"Swiss Holocaust cash revealed to be myth", announced the Times this Saturday (October, 13), lowering the curtain on one of the bizarre and obnoxious dramas of extortion and robbery. It began in 1995, as two important gentlemen, Edgar Bronfman, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, and Abraham Burg, a rising star of Israeli politics, visited Swiss banks on a humanitarian mission. "You have billions of dollars deposited by the Jews before WWII, they said. - We want the moneys repaid immediately, whilst the survivors of the Jewish holocaust are still alive. Let them enjoy the last years of their life in relative comfort', they said. Bronfman and Burg were the men banks and insurance companies wake up and listen to.
Edgar Bronfman inherited his billions from his father Sam, a Mafia boss. Sam made his fortune by the illegal trafficking of booze into the US: he blended the stuff in Canada and smuggled it across the lake through his network of gangsters during the Prohibition period. Sam Bronfman made even more money as a loan shark. Shortly before his death, he was asked by a journalist, what is the greatest invention of mankind? True to form, he replied, interest on loans.
The capitals earned by crime and squeezed from debtors could help in politics. In Jewish politics as well, as you do not have to be elected to become an important figure. You can always rent two rooms in an office building and put a sign of World Jewish Association, Survivors' Forum or Jewish Liberation Organization, and you are in the business. There is no copyright to such titles. Bronfman's World Jewish Congress was exactly such a tiny body with such a grand title. Before Bronfman, it had this or other nice Jewish fatherly figure in the chair, such as his predecessor Nahum Goldmann, but it pulled no strings and cut no ice. With vast capital of Bronfman, it became a power structure.
Many Palestinians lost their deposits in the great upheaval of 1948. Israeli banks used all ways to block their moneys and let them disappear as the inflation soared.
Avrum (Abraham) Burg, the speaker of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and a candidate to the leadership of Israeli Labour, was the son of an important Israeli politician, a leader of the National Religious Party, Dr Burg, who served all governments of Israel as a Minister for 40 years until his demise. Avrum provided a good sound-byte on ABC Nightline on 2.8.01, when he described Palestinians as 'people you do not want your daughter to get married to'. Avrum needed a sponsor to get forward in politics, while Bronfman needed a reliable Israeli partner for his plan.
No bank or insurance company could refuse such important gentlemen. After short resistance, the Swiss gnomes gave in, and the titular heads of Jews walked away with large pot of cash. 'These Jews want to rob our banks and insurance companies in the name of their holocaust', the Swiss probably fumigated. But they were mistaken.
While this story began as Elders of Zion Revisited, its continuation followed the script of the Sting. Six years passed by, but almost no money left the benevolent grasp of international commissions created by Bronfman and Burg. Practically nothing was given to the survivors of the Jewish holocaust. The moneys were misappropriated by the same people that demanded justice for the victims.
Recently the authoritative LA Times stated: "An international commission created to resolve Holocaust-era insurance disputes has reportedly spent more than $30 million on salaries, hotel bills and newspaper ads while distributing only $3 million to claimants". The members of the commission turned it into a high class travel agency and entertainment spot, LA Times wrote: 'The documents show that since 1998 the commission has held at least 18 meetings with up to 100 participants at hotels in London, Jerusalem, Rome, Washington and New York'. As to the slave labour settlement, The Independent reported, 'while the victims of the Holocaust will receive (maybe) between USD 2,500 and USD 7,500, the
Now, the Times reported that Swiss banks checked the dormant accounts and found that they did not even belong to the Jewish victims of Holocaust. They belonged mainly to 'wealthy non-Jewish people who forgot about their money'. The Swiss haven't not paid $1.5 b to Bronfman and Burg, because they became convinced in their claims. They paid because they had no choice, Bronfman (together with Mark Rich) was an important supporter of President Bill Clinton, and Clinton would do his asking, probably stopping just short of bombing Switzerland.
Some parts of the story began to surface in CUNY Professor Norman Finkelstein's best-selling book, Holocaust Industry and caused major controversy. Finkelstein objected to the extortionist methods of the Jewish organisations. They presented him as a liar and an anti-Semite. Now, a year after his book was published, mo,r,e unexpected and juicy details of sordid dealing begin to leak. If the data will be confirmed, we are looking into the greatest robbery ever perpetuated in the 20th century.
