I just watched your San Francisco broadcast of the program discussing
the Swiss role in the war and how the Swiss aided the Nazis. As an
American of Swiss decent who up to tonight adored and admired his
forefathers' homeland, I now am despondent over hearing about
Switzerland's duplicity with Hitler's regime. Although I had nothing to
do with it, I feel ashamed that my parents' homeland could have been so
hardened as to turn away the Jews and I feel terribly bitter that the
Swiss were so greedy as to then rob the Jews they turned away. Please
reveal more about this "hidden partnership" as you learn it.
San Francisco, CA
The show, "Nazi Gold" was extremely disturbing. As evidenced by the
reactions, most of which
I read, the opinions on the veracity, worth, and journalistic
integrity of the program run the gamut from one extreme to the other.
I, for one, can accept that Switzerland found what it believed to be
the sole path to survive its precarious position. Indeed, although
there were numerous instances of private heroism and bravery in the
face of the Nazi threat, no country in the world can claim glory for
standing up for human rights of Jews and others.
The important questions to be asked, therefore, concern the post-war
actions of the Swiss bankers and government. Even as the Nuremberg
trials were going on, they must have been very busy moving money
around and destroying records - if, in fact, the records really were
destroyed! They were not so naive or stupid to believe that the
enormous funds in their vaults were willingly abandoned by people who
somehow forgot about it. They could not pretend that none of their
new-found wealth had belonged to the millions of victims of Nazi gas
chambers. So in an attempt to keep their bloody lucre, they did
whatever they could to erase the financial tracks.
This, then, is what they must pay for now - their complete moral
corruption after the threat from Germany was over. Rather than making
some honest attempt to, at the very least, apprise the world of the
billions in unclaimed funds, they chose to put it in their own
pockets, and chalk the entire episode up to "the horrors of war".
I was in Switzerland during WWII and saw the Swiss bankers and German officers in
Zurich and in Berne. I saw them together and I also knew and met some pro-German
Swiss. I personally experienced the pro-German feeling of many Swiss in Zurich
during the time when the Holocaust was going on not far away in Germany. I was one
of the more than 1,000 Americans interned in Switzerland in 1944. I know there must
have been collaboration between Swiss and Germans because I was there.
However, there is another side to the story not included in Frontline "Nazi Gold."
That is the story of the 1,000 or more Americans and many British, Italians, and
other national troops interned there. We owe our lives to Switzerland because it
offered us a safe haven at a time when we would certainly have died in Germany. We
survived because Switzerland was there. History has two sides and both must be
Forrest S. Clark
8th Air Force
former Swiss Internee
I share the thoughts of the couple from California who say they'd never thought the
day would come when being Swiss would not be a source of pride. I have been in the
US since 1978 and, frankly, I had often thought that Switzerland had been spared
close scrutiny of its role during WWII. The reasons were perhaps closely connected
with the cold war, with the country's international role, its "connections". What
hurts the most now is not so much the fact that there was cowardice, pettiness,
blindness, lack of morality, greed... for these are thoroughly human traits and no
country and indeed no one in the world is above these frailties. What hurts the
most is the denial, the covering up, the refusal to acknowledge, to "come clean".
Whereas the former shortcomings can be attributed to a generation that is now on
its way out, the current cover up risks of becoming a huge stain on today's Swiss
citizens, young and old.
Thank you for your courageous program on Swiss complicity with the Germans during
World War II.
Shame on Alfred Defago, the ambassador of Switzerland, for his letter to you. His
views are like Bill Clinton saying 'Hey, Slavery was just a part of history.'" The
Swiss must face up to their participation in one of the greatest crimes against
humanity in history.
And now if you would only do more to critique U.S. imperial policies and the impacts
of American consumption and militarism on the planet and humanity. Hire Noam
Chomsky as executive producer. If you do that I promise to send you lots of
Thank you for providing an enjoyable, interesting
and educational show and web site on the Swiss
relationship with Nazi Germany. I found both the
show and the internet information thought-provoking
I can't help but wonder why so much of the Swiss
information from that time is missing. Whether it
is bank records, train schedules, or Red Cross documents
access to this data is conveniently missing. This lack
of information makes it so much more difficult to
determine what the exact Swiss role was.
I have noticed a very strong patriotism on the part of
Swiss citizens. I can't help but wonder whether this
national pride fed into a desire to hide from history
facts that would cause the Swiss nation embarrassment.
Even now, the reactions of some to the allegations of
complacency and cooperation with Nazi Germany by the Swiss
is to blame the messenger rather than examine the message.
Although I understand that any actions of the Swiss must
be examined in a historical context, it serves no one's
interest to hide from the truth.
Thank you for providing so much for me to think about.
I am a Swiss citizen living in the US and watch "Frontline" regularly. The last
issue, "Nazi Gold" hit especially close to home. I was moved, angered and ashamed
after the show. I wish my country would have been more heroic at the time of W.W.II.
