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Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland Second World War: Switzerland, National Socialism, and the Second World War. Final Report. Pendo Editions, Zurich, 2002, 597 pages, ISBN 3-85842-603-2, CHF 45.- / EUR 29.90.
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Summary [Summary ]
In December 1996, both chambers of the Swiss parliament unanimously approved a Federal Decree to appoint a commission of experts whose task was to conduct a historical and legal probe into the fate of assets which reached Switzerland as a result of the National Socialist regime. After a five-year period of investigative activity, the Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland Second World War (ICE) is pleased to present its Final Report to the public in German (original version), French, Italian, and English. The Final Report is divided into seven main chapters and comprises approximately 600 pages. It is published by the Federal Publications and Supplies Office (EDMZ) and commercialized by Pendo Editions Zurich. In addition, the Final Report will also be accessible beginning 22 March 2002 (from 12:00 pm) on internet (www.uek.ch).
On 19 December 2001, exactly five years after the Swiss government (Federal Council) had named the members of the Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland Second World War and entrusted them with a detailed description of their investigative tasks, the ICE chaired by Prof. Jean-François Bergier concluded its mission of historical research and, seizing the occasion of its official dissolution by the Federal Council, formally presented Federal Councillor Ms. Ruth Dreifuss with a copy of its concluding report. The production phase, which included the task of translating along with the organization of publishing and printing, lasted about three months, and the ICE is finally able to present its Final Report to the public in the original German as well as in French, Italian, and English versions. It was the common desire of both the ICE and the Federal Council that the Report be published simultaneously in all of these languages.
between the Studies and the Final Report
Included in the mandate conferred on the ICE was the task of drawing up a Final Report for the attention of the Federal Council. The individual chapters and sub-chapters of this Final Report were written by the members of the Commission, whereas certain parts of the rather lengthy chapter 4 with its twelve sub-chapters as well as chapter 5 were written by the authors of the studies upon the instruction and in cooperation with the Commission. The editing team of the German (original) version of the Final Report was composed of Mario König and Bettina Zeugin.
of the Final Report
Chapter 2 leads the reader into the history of the inter-war years and into the period of the Second World War. It conveys the national setting and the international context within which the rise of the National Socialist regime took place and the crimes of Nazism became possible. Without anticipating the results of the Commission's investigations, it relies on the state of historical research to portray the radical political, economic, and social upheaval of the 1930s and 1940s taken from an international perspective but with a primary accent on how they affected Switzerland.
Chapter 3 deals with the Swiss policy on refugees. In this chapter, the ICE also picks up on the criticism which was particularly directed at the statistics on the acceptance and rejection of civilian refugees further to the December 1999 publication of the interim report "Switzerland and Refugees in the Nazi Era". In addition, the ICE takes a closer look at the criticism that was publicly expressed with respect to the conduct of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland.
Chapter 4 takes up the topic of the foreign trade connections of Swiss companies and/or their subsidiaries together with the asset transactions that took place especially in the economic area under Nazi hegemony. Here the Commission reverts in part to the results of studies that it has already published. This "Economic Chapter" comprising a total of twelve sub-chapters deals with the topics of foreign trade, the armaments industry and the export of war materials, electricity exports, Alpine transit and transport services, gold transactions, the banking system and financial services, Swiss insurance companies in Germany, industrial companies and their subsidiaries in Germany, the use of prisoners of war and forced labor, «Aryanization», the flight and the looting of cultural assets, and lastly German camouflage and covert asset-relocation operations in Switzerland.
Chapter 5 examines the issues under discussion from a legal point of view. In the sub-chapter on public law for instance, the legal aspects of Swiss war-time government by executive authority, refugee policy, diplomatic protection of Swiss Jews residing abroad, neutrality policy, as well as the question of looted gold are examined and assessed. The sub-chapter on international private law spotlights the dealings in looted cultural assets and trade in foreign securities, as well as the issue of «dormant assets».
Chapter 6 conducts a general survey of issues of property rights in the post-war period and thus delves into core issues the Commission was charged to investigate. This chapter brings together the findings spread out in the numerous individual studies and places them into a larger context. The major points of reference are the 1946 Decree on Looted Assets and the so-called Registration Decree of 1962. In addition, the chapter analyzes the conduct of the major Swiss players (the economy, the government, and the judiciary) with respect to restitution claims after 1945.
In chapter 7, the ICE sifts through all of its newly acquired realizations and insights in order to assess the behavior of the Swiss decision-makers in the areas of politics, the economy, and the judiciary with respect to those who were victims of Nazi injustice. A critical questioning of the historiography of the cold war period together with the historical portrayal painted at the time represent the point of departure for the Commission's historical and legal analysis. The Commission provides its assessment on refugee policy, assets which arrived in Switzerland and their «dormancy» after 1945, neutrality law and neutrality policy, the challenge posed by the Nazi system of injustice to the Swiss constitutional state, as well as the question of how much was known about the Holocaust and on the issue of political responsibility. The ICE also confronts the thesis that Switzerland allegedly prolonged the war.
and Sale in Switzerland and Abroad
Commission of Experts Switzerland Second World War: Switzerland,
National Socialism, and the Second World War. Final Report. Pendo Editions,
Zurich, 2002, 597 pages, ISBN 3-85842-603-2, CHF 45.- / EUR 29.90.