THE LAST DEPOSIT by Itamar Levin


Swiss Banks and Holocaust Victims' Accounts
by & translated by
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A dry and rather pedantic account that fails to capture the drama of a momentous episode of 20th-century history. Although the basic lines of the story told here—how Nazi Germany stripped European Jews of their assets and deposited them in Swiss banks—are now known, new information appears throughout this chronicle by Levin, Deputy Editor in Chief of Globes—Israel’s Business Newspaper and one of the first to break the story. Sent to cover the recreational habits of orthodox Jews in Switzerland, he was told during a chance encounter with Yehuda Blum, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, that the “real story” was the record of the Nazi confiscation of Jewish assets and the complicity of Swiss banks then and over the next 50 years. His retelling, however, is burdened with minutiae, documents, and photographs that hamper the narrative. The heavy prose (perhaps the fault of the translator) is not enlivened by the finer details of Swiss banking laws. Levin does attack the myth of “Swiss neutrality” and underscores the criminal nature of the Nazi regime’something often overlooked in more scholarly tomes. And he reveals the way the scandal has provoked a new wave of anti-Semitism, betrayed for instance in a Swiss banker’s atypically blunt outburst that “the Jews murdered in Auschwitz were barefoot; they didn’t have bank accounts in Switzerland.” Levin reveals that the Jews did indeed have bank accounts, that the Nazis confiscated them, and that the Swiss knowingly collaborated in massive theft. Afterwards, the same Swiss banks demanded death certificates from survivors claiming accounts left by relatives who had perished in the Holocaust. As efficient as they were, the Nazis, alas, failed to provide such documents, and the money remained in Switzerland. Levin provides flashes of moral fire, but they are few and far between. An important tale that could have been told better. (9 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1999
ISBN: 0-275-96520-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Praeger
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999