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History Notes Issue 11 [September 1996]

Nazi Gold: Information from the British Archives

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Nazi Gold: Information from the British Archives 路

Historilms, LRD


History Notes are produced by the Historians in Library and Records Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Oflice.

Already published: 1. Korea: Britain and the Korean War 1950·51:june 1990 Second edition (revised) January 1995 ISBN o 903359 53 7

The FCO: Policy, People and Places, 1782-1995: April 1991 Fourth edition (revised) February 1995 ISBN o 903359 54 5 2.

3· Locarno 1925: The Treaty, the Spirit and the Suite: October 1991

ISBN o 903359 48 o

4· FCO Records: Policy, Practice and Posterity, 1782-1993: August 1992 Second edition (revised) November 1993 ISBN o 903359 50 2 5· FCO Library: Print, Paper and Publications, 1782-1993: March 1993 ISBN o 903359 49 9 6. Wo111en in Diplo111acy: The FCO, 1782-1994: May 1994 ISBN 0 903359 5 I 0

7· 'My Purdah Lady'. The Foreign Omce and the Secret Vote, 1782· 1909: September 1994 ISBN o 903359 52 9

8. FCO Library & Records, 1782-1995: June 1995 ISBN o 903359 55 3 g. IRD. Origins and Establishment of the Foreign O&ice Information Research Department, 1946-48: August 1995 ISBN o 903359 6o X

The Katya Massacre: an SOE Perspective: February 1996 ISBN o 903359 64 2 10.

For further information contact FCO Historians, Library and Records Department, Clive House, Petty France, London SWr 9HD, Tel. 0171-270 4215

Nazi Gold: InforDlation from the British Archives

Historians, LRD

ISBN 0 903359 69 3


Since the publication in September 1996 of the First Edition of this History Note, the British, US and Swiss governments have all engaged in further activity to investigate the question of Nazi gold. The FCO released a short note in September 1996 on the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold, an organisation established by the British, French and US Governments after the Second World War to restore monetary gold looted during the War from occupied countries by the Nazis. This is reproduced as Annex A to the present edition. We are considering, in consultation with the French and US governments, requests from Jewish organisations that the residual gold in the Commission's monetary gold pool be use4 to compensate individual victims of Nazism. We are concerned to ensure that the outcome of these discussions should fulfil not only our legal obligations in connection with the Commission gold, but also our moral obligations: the question of compensation for survivors of the Holocaust is an important one, which it is right for us to review regularly. We are currently conducting further research into FCO archives to try to establish the origins of the monetary and non-monetary gold recovered by the Allies after the War, and what was done with it. The question has been raised whether non-monetary gold, and in particular gold taken from Holocaust victims, might have found its way into the Tripartite Gold Commission's monetary gold pool. From the documents we have so far found, it appears that those involved in the post-War division of gold found in Germany made every effort to keep monetary and non-monetary gold separate, and to allocate only monetary gold to the Commission's pool. But our research is not yet complete. We plan to publish the results of this research in the next month or so. In the US, the President has established an inter-agency Presidential Taskforce on Nazi gold. The taskforce is conducting a review of government archives on the subject, and its initial report is expected in midFebruary. The Swiss Parliament passed in December 1996 a law establishing an international Committee of Experts to investigate all Swiss financial transactions with the Third Reich. The law authorises the Committee to work for up to 5 years; Foreign Minister Cotti has however expressed the hope that the Committee's research may be completed sooner. There will be interim reports.

This investigation may shed light on different areas, among them the question of whether assets belonging to victims of the Holocaust, or other victims of Nazi oppression, may still be held in Swiss banks or other institutions (the Volcker panel is already at work on this issue); and the question of gold transferred between Germany and Switzerland during the Second World War. On this second question, it is necessary to draw attention to an error in the frrst edition of this Note, corrected in the present edition. In discussing the question of gold transferred from Germany to Switzerland (and other neutral countries), the Note made clear that neither the British government nor their Allies had been able to establish how much gold was involved in these transfers, and that several, widely differing, estimates had been made. The Note reported an official of the Swiss National Bank, Mr Hirs, as having 'let slip' a figure of five hundred million US dollars, as the amount of German gold still held in Swiss banks in March 1946. A number of commentators have questioned this figure: we have therefore reviewed the Note and the original sources, and confirm that the figure should have been five hundred million Swiss francs. The FCO regret that this error should have been made - it was simply an error of transcription - and I am glad to be able to set the record straight now. The Swiss Government declared in January their intention to take immediate action if the Committee of Experts discovers substantial new facts and, if any funds are discovered still in dormant bank accounts, to take up discussions with the banks regarding the creation of a fund in favour of Holocaust victims and their descendants. Ian Soutar Library & Records Department January 1997


Page Introduction


Looted gold in Germany


Allied attempts to control the export of German assets


The end of hostilities


Gold found in Germany


Nazi gold held outside Germany


The Tripartite Gold Commission




Guide to Sources


Annex A: Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold


Nazi Gold: iufonnation froDl the British archives ~morrg its 7TUl1!Y qutzlities, gold has tk prop~ rff being easi!J changed in appearance. As what people care about is not tk outwards appearance but the intrinsic va.lta, gold rff a19 sort will always foul a ready TTIIlrket.' (H.A. Siepmann, Bank rff

England, 14 May 1947) Introduction By the time Britain declared war in September 1939, Nazi Germany had already acquired a considerable amount of gold from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Danzig: the Ministiy of Economic Warfare (MEW) and Bank of England estimated in 1945 that approximately $97m of gold had reached the 1 Reichsbank in this way. It was an important addition to the German gold resetve (declared by the Reichsbank in 1939 to be unchanged from the 1937 figure of $7lm, but considered by the Bank of England to be nearer $111m), and was sorely needed to fuel the German war economy: by 1939 Germany had defaulted on her loans, exhausted her credit and antagonised the international Jewish community. Nearly all her trade was on a barter basis. Despite the acceleration in production and stockpiling of essential raw materials which took place during the Four-Year plan, Germany's economic base was still too weak to sustain a protracted conflict 2 Throughout the war Germany acquired gold as she occupied tenitory. In addition to gold from the Occupied countries' national resetves, gold, silver and valuables of all kinds were amassed through the systematic dispossession of private businesses and individuals, and in particular of the Jewish community in Germany and elsewhere. The total value of gold looted since 1939 was estimated by :MEW and the Bank in April 1945 at $545-550m, figures which were primarily based on information regarding governmentowned, rather than private gold, and were therefore necessarily an underestimate. These figures included approximately $223m of Belgian gold (taken from France to whom it had been transferred for safekeeping), S193m from Holland and $19-24m from Hungary. 1 The gold acquired by Germany, whether by direct military conquest, the

eliciting of forced 'contributions' or by plunder, was used primarily to aid the prosecution of the war. Large sums were needed to fund the military campaign in the East and to administer the Occupied tenitories: between 1940 and 1944, for example, $62.8m was delivered to Roumania for these pwposes. Over $150m, however, was sold, either in direct payment for 1