Apparently, Professor Finkelstein got some things wrong: to the chagrin of the Jew-haters, the victims of the robbery were not only the banks and insurance companies, but ordinary folk of Jewish origin. To the embarrassment of the Jew-lovers, the robbers were the self-appointed Jewish leaders who claimed to represent the Jewish people.
The man behind this discovery is very different from the New York Professor Finkelstein. Martin Stern is a wealthy British businessman, deeply involved with real estate, Jewish and Zionist causes. He works in London and spends his weekends in his spacious apartment in Jerusalem's Orthodox neighbourhood. He does not miss a single prayer in his shul, gives to charities and loves Israel.
His casual meeting with a Swiss banker in Villar, a prestigious resort in the Swiss Alps, started the machinery of holocaust claims. The banker told Stern an interesting small tale. His bank, Union Swisse (USB), computerised its business in 1987 and discovered many accounts dormant since 1939. The bank managers came to conclusion that some SF 45 million (30 m USD) of deposits probably belonged to the Jews who had died during or after the war.
'We did not want to keep somebody's else money', - said the honest Swiss banker, - we called the World Jewish Congress and asked them to help and find the heirs to the funds. The Congress replied: "It is not on our agenda". Cold-shouldered Swiss transferred the $30 million to the Red Cross.
Martin Stern was touched by the story and told it to Israeli Radio. Two weeks after the broadcast, 'coincidentally' Bronfman and Burg knocked on the doors of the Swiss Banking Corporation demanding the cash. As we have stated above, they got the money but kept it for their purposes. Martin Stern felt he was involved and he followed the story in its development.
He became increasingly worried with the way the Holocaust money was handled. Beside their own salaries, the Claims conference spent USD 43 m for the food parcels for Russian Jews. This subject Bronfman and Burg did not mention when they went to the Swiss banks and asked to speed up the payment to survivors, to people who owned the money. Had their agenda changed?
Family circumstances led Stern to a connected story of the Generali Insurance. Before the WWII, the Generali was a big Italian insurance business, owned by Italian Jews. 'Many insurance companies before the WWII were in the Jewish hands, as in those days insurance was a small man's bank', Stern explains. The Generali had big assets in Palestine, as well as in Balkan,s ,and Italy. Despite the war, Italian fascism and Holocaust, the Generali retained its Jewish connection. They did not want to follow the example of Swiss and Germans and denied all knowledge of the pre-war policies. Stern investigated at his own expense and succeeded to locate the secret storage where the bosses of the Generali kept the pre-war policies. He found out that the Generali owes huge sums to heirs of their insured. His discovery forced the Generali Assurance to mend their ways and agree to pay, wishing to make amends to their policy holders personally.
Now, if the deceased wouldn't be Jews, their heirs would get the value of their policies from the relevant insurance company or a bank. But, as you have been suspected all along, we Jews are different. We are different because we are more naive than somewhat. That is why we agreed to have an intermediary - the Jewish leaders - to deal with the (largely Gentile) World.
From 1950s on, Jewish leaders made a fortune as the intermediary, as the compensation did not go straight to the heirs and survivors, but went to the sticky hands of the leaders. The Israeli Jews were supposed to receive the compensation and pension via Israeli channels, while European Jews received their money straight from the Goyiim. Astonishingly, the survivors who were paid via Jewish hands, always got less, sometimes much less. The Jewish state, Jewish banks and Jewish organisations earned on every transaction, and they did not miss a single trick. When Israel ran high inflation, the pensions of the survivors were always under-indexed. Banks did not transmit the funds on time.
When the Russian Jews arrived to Israel, the Jewish leaders reached an agreement with Germany to provide for the survivors. A lion share of the funds given by Germans remained in the hands of the Jewish organisations, intermediaries and other dealers.
Whoever relied upon our Jewish brothers was screwed up, as robbing fellow-Jews is a favourite pastime of Jewish crooks, leaders and bankers. A cynical man would say: the very idea of the Jewish People is the best invention of crooks. In the days of our grandfathers, it was not working all that well, as the Jews knew: a Jewish crook would cheat a fellow Jew as fast as he would cheat a Goy, and probably faster. But now we forgot this important notion.
