by George Taber
(excerpt by henrymakow.com)
Austria was the first victim of Nazi aggression in the spring of 1938. Because of his close relations with the Bank for International Settlements, which he had helped start, [Hjalmar] Schacht knew that the Austrian central bank had about 100 tons of gold. That was almost four times as much as the Germans had at the time. When the Wehrmacht marched into Vienna on Saturday morning March 12, Wilhelm Keppler, a businessman and early Hitler backer, and two armed Nazi commandoes arrived at the Austrian Central Bank and took the Austrian gold to Berlin. The Germans forced the Austrian central bank to transfer an additional 5.7 tons that it had shipped to London for safekeeping.
The Nazis also demanded that Vienna's large and wealthy Jewish community hand over to Berlin 14.3 tons of their private gold. Schacht, left, immediately departed for Vienna to lead the Nazi takeover of the Austrian central bank. In a festive celebration at its headquarters, he led the staff in a pledge of allegiance to Hitler, asking them to join him in "a triple Sieg Heil to our Führer."
Without the stolen central bank gold, Adolph Hitler would have been an insignificant player in world history.
The windfall arrived at a crucial time for the Nazis. By mid-1938, Berlin was almost out of foreign currency and gold largely because of its rearmament program and would have been forced to cut back their war buildup.
On October 3, 1938, Emil Puhl, who soon became vice-president of the Reichsbank, wrote in a memo, "The rapid implementation of rearmament was only possible because of the use of available gold, foreign exchange from the former Reich, and the immediate recovery of Austrian gold, foreign raw material, and valuable securities reserves."
When the Germans later invaded other European countries, one of their first stops was always the local central bank. After quickly learning what had happened in Austria, foreign central bankers desperately tried to get the gold out of their countries. Usually the bullion was sent an ocean away to Canada and the United States, where it was stored temporarily at the New York Federal Reserve vaults in lower Manhattan but eventually went to Fort Knox. Even the Vatican secretly sent nearly eight tons of gold to New York.
In the darkest days of the Blitz in May 1940, the Bank of England shipped 2,000 tons across the U-boat infested Atlantic. That included not only Britain's gold but also large stashes held for other countries. Amazingly, not a single ship was sunk. The British nicknamed the secret cargo margarine.
After the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin's Politburo voted to send by train their three most valuable properties 900 miles to the Eastern side of the Ural Mountains to keep them out of Hitler's hands. The three: Lenin's embalmed body, the art works of Leningrad's Hermitage Museum, and 2,800 tons of gold.
The Nazis eventually captured some $600 million worth of gold, which today would be worth $19 billion. That kept Hitler's war machine going for five years. At the end of World War II in 1945, the Reichsbank still had nearly 300 tons on hand, which was more than it had at the beginning of the conflict. Without the stolen central bank gold, Adolph Hitler would have been an insignificant player in world history.