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Before we discuss war assets, which have been EEH's most successful area of research to date, let's enjoy learning a thing or two about one of the many pillars of culture, basket weaving. For as much money as Messrs. Hitler, Mussolini, et al. stole from us during the wars, life is not really about money, is it?
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For several years, the controversy over Switzerland's role in World War II raged in the media, among thousands of possible claimants and their attorneys, and between nations. Questions have been raised concerning dormant Swiss bank accounts, Nazi gold, and property confiscated and stolen during by the German Third Reich.
Beginning in September 1939, Hitler swiftly conquered country after country within Europe. By June 1941, Switzerland's neutrality became a beacon of hope. Increasingly severe restrictions and persecution of Jews caused many to search for safety. Thousands of Jews tried to hide themselves as well as their money in Switzerland.
As Jews reached Switzerland's borders they were turned away. It had become easy to recognize Jewish passports since Germany had begun affixing German Jewish passports with the letter "J" for "Jude" ("Jew" in German) in 1938. The Germans did this at Switzerland's request for an easier way to identify Jews coming to its borders.
In the summer of 1942, when the mass deportations had begun taking millions to their deaths in camps, Switzerland closed its borders completely to all refugees. Though contemporary views of this action question Switzerland's intentions, Switzerland was not the only nation to close their borders to Jews during the war and the United States and Great Britain are prime examples. However, it was Switzerland's wartime policies that had the biggest impact on those attempting to escape the Third Reich, because it was much more difficult to immigrate to Britain and the US than it was to immigrate to Switzerland, which is located in the centre of Europe and borders six countries.)
Nazi Gold and Loot
During the war, the Nazis stole gold, jewellery, homes, factories, artwork, and other valuables from the millions of Jews they murdered. They also looted (stole) large amounts of valuables from non-Jews in the countries they occupied (France, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, etc.). The Germans needed a way to place these commodities in the international market so that they could use the money they received in exchange for their war effort. The Swiss helped facilitate the exchange in addition to holding Nazi accounts. Many speculate that some of the gold that the Swiss accepted were the dental gold and wedding rings taken from Jews at the camps. If a Jewish or Belgian homeowner was killed, died in battle or bombing, or disappeared, the German government simply took the home.
Many Jews never physically attempted to reach Switzerland, but attempted to protect their money by opening Swiss bank accounts. Many Jews who opened these accounts perished in the Holocaust.
There are many survivors who remembered that their parents or uncles opened accounts, but they didn't know the name of the bank, the account numbers nor have any paperwork concerning the accounts, so they were turned away from the banks after the war. Far more knew nothing at all about their relatives' monetary holdings; it was safer not to tell anyone that one had broken German law by taking money out of the country. Some Swiss banks requested death certificates of the account holder before they would allow the survivors to access the money, even in cases where the survivors had the secret account numbers and exact address of the bank. This was a completely unreasonable request since millions were murdered in the Holocaust with no official record of their deaths.
For several decades after the war, individual survivors petitioned and requested information about these accounts with little to no success. The vast majority of claimants, over time, simply gave up. In 1974, the Swiss announced that they found 4.68 million Swiss francs in dormant accounts. This money was divided between two Swiss relief agencies and to the Polish and Hungarian governments. Jewish experts claimed this was only a small fraction of the money in the accounts.
In 1996, U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) brought the subject of the dormant accounts to the U.S. government's attention, and hearings were started to unearth the truth about the survivors' claims. Pressure from the United States has angered the Swiss, who feel that this is an attack upon their reputation for the benefit of U.S. banking agencies.
The questions concerning the morality of the Swiss during the war came into the public limelight when a night security guard at a Swiss bank noticed on January 14, 1997 a large bin of old documents pertaining to Nazi and wartime accounts waiting to be shredded. The Swiss claim that these were of no interest to the hearings.
On January 29, 1997, the US Congress considered boycotting Swiss banks. (A "Washington insider" remarked that Switzerland would never believe the threat, due to the $Billions held in secret numbered Swiss accounts belonging to US congressmen, cabinet members, and other corrupt US officials.) Perhaps the Swiss did give some credence to the threat, for eight days later, three Swiss banks announced that they would create a humanitarian fund of 100 million Swiss francs (U.S. $70 million). Although this fund was criticized as being much too small, and not going to the depositors' families, there was no boycott.
Since the overwhelming majority of the Jews who opened Swiss bank accounts died during the war, and the export of money out of Germany and Austria was a heavily punished crime, and no accurate figures about the total amount of money Jews really placed within the Swiss banks. Jewish organisations believe there could be tens of $Billions, while the Swiss have only disclosed several million. Since most Jews residing in Europe in 1940 had been killed by the end of the war in 1945, in most families both the father and mother and all their children, and often all the siblings of the father and mother, were dead. If the father in such a family had a Swiss account, his closest surviving family member would be a cousin, and few elderly cousins now come forward to make claims.
Most recently, in June, the Swiss government announced that it would establish a $5 Billion humanitarian foundation.
