Dans Business History Review
In December 1941, Joseph Goebbels noted his deep disdain for the Neutrals and in particular berated Switzerland, a country that was in his opinion "not anymore a State but a puny association of hotel doormen [Portiervereinigung]" (p. 283). Yet, in contrast to this scornful characterization, this study reminds readers that soberer Axis officials highly regarded Swiss financial and economic services during the dark years of World War II. Some, like the Italian Foreign Minister, went so far as to call Switzerland "our only banker" (p. 329). In a June 1943 report, Walther Funk of the Reichsbank also estimated that Germany would have quickly run into serious problems without access to either Swiss Francs or Swiss gold transactions (p. 301).
As Marc Perrenoud’s remarkable study shows repeatedly, alpine hotels and lakeside resorts may have indeed played a significant role as discreet meeting points between Swiss bankers and diplomats and their foreign counterparts. However, the key argument remains that Swiss financial interests not only withstood their ground, but also greatly increased the scale and scope of their international operations during World War II, thus laying the foundations for Switzerland’s postwar position in the leading pack of financial centers. With a (sometimes overwhelming) wealth of archival documents, Marc Perrenoud’s study underscores how the 1938–1946 period was pivotal in Swiss banks’ remarkable success during the years of war that ravaged Continental Europe. Indeed, it was during this period that the Swiss financial place, despite the intensity of the links it entertained with the Axis, shifted the center of gravity of its activities away from the German sphere of influence by reinforcing, in particular, their operations across the Atlantic. For the Swiss, World War II really started around 1944, when Allied pressure began to be fully exerted on the Neutrals. The price Switzerland had to pay for ensuring its entry in the new Atlantic order, the 250 million Francs that had been settled on during the 1946 Washington Agreement regarding Swiss gold transactions with the Nazis, was not too high.
Indeed, Swiss capital stock abroad was already estimated at 10 to 17 billion SFr. before 1939, a sum equal to three times the Swiss GNP. Considered in 1941 as