Report: Swiss Owe $3Bln in Nazi Gold

GENEVA -- Switzerland owes $2 billion to $3 billion from wartime trade in gold looted by the Nazis from occupied countries, businesses and Holocaust victims, according to a report issued Tuesday by the World Jewish Congress.

The Swiss National Bank, which last year published its own detailed report on gold trade between neutral Switzerland and Germany, reacted coolly and said the figures were difficult to substantiate.

The Swiss government has consistently refused to pay out any more money, saying it compensated for its gold dealings with the Nazis in a 1946 agreement with the United States, France and Britain.

But the congress report will likely increase pressure on the Swiss government to pay more money. It will also add to the confusing -- and sometimes conflicting -- statistics about the extent of Swiss profits from Nazi gold dealings.

The Nazis stole at least $850 million in gold -- worth $8.5 billion at today's value -- between 1933 and 1945. Switzerland was "first stop" for most of this, said the report, written by an economist, Sidney Zabludoff.

Of this, $590 million was from central banks in occupied countries.

The remaining $260 million was in "nonmonetary" gold like jewelry and valuables from private businesses and citizens in Germany and abroad -- including Holocaust victims, it said.

It said of the total intake of gold into Switzerland, $275 million was looted -- or $375 million taking into account valuables seized from German citizens.

"To understand these numbers in today's prices, they must be multiplied by about 10. Thus after subtracting out the modest post war payment, Switzerland would now have to pay some $2 billion to $3 billion to compensate for taking in looted gold," it said.

The report arrived at the one in 10 factor by comparing the gold price in the 1930s and 1940s -- about $5 per ounce -- with today's market value of roughly $350 per ounce.

"All these figures are much greater than the $58 million in gold the Swiss turned over to the Allies after the war," the council report said.

Under a 1946 accord -- the so-called Washington agreement -- Switzerland agreed to pay 250 million Swiss francs ($58 million at January 1946 conversion rates) toward European reconstruction to offset its Nazi gold dealings. The government has refused to renegotiate this, saying the deal was the result of tough but honest bargaining with Allied diplomats.

At the time, the Allies declared that they waived "all claims against the Government of Switzerland and the Swiss National Bank in connection with gold acquired during the war from Germany by Switzerland."

Despite this, there have been suggestions -- including by Jewish organizations -- that the Washington accord must be renegotiated in the light of recent allegations that the Swiss acted as banker to the Nazis.

The whole issue of looted Nazi gold and further compensation to Holocaust victims or nations pillaged during World War II will be examined at a conference in London early December.

Earlier this year, a U.S. report found that Switzerland had received $1.8 billion to $2.8 billion in looted gold from Germany.