World War II Economics: Gold

Nazi gold
Figure 1.--This Jewish man at the Jasenovac concentration camp in Yugoslavia is being forced to remove his gold wedding ring before being shot and killed by the Germans in 1941. Looting gold was a major NAZI War objective. In this case the gold probany never reached the Reichbank.

German financial officials before Hitler and Stalin launched World War II managed to obscure the level of the German Government's massive and growing debt. This allowed Hitler to pursue a massive rearmament program without causing a financial melt-down. Once Hitler took over Austria (April 1938) and Czechoslovakia (March 1939) he had access to new financial resources. Austria was annexed to the Reich. Czechoslovakia could be exploited ruthlessly. One of the first actions taken in both countries was to seize the Government's gold stocks. The same rutless policies were followed with the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of the war (September 1939). Exploiting the economies of occupied countries was critical to the NAZI war economy. Seizing foreign gold stocks was an important part of the NAZI effort. This was because Hitler began the war with an economy that lacked many vital resources. And the War meant that few neutral countries wanted to accept Reich Marks to pay for imports of critical natural resources. Hitler got oil from his allies, first the Soviet Union and then Romania, neither of which required Germany to use its gold supplies. Other resources could be looted from occupied countries. But other resources such as iron ore, cobalt, tin, tuhgsten and other metals as well as manufsctured goods had to be imported from neutral nations (Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey). And for this the NAZIs needed gold. Thus the Germans as they overan country after country, immediately went after each country's gold reserves. Yhe Poles managed to get most of their gold to France, but France itself was also endangered. As a result, massive gold shipments began arriving in the United States (Spring 1940). The gold came from Belgium, Britain, France (including the Polish gold), the Netherlands, and Norway. The story of NAZI efforts to gets their hands on the goild of occupied countries is a fascinating World War II story. The NAZIs also wnt after gold in individual hands. Here the major tarket was the Jews in Germany and the occupied countries. The Japanese in Asia also needed gold, but there was less gold to be had in China and the European colonies they occupied. There the most important World War II story is Yamashita's gold.

NAZI Pre-War Fiscal Policy (1933-39)

German financial officials before Hitler and Stalin launched World War II managed to obscure the level of the German Government's massive and growing debt. This allowed Hitler to pursue a massive rearmament program without causing a financial melt-down. NAZI economic policies were primarily dominated by three men: Hjalmar Schacht, Herman Göring, and Walther Funk. All three men were tried at the the Nurremberg IMT after the War. Hitler took power during the Depression and thus faced enormous econonoic problem. The economic problems required defecit spending as did his determination to remilitarize Germany. He needed a financial technocrat expert to manage these and other ecomomic matters. The level of defecit spending contemplated by Hitler could have well caused another round of runaway infation. He turned to Hjalmar Schacht, financial expert who served in Weimar governments. Schacht was not a NAZI Party member, but he agreed with Hitler's desire to undo the Versailles Treaty and make Germany a great power again. Schacht saw Hitler as a fervet natioinalist and helped convince industrialists to support him. Hitler appointed him president of the Reichsbank (1933-39) and Minister of Economics (1934-37). He master-mined economic policies to support redevelopment, reindustrialization and rearmament. He managed to support the NAZI defecit spending in several ways. First, he conceived the 'New Plan'--an autarkic economic plan which did nor require foreign financing. Second, he negotiated trade agreements with Balkan and Latin Amercan countries supplying raw materials. As payment was in Eich Marks, they did not add to the balamce of trade derficit. Third, he hid the level of Government defecit spending through the use of The other mechsanism was MEFO bills. Evenually Schacht fell out of favor with Hitler, both because he wanted to reduce deficit spending (which would have neant curtailing rearmament) and because he spoke out against NAZI attacks on Jews. Schacht as early as 1935 was speaking publically aganst 'unlawful activities' employed against Jews. The economic crisis of 1935-36 caused Schacht and Price Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler to reconsider the mounting defecits. They urged a return to free-market economics, cuts in military spending, a shift away from autarkic and protectionist policies, and stopping the drift toward a statist economy. Reich Marshall Hermann Göring oposed those steps and was generally suppoted by Hitler. The implementation of the Four Year Plan managed by Göring meant that he had won the debate (1936). Schacht resigned as Ecomomic Minister (1937), although Hitler kept him own as President of the Reichsbank for 2 more years so as not to disturb the financial community. Göring became the major foirce in the economy. As a result, when Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland, Germany was deeply endebited and would have had trouble maintaining the level of defiti spending. Hitler replaced Schacht as Minister of Economy with Walther Funk, a loyal NAZI. He became president of the Reichsbank (1939). Funk served during World War II, but was much less important than Schacht. Hitler placed Reichmarshal Hermann Goering in charge of the war economy (1939). And because the NAZIs financed the War by exploiting the occupied countries, the post of Minister of Economics lost much of its importance. Funk unlike Schacht did not question NAZI actions against the Jews and others. Funk accepred gold deliveries from Himmler's SS as deposits in the Reichbank. As this include gold teeth and rings, the source was obvious. Sacks of gold teeth and rings were found by the Allies at the end of the War. Funk pointedly told subordinates not to ask questions about the SS deposits. At Nuremberg he said, "I should have listened to my wife at the end. She said we'd be better off dropping the whole minister business and moving into a three-bedroom flat."

