This time was definitely a dark chapter in the history of Switzerland and many other
countries. But I think it's wrong to condemn them from our perspective today
without considering the fact that it was war and nobody knew if Hitler would
succeed. Surrounded by enemies, they just tried to survive. What country can
honestly say it wouldn't have done the same in that situation.
More difficult to understand for me is the acting of Mr. Bronfmann and certain
representatives of the Jewish community: their aggressive claims for billions of
dollars, more than 50 years after the war, look more like greed than honest search
for "the truth".
I haven't seen or even heard about one example of Swiss - produced munitions in all
my years as an amateur military historian, and before that, during my years in the
military. Please provide examples. Since so many other countries DID arm the Nazi's
(Poland's Radom being a prime example) perhaps a show called "Arming the Reich"
would be interesting, to put the Swiss contribution into proportion with say, the US
contribution to the development of the Stuka Ju-87. It's also worth remembering
that a German refugee, Edgar Schmued, was one of the lead designers of the P-51
Mustang, a US. fighter plane which sent more German flyboys to their deaths than
any other. Since Mr. Schmued was a former member of the Messerschmidt design team,
the P-51 is in fact a descendant of the ME-109!
The book, "Trading with the enemy" (I can't remember the author) provides some
pretty hard hitting allegations about U.S. firms doing business eagerly with
The book "Total Resistance" by major H. von Dach Bern, the Swiss Army Guide to
Guerrilla Warfare, appears to originally been written with resisting the Nazis in
mind. Check out the bad guy's tactics. It seems to me that the Swiss Military was
profoundly concerned about an invasion by the Germans.
I have to say that some Swiss did some bad things. As an investment advisor, I need
to know which banks were complicitors, so that I can divert my client's funds away
from them. Any advice?
Finally, how about a Frontline called Resisting the Reich, about those Swiss
individuals who had the moral courage to resist the onslaught of Nazism? Remember
that the US ran a major intelligence operation out of Switzerland in W.W.II, and many
of its bravest operators were Swiss and German.
Peter G. Andresen
Your program on Swiss conduct during the Nazi era was most interesting. In
July of 1938, I was 13 years old and my parents, sister, brother and
obtained a Visa to leave Germany for Italy. It was easier to obtain the
immigration papers, than permission for us to travel by train via
The Swiss finally permitted us to spend a couple of days in Zurich, to
relatives, and then made sure we were on our way to Genoa. By the way, we
were lucky enough to all escape Italy the following year ; first to Cuba
and then in 1940 to the United States. I've been to Switzerland since with
my wife, and enjoyed their beautiful country, but we found that even today
the Jewish community there is not at all that eager to be more than
"cordial" to Jewish visitors from the US. After seeing your program, I
don't know that I would want to spend any of my travel money there. I found
on a visit to Germany , that the Germans of today are much more willing to
discuss and regret Nazi Germany's tragic consequences in a sincere manner,
compared with the attitude of Swiss officials.
The most important matter right now is public information. The matter must not fall
into media neglect after the initial shock value wears thin, or other news usurps
it. Just as the Holocaust memorials serve to forever remind us and prove that the
Holocaust did take place, in face of those who would deny it, so the revelations of
this investigation must place the blame forever on record where it may belong. We
all want the truth, and we have to keep forever working to get to it.
Fred & Sondra Ross
Our tributes to PBS for bringing to the American people the facts about the conduct
of Switzerland during the dreadful years of the holocaust. We are especially
grateful to Mr. Bronfman, who used his time and money, and to Sen. D'Amato, who
used the power of his office to bring pressure on the Swiss to honor their
obligations to the remainder of the Jewish survivors, whose money they stole. From
the statements of the various Swiss representatives, I do not believe they get it!
It's pay-up time. Sadly, they do not seem to understand the moral imperative of
their doing so.
Elene M. Davis
I am astonished at the complete lack of journalistic objectivity in the
show 'Nazi Gold'. The accusations made, without offer of proof, or
balancing reports, is journalistic jingoism at its worst. Certainly
Switzerland committed acts during the war which benefited them and harmed
others, but that is the nature of war, and not a single other country
involved in the conflict behaved any differently.
This report was so one-sided, I feel compelled to bring to your attention a
few facts obviously ignored by this shows producers. The first is that the
Swiss bank secrecy law was enacted in 1934 when Nazi Germany pressed
Switzerland to reveal information on the Swiss accounts of German Jews. The
second is that official Nazi maps showed Switzerland as part of Germany,
based largely on the number of German speakers in Switzerland. Already
annexed in mind, the Swiss, surrounded by hostile nations, declared again
their neutrality and made the best deals they could to remain a sovereign
nation. This information is from 'History of Switzerland', J. Murray Luck,
Sposs Inc, 1985. Similar facts have been stated in the Wall Street Journal.