Correspondence between MEW, Treasury and Bank of England officials, T 2361931. W.N. Medlicott, TM Economic Blockade, vol. i (revised edn, 1978), pp. 25-36.


imports or to buy foreign currency. In the latter case, this led to th accumulation of German gold in accounts in overseas banks, including those in the neutral countries such as Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switz rland. In addition, large stocks of gold were undoubtedly accumulated in th Reichsbank, hidden in Germany and placed in overseas bank accounts, but apart from details obtained from captured Reichsbank records or from private information at the end of the war, there was, and is, no way of discovering from documentation in the British archives how much gold th r was, where it was kept and in whose names. Britain clearly had a close interest in monitoring Germany,s gold acquisitions and their disposal. The effectiveness of the economic blockad depended on restricting Germany's power to purchase vital raw mat rials for the production of armaments, and of war supplies of all kinds. In addition to the imposition of a naval blockade to restrict Germany's supplies from overseas, pressure was put on neutral countries to minimise their trade with Germany. In this Switzerland was in a special position, landlocked, and since the fall of France at Germany's mercy: a careful balance had to b e maintained between the desire to restrict Swiss exports to Germany and Britain's own need for specialised imports and for Swiss francs; too tight a squeeze on Swiss-German trade might result in German occupation of Switzerland, or in pushing Switzerland further into the Axis camp, both to th detriment of Britain's own war effort. Throughout the war, the British Government, through the medium of th Ministry of Economic Warfare (supplied with information from HM Tr asury the Foreign Office and the Bank of England), kept a close eye on G erman gold movements, particularly where the trail led to neutral countries. Th y were able to build up a detailed, though not complete, picture of Germa n gold dealings which can be reconstructed from the archives of th departments and institutions concerned.

Looted gold in Gennany Details of how loot could be converted into more orthodox financial as ts were uncovered at the end of the war through examination of G erman banking records and the interrogation of former Reichsbank officials. Th Chief of the Precious Metals Department, Albert Thoms, explained that while booty seized by the Wehrmacht went straight to the Reichshauptkasse, or Treasury, loot seized by the &hutvtaffeln (SS) was handled exclusively through the Reichsbank, where it was received into a holding account in the name of 'Melmer,, and its value transferred after assessment to an account in th name of 'Max Heiliger'. 'Gold and silver bars and currency were bought by the Bank at its full value. Of the precious metals for re-smelting, some, usually small items like gold rings, went to the mint and were smelted. Larger it ms for re-smelting went mostly to the Reich pawnshop; the biggest shar of th s


items was probably smelted by Degussa [Deutsche Gold-und-Silher Scheideanstalt] which paid a higher price for precious metals for re-smelting than did the Mint . . . Some of the better jewelry was sold abroad instead of being melted. ' 3 In a separate interrogation, Dr. Puhl of the Reichsbank confirmed that it was Reichsbank practice to remelt all the ingots it received, in order to 4 avoid deception. This also made it impossible to identify the original owner. Not all gold was resmelted and marked with the Reichsbank stamp. Some was diverted into overseas accounts without passing through the Reichsbank, and some hoarded outside Berlin. On the whole, however, information received by l.\1EW indicated that when Germany sought to sell gold to neutral countries in return for foreign currency, she exported resmelted gold-often with a pre-war date stamp-to conceal its origins from the receiving bank. '11m meant that a bank in a neutral country could claim to have received no 'tainted' gold, as all the ingots were clearly marked as coming from Germany's own pre-war reserve. As l\1EW and the Bank of England were aware, however, by March 1943 Germany had already sold more gold than she had possessed in 1939, including the gold acquired from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Danzig. Any further purchases must necessarily have been made with looted gold. Much information about Germany's wartime gold dealings was obtained in the immediate aftermath of the war by the Occupying authorities and their invesitgatory bodies. The Allied powers, however, in particular Britain and America, received reports about German gold movements throughout the war. MEW operated an information-gathering network based on British diplomatic representation, intelligence sources, contraband control machinery established in the Mediterranean, Dominions, Colonies and India, and on a consular network set up to monitor the economic blockade. Further information was supplied by the Bank of England and HM Treasury, and from the United States, particularly after the latter's entry into the war in 1941 when the US Board c:1 Economic Warfare, US Treasury and State Department all cooperated closely with the British, primarily through the War Trade section of the British Embassy in Washington. In both countries a multiplicity of departments and agencies tended to produce a rather confused picture at times; in Britain, however, MEW had been designated as the official coordinator of economic warfare information.5

An example of information received on Portuguese gold holdings serves to show how detailed a picture could be built up. In 1942 and 1943, on the basis 3

Memo. by Special Finance Detachment. US Group, Control Commission for Germany, 8 May 1945, FO 1046133. An account of tbe •Melmer' system is also given in William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), p. 1267. •Interrogation report. 6 June 1945, FO 1046124. 'See W.N. Medlicott. The Economic Blocktule, op. cit.


of information gleaned from intercepted cables, movements of Swiss and Portuguese bank returns, and occasional confidential reports from HM Representatives in Portugal, l\ffiW and the Bank of England put together an account of the uses of three Bank of Portugal accounts with the Swiss National Bank. One, carrying gold earmarked for account of the Bank of Portugal by the Swiss National Bank against escudos in Lisbon, was thought to represent Switzerland's own purchases of escudos. A second account, 'believed to be part of a tortuous procedure for marketing German gold', involved the sale of German gold to Swiss banks, who bought escudos from Portugese commercial banks and transferred them to a Reichsbank account in Lisbon; the Portuguese bank then surrendered its Swiss francs against escudos to the Bank of Portugal, which used the Swiss francs to buy gold from the Swiss National Bank and feed it into the Bank of Portugal's account. A third account represented gold earmarked by the Swiss National Bank for the account of the Bank of Portugal at the direct request of the Reichsbank. Similarly detailed information reached l\ffiW relating to German gold sales to Sweden and Spain. h the war, and German military success pr:ogressed, the British Government felt less inclined to take an emollient approach to the neutrals who were aiding and abetting the enemy. The United States Government took a similar view. In 1942 discussions began on whether there was any way of curbing German trade with the neutrals. Allied atteD1pts to control the export of German assets Aware that Germany was disposing of looted property of all kinds in neutral countries, the British Government instigated discussions with her allies on whether some kind of warning should be issued to the neutrals. Following a period of consultation the Inter-Allud Declaration against Actr of Dispossession Committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation or Control was issued on 5 January 1943 by Britain and 16 other governments of the United Nations. Stating their determination to 'combat and defeat the plundering by the enemy Powers of the territories which have been overrun or brought under enemy control', the signatories reserved their rights 'to declare invalid any transfers or, or dealings with, property, rights and interests or any description whatsoever which are, or have been, situated in the territories which hav come under the occupation or control, direct or indirect, of the Governments with which they are at war'. 6 The decision to issue this declaration was a political one: the Treasury and Bank of England expressed doubts that it would achieve the desired effect, or achieve anything. The basic problem which was to beset Allied relations with the neutrals throughout the war and after had now to be faced: there was in 6

