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Chase funded nazis { July 11 2000 }

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Report: Chase Funneled Funds To Nazis
NEW YORK, July 11, 2000

Chase Manhattan, the big U.S. bank, helped funnel German assets back to the Nazis from France after the United States went to war against Germany, according to 1945 U.S. Treasury documents provided by the World Jewish Congress Tuesday.

WJC executive director Elan Steinberg said he provided the declassified documents, which also said the bank offered to block both American and Jewish bank accounts, after talks with Chase Manhattan Corp aimed at opening its wartime archives proved fruitless.

The Treasury documents said that the bank's Paris branch kept accounts for the German embassy during the occupation.

In addition, the bank's Chateauneuf branch, near the Riviera in unoccupied France, transferred German assets back to Germany and German-held areas.

"In numerous instances, assets were transferred in 1942 from the Chateauneuf branch to Germany and to German-occupied areas," one document said.

It also said that "solicitation of German banks and other German-controlled organizations to transfer their accounts to enemy-controlled areas took place after United States entry into the war."

"We're at war with Germany, and trying to prevent any assets that can be used by Germany from getting back to Germany," Steinberg commented. "And a U.S. bank is aiding the enemy in getting these assets back to Germany."

The documents also said that Chase Manhattan recommended blocking American accounts at the Chateauneuf branch a month after Japan devastated Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

After the Nazis swept through northern France in 1940, the bank's headquarters told its French branches to liquidate.

Instead, the head of the Paris branch, an American, was replaced by Carlos Niedermann, described by the Treasury as a Swiss national who "had indicated his willingness to adjust himself to the situation arising from the German victory in France and his belief in German domination of a future world."

The Treasury said Germany wanted close ties with the bank because it hoped Chase Manhattan would be in an important position in post-war international banking.

The department charged that until late 1942, the bank's home office kept in contact with the Paris office and was informed of major developments through the Chateauneuf branch.

"There is evidence that the Home Office in New York was fully informed of these activities, at least until late 1942, but took no steps to discourage them, at the same time withholding pertinent information from United States Governmental authorities," one of the documents said.

The Jewish organization broke off the talks because the bank wanted the WJC to side with it in court against Holocaust survivors who have sued the bank for freezing bank accounts, he told Reuters.

"We have ended our discussions with them becaus their demands would have sabotaged any effort at an independent and transparent investigation of their role during the war, and they also demanded they we support them in court against plaintiffs," he said.

Asked for comment, a Chase Manhattan spokesman referred calls to other bank officials, who were not immediately available.

When charges surfaced two years ago that the banking giant had frozen the assets of Jewish customers before being ordered to do so, Chase Manhattan's chairman said in a statement that if the alleged actions actually occurred, "they would be completely antithetical to the values we hold dear."

Corporations and banks active in Germany—and areas occupied by the Third Reich—before World War II have come under increasing scrutiny by groups hoping to recoup damages for victims of the holocaust.

Swiss Banks negotiated a $1.25 billion settlement with descendants of Jews whose accounts at the bank were looted. Dutch banks have proposed a similar, $132 million fund.

Art dealers and museums possessing works stolen by the Nazis have been pressured to return them to families or compensate descendents.

And several major corporations and the German government will contribute to a fund for victims of slave labor in Hitler's regime.

Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All Rights Reserved.


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