NAZI Strategic Weakness

Exploiting the economies of occupied countries was critical to the NAZI war economy. Germany did not have a large enough economy, population, or the critical resources it needed to sustain a world war. Germany in particular lacked many vital natural resources. This is why the East was so important to him. He discusses it in <>Mein Kampf. Strategic materials played a critical role in World War II, in both the desire to launch the War and in the ability to wage an etended conflict. And these resources could be obtained in the East. But until the Soviet Union could be conquered, the gold could be used to buy the needed resources. It was thus vital for the NAZIs to obtain gold in large countries. Only one country at the outbreak of World War II had the industrial and agricultural capacity as well as the resource base to wage global war--the United States. This is why Hiter's war strategy was for the first 2 years to keep America out of the War.

NAZI Pre-War Actions: Austria and Czechoslovakia (1938-39)

Hitler seized two countries before the War--Austria and Czechoslovakia. The Austrians were generally overjoyed to be part of the Reich The Czechs were unwilling, but abandined by Britain and France had no real choice. Austria was annexed to the Reich. Czechoslovakia was made a Reich Protectorate. Thus it could be exploited ruthlessly. Once Hitler took over Austria (April 1938) and Czechoslovakia (March 1939) he had access to new financial resources. One of the first actions taken in both countries was to seize the Government's gold stocks. The Austrian gold with the Anschluss became part of the Reichbank's holdings. The Czech gold is more complicated. Most of it was being held by the Bank of Interntional Settlements in Switzerland anbd in a sub-account in Britain. When the Germans marched into Prague (March 1939), armed aents appeared at the Czech Nstional Bank. We believe they wee part of an Einsatzgruppen unit. They ordered the Czech directors to send transfer requests, threatening to shoot them. Incredibly the British still hoping o avoid war by plscating the Grmans did not oppose the transfer. The Germans pursued the same rutless policies with the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of the war (September 1939).