The Declaration was published as Cmd. 6418 of 1943. See also Foreign RelDtions of the United States

(hereafter FRUS), 1943, vol. I, pp. 439ff.


practice very little the Allies could do to enforce the Declaration without damaging their own economic situation, and prejudicing future relations with the countries concerned. Mr. G.L.F. Bolton of the Bank thought the Declaration might make the enemy 'take every possible legal step to hide or cloak the effects of their policy of looting Europe', as well as causing friction with the neutral countries if they were to refuse to cooperate. Writing to Mr. H. Gregory, Head of the FO Trading with the Enemy Department, on 9 March 1943, Mr. Bolton recited a formidable list of difficulties in the way of preventing the Axis from benefitting from looted property, and concluded: 'If the further disposal of loot in neutral countries cannot ~ effectively prevented, appalling complications will arise after the war as the position will have been aggravated with the passage of time. ' 7 Technically, the Declaration covered gold. :rv.t:EW felt, however, that some further measure was needed if there were to ~ any hope of stemming the flow of German .gold to the neutrals. Writing to Sir David Waley at the Treasury on 14 April, Mr. G. Gibbs of MEW wrote: 'We believe that it is not an exaggeration to say that Germany is in difficulties over her exchange position with most of the adjacent neutral countries and that, therefore, very shortly she will be forced to attempt to make greater use of her gold stocks than she has done hitherto.. . . There seems little doubt that Germany has sold since the war an amount equal to the whole of these stocks, and we have no reason to believe that she has added to her gold stocks by lawful means. Therefore, all the gold on which she can now lay hand may be said to be looted and we suggest that the attention of neutrals should be drawn to this fact, and they should be warned that if they accept gold from Germany they are laying themselves open to claims under the terms of the Inter-Allied Declaration ofjanuary 5th.' Sir D. Waley disagreed: 'We could not make this threat effective, since there ~ no practical means of extorting from the neutrals after the war the gold which they have received from Germany, and it would not be possible for us to refuse to accept this gold after the war on the ground that it ~ stolen property since gold can be melted down and made unrecognisable. In short, I agree with your view that such a warning could not be 100째/o effective in the sense that I am sure that it would be 100째/o ineffective. ' 8 Not only the Treasury were unenthusiastic about the idea of a further warning to the neutrals on gold. The State Department, approached by the British Embassy in june, were unwilling to join in any approach at the time, although the US Treasury thought it might be worth trying. In August the Bank of England issued a notice that no interest, dividends or capital repayments would be received by or credited to persons resident in Swe~en or Switzerland until collecting banks had received 'solemn and detailed 7


Bank of England documents. Gibbs-Waley com:spondence, FO 115/3982.


declarations from selected banking institutions in those two countries to the effect that the securities concerned are free from enemy taint'. 9 By the end of 1943, however, the US Government had not only come round to the idea of a declaration on gold but had made proposals far more sweeping than those suggested a few months' earlier by the British: their draft declaration stated that the US would not recognise the transference of tide to looted gold which the Axis disposed of on world markets, nor buy any gold from other countries unless they were satisfied it did not originate from the Axis countries. The Treasury were very doubtful about the far-reaching implications of such a declaration, because of the difficulty of identifying gold that had been looted: 'it is submitted that any action which commits the United States or the United Kingdom to a continuing policy of discriminating a~nst unidentifiable gold after the war may involve many embarrassments'. On balance, however, Treasury and Bank of England officials agreed that 'on the general ground of Anglo-American relations we had better associate ourselves with the American declaration'. HMG's Statement regarding the acquisition of gold was issued on 22 February 1944, declaring that the Treasury would not buy any gold from countries which had not broken with the Axis unless and until they were 'fullX satisfied' that it had not come directly or indirectly from the Axis powers. 1 The Gold Declaration marked the opening of a period in which the Allies and in particular the United States, took a harder line towards the neutrals, especially Switzerland, with regard to their gold dealings with Nazi Germany. Despite the Declaration of 5 January 1943, information received by British and American economic warfare bodies suggested that Switzerland continued to receive consignments of gold during 1943 from Germany, both for banking in Switzerland and en route to third countries. The US estimate of German gold reserves in 1939 had also been revised downwards, making the amount of looted gold sent outside Germany more apparent In addition, the tide of war seemed now to be turning fumly in favour of the Allies. Thus M Gautier of the Swiss Embassy in London, seeking reassurance from Mr. Cobbold of the Bank of England as to the implications of the Gold Declaration for Switzerland, found little: 'I said that I was unable to give him any comfort and told him frankly that I thought one of the objects of the measure was to make difficulties for people who bought gold from Germany at first or second hand. I thought he could rely on having the maximum amount of trouble after the war over any such gold.' 12


U 4147/3715nO, FO 371 35463.


Telegram CAMER 17 from the Treasury to HM Embassy, Washington, 5 January 1945, T 236/911.


Copy of statement in T 2361911 ; also printed in The Timts.


Minute of 1 March 1944, Bank of England.


Nevertheless, when the US Government proposed to reinforce the Gold Declaration by asking the Swiss Government to agree to a formula for not accepting any gold from Axis territories, to be applied retrospectively to any gold already in Switzerland, MEW and Treasury officials were doubtful. As Mr. Rowe-Dutton minuted to his Treasury colleague Mr. Playfair: 'I pointed out that if the Swiss were to take the line that they must give the same treatment to all belligerents, we should be in a complete mess, since we cannot get Swiss francs otherwise than by tendering gold, save in quite small amounts.' Mr. Hawker (Bank of England) agreed: 'there would be great practical difficulties in the way of attaching particular holdings of enemy gold by claims from the original owners. In the first place it would seldom, if ever, be possible for e.g. a refugee Allied Government to say that particular bars or coin tendered by the Germans to the Swiss at a given time were its own property or the property of its nationals. In the second, where private holdings are concerned, the original owners are no doubts for the most part still in enemy tenitory. TIUrdly, it ~ the easiest thing in the world to destroy the identity of gold.' 13 The Allied Governments' determination to try and control the traffic in gold was reinforced by the Final Act of the United Nations Monetary and financial Conference held at Bretton Woods, July 1-22 1944. 14 Article VI of the Fmal Act, noting that 'in anticipation of their impending defeat, enemy leaders, enemy Nationals and their collaborators are transfening assets to and through neutral countries in order to conceal them and to perpetuate their influence, power and ability to plan future aggrandizement and world domination', recommended that all countries represented at the conference take action calling upon neutrals to take immediate measures to prevent the transfer of enemy assets, including looted gold, to their territories. As a result of Bretton Woods the 'Safehaven' programme was launched with the aim of depriving the enemy of his assets abroad, whether honesdy acquired or illgotten. A Safehaven department was set up in MEW, which made use of the same type of infonnation already being gathered but provided a synthesis in the form of monthly Safehaven reports, and a more formal pooling of information with the US Safehaven authorities.

