From Publishers Weekly
While Switzerland has borne the brunt of much of the public criticism for serving as "Hitler's banker," Chesnoff makes it abundantly clear that people and governments in many countries took advantage of the plight of the Jews before and during WWII to enrich their coffers. From Swiss bankers to Italian insurance companies and the Swedish industrialist family Wallenberg (the uncles of Raoul), various parties were more than willing to cash in on the financial opportunities provided by the war. Indeed, by laundering money, numerous governments helped Germany prolong the war. Equally disheartening is how eager ordinary people were to move into houses and confiscate property that had been abandoned by Jews. Chesnoff, a senior correspondent with U.S. News & World Report, takes a country-by-country look at the wealth stolen from the Jews. While the looting began has a tool to help "Aryanize" Germany and German-held territory, the theft of Jewish property became an important element in financing the Nazi regime. Even after the war, both latent European anti-Semitism and the spread of communism made it all the more difficult to provide restitution to those who were robbed of their possessions. Chesnoff visited 11 countries, interviewed hundreds of people and examined newly unclassified documents. His diligent research leads to a passionate conclusion in which he argues for restitution and criticizes as perverse those who argue that by demanding reparations Jews are only reviving the stereotype of the money-grubbing Jew. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A disappointingly unfocused and underdocumented attempt to chronicle the seizure of Jewish possessions and assets by the Nazis and their collaborators. Correspondent and columnist Chesnoff did not intend to write an ``encyclopedic'' or ``definitive'' record, but rather a ``journalist's report'' for the general reader. His disclaimer notwithstanding, he has recycled a story that has already been told better elsewhere. Chesnoff adds little new to his coverage of Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Norway, France, Poland, and Hungary. He has little to say about the most significant issue to emerge in recent days: new revelations regarding the degree to which Swiss banks were accomplices in the seizure and laundering of Jewish assets by the Nazis and of the banks' non-cooperation with survivors inquiring after the assets of their families and their unwillingness to admit their guilt and make restitution to those affected. Chesnoff has not undertaken the task of producing a detailed account of the identity of Jewish depositors, or the specific sums they left behind that were seized by the Nazis and their accomplices. This work, he acknowledges, will be completed by scholars. But a readable, reliable synthesis covering the complicit European countries is needed as well, and despite Chesnoff's claims, this is not it. Although there are frequent citations of scholarly books written about the Holocaust and claims to have consulted classified files, there are no footnotes to document either. Chesnoff has interviewed numerous survivors and other interested parties, but their testimony lends no authority, for example, to his claim (against the arguments of most scholars) that Kristallnacht was enthusiastically greeted by the mass of Germans, rather than embarrassing the decent folk of a so-called civilized country. Readers would be better served by studying the relevant parts of the books by Hilberg, Friedlander, Feliciano, Nicholas, and others that Chesnoff lists in his wannabe bibliography. A disappointing mishmash of emotional narrative and anecdote on a subject that deserves much better. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.