Book ReviewsDatacide 10

François Genoud – The life of a Swiss banker and fascist anti-Imperialist


François Genoud was born in 1915 in Lausanne, in the french-speaking part of Switzerland. In his teens he became an admirer of Adolf Hitler, met the future “Führer” in person in 1932, and remained a staunch National-Socialist until his death in 1996.
In 1936 this was amended with another life long committment: to Arab nationalism, when he and a friend traveled to the middle east and met many leaders of the Palestinian national movement then exiled in Iraq, and in Jerusalem most importantly the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, himself not only the historic leader of Palestinian nationalism, but also a close ally of Nazi-Germany.

Genoud, back in Switzerland, opened a milkbar named Oasis in his hometown, which apparently became a meeting point for Axis agents (in some literature the Oasis is referred to as a “nightclub”).
He was already a member of the National Front, the most prominent of the fascist movements in Switzerland, which was oriented towards German National-Socialism (other fascist groups in Switzerland, especially in the French speaking west, tended to be more oriented towards Mussolini’s Italian fascism). In the years from 1933-38 the swiss fascists seemed to be growing in popularity, although they remained marginal compared to the success of the fascist movements in most other European countries at the time. Popular support for the NF collapsed more or less with the “Anschluss” of Austria in 1938.
Many Frontists – such as Genoud – became direct supporters of the German “Reich” then and moved to Germany to offer their services for the National-Socialist cause.
In 1941 he met again with al-Husseini who was setting up headquarters in Berlin to coordinate the formation of the muslim SS-brigade in Bosnia, as well as the anti-British and anti-Zionist activities of Arab insurgents in Palestine, consistently lobbying Berlin not to allow Jews to escape to Palestine, but to murder them instead.
Not that the Germans weren’t doing that already, but there is at least one case where Himmler was prepared – as a propaganda coup – to exchange 5’000 Jewish children for 20’000 German POW’s. Al-Husseinis incessant lobbying made sure that this “deal” fell through and the children were sent to the gas chambers instead.
Genoud and al-Husseini remained friends until the latters death in 1974.

Another life-long friendship was starting in the same year: with Paul Dickopf.
Dickopf was a SS-officer and became Genoud’s contact at the Stuttgart office of the Abwehr (Intelligence Agency). After the war, Dickopf claimed he had deserted in 1942 and had gone into hiding in Switzerland – at Genoud’s place. In reality he only “disappeared” in 1944 and indeed stayed with Genoud in Lausanne. That Genoud was a fanatical Nazi is only one of the facts that make Dickopf’s story lack credibility. It’s true that he started working for both the Swiss and the Americans (via Allen Dulles’ OSS office in Bern), but it’s almost certain that simultaneously he still worked for Germany – a triple agent, something he managed to obscure after the war, when he was making a steep and rapid career in the Federal police of West Germany, becoming the chief of the BKA (the German equivalent of the FBI) in 1965, and in addition to that head of Interpol in 1968.
It is said that he was partly elected to this post thanks to his friend François Genoud’s good connections to the Arab countries.
In 1971 he was deposed under allegations of incompetence, but he had certainly proved to be able to place a staggering number of former Nazi agents in the BKA.
Besides this it is noticeable that under Dickopf’s leadership Interpol essentially refused to deal with the emerging modern terrorism (hijackings of planes, Munich), claiming these were “political” and not criminal deeds.

But back in time:
The Mufti of Jerusalem escaped from Berlin in the last days of the “Reich” and tried to make his way into Switzerland. The Swiss arrested him and deported him to France where he was put under house arrest. Yugoslavia was seeking extradition for his involvement in war crimes comitted by the Bosnian SS brigade he had helped set up. Al-Husseini however managed to escape to Egypt.
He wasn’t the only war criminal who was seeking refuge there, the country became – not dissimilar to Peron’s Argentina – a safe haven for active Nazis, allowing them to continue their struggle.

Genoud in the meantime had kept himself busy moving Nazi money into safe Swiss accounts and also helping Nazis escape to the Middle East or South America.
Soon after he made his first steps in a new direction: Publishing.
His first coup was when he got his hands on the Martin Bormann archives which contain the transcripts of Hitler’s “table talks”. Later he secured literary rights to them, making a deal with Hitler’s sister, and the literary estate of Goebbels, which thanks to the diaries would make Genoud a fortune in the coming decades.

On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the statehood of Israel in Tel Aviv. The next day the troops of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq attacked Israel. Abd ar-Rahman Assam, secretary general of the Arab League declared:”This war will be a war to extermination and lead to a terrible massacre.” This makes it clear that the Israeli defense was not only for the statehood of Israel but for the very lives of the Jews living in Palestine.
The Mufti did whatever he could to contribute to the success of this massacre, by lobbying in Egypt, setting up a “Holy War Army” and later an “All-Palestine Government” in Gaza (then a part of Egypt).

In 1952 the “Free Officers” under Gamal Abdel Nasser and Muhammad Naguib took power in Egypt by way of a coup. Early on a number of Nazi exiles were among the advisors for the Free Officers. Active Nazi involvement in the 50’s is estimated several hundred strong.
After the king was deposed, Egypt also became a safe place for the Algerian anti-colonial struggle, in which François Genoud took part in a particular way, mainly through the foundation of the “Arab Commercial Bank” in 1958 which started playing a considerable role in trade with Middle Eastern countries and served as the conduit for arms acquisitions by the Algerian FLN.
Hjalmar Schacht, once Hitler’s finance minister and now a banker and financial advisor for governments and businesses from Syria to Indonesia, was consulted in the process of setting up the bank and declared in one meeting: “Germany can conquer the world without waging war”.

