American lawyer Ed Fagan will make a last minute bid to safeguard documents which he believes could lead to some of the unaccounted Nazi treasure transferred to Switzerland towards the end of WWII when the outcome of the conflict become clear for the doomed Third Reich.
Fagan, known for his previous success in forcing Swiss banks to open up their secret accounts and release cash stashed there by Jews before and during the war, says his actions on Thursday have been sparked by the risk that the safety deposit boxes and accounts will be cleaned out thanks to the Czech great grand-daughter of a top Nazi who took part in the regime’s attempts to stash foreign currency in Switzerland at the end of the war.
The controversial US lawyer says he was approached by Prague resident Marta Juráňová, the claimed great-granddaughter of top Nazi General Hans Kammler, with an proposal that he pay €7 million for the account numbers and passwords which could lead directly to some of the Nazi reserves or provide the leads which could put them within reach.
Fagan, who says similar offers have been made to others, including a Jewish Rabbi, declined the offer but obtained enough information for Swiss banks and authorities to freeze the deposit boxes and accounts before they are cleaned out.
“They have told me that the documents [from the accounts and safe deposit boxes] will be in Prague by January 7,” Fagan told Czech Position, referring to Juráňová and her intermediaries, adding that he believed a deal over them might have finally been sealed with a buyer willing to take the risk on what might be found.
‘They have told me that the documents [from the accounts and safe deposit boxes] will be in Prague by January 7.’
Fagan’s Swiss tour on Thursday starts with the UBS and Credit Suisse headquarters in Zurich, followed by the Swiss Bankers’ Association in Basel and ending with the Federal Palace of Justice in Berne.
“The demand will be to freeze certain suspected numbered accounts and safe deposit boxes as assets were proceeds of a felony or assets were subject to power of disposal of a criminal organization and were part of an international criminal money laundering scheme.” Fagan said in a statement, adding that he would call for an immediate investigation of the documents and records related to the accounts and safe deposit boxes.
“They may tell me to go to hell,” he added. “In that case, the next step will be to go after them in court but the contents of the accounts and boxes must be discharged and made public.”
Fagan says he is acting not for private gain but in the public interest as any possible Nazi reserves should eventually go to Nazi victims or their representatives. “They do not own this stuff in the accounts and boxes, it belongs to the world,” Fagan told Czech Position, referring to Juráňová and her intermediaries. He added that Swiss legislation dealing with money laundering should provide enough basis for the contents of the accounts and boxes to be frozen and an investigation to be launched.
“Once I get back from Switzerland, I will be going to see Czech authorities as well,” Fagan said. “Either I have joined up the dots [as regards the Nazi reserves] and it makes sense that the banks and authorities should act because there is something valuable, or this is fraud,” he added, referring to the alleged attempts to sell the details.
Fagan believes access to the contents of the safety deposit boxes could relatively easy armed with the keys and password. The bank accounts could prove more problematic given Switzerland’s famed banking secrecy. “There will be the problem of “standing,” basically the person turning up will be claiming to be the pedigree of a great grand-daughter of the mistress of a Nazi thief,” he added.
‘Either I have joined up the dots [as regards the Nazi reserves] and it makes sense that the banks and authorities should act because there is something valuable, or this is fraud.’
The “thief” in question, General Kammler, was a civil engineer and high ranking SS officer who was in charge of the Nazi’s V-2 rocket project, the world’s first long range ballistic missile, which started to be targeted, mainly at Britain, in late 1944.
Towards the end of the war he was responsible for transferring Nazi arms production to the then Bohemian and Moravian “protectorate” and Sudetenland because this was judged to be safe from allied bombing. There are six different versions of Kammler’s death, including one that he was shot by an aide outside Prague to prevent him falling into enemy hands. Another supposition is that he died in the US many years after the war. One such underground factory built near the end of the war is at Litoměřice, around 40 kilometers north of Prague.
“Bohemia was one of the last places that the Nazi’s could move around in at the end of the war,” said Fagan, adding that Kammler could have replaced top Nazi Viktor Lutze, who died in a car crash in 1943, as one of the intermediaries for transferring Nazi reserves to Switzerland or guarding the codes to the stash of cash. Switzerland was neutral throughout the war, serving as a hotbed for espionage activities and intrigue by both sides in the conflict.
Suspicions that the Nazi regime and their rich sympathizers channeled large amounts of money to neutral countries towards the end of the war as a reserve to draw on after defeat have been fuelled by US intelligence reports during the war. One, which cited an agent working for the French secret service, referred to a meeting of top German industrialists in a Strasbourg hotel, the Rotes Haus, in Strasbourg, on August 10, 1944. At the meeting the industrialists were encouraged to channel cash to foreign reserves which could be used to fund a resurgence of the Nazi party after the war. Industrial secrets and plans should also be hidden specially created offices, the meeting advised. Previously the Nazis had been keen to prevent any flood of foreign cash abroad, with death the penalty for any members of the public found guilty.
Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal drew post war Austrian authorities’ attention to flight of Nazi capital in 1963 telling the Ministry of Interior that: “…the most important secret of the Third Reich was its list of depositaries. Who were these people who bought firms or opened bank accounts abroad from Nazi Germany with other peoples’ money? The flight of many Nazis to Spain and South America after the war has proved that the escapees or the organization that facilitated the escapees by providing them with false papers, knew about the depositaries abroad. After the war, American authorities searched with no avail for the list of the Third Reich’s depositaries. They would have confiscated these assets as enemy assets.”
Wiesenthal added the US had been convinced at the end of the war that several lists of Nazi accounts in Switzerland and had been drawn up but never found.
Fagan reckons Swiss authorities charged more recently with searching domestic accounts for deposits made by the Jewish victims of the Nazis would not have come across the Third Reich’s hidden reserves because it was not their main goal and the name of someone like General Kammler would not have attracted immediate attention.
Efforts were made by Czech Position to contact Marta Juráňová and lawyers said to be acting for her without success, one firm saying that the lawyer in question was outside Prague.
Fagan, who earlier represented Austrian protesters against the Czech Temelín nuclear power plant, has more recently grabbed Czech attention by lodging claims over more than 80-year-old bonds issued by the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary, suing the mayor of the town and Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) in the process.