Possible Nazi names on list of Swiss bank accounts angers Jews
ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
Jul. 24, 1997
GENEVA (AP) _ Hitler's photographer. Adolf Eichmann's aide. Names corresponding to those of ranking Nazis appear prominently on a list of World War II-era Swiss bank accounts _ angering Jewish groups that banks had hoped to mollify by opening their sealed records.
The anger underscores the difficulties Swiss banks face in dealing with Holocaust sensitivities more than a half-century after the end of the Nazi era.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss Bankers Association, which published the list of 1,872 names Wednesday, said the inclusion of any Nazis merely reflects the banks' attempt to be as open as possible, in compliance with the Jewish groups' wishes.
``If some of those names are names of Nazi people _ and we are checking that _ that shows ... that the banks announced everything,'' said Silvia Matile.
A Holocaust research center in Israel said six names on the list appear to match those of Nazis, with some spelling discrepancies. They included Hitler's photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, and Willy Bauer, an alias used by Eichmann's aide, Anton Burger.
However, it was not clear whether the accounts actually belonged to known Nazis or if they were the property of other people with the same names. The Wiesenthal Center made the Nazi connections by comparing the Swiss list with its own records of Nazis, and has asked Swiss authorities for clarification.
Ironically, some of the most vocal critics of the Swiss banks' secrecy laws were among the angriest over the new disclosure.
``Imagine the feelings of victims' families as they read the list and see the names of victims alongside those of their murderers,'' said Greville Janner, chairman of Britain's Holocaust Education Trust, who helped lead the campaign for releasing the names.
Some heirs to Holocaust victims were also outraged over names that were not on the list _ relatives they were sure owned Swiss bank accounts when they died at the hands of the Nazis.
Nevertheless, the list continued to provoke widespread interest.
Thirty-six hours after its publication, more than 2,000 people had called five regional centers in New York; Sydney, Australia; Budapest, Hungary; Basel, Switzerland, and Tel Aviv, Israel, Matile said.
In addition, the bankers association site on the World Wide Web was clogged with visitors checking out names.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, said the possible inclusion of top Nazis on the list only revealed ``the coverup of the last 50 years.''
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center's founder, sent a letter to the Swiss Bankers' Association on Wednesday demanding ``urgent help'' in determining if six names on the list were indeed Nazis.
Heir said a Heinrich Ernst Hofmann on the list could be Hitler photographer Heinrich Hoffmann and a Willi Bauer on the list could refer to the alias used by Eichmann's aide _ Willy Bauer.
He also cited Elise Eder, which he said could refer to Elisabeth Eder, the wife of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, a top Nazi executed at Nuremberg; Hermann Eser, which might be Hermann Esser, vice president of the Reichstag; H. Schmitz which could be Hermann Schmitz, head of a chemical company linked to the concentration camps, and Karl Jaeger, a notorious killer of Lithuanian Jews.
Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal said the list also includes the name of a Slovak leader responsible for sending thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
Vojtech Tuka, prime minister of pro-Nazi Slovakia during the war, was executed in 1946, Wiesenthal said in a statement, and urged that the money in Tuka's account be turned over to the Swiss fund for victims of the Nazis.
``If there are Nazis on the list, they shouldn't see a dime,'' said Avraham Burg, head of Israel's Jewish Agency, who worked with the Swiss banks to produce the list.
Matile said steps were being taken to make sure no ill-gotten Nazi gains would be handed over to heirs.
``We have guarantees that criminal money will not be paid out,'' she said. ``We will have a claims-resolution panel that will judge about those claims.''
Backing that up is the international panel led by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is supervising the effort to turn over assets of Holocaust victims to their heirs.
The list was supposed to include all non-Swiss account owners who haven't contacted the Swiss banks since World War II, but Matile said more names will probably be released when the banks publish more information in October.