|Under Secretary Stuart Eizenstat
Closing Plenary Statement at the London Conference on Nazi Gold, December 4, 1997
We have just concluded 3 days of dialogue and learning which will be instrumental in our task of completing some of the most important unfinished business of this century as its gates close and we approach a new millennium. I believe that for years to come, the London Conference will be seen as a landmark event along the road of coming to terms with this painful period of history and doing justice for its victims. The past 3 days have been truly remarkable -- remarkable in the number of countries participating, in the quality of the materials presented and the information shared, in the high level of discussions, and in the clear commitment to carry on this important work with both vigor and urgency. This conference will have a legacy not only of cooperation in research but of commitment to action.
As I suggested in my opening plenary remarks on Monday, our greatest hope for this conference was that it would give fresh impetus and momentum to the emerging international consensus for truth and for justice to be done. While we always had confidence that this consensus would be crystallized, I believe that over the last 3 days it has been truly galvanized, exceeding even our most optimistic expectations.
There have been many significant contributions made at this conference. First and foremost has been the striking degree of acknowledgment of and agreement on the key historical facts. We have taken a hard look at the level and degree of looting, movement, and disposition of Nazi gold. Each of the presentations also has given a direct sense from each country of the devastation inflicted by Nazi Germany during the World War II era and the degree to which Nazis went to loot gold they needed to sustain their war effort. Every nation has made an important and enduring contribution.
I would especially like to commend the contribution made by our Swiss colleagues. In written and oral presentations, Switzerland has demonstrated courage in the extent of its openness and candor in the depth of its detail.
Professor Bergier's report confirmed the estimates contained in the U.S. preliminary report of last May in which we estimated gold transfers to Switzerland at more than $400 million. Our report estimated the amount of looted gold at between $185 million and $289 million. If, as Professor Bergier suggests, the gold received by Switzerland from Germany after 1941 was looted, the amount of looted gold traded to Switzerland was around $335 million. The Swiss report, as well as reports presented by several other delegations, also confirmed the nature of the postwar Allied negotiations on looted gold and assets with the wartime neutrals and the relatively small amount of monetary gold that was finally obtained, after many years, for the Tripartite Gold Commission.
The Swiss Report likewise confirmed the finding in our report that Swiss authorities as early as 1941 knew of the presence of looted gold transferred by Germany because of the well-known small amount of gold reserves the Reischbank possessed at the outset of the war. It also estimated gold taken from individuals at more than $140 million.
The U.S. will look into the new Swiss estimates of gold transfers, and this will be reflected in our forthcoming supplementary report on the other World War II neutrals. We look forward to reviewing the more complete document, due out at the beginning of the year, which is sure to add to the wealth of information now being synthesized.
The reports of the Swedish and Spanish delegations confirmed the findings of the U.S. Preliminary Report on the more than $15 million in looted gold returned by Sweden and the 100 kilograms of looted Dutch gold that was acknowledged by Spain in the postwar negotiations.
The report of the German delegation confirmed the U.S. report's contention of the presence of concentration camp victim gold mixed into the German monetary gold reserve of which $2.5 million was from the Melmer account "which consisted of personal effects of both dead and living inmates of Auschwitz and other concentrations camps in the East."
The presentation made by the U.S. was drawn from the findings of our May 1997 preliminary report and additional historical documentation that will be presented in the supplemental report, due in late January 1998, indicating the amount of Nazi gold which Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey received. The U.S. hopes the participants will study the working papers we provided. The U.S. welcomes your constructive comments, and we will make every effort to weigh them carefully as we complete our supplemental report. The presentations made by the neutrals and non-belligerents will be fully taken into account in the second U.S. report.
In the spirit of cooperation and the hope of assisting further research efforts, we encourage conference participants to use the supplemental finding aids and materials of the National Archives, which are available on disk.
The spirit of this conference has established a constructive tone and tenor for our common enterprise over the coming days and months. Over the past 3 days, conference participants generated an atmosphere of openness and urgency. It is in this spirit that we requested that by the time the report of this conference is issued in February we should have as much of the historical record in place as possible.
In this same spirit, participants supported greater access to private archives, such as those of the Degussa Company in Germany, which resmelted stolen gold, and of central banks in neutral and non-belligerent countries. We are encouraged by the fact that during the conference, the Degussa Company issued a press release reporting that all its records are now publicly available.
