The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it has received a list of 12,000 Nazis who were living in Argentina, many of whom contributed to bank accounts in what is now Credit Suisse.
The center, which combats anti-Semitism and racism, is now seeking access to the bank’s archives to determine if any of the funds held in the accounts were looted from Jewish victims during the Holocaust, it said in a statement on Monday.
Argentine investigator Pedro Filipuzzi provided Shimon Samuels and Ariel Gelblung — respectively the Center’s director for International Relations and director for Latin America — with the list of Nazis that was compiled in the 1930s and 1940s.
According to the Center, many of those who are on the list contributed to at least one bank account at the Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, which later became the Credit Suisse bank, based in Zurich, Switzerland.
Filipuzzi discovered the list of 12,00 names in an old storage room and shared them with the Wiesenthal Center.
“We hold a copy of the list of Nazis based in Argentina, among whom several account holders of funds that were sent to the then Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, now Credit Suisse,” the statement said.
The center said it sent a letter to Credit Suisse Vice-President, Christian Küng raising the possibility that funds held in the Nazi accounts were looted from Jewish people during the Holocaust.
“We believe very probable that these dormant accounts hold monies looted from Jewish victims, under the Nuremberg Aryanization laws of the 1930s,” the Center wrote. “We are aware that you already have claimants as alleged heirs of Nazis in the list.”
The Center requested access to the bank’s archives “to settle this matter on behalf of the diminishing number of Holocaust survivors” and noted that in 1997 the bank had asked to co-sponsor a major conference in Geneva titled “Restitution: A Moral Debt to History.”
A request at the time to access the accounts was met with no response, the Center told Küng.
“The current story and the remaining assets, arguably looted, of 12,000 Nazis will, we hope, be viewed differently, for the good name of Credit Suisse,” it urged.
In a response to a request from AFP, Credit Suisse said that “between 1997 and 1999, an independent commission of experts, chaired by Paul A. Volcker, investigated Credit Suisse and sixty other Swiss banks with the aim of identifying accounts that may or may have belonged to victims of Nazi persecution.”
Unique in its kind, this investigation, which had been the fruit of long and in-depth work by a large number of specialists, had “made it possible to draw up a table as complete and exhaustive as possible of the Swiss accounts of the victims,” Credit Suisse said.
“We will, however, look into this matter again,” said the bank.
During the 1930s the Argentine regime under President José Félix Uriburu, as well as his successor Agustín Pedro Justo, “welcomed a growing Nazi presence in Argentina,” the Simon Wiesenthal statement said on Monday.
However, in 1938 anti-Nazi President Roberto Ortiz took over and established the Special Commission to Research Anti-Argentine Activities — “principally to de-Nazify Argentina.”
At the time, the official figure of NSDAP/AO (the German National Socialist Party/Foreign Organization) members in Argentina was 1,400, with 12,000 supporting members in the the German Union of Syndicates, and another 8,000 in other Nazi organizations.
Among them were IG Farben, the German company that supplied the Zyklon-B gas used in death camps, and financial bodies such as two banks that were apparently used to transfer Nazi funds to Switzerland, the statement said.
The special commission laid its hands on the full list of names and during 1941-1943 Argentina’s lower chamber of Congress complied a report of Nazi bank transfers from Argentina to Switzerland, the statement said.
By 1943, the pro-Nazi United Officers’ Group had taken over in Buenos Aires, and quickly disbanded the commission, destroying its reports and findings, including the list of Nazis and their activities.
However, Filipuzzi discovered an original copy of 12,000 names in an old storage room at the former Buenos Aires Nazi headquarters.
Dozens of Nazi leaders responsible for the Holocaust, including Doctor Josef Mengele and SS Adolf Eichmann, responsible for bringing Jews to the death camps, took refuge in Argentina after the war, mostly under false identities to deceive the investigators.