My deep disappointment in this show will make me doubt the veracity and
objectivity of future Frontline shows. You have done a great disservice to
the integrity of journalism.
Never watch frontline, but watch PBS/opb often. I have strong feelings about
the War as my family lived in Berlin, and were part of Hitler's culture.
I guess it was important for me to see that many factors enabled the regime
to continue. The piece brought tears to my eyes. I can understand why no
one would come forward...and why the Swiss would avoid the situation
Thanks for opening our eyes to a larger reality of Hitler. I believe that
this story shows how $$$ and power are no a friend to humanity.
I have been following the story regarding Switzerland for some time. I did not
think, however, that Frontline did a particularly good job on this subject. The
program came off as superficial because the emphasis was on emotional accusations
accompanied by dramatic music. What would have been more helpful and a more
effective strategy for the program, in my opinion, would have been a stronger
emphasis on the growing evidence of the effort by Swiss banks to cover up their
theft, to destroy records. I would also have thought that those who produced the
Eizenstat report could have been interviewed. As it was, the program appeared to
me to be preaching to the choir -- its approach was seemingly aimed only at those
like me who were familiar with the issue and willing to agree with the accusations.
Had I not known of the existence of the evidence, of the effort to destroy records,
of the Commerce Dept. report, I doubt I would have found this program more than a
litany of accusation
against a country that has long enjoyed, however unjustly, a very good reputation.
Next time, I think a better approach would be to lay out the documentary evidence,
put the investigators on the screen, and lose the music.
No thinking, sensitive person doubts the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis on the
Jewish people before and during W.W.II.
But don't you think we have done enough Switzerland bashing now? There is enough
guilt in all of us about W.W.II to go around. Switzerland is a tiny country compared
to the United States. It has about the same population as Virginia. It is
unseemly for a country the size of ours to pick on a tiny country like Switzerland.
It seems the Swiss have organized themselves now to do the right thing. Let's
leave them alone.
The film was not fair. Just two examples: When discussing the US Consulate in
Bern, the voice-over was accompanied by pictures from a German city showing a Nazi
celebration and swastika flags lining the street. Someone who does not know Bern
might think that is what Bern looked like in W.W.II.
When discussing the trains carrying Italian impressed workers and the wretched
Italian Jewish deportees, the picture was a nighttime view of the modern Zurich
railroad yards. An uninformed person
might believe that they were seeing night scenes of these shameful trains in the
Zurich railroad yards in W.W.II.
Switzerland has been a good friend of the United States. She took in hundreds of
thousands of refugees in W.W.II including downed US air crews. Additionally, she
helps us with diplomatic representation in countries where we do not have our own
consulates (ex: Cuba, Iran).
We can support the rights and needs of Nazi victims without bashing Switzerland.
What would, say, Maryland have done in W.W.II if it had been faced with the same Nazi
threat. We made peace with the Germans a long time ago. It is time to make Peace
with the Swiss.
The story behind Hitler's power to wage such an overpowering war needed to be
told. I was always afraid that powerful anti-Semitic figures in America were
responsible. We were the only country who had unbelievably rich individuals
after the Market Crash of '29.
And here we have Germany on its knees following Versailles, with incredible
poverty, inflation, and unemployment. How could it have funded the war using
But laying the blame on Switzerland (and only Switzerland) seems to me to be
a little too pat.
In the early days, when the Nazi party was being formed, no one could have
perceived them as ultimate world rulers. Yet, in the early 30's the Nazi's
found a way to grow at an explosive rate and to build the largest war machine
ever assembled. I doubt that the Swiss banks played a primary role at that
There needed to be a steady flow of "seed money"--and lots of it--to support
their early rise. There were as yet no Jews being raped of their gold crowns.
There were no conquered countries whose art treasures could be looted and
auctioned. There were no industrial facilities outside of Germany that could
be conscripted to build all those Stukas, Fokkers, and Messerschmits.
Where did that "seed money" come from? Another story that needs to be told.
And yet still another story--Why did it take 50 years for the story of Swiss
involvement to be made public? I don't buy the facile explanation that the
focus on the Cold War sucked the oxygen out of the Nazi story.
You are to be commended for your very excellent report, and I hope that
there is some interest in a follow up not of "the rise and fall...", but
on the RISE.
