Reaction & Discussion
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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.

Mark Bauer
San Francisco, CA

Dear FRONTLINE, 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".

Phil Skversky
Brighton, MA


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 told.

Forrest S. Clark
8th Air Force
former Swiss Internee
April-Dec. 1944


Dear Frontline: 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.

Mark Zuccolo
Atlanta, GA


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 support!

Steve Dear


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 and disturbing.

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.

Scott Safier
Pittsburgh PA


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.

Sincerely Yours,
Alfred Defago
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...

Kerry Tanner
Milwaukee, WI


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.

David Steinberg
Ottawa Canada


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 name. 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.

Thank you,
Leslie Pettis
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
Monterey, CA


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!
Val Eisman


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 "documentary"!

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 commentary(read slander).

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 game. 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 account.

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.

Julia Bitting
Winston-Salem, NC

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