Importance of Gold

From time immemorial, a nation's gold eere considered to be its key financial asset and a principal major prize of war. Ancient cities and temples contain images of conquering kings bring golden booty back to their capitals. Perhaps the most fampos is the Roman depoiction of the menorah from the Great Temple, bit there are many much older depictions. The Spanish conquest of the America by the Conquistadores was largely motivated by gold. The NAZIs wanted gold as well, but they were not primarily motivated by a lust for the shiny metal. They had a very practocal reason for wanting the gold. Seizing foreign gold stocks was an important part of the NAZI effort. This was because Hitler began the war with an economy that lacked many vital resources. And the War meant that few neutral countries wanted to accept Reich Marks to pay for imports of critical natural resources. Hitler got oil from his allies, first the Soviet Union and then Romania, neither of which required Germany to use its gold supplies. Other resources could be looted from occupied countries. But other resources such as iron ore, cobalt, tin, tuhgsten and other metals as well as manufsctured goods had to be imported from neutral nations (Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey). And for this the NAZIs needed gold. The British knew this. The Secretary of the British Imperial General Staff, E.E. Bridges, in a secret memorandum after the start of the War laid out 'measures to be taken in the event of an invasion of Holland and Belgium by Germany' by the British Military and the British Secret Service and presented them to the War Cabinet (October 1939). “It will be for the Treasury in collaboration with the Bank of England, and the Foreign Office, to examine the possible means of getting the bullion and negotiable securities into the same place of safety. The transport of many hundreds of tons of bullion presents a difficult problem and the loading would take a long time. The ideal would of course be to have the gold transferred to this country or to the United States of America. [...] The gold reserves of Belgium and Holland amount to about £ 70 million and £ 110 million respectively. [Foot] Note: H. M. Treasury has particularly requested that this information, which is highly confidential should in no circumstances be divulged. The total weight of this bullion amounts to about 1800 tons and its evacuation would be a matter of the utmost importance would present a considerable problem if it had to be undertaken in a hurry when transport facilities were disorganised. At present this gold is believed to be stored at Brussels and The Hague respectively, neither of which is very well placed for its rapid evacuation in an emergency.” (October 6, 1939) [Bridges]

NAZI Effort to Seize Gold Reserves in Occupied Countries

The Germans as they overan country after country, immediately went after each country's gold reserves. The gold was an important part of the overall NAZI war plan for conquest and exploitation. In some cases the NAZIs suceeded. More commonly they failed, primarily becuse the British refused to give into the NAZIs. This provided a refuge and support for resistance groups. And much to their frustration, the NAZIs repeatedly failed. The details varied from country to country. The Poles managed to get most of their gold to France, but France itself was also endangered. As a result, massive gold shipments began arriving in the United States and Canada (Spring 1940). The gold came from Belgium, Britain, France (including the Polish gold), the Netherlands, Poland, and Norway. The story of NAZI efforts to gets their hands on the gold of occupied countries is a fascinating World War II story. One of the most interesting chapters of this story was the French gold. The French had major gold reserves and the NAZIs thought they were going to obtain a real bonanza as they entered Paris. They were to be sorely disappointed. Other countries also suceeded in keeping most of their gold out of NAZI hands, including the Belgians and Dutch who has substantial reserves.

Poland (September 1939)

The Germans were shocked when they opened the vaults of the Bank of Polsnd in Warsaw and found them almost empty. One report suggests that Poland before the War transferred gold reserves to Britain and Canada. We do not yet have a precise accounting. We know that the Poles also entrusted gold to the Banque de France. As the German Panzers rapidly moved toward Warsaw, Bank of Poland (Bank Polski) officials fled the city with them some $64 million in gold. They moved by train and truck toward the still ooen Romanian border. They traveld through Turkey to French-controlled Syria and Lebanon. [Smith] As the French and British navies still controlled the Mediterranean, it was easy to move the god to France (late- October 1939). The French provided the Polish bankers office space and storage vaults in the Bank of France in Paris for their gold. When the Germans struck in the West, the Polish Government-in-Exile informed the French government that it wanted to trasport their gold reserve to Canada and the United States (May 22, 1940). A verbal agreement was made between the Bank of Poland and the Bank of France. The French agreed to use their Navy to transport the Polish gold to the United States. A Polish Bank director, Stefan Michaslki, went along with the gold as it was put aboard the French cruiser Victor Schoelcher in the Atlntic port of l'Orient. The ship was to sail to Martinique, but as the French Army was collapsing and France descending into chaos, the French Navy changed the destination to the French West African port of Dakar. Part of the French reserve as well asBelgian gold was also sent to Dakar. We are not entirely dure ehy this change was made, but it may hve been to keep it safer from British and American hands. Another aspect of the Polish gold story was the complicated matter of the Danzig gold resrve. The Btitish Government after the War presented the Polish Government a bill for 68 million pounds sterling, to pay for the equipment and operating costs of the Polish Air Force in Great Britain. Thus was paid from the Polish gold reserves deposited in Canada. This seems an extrodinarily ungenerous action on the part of the British Government as the Poles were defening Britain from the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. We do not have the full story and Cold War politics may have been ijnvolved. A very small part of Polish pre-Wwar gold reserves were returned to Poland's new communist Government (1946). A British reader tells us. "Britain charged the Poles for weaponary, etc. in World War II as a clever ploy to stop the Communist regime acquiring all the gold that belonged to Poland. It was later settled and the balance seems to have been transferred back to them. There is a film about Polish spying activites before the September 1st German invasion and the fall of Poland. The film 'Spies of Warsaw' tell of the Polish spying activities to discover what the Nazis were planning. There is also a part dealing with saving Polish gold reserves. It was not clearly explained but the train's journey is featured in the film."