William A. Clark
I have been a more than occasional viewer of "Frontline" since its
inception and have admired the investigative journalism in many of your
programs -- especially the recent series on the Edenton, N. C.,
child-care witchhunt. But last night's lurid and shallow program "Nazi
Gold" is so far beneath your usual standards that I am astonished that
it was even aired. A detailed analysis of its faults would take more time
and space than I have this morning. Nonetheless, a few brief comments:
First, there is a considerable irony in the subject matter of this
travesty of television journalism. The tragedy visited upon Europe by
Nazi gangsterism owed its success, in no small part, to the unscrupulous
use of inflammatory propaganda in which unoffending people were
vilified. I see quite disconcerting resemblances between your
broad-brush vilification of wartime Switzerland, and Swiss banks, and
the kind of job Goebbels and his creatures and toadies did on the Jews.
Whatever fault may be found with the wartime practices and policies
of Swiss banks and the Swiss government -- and faults there no doubt
were -- should be understood in the historical and social context of
which your film gave only a sketchy and dismissive notion. Anyone who
imagines, for instance, that Hitler would have had the slightest
hesitation to snuff out Swiss independence had he chosen to do so is an
historical ignoramus lacking the least understanding of the grim course
of Nazi aggression from the Anschluss to the turning of the tide in
1944. The Swiss functioned in the face of deadly peril and rashness on
their part would have been inexcusable, and, not incidentally, would
have defeated any purpose of being helpful to the Allies. Which they
were, though you made no mention of it.
Nor did you mention in the program, so far as I can recall, the
findings of Paul Volcker's recent investigation which, I believe,
acquitted the Swiss banks of any knowing traffic in "blood gold,"
although no doubt there were reasons for suspicion. The same conclusion,
as I understand it, is in the Eisenstat report. The obligation you
dodged was the most elementary journalistic and historical
responsibility to stick to facts and offer some understanding of the
superhuman difficulties of making hard choices of the sort the Swiss
In the matter of the admission of Jewish refugees, why did you not
consider it important to compare Swiss policies with those of the
United States, Britain and other nations far less exposed to immediate
peril from Nazi invasion? No country covered itself with glory in this
matter, but comparisons would have shown that the Swiss performance was
far from being the worst or least creditable, as you repeatedly implied.
In the matter of the disposition of unclaimed or undocumented Jewish
assets in the banks, why did you not consider it important -- indeed
essential -- to tell the audience whether Swiss banking policies were at
all unusual? Under the law of most English-speaking countries, for
instance, where ancient common-law practices prevail, it is my
understanding that idle and unclaimed bank accounts eventually are
incorporated into escheats funds which then become public property.
Certainly that has long been the practice in my native state of North
Carolina, where for many years unclaimed bank accounts were the chief
means of public support of the University of North Carolina. No doubt
the Swiss banks had an affirmative duty to see that the assets of
persecuted people were given special care; and some may have failed in
that duty -- although again your filmakers gave no evidence at all to
support such a charge, named no names, specified no banks.
In short, what your documentary did was to turn a case of great
pathos and merit, flowing from the unspeakable Nazi crimes against
European Jewry, into lurid propaganda, drawing on the whole arsenal of
television melodrama. It was calculated to bring Swiss banks, the Swiss
people and their complex and difficult wartime history into contempt. At
every point you evaded the obligations of fair historical and
journalistic inquiry and the result was, quite simply, sensationalist
Edwin M. Yoder, Jr.
(Professor of Journalism and Humanities, Washington & Lee
University, and former columnist, The Washington Post Writers Group).
Switzerland is and has been the banker for the outlaw, the drug dealer, the mass
murders of the Nazi regime. At the very least, the UN Geneva headquarters should be
removed to perhaps some African country where it might do some real good. At the
most the United States should remove the banking licensing of Swiss banks to
demonstrate that banks which greatly benefit the likes of Hitler, Mobutu, and
Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos should no longer enjoy the company of other doing
business in the Free World.
I can barely breathe because of the anger I experienced and still feel
watching your extraordinary documentary. I want to write to the Swiss
consulate and tell them "may I be struck dumb if I ever visit Switzerland or
buy even a chocolate bar from your country". However I know that many
countries and many people, probably the majority, would have done just what
the Swiss did. All people seem to care about is their own immediate
gratification. When I lived in Chicago , the only people who didn't think
there was something the matter with me because I have principals, were the
radical Catholic nuns.
This world isn't worth saving!!
Concerning the broadcast called Nazi Gold, one can sympathize with the plight
of the Swiss, a small country
nestled between Germany and Italy. However, complicity in fueling the Nazi machine
was despicable and probably prolonged World War II. Banks must protect the assets
of their clients, it is their fiduciary responsibility. Swiss banks are going to
lose that $20 billion suit. That is why they have appointed such an eloquent
spokesman to mitigate the financial blow that is forthcoming. Things will get
worse before they get better in the Swiss banking industry. As for the Swiss
bankers who would not perpetute the lie, I can only admire their courage.