In August 1944, the British Government agreed to join the Americans in asking the Swiss for an undertaking that they would not 'acquire any interest in or receive for deposit gold in which any person in occupied territories or Gennany and associated countries has an interest' and to prohibit the receipt or acquisition of such gold by anyone within Swiss jurisdiction, including the Swiss National Bank. 15 The British drew the line, however, at seeking similar 13

Minutes and letters, 4 May-28 July, T 23611602.


Published as Cmd. 6546 of 1944.


Letter from US Embassy, London, to Lord Drogheda. MEW, 15 August, and instructions to HM

Minister in Berne, T 2361121.


undertakings from the other neutral powers: 'The war is rapidly drawing to an end: it seems to us much better to hold over the neutrals' head a vigorous threat of future action based on the fact that they must realise that any gold they now take may well be looted, rather than to tie them to precise undertakings which bind us in our turn, and may therefore prove inconvenient later on.' 16 What the 'vigorous threat of future action' might be was not specified at the time, but the question of what practical measures were open to the Allies to prevail upon the neutral countries to cease trading in German gold became more pressing as the war moved into its final stages, and it became possible to envisage a time when restitution would demand the discovery of German external assets. The FO's Trading with the Enemy Department produced a memorandum on 22 September 1944 designed to get the ball rolling on the question of compensating German Jews 'Who had suffered property losses from Nazi persecution or legal discrimination. The problems seemed formidable: it was impossible to 'put the clock back'; individual claims might be pursued through the courts, or there might be a collective claim. In any case, 'compensation will probably be the rule and restitution th exception' .17 Meanwhile, the Swiss had not replied to the Anglo-American approach made in August; and discussions continued through the autumn of 1944 on what further warnings could be issued to neutral countries, and what sanctions might be applied if these warnings were ignored. The British view, on the whole, was that formal undertakings should not be sought, as 'a demand for an undertaking is neiotiations, because we then have to think what to do if the country refuses' .1 However, they agreed to present a note to Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey drawing their attention to the Bretton Woods resolution. The United Nations countries were also urged to take action if they had not already done so to implement the Gold Declaration ofFebruary 1944. 19 Although the Swiss Government had not replied to the notes of August 1944, they now seemed ready to take the sort of measures for which the Allies were pressing. On 28 December 1944 they anounced that all Hungarian, Slovak and Croatian assets in Switzerland had been blocked by a decree of 20 December, and on 7 February 1945 British and American delegations travelled to Berne for negotiations on an agreement over immediate economic wa.tfare objectives, including discussions on Swiss exports to Germany, supplies for Switzerland and the Safehaven programme, for which the Allies needed a census of Axis assets in Switzerland. While not unwilling to cooperate, the Swiss Government were anxious to secure in 16

Letter from Mr. Playfairto Sir D. Waley, 21 August 1944, T 236/121.


Memo. in CCG(BE) Finance Division files, FO 1046/136.


Minute by Mr. Playfair, 9 October, T 236/121.


Instructions to HM Representatives in UN countries, January 1945, T 236/121.


return help in acquiring raw materials and food, in the form of import quotas from the Allies and assistance with transit facilities across France. German assets were blocked in Switzerland by order of the Swiss Federal Council on 16 February 1945, and on 8 March an agreement was signed with the Allied Governments, under which the Swiss Government undertook to take measures to ensure that the territory of the Swiss Confederation should not be used as a cache for looted assets, to conduct a census of German assets in Switzerland and to purchase no more gold from Germany except the quantity needed for diplomatic expenses. Meanwhile, the Swiss Government also conducted negotiations on economic matters with the German Government, which ended without a renewal of the Trade and Payments agreement although commercial relations were maintained de facto for 20 . c1eanng pwposes.

The end of hostilities As far as Nazi gold was concerned 1945 was dominated by two issues: how to find, identify and gain control of the gold, whether in Germany or in other countries; and what to do with it Of all the reparations and restitution issues discussed before and during the post-war settlement, gold proved one of the most intractable. Attempts to reach even a definition of looted gold defeated the reparations delegations in Moscow and Paris, and Allied Governments differed as to whether all gold, identifiable or not, should be divided up and regarded as reparation to be allocated according to the shares agreed at the Potsdam Conference, or whether an attempt should be made to give back gold for which an owner could be clearly identified The story of these negotiations is long and complex, and can be followed in detail in published diplomatic documents and from the open archive. The important documents with regard to German external assets, including gold, were the declarations issued on 5 June 1945, by the Four Powers in occupation of Germany, by which the Occupying powers assumed supreme authority in Germany; and the Report or Communique of the Potsdam Conference of 2 August 1945, which stated that the Allied Control Council for Germany would take such measures as were appropriate to exercise control over German assets abroad, and exercise the right of disposal of such 21 assets where these were not already in the hand of the United Nations. Both these documents conferred rights on the Allied Governments which were not easy to exercise in practice.

Details of Decree and Agreement in T 23611602. DocuJMftts on British Policy Overs~. Series I, Volume I; FRUS 1945, TM Conf~renc~ of Btrlin (Potsdtun), vols. i md ii. On the DecJarabon of 5 June see F.S.V. Donnison, Civil Affairs and Military Gove1'nlfUnt North-Wtst Europ~ 1944-1946 (HMSO, 1961), pp. 264-6. The Potsdam Protocol is printed in DBPO. loc. cit., No. 603. 20 21


Gold found in Gennany Of all the gold discovered by the Occupying forces in Germany, the hidden store of gold and foreign exchange discovered in a salt min at Merkers was the most spectacular and substantial. 22 However, MEW estimated that it probably represented only about 20°/o of all gold held in Germany, and the American forces in particular went on to discover a number of gold hoards in their Zone. They, and the British forces, were helped in their search by the Reichsbank records also recovered at Merkers, and by information derived from the interrogation of Prisoners of War. The records of the Banking and Finance Divisions of the Control Commission for Germany contain many reports of such interrogations, and of expeditions to discover Nazi gold held both in banks throughout Germany, and in hidden hoards. One such informant led to the discovery of a gold hoard amassed by von Ribbentrop, and guarded by German Foreign Office officials. 23 The Occupying forces and their investigatory teams followed up all leads, but were well aware that they were unlikely to uncover all gold hidden in Nazi Germany. What they found, however, was gathered together, mostly at Frankfurt, and unless clearly identifiable was later used for the gold pool to be distributed by the Tripartite Gold Commission established in 1946.

