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on 1 April 2017
This book was first published in 1997 and republished as an Ebook by Open Road Media in March 2017. I received an invitation by the publisher to read and review this book via NetGalleys.

Tom Bower, a British journalist, chronicles the 50 years of greed between the Third Reich and the government of Switzerland and the Swiss banking industry. Millions of dollars, gold pilfered from occupied country including gold teeth extracted from the mouth of those murdered were hidden away in Swiss bank accounts. The crimes didn’t end with the end of the war. The Swiss authorities hid the wealth from the rightful owners for the next half a century. Finally when a class action was launched by the Wold Jewish Congress against the Swiss banks a settlement was reached and millions of dollars were released in the late 90’s.”Nazi Gold” tells how it took a huge amount of time and patience to reach a fair conclusion.

Mr. Bower not doubt has put his heart into writing an account in great details. It seemed well-researched with first rate sources to back his statements. I was quite interested for part of the book but after a while the narration became too technical, highly colourful and particularly overwhelming. I found to presentation to be done in a journalistic manner: rather cold and in a sharp tone. Mid way, I thought things were going in circle and I lost interest, the writing was somewhat repetitious so I kept skipping parts to see the outcome in this grizzle chapter of history. Even if I was not totally captivated by this book it nevertheless gave me a better appreciation of the Swiss government involvement with Germany and the perfidies of the Swiss banking system.
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This is an important – and often shocking – book and one that needed to be written. It’s a great piece of investigative journalism and the author is to be congratulated on his thorough and painstaking research. That said, at times I found the exhaustive detail somewhat exhausting and the style pedestrian when it wasn’t being overblown and outraged. Yes, the subject does indeed lead to outrage but a calmer, more objective tone would have been more appropriate. It’s repetitive, especially in the later part of the book, and too long. And most of all I found the novelistic touches irritating and unnecessary. “O took the stage, narrowing his eyes and hunching his shoulders”. Did he? How do we know? And how do we know if someone “screeched” rather than just stated? I can see that the aim is to give immediacy to the narrative but when the intention is primarily to give the facts I could have done without such embellishments. That said, I learnt a lot from the book and found it illuminating and informative.
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This book tells in great detail the shocking and disgraceful story of how Swiss banks cheated the heirs of German and Austrian Holocaust victims out of deposits their relatives had made, on the grounds that the heirs could not produce death certificates; where there were no surviving family members, the property remained in the banks as "heirless". Most Swiss politicians were hand-in-glove with the banks; the few who challenged them here or there were regularly worsted. The book documents the antisemitism of the Swiss establishment - how it was at their urging that the Nazis stamped Jewish passports with a J so that the Swiss could refuse admission to Jewish refugees and how they handed over some 30,000 who had made it illegally, back to their Nazi persecutors - after 1941 to their certain deaths; how, when the issue came up after the war, the banks stalled all investigations as best they could. They claimed that any disclosures would breach their code of confidentiality; but there is evidence that they tipped off the Nazis about accounts Jews had opened with them, enabling the Nazis to force those depositors to bring their money back to Germany to be confiscated. Swiss insurance companies complied with a German law that required life insurance policies taken out by Jews to be paid out to the Nazi state.

The Germans, for their part, especially when defeat looked likely, had also deposited vast amounts of often looted wealth including gold, some of which was melted down gold fillings and rings taken from Jews murdered in the gas chambers) in Swiss vaults and bank accounts. The Swiss also provided massive loans to Germany during the war, and supplied her with Swiss-manufactured weaponry.

Towards the end of the war in 1944, a group of American Treasury officials launched a plan called Safehaven, by which pressure was to be applied to Switzerland and other neutral countries to force them to reveal the loot that had been deposited in them. The Swiss for years said their laws protecting bank confidentiality prevented them from giving detailed information, and that in any case the deposits made by Germans and by Jews amounted to a small fraction of what they actually were.

Because Switzerland looked after the interests of British and American PoWs in Germany, the State Department's support of Safehaven was only nominal and the Foreign Office was positively hostile to the plan and they would disgracefully maintain these attitudes even after the war was over. So the Swiss were able to make promises - notably in the Washington Accord of 1946 - which they did not implement. Right to the end of the war they accepted further German gold and jewels, and both then and after the war facilitated the transfer of much of this wealth under false Swiss names to South America.

On paper, they froze German assets in Switzerland in October 1945, but, with a shamelessness that beggars belief, they included Jews among the Germans (though these were now stateless and had been recognized as such by the Swiss since 1941, when the Nazis had declared all German Jews stateless.) And although the "heirless" deposits were mostly Jewish, they resisted the demands of Jewish organizations and American treasury officials that these be released into a general fund to help Holocaust survivors - and in that resistance they were supported by the Foreign Office, by the French and by elements in the State Department. (In the American Zone of occupied Germany, the military government had decreed the restoration to Jews of homes and property seized by the Nazis; the military governments in the British and French Zones refused to pass a similar decree. The British attitude was shaped in part by their troubles with the Zionists in Palestine, and that of the French by Vichy's own expropriation of Jewish bank deposits.) The Swiss wanted to sell German Jewish assets to recover the loans they had made to Nazi Germany; and in 1949 they promised the Communist government of Poland the release of deposits made by Polish Jews in exchange for Polish coal (a promise they did not honour but which they used to tell Polish depositors that their money had been paid to the Polish government) and in 1950 they signed a similar agreement with Hungary - which was likewise not honoured.

