Guilt and the Greatest Robbery in History; AS THE WORLD CONFRONTS THE TRUTH ABOUT NAZI GOLD
Byline: TOM BOWER
AS THE starving survivors of European Jewry emerged from the Nazi death camps in 1945, grateful to be saved by shocked Allied servicemen, few could have imagined that they were about to become the victims of a second betrayal.
That Europe and America betrayed the Jews by failing to save six million from the gas chambers was bad enough.
But it is at last becoming evident that, even after Hitler's defeat, most European governments were cynically and deliberately scheming to keep the possessions looted by the Nazis and their European collaborators, not only from the six million murdered Jews, but also the two million Jews who survived the war.
As the Nazi Gold conference opened in London yesterday, politicians uncontaminated by the war prepared to face a horrible truth: that World War II was not simply about Germany's world domination. It was also planned by Hitler and his henchmen as the Greatest Robbery in history. And the most vulnerable victims of that monstrous conspiracy were the Jews.
The scale of the theft was vast.
To say 'billions' underestimates the enormity of the plunder.
The Germans not only stole the gold ingots from the central banks of Europe but also seized from eight million Jews bank and savings accounts, the contents of factories and homes including priceless paintings and furniture - and the communal property of thousands of Jewish communities across Eastern Europe.
In 1945, the crime was compounded by the failure to restore barely any of that property to its owners. Even worse, the denial of restitution was the calculated, deceitful policy of bankers, businessmen, politicians and citizens across Europe.
For 50 years, ordinary Jews appealed in vain for justice.
Helplessly, they sought the restoration of their possessions.
Their pleas were ignored. Yet the facts were already known.
After 1939, much of the plundered treasure was shipped back to Germany.
But the Nazis were only the first of the plunderers.
After the pillaging, others, especially collaborators in occupied Europe, had also rampaged through the Jews' possessions. They were followed by the Red Army and Europe's post-war communist governments.
The recent, belated discovery of Impressionist paintings in galleries and private collections across the world - stolen from Jews - is merely symbolic of the unprecedented criminality conveniently ignored amid the turmoil in post-war Europe.
The truth, gradually publicised since the World Jewish Congress accused Swiss bankers in 1995 of stealing billions of dollars in accounts from murdered Jews, is truly appalling.
Over recent years, dedicated archivists have unearthed an astonishing catalogue of deception. In Paris, French government officials secretly kept hundreds of flats in expensive locations, owned by Jews murdered in Auschwitz, for their own benefit.
Curators in the Louvre have secretly stored hundreds of invaluable paintings knowing that the heirs of the works' Jewish owners have searched worldwide for the pictures.
In Prague, Czech officials refuse to allow the heirs of more than 150,000 murdered Jews to gain access to archives which would prove their ownership of property across the country.
In Poland, the centre of chilling anti-Semitism, the government refuses even to consider restoring any property owned by Polish Jews and their heirs.
In Moscow, Kremlin officials are so scared at the thought of restoring stolen Jewish property that they refused to attend the London conference.
Yet regardless of those governments' reluctance to concede the truth, Pandora's Box is open. Regretfully, it is 50 years too late for many of Hitler's victims.
The initial blame for the betrayal must be levelled at the governments of the four wartime Allies - Britain, France, America and the Soviet Union - because in 1945 their armies had the power to compel not only the defeated Germans but also the citizens of liberated Europe and even the neutral countries to return the loot. …