Nazi gold held outside Germany Gold held in other countries was dealt with as part of Germany's external assets. In July 1945 neutral governments were informed that 'the four Allied Powers claim tide to or control over Axis-owned or controlled companies', but this declaration was not well-received. As MEW and the Treasury were well aware, the Allies' legal position in seekin~ to gain control of German assets outside Germany was 'exceedingly weak'. 4 Both the Swedish and Swiss Governments were quick to reply that such a demand conflicted both with their own legislation and with their status as neutrals. An approach suggested by the US Representative on Safehaven negotiations, Mr. Rubin, seemed more promising: he proposed to invite the neutral countries to cooperate on moral grounds in the discovery of German assets and hand them over to the Allies, on the grounds that the neutral governments had profited from the sacrifices made by the United Nations during the war, and because 'as one .of the necessary prerequisites to neutral participation in the reconstitued family of nations in the post-war period, some affirmative action should be taken by 22

Details of the find are given in MEW's weekly report of 19 April 1945, FO 1046/33, and in a letter

from the Bank of England to Mr. Playfair, 26 April, giving the grand total of gold found as ÂŁ54m (T 236/931). 23 Infonnation on von Ribbentrop's hoard of gold and other treasures can be found in FO 1046127. 33, 267 and 537. 24 DBPO, Series I, Vol. I, No. 124, Vol. V, No. 33.ii.


the neutral nations to contribute to the rehabilitation of areas damaged by the war'. 25 Discussions on a possible approach to the neutrals on the above lines were entangled with the wider question of passing a law in the Control Council for Germany on the Vesting and Marshalling of German assets, and no agreement was reached by the Allies on the terms of such an approach until December 1945. Meanwhile, at the preparatory confer.ence on Reparations the Allied governments had with diffirulty reached agreement on the question of the restitution of gold The British view had been that identifiable gold should be given back to its owners, while the rest should form part of the reparations settlement. However, Sir D. Waley was forced to compromise and accept the US and French view that because of the problems in identifying gold, all gold found in Germany should be divided between the countries which had the right to restitution, in proportions corresponding to their losses. 26 The preparatory conference's recommendation was taken foiWal"d to the Reparations Conference held in Paris, November-December 1945. Part III of the Fmal Act, dated 21 December, dealt with the Restitution of Monetary Gold and directed that all monetary gold found in Germany by the Allied Forces, including coins (except those of numismatic or historical value which should be restored direcdy if identifiable) was to be pooled for distribution as restitution. There was also a separate resolution on Gold Transferred to the Neutral Countries stating that the countries which had remained neutral in the war against Nazi Germany should be 'prevailed upon to make available for distribution in accordance with Part ill of the foregoin~ Agreement all looted gold transferred into their territories from Germany.' 2 The Resolution offered no guide to the Allies as to how to 'prevail' upon the neutral countries to make available German gold held within their tenitories. The Fmal Act had authorised the British, French and US Governments to act on behalf of the other signatories in the matter of German external assets, and they now took the lead in negotiations with the neutral countries on gold It now seemed clear that there would need to be separate negotiations with the neutral countries on this issue, and _it was agreed that the first set of negotiations would be held in Washington With the s~ Government, who professed themselves keen to get round the table 15

Meetings in Economic Warfare Dept, FO. on 15 and 16 August 1945. FO 1042/210. FO 1046174. See

also DBPO. Series I. Vol. V. No. 33.i. 26 Minutes of 3rd meeting of preparatory conferences, 31 October 1945. T 2361932; see also draft recommcodalion of 29 November. T 2361988, and letter from Miss Jennings (Treasury) to Mr. Bnndt (MEW), FO 837/1274; cf. FRUS 1945, vol. iii. pp. 1366-7. Documents relating to Vesting Di Marshalling legislation are printed in DBPO, Series I, Vol. V. passim. 27 Fmal Act of the Paris Reparations Conference. published as Cmd. 6721 of 1946.


with the Allies on this question: they did not wish to conceal German assets in Switzerland, but they 'could not recognize validity of the suppressing order or agree that German assets in Switzerland whether belonging to Nazis or antiNazis should indiscriminately be liquidated and transferred to the Allies. ' 28 Discussions held between the three Allies leading up to the negotiations continued to reveal some difference of view. The Americans wished to employ the threat of sanctions if neutral countries would not cooperate in handing over German assets, but this idea was rejected by the British Government, which felt sanctions would be unenforceable in peacetime: 'Neutral governments are morally and economically in a much stronger position to resist sanctions than they were during the course of hostilities. At the same time the Allies can no longer impose the same moral and economic pressure.' 29 The Swiss were formally invited on 11 February 1946 to send a delegation to Washington in March to negotiate an agreement on the liquidation of German assets. While maintaining its juridical reservations about Allied rights to dispose of German assets in Switzerland, the Swiss Government accepted the invitation. It was clear that without such an agreement the release of Swiss assets blocked in Germany and the United States, and the removal of Swiss concerns from the Black List of prohibited traders, would not be considered by the Allies. Negotiations began in Washington on 18 March. Although there were a number of issues on which the Swiss and Allied Governments disagreed~uch as the Swiss proposal to offset German assets in Switzerland against Swiss assets in German~old was in fact the chief point of contention and the one which threatened the prospect of an agreement on German assets in general. The Swiss delegation, which included M. Hirs of the Swiss National Bank, rejected the Allied estimates of German gold reserves at the beginning of the war and the consequent implications for looted gold supposedly in Switzerland. The Swiss National Bank declared itself innocent of taking in any tainted gold, and stated that the question of restoring any gold which may have been looted could only be decided by the Swiss Federal Council. A technical committee was established to deal only with the question of gold, and it was in this forum that questions of detail were addressed. The French delegate, M. Vaidie, produced documents exchanged between the Reichsbank and the Bank of France, concerning the Belgian gold and its transfer from France to Dakar and thence to Berlin, which stated that the Reichsbank had resmelted the Belgian gold, changed the numbers on the ingots, and shipped most of it to Switzerland. Other information, based on reports compiled during the war by British and American economic warfare authorities and detailing gold 28

Berne telegram No. 761 Arfar, 6 December 1945, FO 10461210; Letter from M. Ruegger. Swi s Embassy, to Sir A. Cadogan, 18 December, Z 90/90/43, FO 371/60479. 29 Memo. by British Embassy, Washington, 22 January 1946, FO 115/4285.


dealings between Nazi Germany and Switzerland, were also produced. In addition, the interrogation report on Dr. Puhl of the Reichsbank, who had dealt with the Swiss National Bank, stated clearly that in his view Swiss bank officials had been aware that the gold in question was looted. Although the evidence produced by the Allies supplied part of the picture

of Swiss gold dealings with Nazi Germany (and similar evidence was later produced in negotiations with other neutral countries), there was much they did not know. They had no clear idea of the total amount of gold originating in Germany but held in Swiss banks (the US estimate was approximately $200m, but M Hirs let slip during a meeting of the gold committee the figure of 500m Swiss francs). They did not know exacdy how much had moved on to other destinations. They had suspicions, but no comprehensive proof, and the determined Swiss rebuttal of the charge of knowingly receiving looted gold could not, in the end be coWltered conclusively. Nevertheless, the revelation of the extent of Allied awareness of wartime transactions appeared to have the effect of unblocking the negotiations. An Agreement concerning the liquidation of German property in Switzerland was finally signed on 25 May 1946. 30 Under the terms of the Agreement, the Swiss Government undertook to place at the disposal f1 the three Allied governments the amount of 250m Swiss francs, payable on demand in gold in New 路York. In accepting this amount, the Allied governments waived all further claims against the Swiss Government and Swiss National Bank in connection with gold acquired during the war with Gennany.31 This swn, far less than the S 130m asked for by the Allied negotiators, was presented by the Swiss delegation as its final offer. The Swiss maintained consistently that Switzerland could not be held liable to restore the entire amount f1looted gold transferred from Germany to Switzerland, some of which was transferred to third countries. In the course of the negotiations they admitted that they had bought S88m c:i gold traceable originally to Belgium, and about S415m in total c:i German gold from 1939-45, but they did not concede that they should restore this amount to the Allies. The Allied negotiators considered that the Swiss offer on gold, though much less than they felt was due, might be the best they could get, together with the proposal to split the proceeds of other German assets in Switzerland 50-50 with the Allies. The American delegation felt the Swiss offer should be accepted, and that the prospect of an agreement 'which would secure wholehearted support by the Swiss of the Allied economic security objective', should 30

