Washington DC, August 20, 1999
SHOWS relatives of Bubis, and
(centre) German president Johannes Rau
["Johnny Rough"] among
memoir reveals trading in Swiss
by Jasmin Fischer,
IGNATZ Bubis, a
prominent German Jewish leader and vice
president of the World Jewish Congress who
died a week ago, writes in his memoir how
he dealt in suspected Swiss Gold in the
early 1950s and "cooperated" with a firm
long known to have melted down dental
fillings of Nazi victims.
There is no evidence that any of the
Gold he traded had ever belonged to German
Jews who died at the hands of Nazis during
the war. Nevertheless, the circumstances
of his trading have raised questions among
Mr. Bubis, a concentration camp
survivor, was eulogized by top Israeli
politicians at his funeral last week for
his heroism during the Holocaust -- the
name Ignatz, traditionally a Christian
name, was given to him by Polish partisans
when he fought with them as a boy of 16 --
and for his work later in behalf of German
Jews. His memoir was published in 1996 and
has been withdrawn pending a court ruling
expected in December.
An artist and
unsuccessful political candidate,
black paint onto his
tomb as it
was being closed, and Mr. Mendelssohn
later was quoted saying that Mr. Bubis,
72, was "a bad man" and had "cheated"
Jews. He did not explain the remark. A
woman who answered the telephone at Mr.
Mendelssohn's home in Tel Aviv said the
artist had known Mr. Bubis "very well"
and had told Mr. Bubis before his death
that "he would not forget the things
that he had done." Mr. Mendelssohn was
said to be traveling to Germany this
week and could not be located for
Mr. Bubis completed his memoirs before
the World Jewish Congress (WJC) opened a
campaign in 1996 to recover from Swiss
banks the assets of Jewish Holocaust
victims, and he may have been unaware of
the sensitivity of his revelations about
his Gold dealings.
"I think this embodies the horrendous
paradoxes and conflicts faced by a Jew who
makes his life in Germany," said Elan
Steinberg, executive director of the
WJC, in an interview.
"He has to deal with companies like
Degussa, but also others like Mercedes,
Siemens and even Bayer . . . that were
involved in the most heinous crimes," he
said. "Every Jew who lived through that
period [in Germany] had to make
Degussa AG, to which Mr. Bubis recalled
selling Gold, and the other companies all
are currently involved in negotiations to
compensate Jews who were forced into slave
labor during World War II.
Mr. Bubis wrote about transporting and
selling Gold in Germany between 1950 and
1953. He said he did not know the origin
of the Gold but suspected that it came
from Switzerland, which was a repository
for hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of Gold looted from Jews by the Germans
during World War II.
Other aspects of the dealings described
in his book, titled
"Damit bin ich noch
laengst nicht fertig" (I am not
nearly finished), raise questions as well.
The most intriguing disclosures appear in
a chapter titled "Das Edelmetallgeschaeft"
(The Precious Metal Business).
Mr. Bubis, who
conducted his trade under a special
license while Germans were prohibited from
dealing in precious metals before
1953, describes his "cooperation"
with Degussa, which was named in a recent
State Department report as having melted
down Gold rings and dental fillings from
Jews put to death in concentration
Degussa also owned a subsidiary,
together with IG Farben, named Degesch
GmbH. Degesch owned the production rights
for Zyklon B, a chemical used in the gas
chambers of Nazi concentration camps.
Mr. Bubis does not say whether he knew
of Degussa's unsavory business in his
memoir, written between 1995 and 1996 and
published by Campus, a well-regarded
publishing house in Germany. Campus
printed 10,000 copies of the book but
withdrew them from bookstores this year in
response to a court order.
distribution got blocked . . . because
a German diplomat who was mentioned in
the memoirs felt that Bubis' statements
about [the diplomat] were
incorrect," said Campus official
Thomas Schwoerer. Mr. Schwoerer
expects a ruling on the court order in
December and said "the release of the
book is bound to this decision."
Mr. Bubis served as a vice president of
the World Jewish Congress and president of
the European Jewish Congress until his
death on Aug. 13. The WJC has led since
1996 in pressing banks in Switzerland and
other countries to compensate Jewish
Holocaust victims for Gold that was stolen
by the Nazis. Swiss banks agreed last year
to pay $1.25 billion to settle lawsuits by
At Mr. Bubis' funeral, Chief Rabbi
Israel Meir Lau praised Mr. Bubis'
dedication to restoring and preserving the
Jewish community in Germany after the war.
The Israeli government was represented by
President Ezer Weizman, former
Prime Minister Shimon Peres and
Public Security Minister Shlomo
Ben-Ami. German President Johannes
Rau and Interior Minister Otto
Schily also attended.
Mr. Bubis wrote in the memoir that he
dealt in Gold between 1950 and 1953 for
his company "Ignatz Bubis Edelmetalle,"
saying he "picked up Gold in Munich, which
probably came illegally from
"The precious metal business and then
the trading with jewelry constituted the
basis for my following real estate
He carried the Gold in the trunk of his
car from Munich to companies in Pforzheim,
Germany's main jewelry center, operating
under a license that gave him a virtual
monopoly on the Gold trade until 1953.
"The companies Degussa and Heraeus were
the companies I cooperated with," Mr.
He described one road accident in which
his car turned over and 20 Gold bars
spilled out of the vehicle. A truck driver
collected 19 of the 2.2-pound bars,
returned them to Mr. Bubis and took him to
a hospital. The 20th bar was never
Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart
Eizenstat, an undersecretary of State
until July, issued a report on the
disposition of Nazi Gold, concluding that
Degussa had melted Jewish Gold, including
rings and dental Gold, into its bars.
"There seems to be no question about
that," a State Department official said
this week. "The only question is quantity.
The melted Gold might have gotten to
Switzerland, but this cannot be
identified. The records are
Degussa opened its archives to an
expert commission of historians from
Cologne University and the WJC, but they
have not yet reported their findings.
Mr. Bubis' book was a troubled project.
"In 1996, we had a conflict with Peter
Sichrovsky, the book's co-author,
because we were not satisfied with his
work," Mr. Schwoerer says. Asked whether
there were conflicts between Mr.
Sichrovsky and Mr. Bubis, Mr. Schwoerer
said: "The final version satisfied Mr.
Mr. Bubis worked during the final
stages of the book with Campus editor
Klaus Gabbert in France. Mr.
Gabbert was at first skeptical of Mr.
Bubis but soon found him "amazingly
winning and unpretentious." In an
interview, he praised Mr. Bubis for "his
everlasting openness. . . . [His]
willingness to discuss things was
1999 Wsashington Times. All Rights