There was never any doubt that it was not the Swiss Army that deterred Germany from
invading Switzerland during W.W.II. The threatened destruction of the Gotthard
connection might have been a stronger deterrent than the presence of the Army.
However, Switzerland was faced with an overwhelming enemy and maneuvered for its
own survival. There was nothing heroic about that, and I can understand how that
came about ("we were all 'warped' by the war going on around us" said 'Elisabeth'
in her interview with you). What I am most ashamed of is what happened subsequent
to the end of the war. The mistreatment of Jewish (and other) survivors looking for
their families assets, the denial of the truth of the Swiss' survival, and the
reluctance of historians, journalists and ultimate
I welcome the current discussion. It has the potential to liberate Switzerland from
a shameful aspect of its past.
With best regards
Paul W. Frehner
Swiss citizen, permanent US resident
I was quite dismayed by the broadcast of your FRONTLINE program on June 17 and its malicious, deceitful and gratuitous depiction of my country and its role during World War II. My colleague in London has already expressed in no uncertain terms his own revulsion at the unacceptable methods used in this film which purported to provide new insights into history, yet only fanned the flames of baseless polemics. His letter to the Director General of the BBC, the main producer, is hereby enclosed.
For my part, I have always had the highest opinion of the professional standards of PBS and its programs. I had not expected that it would not only condone but also participate in the production of materials so obviously below the minimum criteria of objective reporting. I believe that there is enough controversy on this issue without adding insult to injury in such a misleading and despicable fashion. Historical research aims to unveil the course of the human condition through the centuries, contrasting failures and achievements. No nation emerges from this ongoing process unblemished and we should therefore be careful in assigning the role of the villain. This is particularly true of the terrible period of World War II which with the Holocaust witnessed one of the most horrendous crimes of our time.
I trust this could have been a welcome opportunity to contribute to the debate in a constructive way. Unfortunately, I can only lament the use of the most effective means of communication for unworthy purposes and an irresponsible editorial treatment of a most delicate subject.
The Ambassador of Switzerland
Even as a child I could not understand How the Nazi's would respect the neutral
status of the Swiss when they were prepared to destroy the world. The explanation
of why Hitler kept the peace makes perfect sense now. The Swiss government was
Hitler's partner in the death of millions of people. I am ashamed that the United
States government did not investigate the war crimes but we didn't because we
needed Swiss aid during the "Cold" War. Thank God President Clinton has helped in
the investigation and I hope more help will come. I can no longer think of
Switzerland as a fairy tale land of Snow and Chocolate and peace loving people and
can only see blood money and secrets...
Thank you for broadcasting this very disturbing feature. I am thoroughly
shaken by the possibility that the Swiss authorities may have colluded with
the Nazis by permitting trains of Jews destined for extermination camps.
You rightly pointed out that at this time this allegation is unproved.
However, it is clearly morally imperative that it be fully investigated
while there may still be witnesses living.
As a long time viewer of Frontline I was disappointed in "Nazi Gold."
More information was contained in a Time magazine cover story of the same
It was as if the program tried to be a smaller version of Schindler's
List what with it's dramatic music and images of Hitler and dead bodies.
It would have been better to cut that part back and give more facts.
Ann Arbor, MI
We immigrated from Switzerland to the US in
the 1950s and didn't think the day would ever
come where we would have to be ashamed of
the country of our birth, . . . BUT WE ARE!
What really irks us is the fact that
the Swiss authorities and bankers STILL
aren't coming clean! . . . They adhere to
the good old European idea that covering up
and denying their shameful role in the Nazi
scheme is patriotic. As former Swiss, the
CURRENT attitude and behavior of most of the
Swiss authorities only shows that not only
did their W.W.II officials have no principles,
. . . they TODAY still have NO PRINCIPLES!
Thank God this stuff is coming out!
. . . Frontline is doing a real service to
shed light on the nature of the Swiss
neutrality. The fairy-tale version of Swiss
neutrality that we were told about while
growing up in Switzerland during W.W.II
(We were born in '36 and '37 respectively.)
bears NO resemblance to what is now coming out.
We feel betrayed . . . While we are not alone
in feeling this way -- we think -- the conspiracy
that's being exposed obviously involved
more than a few!
Hans & Annemarie Bleiker
Your program on Nazi Gold and the Swiss role in World War II was one
of the best exposes you've had in a long time. It raised many
important issues which have parallels today.
One of the more interesting points raised during the course of this
program was by a Swiss bank employee who was interviewed during the
course of this program who stated that its was Swiss government policy
not to have the banks keep records of depositors from fifty years ago.
I think that another in-depth frontline program solely on the
development of Swiss government banking policy and its present
policies today with all their political ramifications would make
another really fascinating and informative program.
Keep up the good work!
