Washington Watch: Doing good business with evil

Swiss money was critical for Nazi war machine - as it is today for Iran.

swiss Iran deal 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
swiss Iran deal 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Some nations have learned the difference between good and evil, but 60 years after a lucrative stint as Adolf Hitler's favorite banker, Switzerland is still clueless. That was made clear once again when Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey went to Teheran to raise her country's profile at the signing of a $28-billion energy deal between a Swiss firm and the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Co. She initially said her trip was to press the Iranians to clean up their human rights record and stop threatening to eradicate Israel, but it turned out she was actually going at the invitation of the regime, and there's no way the ayatollahs were inviting her to lecture them on their behavior. Switzerland is once again blind to evil, and anxious to do business with the regime which wants to finish the work of its World War II ally, Nazi Germany. Calmy-Rey even offered to help promote Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial campaign. A week after the Iranian president held his infamous Teheran conference last December, she proposed to Iran's deputy foreign minister that "a seminar about different perceptions or the Holocaust could be organized in one of the Geneva centers," according to Swiss government documents. At the UN Human Rights Council, Switzerland sided recently with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Cuba and other dictatorships in protecting Hamas from being mentioned in a resolution condemning the Israeli response to rocket attacks from Gaza. Castigating Israel, explained the Swiss ambassador, far outweighed other considerations. The Swiss gas deal "will surely encourage Iran on its march toward nuclear weapons," ADL National Director Abe Foxman declared in a JTA op-ed article. "If Switzerland were committed to ending the Iranian nuclear threat, it would join with other responsible countries to reinforce the isolation of the ayatollahs' regime." The Israeli government called Calmy-Rey's trip "an unfriendly act" that bolsters a regime that "supports terrorism, tramples human rights... while displaying anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel." The U.S. State Department said investment "in any sector" of the Iranian economy undermines UN sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its nuclear development program. The department is reportedly investigating the deal for possible violations of the Iran Sanctions Act by Swiss companies, including banks; that could restrict their ability to do business in the United States and with American companies. Calmy-Rey rejected all criticism, insisting Switzerland would pursue its "strategic interests," of which this deal is a part. It's still profit uber alles in Switzerland. Without Switzerland's help, Hitler's war machine would have ground to a halt and the war in Europe would have ended before D-Day, saving millions of lives of Jews and other innocent civilians as well as GI's and other allied soldiers. But the war was good for Swiss business. Very good. I HAVE read some of the reports of Allied intelligence officials debriefing Nazi officials; one high Reich's Bank officer told how amazed - and pleased - he was by how anxious the Swiss bankers were to cooperate and how creative they could be in money laundering and providing the hard currency - Swiss francs - Hitler needed to keep the Wehrmacht going and to pay for the tungsten, chromium, steel, U-boat fuel and other vital strategic materials being provided by other so-called neutrals. The Swiss even trucked gold across Europe under their own flag so Hitler could pay his bills. It wasn't just the Swiss bankers. Swiss industry replaced production of bombed-out German factories, provided precision instruments, hydroelectricity, U-boat engines, weapons and ammunition as well as fencing for stolen loot. And after the war when some of the survivors, particularly Jews, sought the return of their property, they were accused of "blackmail and extortion" by the Swiss president, and his ambassador in Washington advised waging "war" on the Jews and their supporters. When - after a shamefully long delay of half a century - the Congress and the Clinton administration began looking into the role of the Swiss bankers during the 1990s, the Swiss sent a special ambassador to Washington to handle damage control. He told me there was no Jewish money in Swiss banks because all the rich Jews who had money took it and fled Europe, leaving behind the poor Jews who didn't have enough money to open Swiss accounts. What's more, he insisted, "We were neutral." Switzerland insists it didn't take sides, but its actions told a different story and its leadership clearly sympathized with Germany. It was not until April 1945, on the eve of the Nazi surrender, that Switzerland finally cut off all trade with Germany, according to former Secretary of State Dean Acheson. "Today the Swiss appear to be taking the same approach in the current global war against the radical Islamist threat, spearheaded by Iran, which menaces Israel's existence and the security of the West," wrote ADL's Foxman. To drive home the message ADL took out ads in leading international newspapers telling the Swiss government, "When you finance a terrorist state, you finance terrorism." Once again, a Swiss government is putting profit ahead of principle - and Jews could ultimately pay the price.