cover image Hitler's Secret Bankers: The Myth of Swiss Neutrality During the Holocaust

Hitler's Secret Bankers: The Myth of Swiss Neutrality During the Holocaust

Adam LeBor. Citadel Press, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-55972-421-0

While the issue of Holocaust survivors trying to recover their assets held by Swiss banks is LeBor's focus, his extensively researched story examines a range of issues regarding Switzerland's conduct during WWII--and his depiction is largely condemning. Among the charges LeBor (Budapest-based correspondent for The Times of London) makes is that Swiss banks helped fund the Nazi war effort by accepting gold and other assets and laundering the money into currencies that Germany could use to buy material. Swiss banks also accepted looted property that was being held for top Nazi officials. LeBor also alleges that Switzerland cost the lives of at least 30,000 Jews by closing its borders to fleeing Jewish refugees for much of the war. To make matters worse, until recently, Swiss bank officials refused to help Holocaust survivors and the families of its victims claim their assets, insisting, among other things, on death certificates for people who perished in the concentration camps. LeBor also explores the intrigue that took place in Switzerland as spies from the Allies and Axis powers alike used the country as a central place to glean information about their enemies, and where, toward the end of the war, German leaders looked to arrange a separate peace with the West. There are also several anecdotes that seem like ready-made subjects for novels such as the Red House meeting in 1944 at which top Nazi officials plotted how to launch a Fourth Reich after losing the war, or the story of Hermann Goering's brother, Albert, who used his money and influence to save the lives of numerous Jews. LeBor's highly charged work will appeal to readers interested in WWII, and will be embraced by Holocaust survivors and their families who are trying to seek restitution from Switzerland's banks. (June)