Denmark (April 1940)


Norway (April 1940)

Norway did not expect a German invasion. They had remined neutral in World war I and expected their neutrality to be respected again after World War II erupted. They had a result made no effort to safegurd theur gold reserves. The German invasion came as a great shock. And after the initial shock, the Norwegians fought back. The Norwegian batteries at Oscarborg near Oslo sank the German cruiser Blücher in the Oslofjord, killing 830 German sailors. The resistan gave the Norwegian Royal family time to escape. The royal family, the government, and the Bank of Norway gold reserves (over 48 tons of gold) were spirited out of the capital. As a result, the Germans as hoped could not immediately seize the gold in the Bank of Norway at the onset. Bank officials were able to get their gold out of the Oslo deposit and with coinsiderable difficulty get it north and to the coast. There are conflicting accounts, but the gold was apparently packed in 1,503 boxes and 39 barrels. It took 25 trucks to move and weighed 13 tons. They managed to get it to a train and by circuitous routes attempting to elude German check points. Offshore the British battlecruiser HMS Renown intercepted German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau after they had escorted Marine Gruppe 1 to Narvik in the north. Renown fired first, hitting Gneisenau three times, but received two hits before the German ships disengaged.British troops land at Andalsnes as a part of a pincer movement to take the mid-Norwegian city of Trondheim. The attack failed, largely because of Luftwaffe support. The Norwegians and British managed to get a third of the gold aboard the British cruiser HMS Galathea which sailed for England. The Norewgian railmen moved the train with rest of the bullion into a valley and camouflaged it. More of the gold was loaded aboard another cruiser, HMS Glasgow which transported it to England. The remainder of the Norwegian gold was got out aboard fishing vessels which rendezvoused with another Royal Navyh cruiser that got it safely to Plymouth (May 1940). One account relates that the gold was got out on the Norwegian freighter Bomma. The gold was reportedly smuggled past German sentries on sleds pulled by Norwegian children to the freighter hidden deep in a fiord. This appears, however, to be a fictional account.

(The) Netherlands (May 1940)

Dutch officials despite the swift German victory in the Netherlands managed to transfer some $3 billion of gold to the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Germans managed to seize some 146 tons of gold from the Dutch Treasury. Like the Belgian gold, the Germans transferrd most of it to Swiss banls where it ws used to buy manufactured goods needed by the German war economy. After the War the Dutch recovered 70 tons. This was allotted to them from the pool of gold that the Allies recovered and redistributed to the occupied countries after the war. Some Dutch officials believe that Swiss banks under reported the looted NAZI gold they held at the end of the War.

Belgium (May 1940)

Belgium for a small country had considerable gold reserves, helping to make the Belga a strong currency. (The Belga was a gold-based currency unlike the Belgian franc used domestically. The Belga was, intended for foreign trade transactions.) The National Bank of Belgium, bracing for a German invasion, transferred most of it to Britain, Canada and the United States before the Germans struck. There it remained safely throughout the occupation. The Belgians also sent some tto France, not anticipating that this timde France woukd fall to the Germans. They transfered over 198 tons to the Banque de France. When the Germnans invaded, Belgian officials asked the French to transfer its gold to London. The French instead shipped it along with Polish and some French gold to Dakar, Senegal, part of French West Africa. The French refusal before Vichy took over was probably not malitious, but reflected the complication of moving gold held in various locations to safety during the chaotic comditions resulting from the German invasion. The French promised to return the gold to Belgium, but the Vichy Government sent it to Berlin. The Germans melted down the gold, imprinted with false seals, redocmentation, and deposited in the National Bank of Switzerland. It was used to pay raw material and manufactured goods purchased in Sweden and Switerland. The French after the War attempted to return the gold to Belgium, but the Swiss claimed that only part of it was in their possession. The Belgian Congo remained loyal to the Belgiun Government-in-Exile. Mines there produced some $30 million in gold, helping to support Belgian forces during the occupation.