After Martin Stern found the policies, the Generali Insurance agreed to cooperate and pay. But the Israeli and Jewish politicians wanted to remain in the play. They negotiated a fixed settlement with the Generali on behalf of the Jewish policy holders. It was a crazy idea: whether the Jews are a religious or an ethnic group, surely they insured their lives as private persons. Moreover, they did not empower Israeli politicians to represent them. But the politicians negotiated the settlement, received one hundr,ed ,million dollar, called it The Generali Fund, and began to use it as their own. They forgot the interest of Jewish policy holders, or, probably, they never considered it but a figure of speech.
In June '01, out of 1250 policy information requests, the Generali Fund treated only 72. The policy holders were sent there and back, often refused for no reason or received no reply at all. In despair, they turned to Italians, and they promptly paid. It was an additional proof that we Jews need Jewish intermediaries as much as fish needs a diving suit. In the same time, the Fund trustees made 270 'ex gratia humanitarian payments'. They sent food parcels to the Russian Jews, in order to attract them to Israel. I am sure the Generali insurance would be very happy to feed the Russian Jews and to increase their Zionist zeal, but why the Israeli politicians did not say so while negotiating the settlement?
Martin Stern discovered that trustees of the GF became frequent fliers to Italy on the expense of the Fund, and when it appeared as too small money, they did not hesitate to ask the Generali for substantial fees. The problem crossed the ocean, and the American claimants discovered that their claims were 'settled' by the politicians. American Jewish organisations supported their Israeli buddies. An important player in the system was Lawrence Eagleburger, a former U.S. Secretary of state. This great man chairs the commission of Jewish leaders for dealing with Holocaust related insurance claims and draws a $350,000 annual salary. In Stern's opinion, the insurance settlement money would barely suffice to pay the policy holders. That is why he is horrified by ease Messrs Bronfman and Burg waste the funds on other worthy things.
While the Jewish organisations gave hard time to the Swiss and the German banks, they became much more timid when they came across a Jewish bank. Bank Leumi of Israel has probably more funds of the perished Jews than any Swiss or German bank. You will laugh, but Israeli bankers are not in a rush to return the money. As a matter of fact, they stick to the cash like glue. Before the WWII, many European Jews deposited their savings in the Anglo-Palestine Bank, the main Jewish bank of British Palestine, as Bank Leumi was called before 1948. Some of them made deposits, others rented safe boxes. Not only Jews used the bank - its cellars stored vast fortunes of Palestinian Christians and Muslims as well.
Many Palestinians lost their deposits in the great upheaval of 1948. Israeli banks used all ways to block their moneys and let them disappear as the inflation soared. But the Jews did not fare better. Apparently, the worst place where a Jew could leave his money for safe keeping was Bank Leumi, the National Bank of Israel. The Holocaust survivors and heirs of victims were met with adamant refusal of Bank Leumi to open up its documentation for inspection.
In course of privatisation, Bank Leumi became partly owned by the Generali Assurance. Migdal Insurance, Generali and Bank Leumi constit,ute ,an intertwined group of businesses and businessmen with dubious record. Same men sit on the board of the companies, sharing perks and shifting around funds.
Martin Stern discovered that in 1950s, Bank Leumi staff opened, without external control and supervision, even without writing a protocol, all dormant safe boxes. Their contents were pushed into brown envelopes and stored hidden from the public eye. As a colourful detail, he was told of a trunk that stood in the offices of Bank Leumi for years, to the chagrin of typists who tore their stockings at its corners. When the trunk was opened, they found there a real treasure, apparently placed for safekeeping by a Coptic church. Until now, the trunk has not been returned to the Church.
Marin Stern could not believe such flagrant breach of banking laws was possible. In the course of his struggle for the interests of Holocaust survivors and their heirs, he demanded from the Bank Leumi officials to publish the names of the safe box owners, whose deposits were removed by the bank. At first, the Director General of the Bank, Galia Maor, denied the bank opened the boxes. When presented with evidence, she replied sternly, 'we found only love letters'. I wonder whether such reply, if given by the Swiss, would be acceptable for the Jewish organisations.