A detailed account of the negotiations is given in FRUS 1946, vol. iv, pp. 202-220. British records of the mc:etings can be found inFO 371160479, FO 115/4285, T 2361933 and in Bank of England documents. 31 The Agreement was published as Cmd. 6884 of 1946. See also documents in FO 371/60479 and FO 115/4285.


not be jeopardised for the sake of 'a few more dollars', and that if it became necessary to apply sanctions against Switzerland this would mean continuing wartime restrictions at a time when 'antagonism was increasing everywhere against such controls'.32 The British and French delegations supported this view, feeling they had struck the best deal possible in a difficult negotiation, and that 250m Swiss francs was a lot better than nothing. As a brief by Mr. Abbott of HM Treasury made clear in response to a complaint to the lARA by the Czechoslovaks that the Swiss were let off lighdy, 'no arguments of Allied rights could move the unalterable attitude of the Swiss that there was no legal basis which they would admit as conveying an Allied right to German assets in Switzerland . . . In the case of Switzerland, the claims against Germany were very large and, on balance, the Allied negotiators had every reason to be satisfied that the best terms possible were made.' 33 Negotiations on the implementation of the Washington Agreement with regard to the liquidation of German assets were protracted, due to difficulties over the rate of exchange to be adopted, the setding of inter-custodial disputes and compensation claims by expropriated German owners. Further agreements on German property in Switzerland were signed between Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany on 26 August 1952, and between Switzerland and France, the UK and US on 28 August 1952 providing for the payment of 121.5m Swiss francs into the International Refugees Organisation. Within Switzerland, there were Federal decrees passed in 1962 and 197 5 regarding assets in Switzerland belonging to foreigners or stateless persons who were, or were presumed to have been victims of racial, religious or political persecution and concerning whom there had been no news since the end of the war. The 250m Swiss francs to be paid out of German gold in Switzerland, however, were paid into the Federal Reserve Bank in New York in 194 7 and formed the basis for the gold pool to be administered by the Tripartite Gold Commission.

The Tripartite Gold Conunission The Commission was established to implement Part ill of the Final Act of the Paris Reparations, and was formally constituted in September 1946. 34 The Commission was not itself involved in assembling the gold pool which was to be distributed to countries in proportion to their losses during the war, except in the limited sense of arrangements for physical transfer. Apart from 32

FRUS, ibid., pp. 216-17.


Brief of September 1946 and letter to Mr. Villiers (EWD, FO) of 15 October, FO 837/1268.


The Articles of the Commission were published in the London Gaune on 27 September 1946. See

also an account of the TGC' s early activities given by the UK Commissioner, Sir Desmond Morton, on 19 July 1947, T 236/988.


the initial Swiss deposit, the bulk of the gold for the gold pool originated in the Foreign Exchange Depository in Frankfurt into which had been gathe~ed the gold found by the Occupying forces in Germany and Austria. The gold was transferred from Frankfurt for deposit in the Bank of England and Federal Reserve Bank, New York in the names of the three members of the Commission, preparatory to distribution. In June 1947 the Commission issued a questionnaire to all members of the Inter Allied Reparations Agency (lARA), Poland and Italy, calling for a statement of wrongful removal of monetary gold and also for a statement of movements, covering losses and receipts, during the wartime period. The questionnaire also contained the definition of 'monetary gold' agreed for use by the Commission: 'All gold which, at the time of its looting or wrongful removal, was canied as a part of the claimant country's monetary reserve, either in the accounts of the claimant Government itself or in the accounts of the claimant country's central bank or other monetary authority at home or abroad.' Tim definition was intentionally narrow, and aimed at excluding any private claims for restitution, partly because in some countries it had been illegal for private individuals to hold gold, but also because 'an examination of the problem shewed generally that on the one hand the total values of the possible "private claims" proveable by documentary evidence, would be small in comparison with governmental claims for the restitution of looted national gold reserves, and on the other hand, that the total number of 'private claims" likely to be presented to the Commission, if allowed at all, might run into many thousands. 1lUs would render it impossible in practice for the Commission to do the essential work required.' A prelimi~ 3 examination of the returns received by the Commission confirmed this view. The TGC has been in operation since the war, making periodic distributions to eligible countries under the terms of the Paris agreement from gold held in the joint names of the Commission members, and is only now drawing to the end of its work. Details of its work have been given periodically to Parliament36 •

Postscript The story of Nazi gold did not, of course, end in 1946. Arrangements for its discovery, collation and distribution continued into the post-war years, and speculation as to how much remains undiscovered continues. In regard to restitution, however, all disbursement of gold by the Allies has been made in accordance with the agreement reached at Paris in 1945, on the basis of restitution to those countries which had lost gold dwing the war. Special 35

Memo. by Sir Desmond Morton, 10 July 1947, notes by Mr. Raven, 15 July, T 2361988. See. for, example, Mr. Rifkind's reply of 17 May 1984 giving the amounts of gold cwrently held in the two banks as $24m (in New Yolk) and $60.7m (Bank of England) respectively. 36


arrangements for aid to non-repatriable refugees were made through international refugee organisations. Other individuals, however, having a claim for property of any kind taken from them during the war wer expected to make their claim for reparation or restitution either through their own government, or to a particular foreign government, institution or person if their claim was sufficiendy specific and could be corroborated conclusively. In their discussion on reparation and restitution in 1945 and 1946, the Allies agreed from the start on the impossibility of making individual restitution or meeting individual claims unless for very specific items whos origin was uncontestable. Far more gold was lost during the war than was available for restitution: the Bank of England estimated in August 1945 that 'a maximum distribution of 58째/o against gold claims is indicated'. 35 1bis meant, inevitably, that no country would receive back all the gold it claimed to have lost, and that individual claims would be extremely difficult to prosecute. However, the documents show that the Allies did their best to gather in the maximum amount of Nazi gold, in Germany or abroad, and to make it available to restitution to meet, at least in part, as many claims as they could.


Letter to Treasury, 21 August 1945, T 236/933.