France (May-June 1940)

One of the most fascinating chapters of this story was the French gold. The French had major gold reserves and the NAZIs thought they were going to obtain a real bonanza as they entered Paris. They were to sorely disappointed. The French had secretly dispersed thevBank of France gold resrves around the country. As the Germans launched their invasion, the problem became how to get the gold out of France and to safety. French naval commanders ordered the carrier Béarnto Toulon to receive French gold bullion for transfer overseas. Béarn met up with the light cruisers Jeanne d'Arc and Émile Bertin at an Atlantic rendezvous (May 25). The ships successfully transported Bank of France bullion reserves to Halifax, Canada. The French auxiliary cruiser Ville d'Oran took on 200 tons of gold from the French reserve for shipment to Casablanca, French Morocco (May 29, 1940). More gold was moved to Dakar. As a result, when German uthorities entered the vault of the Bank of France, they were hcked to see that the gold was gone. The gold in Dakar may have been one reason for the Anglo-French attack on Vichy-held Dakar (September 1940). The French gold story, however, does not end here. Primeminister Churchill as Britain was being bankrupted by the War, approach Gen. DeGualle about using the French gold to finance the Allied war effort. DeGualle adamently refused. He insisted it was needed to rebuild France. As a result, Britain which fought thee NAZIs toe-and nail ended the War with its gold reserves gone and the French who surrenderd to the NAZIs and colaborated with them had their gold reserves in tact.

Britain

The British like the French had major gold reserves. They of course were not occupied by the Germans, but in 1940 it looked like they might be. Primeminister Churchill decided to secretly transfer their gold reserves to Canada. This meant the danger of moving the gold through U-boat infested waters. the British gold reserves were held at two sites. One was in the basement vaults of the Sun Life Building in the heart of downtown Montreal. At time this was the biggest building in Canada and possibly the British Empire. There was also the Bank of Canada vaults in Ottawa. America at the time was demanding cash-and-carry terms for the purchase of supplies, oil, and manufactured goods needed in the war effort. The country's gold reserves were used to finance the purchases. Abd Britain was soon approaching bankuptsy. This was in part the genisus of Lend Lease. Primeminister Churchill informed President Roosevelt that Britain was approaching bankruptsy and might not be able to continue the War (December 1940). Germany if course did not have this problem becaue it was looting the economies of France and other occupied countries.

Yugoslavia (April 1941)


Greece (April 1941)


NAZI Efforts to Seize Individual Gold

The NAZIs also went after gold in individual hands. Here the major target was the Jews in Germany and the occupied countries. NAZI actions seizing the gold reserves of occupied countries was faorly staright forward. The gold was made available to the Reichbank. Ghe god and valuabled lkooted from individuals, mostly Jews, was a different matter. Like the gold ring here (figure 1), the gold stolen from individuals was less likely to get to the Reichbank. It dependened somewhat on when and how the valuables were stolln. Procedures were set up to steal the valuables of incividuals with bank accounts and safety deposit boxesas well as those entering the ghettors. The situation in the death camps was even more styematized. Thus individual NAZI war criminals wre less likely to get their hands on individual property. We say lesslikely because this was a reallative matter. And there were NAZIs who got ijnto trouble for it. It should be emphazied hat they did not get into trouble for killing Jews and stealing their property. The got into trouble forvkeeping the solen property rather tghan turing it over to the Reich. The most damous such individual was one of the most odious of the NAZI war criminals--SS General Odilo Globocnik, He was a major actor in Operation Reinhard. Other actions such as Kristalnacht or the actions in the East conducted by Einbsatzgruppen and police iunits were much less controlled. Thus there are reports of Jewish property appeating in markets. And we note reports of men like SS-Standartenführer Hermann Fegelein who was Eva Braun's brother-in-law. He was involved in killing operations of Jews in the East. He latter was attached to Hitler's enterouage in his Berlin bunker. He tried to escape as the Red Army closed in. He was caufgt by the SS with pockets full oif h=jewels stolrn from his Jewisg=h victims. Hitler ordered him xhot for disertion.

