Last chance for justice for Holocaust victims from Monaco

Outrage over principality’s refusal to open archives for restitution, research

Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm during a news conference at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 15, 2009. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm during a news conference at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 15, 2009.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, the human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Monaco to open its archives to aid researchers in their efforts to provide compensation and closure for Holocaust victims and their families.
This is “probably the last chance for most Holocaust survivors to tell their stories or seek restitution,” wrote Shimon Samuels, the director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a letter to Serge Telle, state minister of the Principality of Monaco.
“If we, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were to receive the entry into the Monaco archives by this 75th anniversary, this would help to provide a sorely belated closure for the families of victims. A Monaco denial, however, would be construed as a betrayal of its moral debt to history,” wrote Samuels.
Samuels told The Jerusalem Post, “In 1997, in the aftermath of our conference, I asked all European states for transparency, with the blessing of Stuart Eizenstat, US deputy secretary of the Treasury and special representative of the president and secretary of state on Holocaust-era issues.”
He noted in his letter that “at least 92 Jews of the principality were arrested and deported” during the Holocaust and “between 1999 and 2019, the CIVS [Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation] reviewed 5 claims for ‘spoliation’ linked to both France and Monaco, but has not had access to the Monaco archives.”
The CIVS is a European state restitution agency.
“Our own research in open archives in the United States, Israel and Europe point to questions regarding the 1940 to 1945 period in Monaco,” wrote Samuels. “Among these archival traces, there is also the intriguing denial by Adolf Eichmann, during his 1961 trial, of any contact with Monaco officials, despite evidence to the contrary found in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.”
The Wiesenthal Center’s researched revealed that: “The seizure of money, watches, jewelry, diamonds and other valuables of the Monaco Jews who were arrested and deported, of which only some 32 are listed in the ‘Drancy receipts,’ the transit camp from where SNCF trains took them to Auschwitz (source: the Paris Shoah Memorial archives).”
The Jews of Monaco were deported via the French city of Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes archives register at least 12 sales in Nice of Jewish assets between January 1942 and December 1944, according to Samuel’s letter. Monaco is a sovereign city-state located on the French Riviera, with a population of nearly 39,000.
In connection with financial institutions, Wiesenthal said, “Similarly, Jewish accounts were presumably blocked in the banks operating in Monaco. As an example, German Occupation records in the French National Archives refer to two Jewish refugee families who deposited shares with Credit Mobilier de Monaco. Three named Monte Carlo Jewish residents had bank accounts blocked in Switzerland according to a Swiss Bank list.”
Numerous press query emails to Monaco state authorities were not returned to the Post at this point in time.
According to the Wiesenthal letter, “We discovered the looting of 2 libraries containing 3,000 volumes, of which 140 were restituted in 1950 and the seizure of 24 cases full of books by the Germans in 1940 - reportedly claimed by the director of Radio Monte Carlo - of which 57 books were restituted in 1947. A German postwar restitution agency reveals claims for spoliated art objects, including in the name of Prince Albert of Monaco. The US register points to at least 3 collectors (1 deported), residing in Monte Carlo, but spoliated in Paris.”