The injustices committed against millions of Europe’s Jews did not end with the fall of the Third Reich. Long after the Nazis had seized the belongings of Holocaust victims, Swiss banks concealed and appropriated their assets, demanding that their survivors produce the death certificates or banking records of the depositors in order to claim their family’s property—demands that were usually impossible for the petitioners to meet. Now the full account of the Holocaust deposits affair is revealed by the journalist who first broke the story in 1995. Relying on archival and contemporary sources, Itamar Levin describes the Jewish people’s decades-long effort to return death camp victims’ assets to their rightful heirs. Levin also uncovers the truth about the behavior of Swiss banking institutions, their complicity with the Nazis, and their formidable power over even their own neutral government.
From the first attempt to settle the fate of German property in neutral countries at the Potsdam Conference in 1945, through the heated negotiations following publication of Levin’s investigative article in 1995, to the Swiss banks’ ultimate agreement to a $1.25 billion payment in 1997, the pursuit of restitution is a story of delaying tactics and legal complications of almost unimaginable dimensions. Terrified that the traditional and highly marketable wall of secrecy surrounding the Swiss banks would tumble and destroy the industry, the banks’ managements were dismissive and uncooperative in determining the location and extent of the assets in question, forcing the United States, other European countries, and Jewish organizations worldwide to apply tremendous pressure for a just resolution. The details and the central characters involved in this struggle, as well as new information about Switzerland’s controversial policies during World War II, are fascinating reading for anyone concerned with the Holocaust and its aftermath.