There was also a shared sense of the conference that records from the Reischbank to other various banks and financial institutions are critical to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the Nazi gold transfers. We emphasized the need to fulfill the long-standing request to locate and open the surviving records of the Reischbank and the Prussian State Mint. Both the Federal Republic of Germany and Austria agree that locating these records is essential, and both are willing to cooperate in determining their current whereabouts and making them available to historical researchers. The biggest gap in our knowledge is the amount of victim gold confiscated and smelted into disguised gold bars through the "Melmer account." The newly discovered microfilms may help fill that gap, but we cannot be certain until there is further opportunity to examine them.
We urge nations represented at this conference to immediately declassify and open the records of their respective intelligence agencies bearing on Nazi gold issues.
We fully recognize that research into all these records can be time consuming and costly, but there is a general sense among conference participants of the urgency to establish a complete historical record.
Let me note once again that Foreign Secretary Robin Cook established the positive tenor of this conference by announcing the establishment of a fund -- in consultation with our TGC partners and the TGC recipient countries -- to provide relief to needy survivors of Nazi persecution. In addition to the contributions announced Tuesday by the United States and Britain, positive indications also have come in the form of announcements this week from Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Luxembourg, Croatia, and Austria.
But it is beyond the discovery of the past and understanding of history that will be the true legacy of London, for this conference not only served as the culmination of a year of discovery but also as a launchpad for a year of action.
In the spirit of the London Conference, we must continue to cooperate and coordinate our efforts to gain the most complete possible accounting of this issue in the coming months. I am even more confident than ever, after hours and hours of exchanges with so many distinguished participants across these 3 days, that we can and we will move forward.
Let me briefly outline several steps that will enable us to do so. First, we are encouraging these countries -- some dozen, which have established historical commissions -- to fully complete their work and to show their final results by the end of this millennium.
Second, we believe that all nations must proceed with transparency and full disclosure. To do so, we would like to participate in the establishment of a website to open a process of communication between all interested parties. This website could include, in real time, reports and studies, information updates, and most importantly, documents. We understand that technology exists that would restore, scan, translate, and produce documents so that all who are interested may have free use and access to this information. For a cause this important, it is essential that we use all the means at our disposal to facilitate learning and foster cooperation.
Third, the U.S Government intends to research Holocaust-era assets located in the U.S. during and after World War II. As we have called on other nations to honestly and fully examine their pasts, I want to assure you that the United States will continue to do the same. We will continue to fully review the policies and activities of U.S. Government entities that played a part in the tracking, collection, and disposition of Nazi gold after the war. The U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve will continue to look into reports which have appeared in the U.S. press about the resmelting of Nazi gold by the now-defunct U.S. Assay Office. We could also seek ways to examine dormant accounts in U.S. banks which, under the laws of our states generally revert to the states when unclaimed, to try to determine how many may have included accounts of the World War II era.
Fourth, while the London Conference has appropriately focused on gold, we began also to focus today on other assets -- including real property, securities, bonds, insurance, and artworks. The continued research and discovery of these issues is important in providing a more complete picture of this complex set of issues.
To build on this start and to give attention to these other assets issues in particular it is important to commit to a follow-up conference.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum has indicated a willingness to host such a conference to follow up our work here and to give these other issues and remaining questions the attention and depth of study they so richly deserve. We hope to convene such a conference in Washington in late spring or early summer under the sponsorship of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and we will be in contact with all delegations and countries represented here concerning the arrangements for such a conference.
Fifth, the work of the TGC must be completed so that its documents can be declassified. We hope that the Nazi Persecutee Account opened at the conference will prove a desirable option for all the countries represented here.
Sixth, the double victims -- in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union -- of both fascism and communism should receive some direct compensation before it is too late. They have a special call on attention and on our conscience.
In an atmosphere of cooperation comes a sense of urgency to secure a measure of justice for the surviving victims. For these victims, the approach of a new millennium takes on a uniquely poignant significance. We must not enter a new millennium -- when this issues of today will begin to become ancient history -- without completing the work before us by December 31, 1999. We must complete the work of confronting this tragedy with compassion and urgency. We must not enter a new century without completing the unfinished business of this century. We have a collective responsibility to leave this century having spared no effort to establish the truth and to do justice.
Today, I call on all concerned -- on those here in London and others who care about these issues -- to accelerate the pace and complete this great task as we enter the new millennium. The work of the historical commission underway in so many countries should be completed. The funds which have been established should disburse a generous portion of their contributions to the Holocaust survivors. I call on all concerned to commit themselves publicly in the months ahead to achieving these difficult but attainable goals by the year 2000.
In making this commitment, we harbor no illusions about the complexity and enormity of the task before us. But the magnitude of the injustice to be addressed and the manifest urgency of the victims' needs demand our immediate attention and action. Let us go forward from London determined to meet our responsibilities to history, to the past, to the future, and, above all, to justice.