Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War (ICE)

 

The most important information at a glance

Chronology of the ICE

 

On 19 December 2001 the mandate of the ICE ended and the Commission was dissolved. On 22 March 2002 the final report as well as the last seven studies and research contributions were presented to the public. The ICE's homepage will be maintained under the direction of the Bundeskanzlei.


Requests and suggestions may be addressed to:

FDFA
Directorate of Political Affairs
Historical Unit
3003 Berne
TÚl. 0041 (0)31 322 32 47
Fax. 0041 (0)31 324 90 61

e-mail: historischerdienst@eda.admin.ch

 

The most important information at a glance

Legal basis
The Commission was established in December 1996 by a unanimously approved resolution of the Swiss federal assembly (parliament). Its mandate is to investigate the volume and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before, during and immediately after the Second World War from a historical and legal point of view, and to present a final report by the end of the year 2001 at the latest.

Comprehensive mandate
The Commission's mandate covers the gold trading and foreign currency transactions conducted by the Swiss National Bank and by private commercial banks. The objects of the investigation are all assets moved to Switzerland including insurable values and cultural assets, both of the victims of the Nazi regime as well as of its perpetrators and collaborators. The relations of Swiss industrial and commercial companies with the National-Socialist economy – especially regarding their involvement in "aryanization measures" and the exploitation of forced labourers – are also examined. Another key topic is Swiss refuge policy in connection with Switzerland's economic and financial relations with the Axis powers and the Allies. The study also includes the post-war period including government measures for the return of unlawfully acquired assets (Washington Accord 1946, Resolution the reporting of dormant accounts 1962).

International composition
The Commission is an international body with a president, four Swiss and four non-Swiss members (Britain, Israel, Poland and USA), all of whom were appointed ad personam on account of their professional expertise.

Internationally oriented investigation
The investigation centres around Switzerland, but does not concentrate on the country as an isolated case. Instead it is understood to be part of an international system shaped during the Second World War by the wartime and looting economy as well as by the policy of extermination of the National-Socialist regime. In line with its international orientation the Commission has research teams working both in Switzerland and abroad. It develops the topics to be dealt with and its methodology in the context of international research discussions and maintains contacts with numerous research projects in Switzerland and other countries.

No affiliation with authorities and interest groups
The Commission does not number any representatives of Swiss authorities or interest groups among its members. As such it is an independent body. Its members carry out their research mandate in full academic autonomy. The Swiss government is committed to publishing the Commission's reports in their entirety.

Legal access privileges
Special legal provisions apply in Switzerland for the Commission's work. For instance, a general obligation to preserve documents and provide access to files and documents was imposed, which extends to all files of both individuals or legal entities deemed relevant to the Commission's research. Legal and contractual obligations to maintain secrecy were waived with regard to the Commission and its staff.

Human resources
The Commission employs around 30 research assistants in Switzerland. It also has research teams in the USA, Germany and Poland. The Commission's staff also inspect sources – over limited periods – in a number of other countries.

Financial resources
The Swiss parliament has allocated the Commission 22 million Swiss francs (approx. 15 million US$) for its research purposes and for compilation of its reports and final report.



Chronology of the ICE

A general chronology of important events on the issue of looted gold/dormant accounts can be found on the Internet page of the Swiss Federal Assembly.


13 December 1996
Federal Decree on the Historical and Legal Investigation into the Fate of Assets which Reached Switzerland as a Result of the National-Socialist Regime (Appointment of an Independent Commission of Experts). A sum of 5 million francs is granted for the investigation.

19 December 1996
Federal Council's Decree (Nomination of the members of the Commission and of the Chairman; more detailed description of the Commission's research mandate).

2 May 1997
The research team initiates its work in Bern und Zurich (research director: Jacques Picard; scientific adviser: Marc Perrenoud; coordinator of the research in private archives: Benedikt Hauser [until the end of 1999]). Additional teams take up their work in Germany and in the USA.

20 June 1997
Parliamentary information workshop on the «Eizenstat Report» (Papers presented by Jean-François Bergier and Daniel Thürer).

August 1997
A contact point is set up for eyewitnesses of the events of the time.

28/29 October 1997
International meeting of various historians and commissions of experts with similar research missions is held in Ascona.

