"It is well documented that the Ustashas had strong ties with the Church in Rome."
FROM: ANTIFA INFO-BULLETIN, Number 129 Date: Sun, 27 Jul 1997 00:18:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Tom Burghardt <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com ____________________________________
DATE: Sunday, 27 July 1997
HOLOCAUST GOLD TAINTS THE VATICAN
By Bruce Johnston
THE Vatican stands accused of using gold plundered from Holocaust victims in Yugoslavia during the Second World War to smuggle war criminals into Latin America and the Middle East.
The allegations, made by an international team of Holocaust experts, follow last week's publication of a recently declassified US Treasury document which, for the first time, drags the Vatican's name into the Holocaust gold scandal. The document surfaced at the same time as Swiss banks published names of holders of unclaimed wartime accounts which they had concealed for decades.
The allegations relate to a US Treasury memo of October 1946 by Emerson Bigelow, who worked for the Treasury's monetary research unit and who received reliable information from the OSS, precursor of the CIA, on Nazi wealth held in specific Swiss accounts.
Bigelow's memo claims that the Ustashas, the Nazi puppet regime of Croatia, used the Vatican to look after part of the millions of dollars' worth of gold and jewellery which they plundered from 900,000 Jews, Serbs, Croat moderates and gipsies they had put to death. The Vatican has denied the allegation.
Citing "reliable sources in Italy" - understood to mean US intelligence - the memo says that one third of the estimated 350 million Swiss francs which the Ustashas tried to remove from Yugoslavia was impounded by the British at the Austrian-Yugoslav border. The remaining 200 million "was originally held in the Vatican for safe-keeping," to keep the gold from falling into the hands of the Allies.
While stating this as fact, the document also quotes rumours saying a large portion of the Vatican-held money was sent through its "pipeline" to Spain and Argentina. But it adds that this could also be a "smokescreen to cover the fact that the treasure remains in its original repository" - namely, the Vatican.
A number of Ustashas, including the secret armed organisation's founder Ante Pavelic, found refuge in Spain and Argentina after the Nazi defeat.
It is well documented that the Ustashas had strong ties with the Church in Rome. It is also known that after sending the gold abroad in 48 containers as Tito's army advanced on Zagreb, Pavelic made his way to Salzburg, and that in August 1946 he reached Rome. In 1948, he arrived in Argentina.
The Bigelow memo is being investigated by the US authorities, who have now promised to comb state archives for evidence that may cast light on the claims.
It has also attracted considerable interest at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, leading the international inquiry into Nazi gold. Shimon Samuels, the centre's director, said last week that the memo supports claims that Nazi gold received by the Vatican was later used to pay for war criminals to be smuggled out of Europe.
According to Mr Samuels, the "gold-line", or channels that were used to smuggle looted Nazi gold, was linked to the "rat-line", the mechanism by which war criminals were spirited out of Europe. A connection between the Catholic Church and Nazi gold was very feasible, Mr Samuels said, since he is convinced that the Vatican played a crucial role in smuggling war criminals to South America.
"We know that a number of monasteries helped Nazis to escape to South America," said Mr Samuels. He said that the monastery south of Rome where Erich Priebke, the former SS captain, is under house arrest for his role in Italy's worst wartime atrocity, had had other war criminals staying there awaiting escape. "I have been told by two sources that Adolf Eichmann was among them," Mr Samuels said.
Mr Samuels said the gold-line and the rat-line often coincided, and mentioned declassified US documents which talked of how the late Baron Thyssen "and other Nazi industrialists" after the war ploughed huge sums of money into Argentina.
The looted Nazi gold from Yugoslavia could have gone to the Vatican to finance the rat-line, Mr Samuels suggested.
Priebke's admission to the Bonaventura monastery in the Frascati hills of Rome, was arranged by a Right-wing activist called Paolo Giachini, who during the trial of the SS captain distributed smear leaflets against the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Priebke, who was Rome SS commandant Herbert Kappler's deputy, escaped from a British PoW camp near the Adriatic after the war. Shortly afterwards, he and his family sailed from Genoa to South America, travelling on a Red Cross passport. So, incidentally, did the Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic - disguised as a priest.
Padre Andre, at the Frascati monastery, will not comment readily on rumours that his institution's monastic peace is only skin-deep. Having Priebke did not bother him. "Our policy," he said, "is one of pardon." What Priebke may have done 50 years ago was one thing. But in the last 50 years he had done only good.
The accusations will put added pressure on the Vatican to open its archives - something so far done only in part - to give a more detailed account of its activities during and just after the last war. In the run-up to the millennium, Vatican officials have already agreed to undertake an "examination of conscience".
Vatican officials have already embarked upon a thorough review of the Church's wartime record. In particular the Vatican is anxious to avoid becoming embroiled in the kind of international controversy that has recently erupted over Switzerland's wartime record in relation to gold taken from Jews by the Nazis.