Published Sources The documents published in the official publications Documents on British Policy Overseas (DBPO) and Foreign Relations of the United States (FR US) provide an introduction to the subject. In particular they document the principles underlying the Allied approach to the occupation of Germany, the treatment of Gennan assets and the policies adopted towards the various neutral countries.

Documents on British Policy Overseas (DBPO) Series I, Volume I The Conference at Potsdam 1945 (HMSO, 1984) DBPO, Series I, Volume II Conferences and Conversations 1945: London, Washington, and Moscow (HMSO, 1985) DBPO, Series I, Volume V Gennany and Western Europe, 11 August-31 December 1945 (HMSO, 1990). Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) 1942, Volume I General: The British Commonwealth, The Far East (Washington, USGPO; 1960) FRUS, 1943 Volume I General (Washington, USGPO, 1963) FR US, 1944 Volume II General: Economic and Social Matters (Washington, USGPO, 1967) FRUS, 1945 Volumes I and IT The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) (Washington, USGPO, 1960) FRUS, 1946 Volume V The British Commonwealth: Western and Central Europe (Washington, USGPO, 1969). Inventory 1945-1955 of the files of the Control Commission for Germany (British Element) (KG Saur, Munich, London, 11 Volumes, 1993). W. N. Medlico~ The Economic Blockade, Volumes I and II (HMSO, revised edn. 1978).

Original Sources Relevant British official records may be found in the files of the Foreign Office, the Treasury and the Control Commission for Germany (British Element) deposited at the Public Record Office, Kew. General Foreign Office political correspondence is filed in FO 371. Also useful are the files of the Washington Embassy (FO 115) and the Berne Legation (FO 192). The files of the Ministry of Economic Warfare are in a


Foreign Office class, FO 837, which also includes the papers of the po t ar Economic Warfare department which was part of the Foreign Office. The files of the Control Commission for Germany (British Element ar contained in a large number of classes listed in the published guide cited above. This guide is also an index to these files, which contain a mas of detailed information on, for instance, losses by individual German citiz n during the war and postwar claims for compensation and restitution. General Treasury correspondence is filed in T236.

The following files have been used in the preparation of thi memorandum and are listed here as an aid to further research.

1942 FO 115/3847

War: Allied Policy

FO 371132221 Allied Administrative Mfairs File No. 108 FO 371132222

Allied Administrative Affairs File No. 108

FO 371132225 Allied Administrative Affairs File No. 108

1943 FO 115/4143


FO 115/3936

War Trade Staff. Post War Interests

PO 115/3988

General Reports on Financial Conditions in Europe

FO 115/3991

Finance: Portugal Policy

PO 115/4148

Trading with the Enemy: Intercepted Messages

T 236/911

Declaration by allies on looted gold

PO 371136368 Allied Administrative Affairs FO 371/36369 Allied Administrative Affairs PO 371136370 Allied Administrative Mfairs 18

FO 371/36371 Allied Administrative Affairs FO 371/36372 Allied Administrative Affairs

1944 FO 115/4149

Trading with the Enemy: Intercepted Messages

FO 115/4150

Trading with the Enemy: Intercepted Messages

FO 115/4151

Sofindus Intercepts

FO 115/4153

Eastern Province Administration

FO 371/40579 Allied Declaration on Looted Gold T 2361121

Looted Gold Acquisition by neutrals

T 236/931

Claims against Germany for return of looted Gold German holding of Gold (Merkers Treasure)

T 236/1602

Switzerland looted Gold: Acquisition by neutrals

1945 FO 1046/33

Gold and Valuables found in Germany

FO 1046n4

German External Assets

FO 1046/118

D.O Correspondence

FO 1046/136

Organisation set up to deal with property confiscated from the Jews

FO 1046/147

Restitution Policy and Minutes of Allied Property Council

FO 1046/267

German Gold Hoards in General.

FO 1046/275

External Assets

FO 1046n63

External Loot

FO 1046n64

Loot. Internal Loot. 19

T 236/932

Claims against Germany for return of looted Gold German holding of Gold (Merkers Trea ure)

T 236/933

Claims against Germany for return of looted Gold German holding of Gold (Merkers Treasure

T 236/934

Claims against Germany for return of looted Gold German holding of Gold (Merkers Treasure

1946 FO 371160479 Switzerland FO 837/1265-9 SAFEHAVEN FO 837/1275

Reparations. Restitution of Monetary Gold

FO 192/197

Joint Commission Minutes

FO 192/198

Disposal of German Assets (Allied-Swiss Negotiation

FO 192/199

Implementation of Washington Agreement (part In

FO 1036/381

Release and Delivery of Foreign Securities in Germany . General Policy

FO 10461168

Finance Directorate Sub-Committee. General Principle of Relief for Victims of Nazism. Papers and General Correspondence

FO 1046/181

Victims of Nazi Persecution

T 236/986

Definition of Monetary Gold to Implement Part ill of the Paris Act Gold Questionnaire issued by Tripartite Commis ion on monetary Gold

T 236/987

Defmition of Monetary Gold to Implement Part ill of the Paris Act Gold Questionnaire issued by Tripartite Commission on monetary Gold

T 236/988

Definition of Monetary Gold to Implement Part ill of the Paris Act


Gold Questionnaire issued by Tripartite Commission on monetary Gold

T 236/2353

Swiss SAFEHAVEN Agreements

1947 FO 1921200

Implementation of Washington Accord (Part ill)

FO 1921201

Implementation of Washington Accord

FO 1921202

Minutes of J.C Meetings (part 2)

FO 1921203

SAFEHAVEN in Switzerland

FO 1921204

Swiss-Allied Accord of 25 May 1946. Progress Reports

FO 1921205

Swiss Compensation Office

FO 1046/537

Bullion (Part ll)

FO 1046/557

Minimum Reserves

T 23611019

Movement of monetary Gold from Germany by the Tripartite Commission for the restitution of monetary gold

FO 837/1279

Reparations and Restitution of Monetary Gold

FO 837/1280

Reparations and Restitution of Monetary Gold

FO 837/1281

Working papers from monetary gold conference

1948 FO 1921206


FO 1921209

Swiss - Allied Accord of 25 May 1946

FO 1921210

Lists of Assets/Liabilities in Switzerland and Lichtenstein of persons resident in the British zone of Germany

FO 1921211


FO 1036/382

Release and Delivery of Foreign Securities in Germany. General Policy. 21

FO 1036/383

Release and Delivery of Foreign Securiti General Policy



FO 1046/563

Bullion (Part III)

T 236/584


T 236/2785

Movement of monetary Gold from Germany by th Tripartite Commission for the restitution of mon tary Gold

1949 FO 192/212

Compensation claim for war damage by Switz rland

FO 192/214

Conference: Protection of War Victim

FO 192/215

Conference: Protection of War victims

FO 1046/718

Monetary Gold

T 236/2543

Inter-governmental talks between USA, UK and ranc on the restitution of monetary Gold looted by th Germans from occupied territory

1950 FO 1046/151

Joint Allied Reparations Agency (JARA

FO 192/217

British Interests

FO 192/223

German Assets

1951 FO 1036/385

Release and Delivery of Foreign Securitie in G nnany. General Policy.

