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Experts spotlight Swiss ties with Nazis

By JOHN ZAROCOSTAS

GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 30 -- Swiss authorities and subsidiaries of major companies cooperated with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy through an array of commercial accords and business strategies that aided the war effort of the Axis powers, according to reports published Thursday by an independent commission. of experts.

The chairman of the nine members Commission on Switzerland and the Second World War (ICE), Professor Jean-Franois Bergier, released eight studies in Bern Thursday said the officials in government "as a general rule served the interests of the country as they understood them to be, honestly, faithfully, and sometimes with remarkable dedication. It was possible they made mistakes, got down into a routine, or yielded to fear."

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Government entities provided credits to the Nazis and Fascists who used them to purchase Swiss arms and supplies, and gave a wink and a nod to trainloads of munitions headed for German armies in North Africa, the reports revealed more than 50 years after the end of World War II. The private companies sold munitions and supplies, and in one case guaranteed to Nazis that all its stock was owned by Aryans.

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The ICE studies show that through interest-free credits granted to fascists by the Swiss government after the summer of 1940, "Swiss companies were able to export without incurring payment risk. At the same time the clearing credits helped the Axis powers to finance their war efforts by purchasing Swiss arms without having to immediately provide anything in return."

The German and Italian armies also used the credits, to buy Swiss machines, agricultural products, and war materials, and loans granted by the Swiss government "contravened the law of neutrality."

The study notes that encircled Switzerland in 1940 granted Germany 150 million francs and Italy 75 million francs. A year later, the Swiss government increased the amount of clearing credits to Nazi Germany to 850 million francs and advanced a further 271 million francs in 1943, it said.

Turning to the role of the Swiss private sector, Bergier said "They were quite evidently concerned first and foremost with business operation results and with the future of the company."

The ICE also reported the country's law of neutrality was infringed by the "superficiality of inspections" of trains that passed through Switzerland and which allowed the Nazis to ship arms to troops in North Africa.

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After pressure from the allies, the Swiss began after November 1943 to impose restrictions on transit, and quota and transit embargoes kicked in after March 1944.

Bergier said that as of 1940, Swiss entrepreneurs were " haunted by the prospects of the post-war period "and the uncertain climate that prevailed. "These considerations alone determined their strategies and their more or less resolute involvement in the war economies of the Axis and /or of the allied countries," he said.

But he also said: "Those who completely withdrew from the German market constitute a rare exception."

An examination by the ICE of a selected group of Swiss subsidiaries with plants in Germany and in areas occupied and annexed by the Nazi regime, including the engineering group Brown Boveri & Cie (BBC); the aluminum manufacturer Lonza, and the food group Nestl. The ICE report said all the companies, like German companies "made use of forced labor and prisoners of war."

"All the companies we looked into were strongly involved in the German wartime economy," the report said, adding that some firms such as "BBC and Nestl even tried to enlarge their market territory."

The study said the companies, through their activities, contributed to the expansion of the German economy "thus supporting the Nazi system."

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Another ICE report on the role of four Swiss chemical companies also with subsidiaries in the Third Reich and war occupied countries, found they contributed to the German war economy and "conformed in practical terms with the interests of the Nazi regime."

The four companies were J.R. Geigy AG, Ciba, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Co AG (Roche) and Sandoz. Between 1939 and 1943, the German Roche branch with its special position in the vitamin C and opiates business, the report said , boosted its sales from "8.8 million to 22.3 million Reichmarks."

The report said that between 1943 and 1945 the Geigy plant in Grenzach deployed at least 33 Dutch and French forced laborers, and that 150 foreign forced laborers were used at the Roche plant.

The study also found that Geigy "was the only company studied which participated in the "Aryanization" of a Jewish company." In response to the Nazi racial policy, Geigy as far back as 1934, ICE said, "lodged a sworn declaration with the Nazi party guaranteeing the Aryan origin of its shareholders in order to obtain a certificate of entitlement to supply dyes to the Germans be used for party and official purposes."

The ICE expert report argues the Basel- based parent companies "possessed a high level of detailed knowledge about the political and economic situation in Nazi Germany."

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Finally, an analysis of cultural assets, such as works of art, from 1933 to 1945 that found their way to Switzerland either as looted assets or flight assets concluded that: "more flight assets than looted assets found their way to Switzerland."

Some of the works were transferred to Switzerland to prevent them from being seized by Nazis. The introduction of currency controls and the resulting frozen accounts works of art were also used to export frozen assets out of Germany, ICE said.

The looted works of art found in Switzerland by the allies, ICE said, "were restituted after the war." But the investigating authorities did "not proceed to search intensively" for additionally looted objects.

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