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 with Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Poland in 1939, Hitler swiftly conquered the countries of Europe. By June 1941, Switzerland's neutrality became a beacon of hope for the countries being conquered. Increasingly severe restrictions and persecution of Jews and other non-Germans caused many to search for safety. Thousands of them tried to hide themselves as well as their money in Switzerland.
As Jews and other non-Germans 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 stole much from non-Jews in the countries they occupied (Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, etc.) If a non-Jewish home or shop owner was killed, died in battle or bombing, or fled, the German government simply took the home. The owners couldn't return and claim their homes etc after Germany was defeated because the Communist governments nationalized all private property for the People.
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 for the account holder before they would disclose the existence of an account, even in cases where the survivors had the secret account numbers and exact address of the bank. This demand for death certificates was unreasonable since millions were mass murdered in Holocaust death camps and Nazi Germany issued no death certificates for them. The banks obtained legal authority for their refusals to release or confirm information, based upon Swiss laws which guaranteed account holders "strict privacy." This has allowed the banks to keep almost all the money to this day. There have been many accounts of this published in the newspapers, e.g.:
Jews weren't the only deceased persons who had Swiss bank accounts. Many Europeans maintained Swiss accounts to avoid income, inheritance and wealth taxes. Swiss banking privacy laws gave this protection.
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.
Since the export of money out of Germany and Austria was a heavily punished crime, and the overwhelming majority of the Jews who opened Swiss bank accounts died during the war, there are no accurate figures of the total amount of money Jews 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 very few cousins come forward to make claims in 1997 when claims began to be allowed. Those cousins that were still living usually did not know about the accounts.
Any person with a valid claim on Swiss 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, including sufficient genealogical documenta-tion, to support such claim.
Most of the examples used in our website come from our actual cases, with the names changed.
- PRIVACY -
Most of the photos used in our website are representative. They are not photos of EEH's heirs, the heirs' family, or EEH's employees, but instead are photos taken from the Internet.
↑ The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) files in a room of the Neuschwanstein Castle. These files had been locked by the SS and unopened since 1945, and were opened by EEH's founder, Josef Hannum in 1959. The information in the files led to the large Nazi loot cache that was found by another Allied researcher in unexplored tunnels under the castle.
A genealogist must know city, province, & country name changes and border changes. If a funeral home record says that a person was born in "1880, Russia," there is a good chance that his birthplace today is not in Russia but 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 city of Wrocław, Poland.
Example The largest nation on the eve of the First World War was Austria-Hungary, a multinational state composed of Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, and Romanians, shown in yellow below:
Josef Hannum, founder of European Emigrant Heritage
↑ EEH's presentation of Frankenholtz Case resolution to Foreign Office on 16 Jun 2019
-- a resolution 8 years in the making!
Our specialty is conducting probate genealogical research in the former Soviet Bloc. In the below map the USSR is red, and the other Soviet Bloc countries are pink:
↕ If you compare the above map with the below, you will see that Nazi Germany conquered the 19 countries of the Soviet Bloc. Only the eastern portion of the USSR avoided occupation:
↑ It is from the war-torn blue countries that the most emigrants departed.
↑ W. Russian Gubernias in Europe 1913
Between 1815 and 1921, Poland was divided into thirds, each controlled by a different empire:
The "Sole Child"
This girl was born in a part of Poland that is now Ukraine. In 1919 she immigrated to Great Britain and worked as a maid for a wealthy family. She had one child, a son, by a man whose name we were never able to unearth. The son died in 2004 wealthy and intestate. Because the above girl is the sole child in this only photograph retained by her son, and because the location(s) of her birth and residence could not be discovered, this case remained unsolved for 14 years. In 2018 EEH went to Ukraine and spent seven weeks of full time research on the case. We determined that the girl had 6 siblings and 4 half siblings, all deceased. She wasn't a sole child after all! We located the siblings' living children & grandchildren in Ukraine and America, and with our associated company secured inheritances for them. These heirs knew nothing of the girl after she left Poland in 1919. Most of them still living had never heard her name.
Emigrants are remembered for some years, but after the passing of a generation or two most of them are forgotten.
Poland after 1945:
Our Terry, far left, at Canadian
Several million Ukrainians immigrated to Canada.
↑ During World War II (1941-45) Ukraine ceased to exist. Parts of it were added to Poland and Russia, and the biggest section became a Reichskommissariat of the German Reich.
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:
Gerta (in stripes) shows her big find.
Sniezhana gets courage to ask for old library basement key in Dublin
↑ Minsk, Capital of Belarus, USSR, 1947 after World War II
James visits 14 wrong Volodya Kovalenkos in Belarus, 2008!
The Balkan Countries combined into Yugoslavia 1949 - 1990. In 1990 they became separate countries again, but with changes to names and borders. Thus Yugoslavia became Slovenia, Croatia, Boznia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. ↓
The Immigrant's Song
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