In 1960 a setback happened for Genoud: First Paula Hitler died without signing the contract that would have given him the rights for all of Hitlers works. A year later Adolf Eichmann was found in Argenitina and taken to Israel by a Mossad commando. Genoud was financing the defense.
In the same year there was the conference of Evian which brought an end to the war and lead to independence of Algeria and the freeing of the jailed leaders of the FLN.
After independence François Genoud was at the heart of power of the new state.

Soon there were cracks in the unity of the FLN leadership, at first with Ahmed Ben Bella, Boumedienne, Khider on the one, and Belkassim Krim and Mohammed Boudiaf on the other side. But it only took months until cracks between Ben Bella and Khider started appearing.
Mohammed Khider – one of the historic leaders and its Secretary General – was concentrating the warchest of the FLN in the Arab Commercial Bank. A total of nearly 42m Swiss Francs was deposited in numbered accounts.
As Genoud was covering for Khider he soon lost his privileges in Algeria and even spent a few months in prison there. Khider himself was assassinated by Algerian agents in Madrid in 1967.

After independence, Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Fatah (and a remote relative of al-Husseini), asked the new Algerian leadership to open an office for his movement. Under the auspices of Abu Jihad (Chalil al-Wazir) it iwas through this “embassy” that contacts to the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam, North Korea and other countries were established and leaders like Che Guevara were received as guests.
Arafat was developing a “Chinese option” of guerilla warfare against Israel, a development that was seen with critical eyes by the Egyptians who saw their influence on Palestinian Nationalism vane, but who also understood that the guerilla option was not a promising one in a country like Israel where there were no remote areas for retreat as they existed in countries like Algeria or Vietnam.

Not surprisingly, François Genoud soon made contact with members of the new generation of exponents of Palestinian nationalism. The closest relation he struck was with the supposedly “left wing” PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), becoming a good friend of Waddi Haddad, one of its historic leaders.
Palestinian nationalism started having a great attraction towards young Europeans who projected their respective ideas of the “people’s war” onto it. Among the first who were trained by the PFLP in their guerilla camps in Jordan were Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, the founders of the Red Army Faction.
The first European casualty was the neo-Nazi Roger Coudray who died as a member of Fatah.
Neither the PFLP nor Fatah had problems associating with old and new Nazis, or members of the “New Left” at the same time. Fatah sent two observers to a congress of an ultra-racist organisation called the New European Order, headed by the notorious Swiss Nazi and holocaust denier Gaston-Armand Amaudruz. This of course was in the same year – 1969 – that the German SDS (left wing student organisation) sent a delegation to the PLO congress to Algier to express their comittment to the “Endsieg” of the Palestinians against Israel. One of the German delegates was Josef (“Joschka”) Fischer, who would later become German Foreign minister (and as one could argue, kept up his support for armed nationalist rackets by intervening on the side of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” in Yugoslavia in the late 90’s).

1968 was the year that the PFLP started its campaigns of plane hijackings, which reached a peak in 1970.
This was the year when Genoud met a new young recruit to the Palestinian cause, the Venezuelan Illich Ramirez Sanchez, who would later be known as Carlos and rise to notoriety for the kidnapping of the OPEC oil ministers.

His involvement with Palestinian terror groups didn’t keep Genoud from pursueing his career as a publisher of the Goebbels diaries and other Nazi literature. Often there were problems that were fought out in courts, but he usually came out on top and made a fortune with it.

The courts were also a platform for Genouds struggle to help all kinds of Nazis and Anti-Semites. After already orchestrating the legal defense of Adolf Eichmann, he did the same for the Palestinian commando that attacked an Israeli air plane on Zürich airport, for Klaus Barbie, the “butcher of Lyon”, and for Carlos, often in collaboration with Jacques Vergès, a prominent figure in France oscillating between anti-imperialism and anti-Semitism.

In the meantime the attempts of the Algerian government to regain the “treasure of the FLN” cost more lives, and was also battled out in courts. Years later there was finally a settlement, whereby the BCA became a part of the Algerian banking system. However a measly 2,5m Swiss Francs were left of the “treasure” by then.

Genoud’s life remained action packed and his comittment to the Nazi cause never faltered.
He was believed by Swiss authorities to have been the founder of Lugano-based al Taqwa Bank, which was shut down in 2002 for reputed status as a funding conduit for al Qaeda and Hamas.

On May 30th, 1996 Genoud committed suicide, with the help of the Swiss pro-euthanasia group Exit, a short time after Jewish leaders and Swiss banking officials announced an unprecedented agreement to set up a commission to examine secret bank and government files to search for funds deposited in Switzerland by Holocaust victims.
To what degree this inquiry would have touched on his activities and transactions will remain unknown. A master of secrecy he managed to stay in the shadows.

Main source:
Karl Laske: Ein Leben zwischen Hitler und Carlos: François Genoud, Limmat Verlag, Zürich 1996
German translation of: Le banquier noir. François Genoud, Editions du Seuil, Paris 1996

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