The Prince of Liechtenstein Hans-Adam II offended European Jews on Monday with an interview crediting his principality's banks with saving Jewish lives. Hans-Adam claimed that the secrecy afforded to bank clients allowed Jews to buy their freedom during the Holocaust.
Bank secrecy saved lives among those living in communist countries as well, he said, “and continues to save lives today.”
The prince told Germany, which has been critical of banking secrecy, to “think about its own past” before criticizing Liechtenstein. Last year Hans-Adam angered German leaders by referring to the country as a “fourth Reich” in an argument over banking laws.
Following the interview, European Jewish leaders accused Hans-Adam of making light of the Holocaust, according to Reuters. “These comments make a mockery of the Holocaust and those that survived it,” said Stephan Kramer, general secretary of Germany's Central Council of Jews.
Liechtenstein was neutral during the Second World War. “Portraying Liechtenstein as a merciful helper of the Jews does not chime with the historical facts,” Kramer said.
Several European leaders have accused Liechtenstein's banks of making money off of tax evasion. Liechtenstein officials have denied the accusations, and say their banks draw clients from other countries due to their high standards of service.
Earlier this year Liechtenstein agreed to ease its secrecy rules somewhat, adopting OECD standards in order to nab tax evaders. Banking clients will be allowed to maintain their confidentiality, officials said at the time, but the new rules will ensure that said confidentiality is not abused by criminals.