The so called documentary on the Swiss role was the worst slander of the
Swiss people aired to date and a disgrace to PBS. It was a denigration
of the Swiss people composed of innuendoes, accusations without proof,
rumors and allegations, fully 100% negative without the slightest
attempt at showing either both sides of the picture, giving the Swiss a
chance to respond to the allegations or showing any proof by facts
backing up the allegations. The end of the show made it abundantly clear
what the purpose was: to destroy the reputation of the Swiss in the hope
that world pressure would force Switzerland by blackmail to pay
unbelievable so called reparation. That PBS would lend itself to
promoting this blackmail is hard to believe and certainly changes my
previously so very positive attitude and support of PBS.
As a US citizen of Swiss background, I was there when W.W.II broke out. I
was a student studying electrical engineering. When the Germans marched
into Poland I had just started the compulsory military service that all
able bodied males had to serve. During the war years I spent 1256 days
of military duty. My education naturally had to take a second seat. The
priority of every Swiss was to stay alive and keep the Germans, who after
a short time completely surrounded us out of our country. Imagine how a
tiny country of 4 million felt being threatened by a hostile
dictatorship orders of magnitude larger and more powerful! Germany, ever
since the Swiss fought them and achieved independence in 1291 became the
major trading partner of Switzerland and was vital to it's well-being.
Switzerland with 75% of its small territory barren and with no natural
resources of it's own, in order to survive was totally dependent on
imports and exports. It's only resource was skill and determination of
it's people. Had the Swiss not had the foresight to spend more money per
citizen on the establishment and upkeep of a strong army (the Swiss army
had substantially more men(800 000 of a population of 4000000!) and
armaments than the US army at the time of the German invasion of
Poland),they would have been gobbled up by the Nazis just as fast as the
other countries (Austria, Poland, Holland, Belgium etc.) were. But the
German threat lasted throughout the war(Hitler: "we will spread the
death cloth over Switzerland"). Not a word about all this in your
Life during W.W.II was no picnic in Switzerland. While most men were
serving in the army, the women and children took over the work in the
fields to supply what food could be grown. Everything was rationed (like
an egg a week per person etc.).Nobody starved, but food was in short
supply. There were over half a million refugees that had poured into the
country(Polish army fighting in France, French, British and Jewish people
from everywhere) and who survived the war together with the Swiss. While
your report talks only about those who were denied entrance to
Switzerland, there is no mention of those Jewish people who lived in
Switzerland or fled into Switzerland and survived the holocaust. While I
was serving in the army thousands of foreign, mostly Jewish students
breezed through the universities at the expense of the Swiss taxpayers.
A few words about the pictures presented. Of those covering the W.W.II
times 98% were scenes in Germany with only a few minutes on pictures of
the Swiss army with derogatory comments. Then some recent pictures of
peaceful Swiss scenery. Nothing that really represented the
Similarly the people "interviewed" were chosen for their negative
comments, with the "stars" being Bronfman, Singer and the Jewish lawyer
who has been bragging on national TV that he has the Swiss chased into a
corner and will really make them pay! Yes "pay" is the name of this
Where are all the Jewish people whose life was saved in Switzerland?
There are many, but not one was shown!
You may think, that I am biased, and that is certainly true. But I also
lived through this period where Switzerland was on the brink of
extinction. And it was through the grace of the splendid allied armies
that I am still alive, for which I am eternally grateful. But biased or
not, your "documentary" is a travesty. I am convinced that it will do
more (backfire) to convince the Swiss people to vote against the
holocaust fund next year.
Having said all this, I will also support any review of this subject, as
is now being carried out by multinational committees. If their findings
do uncover severe wrongdoings, they should be properly addressed. But
enough of these unsubstantiated allegations by D'Amato,Bronfman,Singer
and their henchmen!
Finally in contrast to your "documentary", let me quote an article
written by a Jewish journalist: H.D.S. Greenway) in the Boston Globe in
April of this year: "The Swiss account".(If you e-mail me your postal
address, I will mail you a copy of this excellent article). I think it
more closely represents the Jewish view than the one represented in your
Hans K. Jenny
I read through the diversity of comments regarding last night's programming.
"Nazi Gold" provoked viewers into responding which is guaranteed by our First
Amendment. Whether producer, victim or viewer, we are fortunate to live in an age
when people worry about what they say rather than what they fear. I thought
FRONTLINE did its job to get people to think and then respond. I hope in the
future there will be an updated report on the withheld bank accounts of Jews who
perished during the 40's. Primo Levi mentioned in one of his accounts that
Italians and Italian Jews were being deported and transported by train through
Switzerland in 1943. I thought I had seen most of the Nazi atrocities. FRONTLINE
proved that I had not. The Swiss banks owe more than money. Perhaps, Wall Street
needs to intervene. The families of these victims live every day with memories of
their dead members at best. Healing should be extended to these families whose
lives have been altered forever.