Liechtenstein prince comment irks Jews

Hans-Adam says his principality's bank secrecy policies helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

prince hans adam 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
prince hans adam 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Germany's Central Council of Jews accused Liechtenstein's Prince Hans-Adam II of making a "mockery" of the Holocaust by saying bank secrecy in his principality had helped save many Jews during the Second World War, Reuters reported. The prince ruling the tiny European country made the comments in an interview with the local Liechtensteiner Volksblatt, where he said Liechtenstein and Switzerland had "saved the lives of many people, especially Jews" thanks to their bank secrecy laws. He criticized Germany, which claims the banking policies of Liechtenstein and other countries encourages tax evasion, saying it "should think about its own past" before attacking his country. The top body of Germany's Jews sharply criticized the comments Monday, calling them a distortion of the historical record. "The comments make a mockery of the Holocaust and those that survived it," Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Council, told the Bild daily. "It is an attempt to use the Holocaust as a defense for the prince's political failures. Portraying Liechtenstein as a merciful helper of the Jews does not chime with the historical facts." Liechtenstein remained neutral during World War II. The prince's father became the first monarch to take up permanent residence in Liechtenstein when the Nazis annexed Austria, which had been their home, in 1938. Prince Hans-Adam, 64, said in the newspaper interview that during the Nazi era, Jewish families had been able to use money kept in secret bank accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland to buy their freedom. "In communist countries it was similar," he said. "Bank secrecy saved lives and continues to save lives today." It is not the first time the prince, who handed over day-to-day running of Liechtenstein to his son Prince Alois in 2004, but remains head of state, has drawn fire from Jewish groups. But Hans-Adam also infuriated Germany when, in 2008, during a diplomatic row with Berlin over the principality's bank secrecy laws, he dubbed Germany a "Fourth Reich."