Reaction & Discussion
what are your views?


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".

A. Kupsky
Evanston, IL


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 Nazis.

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
Salinas, California


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 grandmother obtained a Visa to leave Germany for Italy. It was easier to obtain the Italian immigration papers, than permission for us to travel by train via Switzerland. The Swiss finally permitted us to spend a couple of days in Zurich, to visit 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.

Hans Rosenthal
Glendale, AZ


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
Middletown, OH


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
Houston, Texas


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.

Vicki Kung


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 fiercely.

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.

Sonya Brintnall
Eugene, OR


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.

Washington, DC


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.

Petersburg, VA


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 internal assets?

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 time.

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
Philadelphia, Pa


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 government faced.

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 claptrap.

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.

Don Saar
Longmeadow, Massachusetts


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.

J.B. Cooper
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 activities.

Your program Nazi Gold complements what Frontline showed on "Mexico, Money and Murder": Swiss banks are laundering the money product of drug trafficking and corruption.

Thank you for this and other excellent programs!

Cincinnati, OH


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 nations misery.

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 during war.

Andrew Wright
Arlington, Texas


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 documentary.

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 figures.

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.

Paul Stocks
New York


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 any conclusions.

Barbara Ebert
Mertztown, PA


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.

Thanks again.
Claudia Fuerst

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