Partners in plunder, looting the Jews of Europe

Cementing their relationship with the Nazis, the Swiss blocked desperate Jews from refuge and profited from their misery. For VE Day.Op-ed.

Prof. Robert S. Kellner ,

Friedrich Kellner and WWII Diary
Friedrich Kellner and WWII Diary
: INN:RK

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe on May 8, we need to reflect on one of the lingering matters yet to be resolved: that of Switzerland, a nation that cloaked itself in "neutrality" while selling weapons and other products throughout the war to the rampant Third Reich. Cementing their relationship with the genocidal Nazis, the Swiss blocked desperate Jews from refuge and profited greatly from their misery.

So the recent list of names discovered in Argentina of Nazis who filled Swiss bank accounts with money stolen from Jews should come as no surprise. Argentina was notorious for providing refuge to defeated Nazis, and Switzerland's war-time economy thrived on looted treasure despite its declared neutrality.

"First the Jew is plundered according to Nazi regulations," wrote the German justice inspector Friedrich Kellner, "and then he can go to a gang of robbers. Not even gypsies are proceeded against in such a
"First the Jew is plundered according to Nazi regulations," wrote the German justice inspector Friedrich Kellner, "and then he can go to a gang of robbers.
way." Kellner, a courthouse administrator in a small town in central Germany, kept a diary to record Nazi crimes and the German people's overwhelming approval of Adolf Hitler's totalitarian agenda. Writing during the entire war—part of the time under surveillance by the Gestapo, who considered Kellner "a bad influence"—the justice inspector pasted hundreds of newspaper clippings among his diary entries, including some about the arbitrary "requisition" of Jewish property.

The public notices about the confiscation of property and money were usually in the format of legal decisions: "The movable and immovable possessions of the Jewish couple, Otto Julius Israel Hirsch, born October 20, 1863, in Mainz, died May 21, 1942, in Mainz, and Melanie Tara Hirsch, born Roos, October 6, 1872, in Speyer, living in Mainz at 47 Schuster Street, are requisitioned in favor of the German Reich. There are no laws in effect against this edict."

Kellner diary with clipping
INN:RK

(Clipping: On the basis of the law of May 16, 1933/July 14, 1933 (RGBl. I, 293/479) concerning the possessions of enemies of the people and of the state, and in connection with the edict of the Führer and Chancellor of the Reich of May 29, 1941 (RGBl. I, 303) the movable and immovable possessions of the Jewish couple Hirsch, Otto Julius Israel, born October 20, 1863, in Mainz, died May 21, 1942, in Mainz; and Hirsch, Melanie Tara, born Roos, October 6, 1872, in Speyer, living in Mainz on Schuster Street 47, are requisitioned in favor of the German Reich. There are no laws in effect against this edict.
Darmstadt, August 24, 1942. Secret State Police – State Police Post, Darmstadt Signed by proxy: Fentz.)

"There is no justice in such decisions," declared Kellner. But this particular case brought at least a grim satisfaction: "Providence, to which Hitler so frequently alludes, has thwarted the Third Reich’s plans. The Hirsch couple’s possessions, and all the others on Schuster Street, have been completely destroyed by the air raid of August 12. Property unjustly gained will do you no good!" , wrote Kellner under the clipping.

Far more was retained by the avaricious Nazi leaders than that which slipped through their grasp. In November 1942, a similar court decision ordered the possessions of Maximilian Franz Israel Carlebach of Mainz to be "seized in favor of the German Reich" without chance of appeal.

"If sometime in the future the property of the National Socialist enemies of mankind is requisitioned, the executors can use the edict mentioned here as a guide," said Kellner. "It is time these Nazi sadists are stopped so the whole world can breathe a sigh of relief."

A few days later he noted how "a simple requisition form" could be enough to confiscate property from Jews, without getting a full court decision. "A stroke of the pen is sufficient--German law!" he said in disgust. "If the Jews, who contributed demonstrable achievements over the centuries to the economic development of the nation, can be made a people without rights, then that is an act unworthy of a cultured nation. The curse of this evil deed will indelibly rest on the entire German people," predicted Kellner. "The authors, the National Socialists, will have disappeared some day; their deeds, however, will live on."

The brazen theft of Jewish money and possessions was copied in the countries allied with Nazi Germany. An article in Kellner's diary proudly announced the large number of Jews rounded up in Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, and Bulgaria: "The dangerous internal enemy is being methodically eliminated." Stripped of their possessions, they also were sent to their deaths in concentration camps.

"This so-called 'clearing' Europe of Jews will remain a dark chapter in the history of mankind," wrote Kellner. "If we in Europe are so far gone that we simply eliminate people, then Europe is irretrievably lost. Today it is the Jews; tomorrow it will be another weak tribe that is exterminated."

Even Italy robbed its Jewish citizens. And even France, which collaborated with the Third Reich from the middle of 1940 until 1945. "These Fascist beasts simply no longer realize how such vile actions they perpetrate bring them down so low," said Friedrich Kellner. "Perhaps in the Fascist reasoning this is known as 'heroic deeds.' We do not know what goes on in sick minds."


Bankers in the "neutral" countries, particularly Switzerland, opened their vaults to share in the booty.
Bankers in the "neutral" countries, particularly Switzerland, opened their vaults to share in the booty. And now, 75 years after the war's end, Credit Suisse, which reluctantly cooperated 25 years ago with investigators seeking bank accounts that belonged to victims of Nazi persecution, say they will try to determine the status of any accounts opened by Nazis from Argentina with stolen money.

"I will fight constantly," wrote justice inspector Kellner, "that the Party members and Party bosses' possessions will be first in line to pay the damage. It is self-understood that the leaders' possessions must become the property of the state. The Nazis have to feel on their own bodies what they have done to the Jews."

After the war, Kellner was made deputy mayor of his town. He saw to it that local Nazis were punished. But it was to be just as he had written: "their deeds, however, would live on." He considered his diary a "weapon of truth" for future generations to use against any resurgence of Nazism and anti-Semitism; he would be glad to know it was providing some truth about the "legal" plunder of the Jews.



Robert Scott Kellner is a retired English professor who taught at the University of Massachusetts and Texas A&M University. He is the grandson of Friedrich Kellner. He published the diary in its original language in Germany in 2011 and is the editor and translator of the English edition, My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner--A German against the Third Reich, published by Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 2018 (paperback 2020).



top