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What Swiss Bankers Owe The World



Shame on Switzerland. Fifty years after World War II, it is still unable--or unwilling--to account for the fate of monies sent for safekeeping by desperate people who would soon become victims of the Holocaust. In addition, the British Foreign Office reports that gold looted by the Nazis may still remain in the vaults of Swiss banks. Melted down and marked with the Reichsbank stamp, these bars may derive from gold stolen from European central banks as well as from the personal property--and persons--of millions who were murdered. The image of Swiss banks keeping gold that may have been removed from teeth is simply monstrous.

Swiss bankers have been reluctant over the decades to break their secret-bank-account rules and regulations to find the names of those who deposited funds from 1933 to 1945. Until recently, they even denied there were any dormant accounts left. But under heavy international pressure, the Swiss Bankers Assn. announced in February that it had suddenly discovered 775 dormant accounts totaling $7.5 million. What else remains hidden?

Paul A. Volcker, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is heading an international investigation into the fate of dormant accounts. The Swiss government is drafting legislation to help clear the way to identifying secret accounts. Why it has taken 50 years to do so is a mystery, but the Swiss Parliament should pass the legislation without delay.

The U.S., Britain, and France must clear the air as well. Deals were made after the war concerning Nazi loot that, in retrospect, may be improper. Documents such as those surfacing in London may be locked away in Washington and Paris. There may be plenty of shame to go around when it comes to justice and restitution for those who suffered in World War II.

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