St. Charles, MD
It is amazing how Swiss banks have always received money for transactions, without
ever questioning its origin or whether it is the product of legal or illegal
Your program Nazi Gold complements what Frontline showed on "Mexico, Money and
Murder": Swiss banks are laundering the money product of drug trafficking and
Thank you for this and other excellent programs!
I am disturbed that the Swiss contest Jewish claims of money
deposited in their banks before and during W.W.II. This is a
issue that should have been settled 52 years ago. It is
obvious that the Swiss made a pact with the devil. It also
seems obvious that they didn't think they would have to
pay the piper.
It also seems to me that all of the
conquered nations in Europe should also be looking into
Swiss banking practices during the war. The Nazis systematically
looted both the conquered nations, and their own allies. And
the Swiss seemed more than happy to make a profit on other
Why hasn't anyone done more research
into the gold and other valuables smuggled out of Germany
at the end of the war. I have read several accounts of untold
millions brought out of Europe at the end of the war. The
Swiss must of had knowledge of this, and most probably helped.
It is deplorable that the Swiss
set the condition that half of any money given as a settlement
must be spent in Switzerland. That is almost as bad as saying
they never had the accounts in the first place.
With the end of the Cold War many
of the dark secrets that many nations hid away during the
war will come to light. The fighting ended 52 years ago, it is
time to face both the good and bad that all nations must do
I am an American born Jew, who distinctly remembers WW II.
I enjoyed your presentation on Nazi Gold and found parts of it to be very
enlightening; however, I found the program to be below your usual standards as a
The program was very one sided in its presentation. The only rebuttal was made by
by a Swiss bureaucrat who was a living caricature.
I feel that the program wallowed in generalities as opposed to precise facts and
In conclusion, I believe the program offered a few hard facts padded with an
overdose of dramatization.
Tony L. Lewis
Behind the safety of fifty years of hindsight, and the impregnable barrier of three
thousand miles of water, Americans now find it easy to criticize a country that
faced a stark choice between its own suicide and the complete annihilation of its
citizen army, and a necessarily even handed neutrality between belligerents.
America's hypocrisy is further compounded by the fact that the US itself also
remained neutral for more than two years at the start of the war, and only entered
hostilities in Europe after the Battle of Britain had been won at great cost, and
Hitler declared war on the US. Sweden, Switzerland, and other countries that had
managed to remain outside the conflict emerged economically strong from the war -
they as neutrals had traded with both sides, as neutrals are obliged to do. The US,
however, emerged as the richest and most powerful country of the entire world, and
had cynically timed its belated involvement entirely with this aim, and no other.
Had the US fufilled its responsibilities as a world power before 1939, the war would never have
taken place. How distasteful it is, to see some Americans exploiting their fellow
countrymen's colossal historical ignorance, by taking part in such a transparent
attempt at shaking down a small European country.
Nazi Gold raises some very important issues
concerning the actions of the Swiss government
during World War II. I found the program to
be dangerous, however, in its very one-sided
view of these actions. I am certainly very
sympathetic to the Jewish people as well as
others who suffered during this horrific time.
This program, however, detailed very little
in the way of specific proof of these deeds.
Acknowledgments were made several times during
the program that very little, if any proof
exists of these activities.
I believe that there are surely many other
sides to this story. For example, what, if any,
actions did the Swiss government perform on
behalf of the Allies? Why didn't the Allies
address the issue of lost moneys and other
possessions immediately after the war? Is it
realistic to expect the Swiss banks to turn
over funds to survivors with little or no
proof or documentation?
Swiss banks are in the business of money...
have they ever been held responsible for
verifying the source of that money in the
past? What other misbegotten millions are
held in Swiss banks from sources all over the
world? Is it really realistic to think that
they would question the Germans on the source
of their money?
Obviously, there are many questions to be
answered on these issues. Is it responsible
journalism, however, to produce a program such
as this while representing only one side of
these issues - especially when that perspective
is supported by such slim evidence?
Many countries around the world should feel
guilt in relation to their actions, or lack of
action during the Holocaust. Switzerland was
caught in the very center...trying desperately to
defend their own. They surely made mistakes,
some of them unforgivable, but we must be careful
to look at the entire situation before we draw
I watched your show on the Swiss banks. I found it very even-handed and
well researched. I t went beyond just the shameful bank scandal but into
the behavior of the Swiss. I have seen other documentaries where Jews have
spoken of being put back across the border but I found the Zurich train
stops quite a revelation. I love your show. As a high school European
history teacher, I highly recommend it.