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DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS CLAIM NAZIS HID 15 TONS OF GOLD BULLION DURING WAR.

Byline: Larry McShane Associated Press

Adolf Hitler's foreign minister smuggled 15 tons of gold bullion out of Germany before the end of World War II, a war crimes prosecutor charged in newly declassified federal documents released Thursday.

The documents were written in 1948 by Robert M.W. Kempner, who helped prosecute Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials, based on interviews with hundreds of German officials.

The paperwork, uncovered and made public by the World Jewish Congress, is part of a continuing effort by Jewish groups to uncover a fortune stolen from Holocaust victims.

``We're talking about gold stolen by the Nazis across occupied Europe throughout the war,'' said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the group. ``From banks, from concentration camp victims - gold fillings taken from victims.''

At Thursday's price of $387 an ounce, the 15 tons of gold would be valued at more than $185 million. None of it was ever recovered, Steinberg said.

The enormous cache of bullion belonged to German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, who was hanged as a war criminal Oct. 16, 1946. The Nazis planned to use the gold to reorganize, Kempner wrote in the papers.

``This gold project should not be neglected further in these critical times, in which a large amount of uncontrolled gold constitutes a force of evil and mischief in the hands of unscrupulous opportunists working closely together,'' Kempner wrote.

The gold was dispensed to various countries worldwide - 6.5 tons to Ribbentrop's Austrian castle, 3 tons to the south of Germany, single-ton shipments to Madrid and Turkey, and lesser amounts to Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal, Kempner said. Eleven tons were ``hurriedly removed from Berlin in 1945.''

The United States and Great Britain controlled many of the areas where Kempner believed the gold was stored after the war, but neither country has any record of it.

Some of the gold could have been used to subsidize the lifestyles of Nazi fugitives in Europe and South America, Kempner wrote.

Kempner's two-page memo was among thousands of recently declassified documents in the U.S. National Archive. Investigators hoping to uncover assets stolen by the Nazis are scouring the archive for leads.

Jewish groups believe more than $7 billion stolen from Holocaust victims is unaccounted for.

``The basic objective is one of simple justice,'' Steinberg said. ``Property stolen from victims, Jewish or non-Jewish, should be returned.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 25, 1996
Words:391
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