American and Canadian Role

The only really safe repository for the victims of NAZI aggression was Ametica and Canada. The first shipment of gold estimated to be in excess of $500 million arrived in New York from England and France, shipped by way of Canada (June 1940). After War was declared, maritime traffic directly to the United States was coplicated by the American Neutrality Laws.

Swiss Role

Switzerland played a major role in the story of NAZI gold. This was in part because it bordered Germany, fcilitating the movement of gold. It was a country manufacturing items like ball bearings that needed for the German war effort. The gold ws used to pay for these purchases. Switerland was also a financial center. Thus by depositing the gold in Swiss bamks, the Germans could carry out financial transactioins German banks could not because of Allied war-time financial regulations. In addition, the Bank of Intenational Settlements (BOIS) was located in Switzerland. After World War I, the BOIS was founded to formalize a financial practice that had been developing before the War. Rather than the complicated and expensive practive of physically moving gold from bank to bank to balance accounts, the Europeans began to develop an informal system of tracking the possesion of gold as a simple book keeping matter. Gold bullion remained in place and ownership of each bar tracked by bank accountants. The BOIS was simply an effort to formalize this developing informal pre-War system. The BOIS tracked the large-scale exchange of gold between national central banks. This was especially important after World War I because of several extrodinary transfers. These included transactions resulting from post-War reparations, repayment if War loans, and a ange of new banking policies.

NAZI Gold: The Merkers Mine

The Germans for most of the War held most of their gold reserves in the vault at the Reichsbank in Berlin. As the Allied strategic bombing campaign intensified and reached the German capital, the Germans decided to disperse their gold holdings (1943). We do not know if his was discussed with Hitler. Officials shipped some gold bars to ranches of the Reichsbank throughout Germany. The heavy bombardment of Berlin began (late-1944) and the Red Army in the East and the allies in the West began to move toward Berlin. Reichbank officials decided to begin moving the substntial gold holdings in Berlin to branch banks in central and southern Germany. Officials also moved a large quantity of Reichsmarks o branch banks. The dispersal effort was kintensiufied (February 1945). American and British bombers had been had been hammering Berlin fir months. A force of 937 American B-17 Eighth Air Force bombers dropped nearly 2,300 tons of bombs on Berlin (February 3, 1945). This attack virtually demolished the Reichsbank. This including its presses for printing currency. Reichsbank and Reich Economics Minister Walter Funk ordered that most of the remaining gold reserves, down to about $238 million as well as monetary reserves be moved for security. Included among the valuavles was the denbtal gold extracted from mirdered Jews. He selected a mine at Merkers, some 200 miles southwest of Berlin. The German Government had seized control of mines and other undergrojund facilities when the Allied bombing began in ernst. Many were salt and potassium mines. The mines were used to in Germany, had been to store strategic materials as well as to locate armament production facilities, for priority weapns like the V-2. [Bradsher] After he War, with the German Economic Miracle, West Germany began to aquire a gold reserve again. As a Cold war measure, to ensure thst the Soviets would not gain controlmof it if they invaded, much of it was secretly removed to the United States where it was held for years. This led o a huge outcry when the erman public learned where their gold was (2013).

Soviet Gold Seizures

World War II was not launched by Hitler alone. It was a joint enterprise launched made possible by the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and launched with cooperation and participation of the the Soviet Union. The Soviets also invaded several countries beginning with Poland (September 1939). These countries, however, did not have as much gold as the Western countries the Germans invaded. And the Soviets did not get to the capitals of several countries (Poland, Finland, and Romania) where the gold reserves were theoretically held. Thge capitls they did occupy had (Estonia, Lativia, and Lithuania) had very little gold. In addition, the Soviets unlike the Germans had important gold mines, primarily operated by using slave labor from the Gulag. The gold reserve of the counties occupied by the Red army at the end of the war becomes a Cold War story.

