selling arms to the Nazis. In a historical report published around May 9,1997, it was said that there was no evidence that the Swiss or other neutral countries knew that gold from the central banks had been smelted together with gold fillings, wedding bands, and other jewelry stolen from Holocaust victims (Sanger). But, Eizenstat found “incontrovertible evidence” that Swiss bankers knew they were trading in gold that Germany had looted from the treasuries of states it occupied, and also a handwritten ledger sheet from the Reichsbank showed a deposit of 29,996 grams of “dental gold” into a Swiss account (A harsh…). This confirms that the Nazis melted down and recirculated gold extracted from the teeth of murdered Jews and other death camp victims. It also proves the involvement and knowledge of dealings with gold extracted from teeth of murdered victims by the Swiss in that there were depositsmadeintotheiraccounts. Germany also sent Switzerland via diplomatic pouch packages of jewelry, looted from Jewish persecutees, to be exchanged for industrial diamonds and foreign currency essential to the German war effort (Sanders). From this evidence we see that the Swiss acted as the Nazis’ “principal bankers” and after the war took a “legalistic” stance to hold onto their ill-gotten gains, returning only $58 million worth of gold (Chesnoff). Some argue that the Swiss should have given up all of the gold, but why should they? It was business after all. Many Swiss argue that what Switzerland did was done for survival’s sake, but their critics assert that it was Wieckowski 3 done of opportunism and amorality and should be paid for in both moral and financial terms (Cowell)
During WWII, the German threat to Switzerland was real, not imaginary or exaggerated. After the collapse of France in 1940, historically neutral Switzerland was virtually surrounded by axis-dominated territory. After the Germans occupied Vichy, France in the fall of 1942, Switzerland was entirely cut off from the outside world.