But what about the survivors of the Holocaust whose families' entire fortunes were stored in Swiss accounts? On July 23, 1997, the Swiss produced a list of dormant accounts that is accessible to the public. The list contains names, and often complete pre-1945 depositors' addresses, but no money amounts. Any person or entity with a valid claim on these accounts may go through an accounting firm and then an international panel, by which it will be decided whether or not there is sufficient written evidence and/or oral testimony, and also sufficient genealogical documentation, to support each claim.
World War I "Assets" and European Emigrant Heritage
Assets from WWI recovered by EEH consist of bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks & bonds (including government issued), real property (land & its improvements), mines, mining rights, and mining dividends (liquidated and accrued). While not as frequent as WW II asset recovery, these recovered assets have totalled over £7,000,000 by 2010.
Lest we overemphasize the pecuniary losses sustained in WWI, "the Great War" as it was called until circa 1942, did indeed cause hundreds of £Billions in property damage and ruined lives and work careers. Crops destroyed, to deprive advancing armies of sustinance, and several years of no crops planted, alone caused staggering losses and suffering in Europe (and to a lesser extent, the US, where returning soldiers had often not enough left of their army wages to buy seed or clothing to restart their disrupted economic lives.)
The devastation by death, carnage, and war-caused diseases, was a thousand times worse than all the economic losses and property damage combined. The below well thought out review is worth the read; it will fill in the blanks left by western education.
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
by T. Christianson (2013)
There are many things that can be done while one is asleep. Bellini wrote a delightful opera about somnambulism. However it is difficult to share the same sense of fascination or repose even a century after the outbreak of the Great War. Somehow it defies any standard of human sensitivity to allude to the acts and omissions leading to the millions of slaughtered men and boys at the hands of the greediest financial and industrial elites known to recorded history as the result of "sleepwalking".
Consider the most peculiar omission in this prize-winning story written by a young man from the Dominions: that the author has managed to write over 500 pages about the Great War without scarcely more than ten pages about the British Empire-- then the undisputed world power (not unlike its North American cousin today). All the attention is focussed on Sir Edward Grey, HM Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1905 until 1916.
Strangely enough the name "Grey group" is used as attribution for Britain's foreign policy. Although many of the British sources cited in The Sleepwalkers should more appropriately be attributed to the Milner Group (for those uninitiated this is the closely-knit group of primarily Oxonians who initially joined Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Milner (Secretary of State for War under Lloyd George) and together with the Lord Salisbury were the most powerful force in British imperial politics at least until the end of World War I):
"Grey was not the puppet-master; the men of the new policy-- Bertie, Hardinge, Mallet, Tyrrell and so on-- were not manipulated or controlled by him, but worked alongside him as the members of a loose coalition driven by shared sentiments. Indeed, Grey was quite dependent on some of these collaborators-- many of his decisions and memoranda, for example, were modeled closely on reports from Hardinge." (p. 202)
Who these collaborators were has already been explained by Carroll Quigley in his 1981 (posthumous) study of the Anglo-American Establishment. Quigley-- far from a hostile scholar-- objected that by means of entrenched control/ influence of the principal academic institutions and publishers this group concentrated in the Rhodes Trust and certain Oxford colleges have been able to write their own history for the public and suppress any other views. The Sleepwalkers is another proof that Anglo-American historical scholarship regarding British imperial history is still tightly controlled. At the latest after the discrediting of Mr Tony Blair for his willful deceits to promote the recent Gulf Wars, skepticism ought to be warranted when examining the statements and acts of HM Government when it comes to wars.
As Quigley noted-- and anyone who has held genuinely non-conformist academic opinions will have experienced-- the best way to suppress uncomfortable or disagreeable facts is to ignore them. The Sleepwalkers might be viewed as a naive piece of work from a young scholar from down under. However such naiveté or careless omission of the world's great power in 1914 has been amply rewarded-- the author recently received a royal (Regius) chair in history at Cambridge-- as did most of the official historians of the Milner Group.
However a more important issue than the scholarly neglect of the most important power in the world at that time and the most important group of collaborators with Sir Edward Grey is why this book appears now and why has it been so thoroughly promoted in Germany. It is true that the author, who spent several years at the Free University of Berlin and wrote several books about Prussia, has spent enough time on his subject to warrant writing about the end of Prussia as a polity. However just as no one seriously doubts that Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was written as an imperial textbook and that the Classics were developed as a discipline in England and Göttingen to supply scholarship to defend European colonialism (see here Martin Bernal's Black Athena), it is worth asking what policy purpose The Sleepwalkers is intended to defend.
Great Britain has pursued two consistent foreign policy principles since the French Revolution. The first is to control the seas and the access to cheap (or free) raw materials (including labour) throughout the world. The second has been to keep Europe divided against itself both to assure access to its markets and to weaken potential imperial competitors. This was a policy understood even in those ancient days before NATO or the European Union. It was one of the main reasons that England was called "perfidious Albion" on the Continent. This meant that the British Empire governed by playing its European competitors against each other.