At the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, with the Germans trying Nazi war criminals and the Israelis staging the Eichmann trial, public opinion in Switzerland at last became uneasy about how Jewish victims were treated by the Swiss, and in December 1962 at last the Swiss Parliament passed a law compelling the Swiss banks to compile and register an inventory of unclaimed foreign or stateless deposits. And of course they appoint as the official to oversee the process a man dedicated to obstruct it!

For the next 33 years little progress was made. Then in 1995 a Swiss historian exposed the war-time record of the banks; a Swiss President (Swiss Presidents hold office for only one year) had publicly admitted and apologized for it; and the Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress, found a powerful and combative ally in the American Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking. D'Amato held public hearings and secured the support of President Clinton. Much damaging material was found in American government archives and, about Nazi gold transferred by the Swiss to Argentina, in Argentine records. Victims gave harrowing evidence to the Committee. The Swiss bankers were at last in the dock. The world press took up the story. A class action was launched by the World Jewish Congress against the Swiss banks. The Swiss at last gave in, and the book ends with them offering to release $110 million for Holocaust victims in 1997 - the year when Bower's book was published. In fact the battle continued for another year and ended with the banks' contribution rising to $1.25 billion and the Swiss government paying in another $300 million.

The book seems well-researched, but is presented in places in rather a journalistic style and is very repetitive. The second half of the book narrates in indigestible, very badly organized and often highly technical detail the pressures brought on the Swiss and their constant obstructions, prevarications, unkept promises and downright lies. I was also somewhat put off by the personal indignation Bower expressed during the narrative. His villains "screech", "smirk" etc. and he uses highly coloured adjectives. His disgust is understandable, but I think the book would have been more effective if he had simply told the story soberly and let the readers feel the outrage for themselves.

Besides, his treatment of the West German government's attitude to reparations is, in my opinion, badly skewed. On page 252 he cites a French report that Germany, "still anti-Semitic", tried to avoid paying reparations to Israel; on page 257 he describes Adenauer's government as "without moral qualms", denying "in its early days" any responsibility for the crimes of the Third Reich; then on the next page he has Adenauer "under pressure from the Americans" "slightly" modifying his defiance, and in 1953 finally agreeing to pay reparations to Israel. I think this is a travesty: Adenauer felt a personal mission to push through the Reparations Agreement with Israel (the "Shilumin") on moral grounds and he does not give the details of its very extensive terms. In the same years West Germany passed the first of a series of laws providing restitution of property in West Germany and other compensations to individual Jewish victims of Nazism or their heirs. No mention of this.
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on 5 March 1999
Tom Bowers who has, as he states himself, written this book upon a suggestion and with substantial help of senator D'Amato, writes that the swiss citizens' wealth is "based on the gold stolen from the jews". A good read for anyone wishing to gain insight into international politics and propaganda. An astonishing complement to the account with the same title ("Nazi Gold") by SAYER/BOTTING.
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on 1 July 2016
Short and sweet... Informative, interesting, tedious. Crusading and moralising.
Britain in 1939, with an Empire, a population of 40+ million and the Channel in between itself and the Germans, almost made an alliance with Hitler. There were enough Nazi sympathisers within the British establishment, not least in the monarchy, for the British to have gone with Hitler. Thanks to Churchill, this did not happen. But to paraphrase Wellington re Waterloo; 'it was a damn close run thing'.
The Swiss. 4 million people. Landlocked. 60% of them German speaking. A militia of 400,000 and mountains. The Germans with about 3 million men, had defeated the 'strongest army in Europe', France was prostrate. Italy was Germany's ally. Austria was angeschlussen. Joined to Germany at the hip. Germany threatened to invade Switz over, not 22 miles of sea, but an open border, not just passes. The Swiss best hope was to abandon populated areas and defend by guerrilla.
In these circumstances, is it not understandable, that the Swiss should seek a workable compromise, as GB might have done were in not for Churchill, rather than see their country occupied, ravaged, destroyed etc.?
It is so easy to be crusading and moralistic from a victorious nation, in peacetime, with a highly moralistic rapier. When questions like why the Allies didn’t bomb the camps are still unanswered. It’s so easy to forget reality and become moralistic. The Swiss took Jewish money from the Germans... The Zionists collaborated with the Germans to get 60,000 Jews to Palestine. Morality is always a double edged sword. Unfortunately authors with reputations for sensationalist investigations tend to forget or ignore that inconvenient fact. They sell more stories that way. It happened. It's still happening. If such as Bower wrote another hundred exposés and we all climbed moralistic high horses it would still happen. Information is good. Moralising is a waste of time. Apart from the Swiss becoming a bit more open (a very tiny bit...how much wealthy Jewish and Arab and other money is hidden away, still?), its business as usual in the corridors of power. Despite 2008. Let’s be less moralistic and more realistic.
So I gave the book 3 for information and effort. But could do without the moralistic and the legalistic.
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on 15 January 2015
Really enjoyed all books thank you
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on 11 August 2016
all good, thanks.
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