iD magazine - - History -

“Re­mem­ber your oath,” shouts the com­man­der of the Swiss Guard to his men. “You must not ever talk about this here.” He points to dozens of crates that are now be­ing un­loaded from a truck and car­ried into the Bas­tion of Ni­cholas V— home of the newly founded Vat­i­can Bank. The men stay silent, but they know pre­cisely what they are keep­ing un­der wraps: wealth that was stolen from mur­dered men, women, and chil­dren.

Flash­back, April 12, 1941: Hitler’s troops have con­quered Bel­grade. Soon they di­vide the na­tion of Yu­goslavia be­tween pri­mar­ily Catholic Croa­tia and Protes­tant Ser­bia. Par­tic­u­larly in Croa­tia, the pup­pet dic­ta­tor Ante Pavelic over­sees a bru­tal regime on be­half of the Nazis, re­sult­ing in the mur­der of up to 750,000 peo­ple— mainly Jews and Ro­mani. The Us­taše, as the dic­ta­tor’s bru­tal mili­tia is called, is re­spon­si­ble for the slaugh­ter. Its men plun­der the pos­ses­sions of their dead vic­tims, hoard­ing mil­lions. By the end of the war, the Us­taše has a vast col­lec­tion of gold den­tal fill­ings, jew­elry, and gem­stones worth around $80 mil­lion— and starts look­ing for a way to trans­port the riches to other coun­tries with­out be­ing no­ticed. And that is where the Vat­i­can Bank came into play— it had been es­tab­lished for just such a pur­pose three years ear­lier. The Nazi treasure hoard is con­cealed in the seat of the Vat­i­can Bank and par­tially ab­sorbed into the Church. In 1999 Holo­caust sur­vivors tried to sue the Isti­tuto per le Opere di Reli­gione, but the in­sti­tu­tion re­mained un­co­op­er­a­tive. The case was dis­missed in 2007; the bank is part of the sovereignty of the Holy See and thus im­mune. This spe­cial sta­tus soon leads to deal­ings with the un­der­world…

BLOOD GOLD To this day, the Vat­i­can is al­leged to still con­tain jew­elry, gold bars, and pre­cious gems that the Nazis had taken from their dead vic­tims.

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