Hitler’s Bankers 18:00, 1998 (Ref: EU9849)


Velvel Singer died in a Nazi concentration camp, but his life’s savings – 4 million dollars – went into a Swiss bank, along with the fortunes of many other Jews who perished in the Holocaust. His nephew, Ron Singer, has spent years tracking down his uncle’s estate. Hitler’s Bankers traces Singer’s story from Toronto to Washington to Zurich and looks at how the Swiss have had to come to terms with their past – a past many of them would rather forget. It’s an historical fact that Switzerland profited from the Second World War to a large extent. After years of Singer looking for the 4 million dollars with no records or account numbers, legal research at last determined the money had gone into a Swiss bank. But when Singer started making inquiries, he ran into a solid Swiss wall of refusals, denials and secrecy. Finally, Ron Singer hired a Zurich lawyer. The lawyer said no bank had given a positive reply to its search request. He said it is possible that the bank has just  quote “swallowed” all the money, or that “criminal employees have embezzled them”. Ron Singer believes his uncle put his money and his faith in the one place he thought he could always trust: a Swiss bank. So did thousands of other Jews, before they’d perished in the war. We see in this documentary that it’s their stories that are now forcing the Swiss to look back and re-examine not just the bank records – but the morality of their own past. How much did this today, orderly, honest country profit from the Holocaust? The unspoken past of duplicity and collaboration with the Nazis is the real reason Hitler never invaded this charming little alpine haven. It was the fact that Hitler needed a quiet market place in the middle of the hell which he started. In this film we hear that what bothers many historians is that after the war, nothing changed. Switzerland buried its past and quietly profited. When the Nazis rolled across Europe, they rolled right around Switzerland. What the Jews feared most they soon suffered: the campaign of annihilation. Switzerland had become a haven for cash, but not necessarily for Jewish refugees. The Swiss advised the Germans to stamp a “J” on passports, so the Jews could be easily identified and kept out. The Swiss treated their own Jews well and did harbour some foreign Jews – 28,000 – but then made the Jewish community pay a head tax for looking after them. After the war, when relatives of Holocaust victims tried to claim their family’s money, they too were turned away. It was very simple: either you produced a secret bank account number or name that is relevant, or you produced a death certificate showing they your relative died during the Holocaust. And maybe then, they would consider moving forward – few had either. The Swiss have always been proud of their neutrality, their so-called splendid isolation. It’s the source of their survival as a country. That’s why it’s so painful to stand accused. At stake is not just the credibility of the Swiss banks: but the country’s image in the world.