In Germany The Sleepwalkers has been received either as a welcome relief or a naive attempt to make German militarism seem innocuous or unintentional in the months leading up to July and August 1914. How does the author attempt to relieve Germany of its historical war "guilt"? The answer is rather simple and therein lies the ground for suspicion. The author explains that in essence Germany's leaders did not understand the gravity of the Serbian "threat".
This is a serious shift in the World War I narrative that is by no means accidental. 1991 was the year in which German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher unleashed what became a vicious aerial bombardment of Serbia and the destruction of Yugoslavia, commencing with his recognition of Croatia's independence. By the time NATO bombs ceased to fall on Serbia, there was no Yugoslavia and the way was cleared for one of Europe's biggest contraband trafficking hubs under NATO management: Kosovo. Back then the media was full of reports about how horrid Serbs were and the danger that Russia would feel obliged to defend the Serbian state. It didn't and everyone was relieved. Today in the Ukraine NATO is engaged in overt and covert operations to separate the country from what the West would call "Russia's sphere of influence". There is every indication among the mass of Germans that they disapprove of this indirect attack on Russia. Nonetheless the German mass media has been entirely on the side of NATO, condemning everyone who dissents as a "Putin-Versteher" (someone who "understand" Putin).
After some ten years of virtually silent deployment of German armed forces in Afghanistan to provide support to the CIA's war there, it now appears as if European NATO units may be necessary to support the right-wing usurpers that have ruled in Kiev since last year. There are two ways to justify this short of an outright attack by Russian forces-- still unlikely since Putin has continuously resisted every provocation to date. One involves absolving the remaining guilty consciences among Germany's elite and the middle class that supports it, thus making outright war seem civilized again. The other complementary approach is to reiterate that it is not Germany (or any other NATO power) that is escalating the crisis but Slavs-- Ukrainians who sympathize with Russia or even consider themselves to be Russian (like so many West Germans seem to think they are Americans). By reminding the educated German that World War I was caused by Serbs and Russians, it is not far fetched to adopt the position that Russia still protects those Slavs who are essentially the cause of the Great War (and if we wait long enough, also caused World War II).
The Sleepwalkers is written like a plenary indulgence granted by the unnamed Anglo-American elite that has profited from every major European war in the 20th century to those whom it would recruit again in its "association of helpers"-- witting and unwitting instruments of neo-imperialism (aka globalisation).
By ignoring any serious discussion of British Empire, its ruling elite, or the global economic and psychological warfare that was waged by it against its European competitors in the years between 1871 and 1914, this book shows that it is the author who was probably sleepwalking, not the European imperialists (today called the financial elite or the "1%-ers,") who together with Great Britain, through their puppets the politicians wantonly slaughtered more than 4 million people for their personal profit and power. Hundreds of thousands in the bloody carnage were women and children, just as in the US dronings, bombings, invasions, and occupations of Iraq, Libya, etc. For the record World War I was fought by six empires: the British Empire, the American Empire, the French Empire, the German Empire, the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Three were destroyed and two became vassals of the USA. It is a good time for all of us to wake up.
A genealogist must know town, city, & country name changes and border changes. If a funeral home record says that a person was born "1880 Russia," there is a good chance that his birthplace today is in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, etc. This is because in 1880 the Russian Empire contained those places. If a baptismal record states that someone was born in Breslau, Germany, beware! you will find Breslau only on a pre-1945 map; it is today the large city of Wrocław.
Map of Europe in 1800:
Between 1815 and 1921, Poland was divided into thirds, each controlled by a different empire:
Poland after 1945:
Ukraine circa 1750, 1850:
Ukraine 2003 & Today:
Cultural heritage is made of many little pieces.
Attention and patience builds what has value and lasts.
So with the long-developed cottage craft of weaving:
Belarus circa 1890:
Belarus' Expansion of Borders 1921-1926:
W. Belarus under Polish 1921-1939:
Belarus SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) 1940:
Belarus 1992, showing Oblasti and Railroads:
The Immigrant's Song
Let us not speak of those days
when coffee beans filled the morning
with hope, when our mothers' headscarves
hung like white flags on washing lines.
Let us not speak of the long arms of sky
that used to cradle us at dusk.
And the baobabs—let us not trace
the shape of their leaves in our dreams,
or yearn for the noise of those nameless birds
that sang and died in the church's eaves.
Let us not speak of men,
stolen from their beds at night.
Let us not say the word
Let us not remember the first smell of rain.
Instead, let us speak of our lives now—
the gates and bridges and stores.
And when we break bread
in cafés and at kitchen tables
with our new brothers,
let us not burden them with stories
of war or abandonment.
Let us not name our old friends
who are unravelling like fairy tales
in the forests of the dead.
Naming them will not bring them back.
Let us stay here, and wait for the future
to arrive, for grandchildren to speak
in forked tongues about the country
we once came from.
Tell us about it, they might ask.
And you might consider telling them
of the sky and the coffee beans,
the small white houses and dusty streets.
You might set your memory afloat
like a paper boat down a river.
You might pray that the paper
whispers your story to the water,
that the water sings it to the trees,
that the trees howl and howl
it to the leaves. If you keep still
and do not speak, you might hear
your whole life fill the world
until the wind is the only word.
by Tishani Doshi
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