Japanese Gold Seizures

The Japanese in Asia also needed gold, but there was less gold to be had in China and the European colonies they occupied. The actual quantity of gold and other trssure seized by the Japanese is unknown. We do not know how much gold the Japanese acquired after invading China. There was some gold in Singapore banks. There was also some valuables in Dutch East Indies banks. Some reports indicate that the Dutch had moved valuables to the East Indies before the German invaion. We are not sure about this. A far as the know, the Dutch got most of their gold to America. One of the centrl figures in the discussion of Japanese World War II looting is Prince Chichibu (Yasuhito), the younger brother of Emperor Hirohito. Prince Chichibu was a strong supporter of the Japanese militarists which seized control of the Japanese Government. He was also an advocate of a military alliance with NAZI Germany. Some accounts suggest that the Prince along with General Tomoyuki Yamashita, and Admiral Yoshio Kodama, were ordered by Emperor Hirohito to oversee the Golden Lily project. This was alegedly an effort to seize gold and other valuables in countries occupied by the Japanse Army. There is little real evidence to substantiate this, but it is a popular topic for conspiracy authors. Part of this story is 'Yamashita's Gold' also referred to as 'Yamashita Treasure'. This is a kind of generic name given to some of the valuables looted by the Japanese army in Southeast Asia during World War II. It specifically refers to valuables alegedly hidden in caves, tunnels and other underground locations in the Japanese occupied Philippines (1942-45). The name refers to Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita, 'The Tiger of Malaya'. Belief in the existence of this gold and other valuables continues to lure treasure hunters. The existence of such treasure is dismissed by most World War II authors. Contrary to the conviction of the Yamashita Gold conspiracy theorists, the Japanese were not as obsessed as the Germans with gold. This is because they did not have the need to buy raw materials or for that matter any counyry from which they could buy it. The Japanese when they seized the Southern Resource Zone had all the critical material they needed--including oil. The problem for the Japanese was getting it to the war indiustries of the Home Islands. This proved impossible because the American submarines as part of the Pacific War set about destroying the Japanese Maru (merchant marine) fleet. One footnote in the World War II history of gold is the Japanese submarines who became the sole contact between the NAZI allies. The I-29 left Penang (occupied Malaya) with 2 tons of gold bars for the Japanese embassy in Berlin (April 15, 1943). The gold was not just to fund Embassy operations The Germans had the same problem with their embassy in Japan, albeit the Japanese had other embassies in Europe. The Germans had a lot of high technology that the Japanese needed as the tide of battle shifted in the Pacific. The Germans were at first reluctant to supply their technology to their Axis ally, in sharp contrast to the Anglo-American alliance. For one thing, the Germans were not sure how strong they wanted the Japanese to be, thinking about the future. As the German war situation deteriorated they became more amenable to helping the Japanese, but in 1943 still did not want to provide valuable technology for free. The gold was in part to pay for the technology transfers. I-29 tried to get a load of German technology and probably uranium oxide back to Japan, but was sunk in the Pacific. Also aboard I-29 was Indian nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose, but he had gotten of the doomed submarine o complete his trip to Japan by air. The Japanese dispatched another sub, I-52 to Germany (March 10, 1944). Among its cargo was 146 bars of gold packed in 49 metal boxes. By the time it reached the Atlantic, however, the Allies had landed in Normandy. The Allied ASW capability was also vastly improved and they were reading both German and Japanese coded transmissioins which provided the location of the sub. Ameriucan carrier aircraft sunk it (June 24). At the time the Germans were assembling a cargo the Japanese had asked for the I-52 to take back to Japan. It notably included uranium oxide. Thus our story of World War II Japanese submarine gold deliveries provides information on a very different metal--uranium. This leads to another important World War II subject-- the Japanese atomic bomb program.

Sources

Bradsher, Greg. "Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure," Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration Vo. 31, No. 1 (Spring 1999),

Bridges, E.E. Memorandum by War Cabinet Secretary E. E. Bridges from October 6, 1939, Secret: Holland and Belgium: Measures to be taken in the event of an invasion by Germany. P. 1 and 4. National Archives

Smith, Arthur. Hitler's Gold: The Story of the Nazi War Loot.







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Created: 05:19 AM 10/15/2014
Last updated: 5:00 AM 10/16/2014