The fate of currency deposits was not different from the safe boxes, as the Bank Leumi could win both ways. A Mrs Klausner deposited before the WWII in Bank Leumi 170 pounds sterling, an equivalent of USD 25,000 in today's value. When she came to claim her deposit, Bank Leumi offered her NIS 13, or USD 4. In order to avoid future embarrassment, the bank officials began to destroy old documentation.
The tricks of Bank Leumi attracted attention of the Israeli press and the Knesset (Parliament), and a parliamentary commission of enquiry was called for. It took six months of intensive negotiations to form the commission, but in its charter there was one conspicuous fault. The survivors demanded to find out the persons responsible for hiding their funds for half a century. This demand was not included in the chapter. Even worse, the commission includes persons responsible for the present state of things. Zvi Barak was a member of Bank Leumi management, he also sits in the management of Generali Fund, he was sent to investigate the Swiss banks and now he is supposed to find out the culprits in his own bank.
Michael Kleiner is a right wing MP of Herut party. He wrote to the parliamentary commission of enquiry, 'the Bank destroys documents in two different sections, and now there is deep suspicion regarding the Holocaust deposits and especially the brown envelopes of the safe boxes'.
Recently Bank Leumi became known for large scale cash laundering, when the fortunes stolen by Vladimir Montesinos and his boss Alberto Fujimori, an ex-president of Peru, were traced to the Bank Leumi's office in Switzerland. One can't understand the word 'laundering' in reference to such a bank, as probably it would make a handkerchief dirty if laundered.
The biggest achievement of the Jewish leaders was recorded in Germany, in 1991, as East Germany joined the German Federal Republic. After 1945, the Socialist East Germany did not return property to German pre-war owners, whether Gentiles or Jews. Theirs was a good logic. East Germans did not subscribe to the notion of the 'Jewish people'. They dealt on equal footing with the German citizens, Jews or not. They thought that the Nazi idea of Jewish separateness was laid to rest in 1945. They were wrong. West Germany accepted the feudal concept of Jewry in 1950, when it paid compensation for the Jewish property - not to survivors or their heirs, but to the state of Israel and the Jewish leaders elsewhere. West Germans did it again in 1991.
For instance, two Germans, Moses and Peter, perished in the war, and left some property in East Germany. Property of Peter the Gentile remained in the hands of the German government, until his heir was found. If he would have no heirs, the property would remain in the hands of German people. But property of Moses the Jew would pass into the hands of Messrs Bronfman & Burg as the leaders and representatives of the Jewish People, members of the Conference for Claims. Germans transferred the property that belonged to their Jewish citizens on the territory of the East Germany into the hands of the Conference.
The Conference was a fictitious body of 44 men representing nobody. Some of them were sent, for instance, by a grandly named Anglo-Jewish Association, whose total membership is about 50. Only two persons 'represent' millions of Israeli Jews. This Conference was supposed to find rightful heirs of Moses, and other Germans of Jewish origin.
However, the Jewish leaders had a better idea. They knew that many owners would never come to claim their houses anyway, and the property will be theirs. But it was not enough for the greedy bastards. They put a certain date after which they would not consider the claims of heirs. That was a strike worthy of Jewish genius: some thirty billion dollars worth of property became theirs as if by right. From now on, they could take easy the claims of rightful heirs. And the billions dollars of rent would accumulate on their accounts.
American Jewish survivors' organisations began their fight against the Jewish leaders. They demand from the Conference to make public full lists of their assets, to find real heirs and to give up the assets. They think of suing Germany, Italy and other countries and organisations that for some mysterious reason subscribed to the medieval idea of 'Jewish property'. They say, property could be of individual Jews only, not some odd 'Jewish property'. As this story proved, such ideas are good for the self-proclaimed Jewish leaders to keep them in the style they are accustomed to, but for ordinary folks of Jewish origin it is the right time to give up the expensive illusions of Jewish solidarity.
Israel Shamir is an Israeli journalist living in Jaffa.