FO 1036/386

Release and Delivery of Foreign Securiti General Policy

FO 1046/24

Reichsbank Organisation

FO 10461135

Correspondence relating to UN Property


in Germany.

FO 1046/196

D.A.F Insurance Companies- Policy

FO 1046/210

German Foreign Assets

FO 1030/245

Resitution of Looted Monetary Gold

PO 1030/246

Former Reichsbank Gold.

FO 1046/274

External Assets

PO 1046/434

Banking Matters - Miscellaneous (Part I)

FO 1046/582

Safeguarding Foreign Interests in Germany

PO 1046/599

Restitution of Property Formerly belonging to Allied Nationals, subject to discriminatory measures

FO 9421112


FO 942/113




TRIPARTITE COMMISSION FOR THE RESTITUTION OF MONETARY GOLD The Establishment of the CoiDDlission The Commission had its origins in the Paris Conference on Reparation of 1945 attended by the Representatives of the Governments of Albania, Australia, Belgium Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the UK, the USA and Yugoslavia. An Agreement on Reparation was signed on 14 January 1946. Austria, Italy and Poland later also subsequently adhered to the arrangement for the restitution of monetary gold set out in Part ill of the Agreement, entitled "Restitution of Monetary Gold". 1bis provided that monetary gold looted by Germany and recovered by the Allied Forces, and monetary gold recovered from third countries, should be pooled and distributed to claimant countries in proportion to their losses. The British, French and US Governments became the instrument for verifying claims and distributing the gold, and on 27 September 1946 established the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold, to which the three governments each appointed a Commissioner. For the sake of convenience, the Commission was established in Brussels, co-located with the Inter-Allied Reparation Agency (lARA). The first Commissioners were also the three governments' Commissioners to the lARA, though the commission was constitutionally separate from and independent of the Agency. The status of the Commission as a recognised international organisation was acknowledged in a Belgian law of 1 August 1952 retroacti e to 27 September 1946.

The Gold Pool By the middle of 1948 a considerable quantity of looted monetary gold had been taken into custody by the Allied authorities or identified as having been deposited in third countries. By July of that year, a total of about 306,343 kg of gold in bars and coins had been deposited with the Federal Reserve Bank of ew York or the Bank of England or was held at the Foreign Exchange Depository in Frankfurt by the Military Government. The grand total available to the gold pool rose further, to about 336,890 kg by December 1974 (worth about US 4.18 bn at current prices). .

CJaitns On 13 March 1947, the Commission issued a questionnaire to potential claimant countries seeking infonnation which would allow it to make awards from the gold pool on a proportionate basis. Claims were duly submitted by Albania, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the


Netherlands, Poland and Yugoslavia. They t tall d total of claims validated in due cours aft r d tail Tripartite Commission amounted to about 51 nevertheless considerably more than the total am unt the Western Allies for the gold pool.

The Adjudications With the help of seconded banking and finan ·al •vn........ examined the claims, put queries to certain claim t """"""'\.1.•"'"• further evidence from them. As the amount o 1 r,.r,.,,/0>,/IJ•I't the end of the Second World War fell far sh n th various governments, it was decid d that ach I ·m ppr..,~ ........"' by the end of the process of restitution, r c iv claim. The drafting of adjudication of claim b n in adjudications had been signed by the Commissi n governments; the eleventh, for Czechoslovakia received two adjudications: for pre-war Poland and

The Preliminary Distribution of Gold It became clear by the middle of 1947 that th r distribute some of the gold to meet the riti governments; it was therefore decided by th thr the Commission that a preliminary distribution of 1 h ul the totality of claims could be considered and djud.i t th rough calculations were mad by the Commission likely to be attributed in due cours to ea h laim between October 1947 and November 1950 total gold (worth about US$ 3.31 bn at current pri ) w Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Luxembourg, th Yugoslavia. The distribution of the share allocat d t AI because of a counter-claim by Italy to mo t of th ld u th preliminary distribution was made to Gr c Greek claim was very small. Poland did not parti ·p t · distribution because it was a late adherent to th claim was not properly formulated until 1950.

The Second and Q.uasi·&nal Distribution of Gold Following the finalisation of the Commission' djudi,. . . ., ..,.,rl1.,. quasi-final distribution of gold took place. B twe n 1 58 about 58,0 16 kg (worth about US$ 720.5 m at curr nt pri to Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Lux m Netherlands, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The distribution of gold to Albania was d lay d among them the existence of claims against Alb ·


go emments all of which were resolved by late 1995/early 1996. Arrangements for the distribution to Albania are now being made.

The Winding up of the CoDUD.ission Once bania has recei ed its preliminary and quasi-final shares, the Commission will be able to carry out the final share-out of the remaining gold 路 (approximate! 5 500 kg, worth approximately US$ 74.5 mat current prices). When the preliminary and quasi-final shares were distributed, allocations were rounded down to the nearest 50 kg of gold The claimant countries will therefore recei e as their final share of the pool, the differences between their individual allocations and the actual amounts they have received ~ far; plus their share of the residual gold pool The Commission ~ also addressing the question of final shares to the Czech Republic and Slovakia and to the successor states of the former Yugoslavia; this should not delay the final distribution to the other claimant countries. Once the final distribution ~ complete the Commission will be wound up.

The Accountability of the CoDUDission The three Commissioners are instructed by, and report to, their respective governments who are in tum accountable to their Parliaments. (The Paris Agreement of 1946 does not impose any fonnal requirement on the three go emments to report back to the signatories of the Paris Agreement or to the claimant Governments.) The proceedings of the Commission have from the outset been confidential to the member governments because of the sensitivity of the adjudication of competing claims and of international movements of monetary gold. Information about the Commission has, however been provided from time to time as a result of Parliamentary Questions, 1 in a Parliamentary debate inJuly 1987 and in the FCO archives, as detailed in the FCO History Note No. 11, "Nazi Gold: Information from the British Archives". The Commission -will provide a Fmal Report to the three member governments when its work is complete.

The Gold held on behalf of the Commission in the Bauk of England 1bis currendy amounts to about 5, 100 kg. It is stored by the Bank of England for a nominal charge, which the Commission pays from its sterling account with the Bank. Neither the Bank of England nor HM:G receive any benefit from the gold The value of the gold has fluctuated over the years as the price of gold has changed. It is currendy about 拢40.5 m (US$ 63 m). Foreign and Commonwealth Office, September 1996 1

HQIUQrd 17 May 1984 Columns 232-233,24 April1985 Columns 1118-1120, 25 April 1985 Column 507, 12 March 1986 Column SIS, 3 November 1986 Column 307, 26 January 1987 Columns 42-43, 10

Apil 1987 Column 431 , 19 March 1990 Column 451, 12 March 1991 Columns 433 and 434, 12 March 1992 Column 624.


Nazi Gold: Information from the British Archives  

A two-part investigation into the question of Nazi gold: how it was originally looted, accumulated and hidden as well as the subsequent atte...