1 December 1997
Presentation of a statistical review with commentary on the gold transactions conducted by Switzerland during the Second World War (in three languages).

2–4 December 1997
Participation of the ICE at the International Conference on Nazi Gold held in London.

18 December 1997
Parliament grants an additional 17 million franc credit, thus placing a total of 22 million francs at the disposal of the ICE.

25 May 1998
Presentation of the Interim Report «Switzerland and Gold Transactions in the Second World War» (in four languages).

June 1998
Creation of the ICE homepage (www.uek.ch).

30 November–3 December 1998
Participation at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets.

April 1999
Publication of the abbreviated version of the interim report on gold «Switzerland and Nazi Gold» (in five languages).

May 1999
Linus von Castelmur stays on as Secretary General of the Independent Commission of Experts and assumes additional responsibilities.

June 1999
Jacques Picard steps down as Research Director.

10 December 1999
Presentation of the report «Switzerland and Refugees in the Nazi Era» (in four languages), together with annexed reports on the transit of people through Switzerland, on the German ransom demands in occupied Holland, on refugees as the subject of press coverage, and on the legal aspects of refugee policy.

1 January 2000
Appointment of a troika responsible for the scientific project management (Stefan Karlen, Martin Meier, Gregor Spuhler).

April 2000
Joseph Voyame steps down as member of the Commission. He is replaced by Daniel Thürer.

16 October 2000
Commission member Sybil Milton passes away. She is replaced by Helen B. Junz in February 2001.

1 December 2000
Publication of a supplementary report (to the Refugee Report) on the Swiss policy towards «gypsies» during the Nazi era.

February 2001
Bettina Zeugin replaces Gregor Spuhler in the scientific project management troika.

1 March 2001
Appointment of an editorial team for the Final Report (Editing supervision: Mario König; Co-ordination: Bettina Zeugin).

20 March 2001
The contract of Linus von Castelmur as Secretary General is abrogated with immediate effect. Myrtha Welti is named as new Secretary General (beginning April 2001).

3 July 2001
The Federal Council decided that upon the conclusion of ICE's research, all copies of files from archives of corporations and associations must be returned upon the demand of the corporations and associations concerned. The ICE fights against this decision.

30 August 2001
Presentation of the first eight studies: Flight Assets/Looted Assets, Interhandel, Clearing, Transit, Electricity, Swiss Subsidiary Companies in the «Third Reich» (2 Studies), Swiss Refugee and Foreign Economic Policies as covered by the Press.

29 November 2001
Presentation of the next ten studies and research contributions: Camouflage/Transfer, Transit, Trade with Securities, Dormant Accounts, Refugee Policy (reedited with supplementary information), Research contributions on aspects of private and public law, the Swiss Land Bank (Bodenkreditanstalt), Swiss-Italian financial relations, Swiss policy regarding gypsies, and German ransom demands, (the last two being unchanged re-editions of the complementary studies which had already appeared as supplements to the Refugee Report).

7 December 2001
The Federal Council decides on a «Moratorium» with respect to the issue of returning documents from archives: The copies are to be placed in the Federal Archives in April 2002, and upon demand be returned to corporations and associations until 31 December 2003. Until the end of the 2003, a solution is also to be found on the issue on the disclosure of the ICE's research files.

19 December 2001
Exactly five years after its appointment, the Commission is officially received by the Federal Council and is dissolved. On this occasion, the ICE symbolically presents Federal Councillor Ruth Dreifuss with a copy of its Final Report.

31 December 2001
The five-year appointment of the ICE reaches its expiration date. A winding-up team remains in place until the end of March 2002 to follow up the publication of the Final Report in four languages and that of the remaining studies and contributions, as well as to ensure the organization of the transfer of working documents and files.

22 March 2002
Presentation of the Final Report in four languages, as well as of the remaining seven research studies and contributions: Swiss foreign economic policy, Armaments industry/trade in war material, Swiss insurance companies in the Third Reich, the Swiss financial center, Gold transactions (supplemented re-edition), Aryanization in Austria, and Franco-Swiss financial relations. Exposition on the topics of the Final Report to be held in the «Politforum Käfigturm» in Bern until 29 June 2002.