Switzerland was arguably Hitler’s most valuable ally. More that Axis partners Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. It called itself neutral, but it really wasn’t. Switzerland enthusiastically served the Third Reich with not only its global banking system but also by providing precision guidance instruments and other valuable war materiel and services.
As the Washington representative of the World Jewish Congress during the investigation of the Nazi gold Holocaust-era looting of Jewish assets, I had access to previously classified documents in the US National Archives, including the postwar debriefings of Nazi officials, most notably Reichsbank officers working with their Swiss counterparts throughout the Hitler era.
As the Clinton administration and the Congress dug deeper into the role of Swiss bankers and the restitution of assets of Holocaust victims, a top Swiss diplomat dispatched to Washington for the hearings told American officials and others – including me, personally — that his country was innocent of any collusion because it was strictly neutral and treated both sides equally.
I tried to explain to him that if ever there was a conflict between good and evil, that was it, but he failed to grasp it. “We were neutrals,” he repeatedly insisted. “We did nothing wrong.”
I was reminded of that in President Donald Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. The usually quick-to-tweet president who lusts to condemn minorities, particularly Muslims, was silent until after an alleged white supremacist and Hitler admirer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many more before fleeing the scene.
Trump, in his own version of Swiss neutrality, could see no difference between the sides in the Charlottesville rumble. Only after the murder of Heather Heyer he condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” clearly unable or unwilling to distinguish between them.
Two days later and only in the wake of extensive bipartisan criticism, he read on camera a prepared statement condemning neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, white nationalists and other bigots.
He should have stopped there with those staff-drafted words on the teleprompter, but he just couldn’t control himself. On Tuesday, more than three days after the violence, speaking without someone else’s script he went rogue.
He lamely said he waited so long because “I wanted to see the facts” and “to make sure…that what I said was correct.” That’s something he hadn’t bothered doing in other terror attacks, especially when he thought those responsible might be Muslims or other non-whites. Then came the kicker.
Just as the Swiss saw a moral equivalence between the Nazis and their victims, so Trump saw the good in the goose stepping goons who are such an important part of his political base.
Many of neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white nationalists at Charlottesville were “some very fine people” who “only wanted to protest the city’s plans to remove the Robert E. Lee statue.” Trump later seemed to mourn the possible removal of those “beautiful statues.”
This is another conflict between good and evil, and, once again, this President of the United States seems unable to tell the difference.
This may turn out to be the turning point in the Trump presidency, one that will forever taint him in American history as morally unfit to be the President of the United States and the leader of the free world.