Evil Robbers of the Reich; PACK OF THIEVES: HOW HITLER AND EUROPE PLUNDERED THE JEWS AND COMMITTED THE GREATEST THEFT IN HISTORY by Richard Z. Chesnoff (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, [Pounds Sterling]20)

Article excerpt

Byline: TOM ROSENTHAL

TO MOST of us, even to Jews, the Holocaust, the destruction by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 of some six million Jews, is simply a grimly familiar litany of concentration camps, forced labour, torture, sadistic medical 'experiments,' and starving to death as the only escape from the gas chambers.

Yet, as this gripping new book shows, it is also a much less familiar litany of expropriation, sequestration, forced exile, clashing with pathetic attempts to buy an escape route from Germany and Austria, and flight from one more or less inhospitable country to another, often to another continent.

It is a tale of legalised theft on an epic scale; of offers that cannot be refused; of betrayal by informers who were often the victims' neigh-bours and informed not out of ideology, or even out of anti-Semitic prejudice, but simply because they wanted their neighbours' flat or their larger garden.

Chesnoff reveals how, while revelling in their physical cruelty, the Nazis were also remorselessly efficient in finding sophisticated ways of paying for their war aims.

OF COURSE 'To the victors the spoils' is an old and useful maxim but, in the case of Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Goering and the whole gang, it was largely Jewish spoils which were to precede their great victory and actually pay for the Thousand Year Reich.

With a hyper-efficient and coldly calculating bureaucratic machine quite as repugnant as the Gestapo, they systematically robbed the Jews before exterminating them.

They then robbed them again in death so that many an SS officer's fortune, transmitted via Switzerland to South America, was augmented by gold teeth and rings removed from the corpses of Auschwitz and Belsen.

It wasn't just the Jews of Germany and Austria, annexed by the Nazis in 1938. While the most blatant thefts were on home territory from patriotic Jewish citizens, many of whom had fought for Germany in the World War I, the most insidious and sophisticated stealing was done in the countries the Nazis who it must be remembered were, for a time, close to winning the war - occupied: France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Norway, Hungary etc.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation concerns those countries which have enjoyed in the postwar world an almost saintly reputation for Resistance and, at great risk, hiding their Jewish populations.

Norway and Holland come out of this particularly badly.

The Norwegian who gave his name to collaborationist treachery, Vidkun Quisling, ruled his country for the occupying Germans. Someone had to be blamed and hounded and shipped to concentration camps minus all property.

Unfortunately, in 1939 there were only 2,000 Jews in the whole of Norway, i.e. a mere 0.067 pc of the population.

SO, IN order to justify his demonisation of the enemy within, he propagated the myth that Norway contained at least 10,000 'spiritual and artificial Jews' which meant not just 'racial' Jews, but any Norwegian who opposed Nazi ideology. …