25 Gennaio 2024

Ritratto del nazista François Genoud

Revealed: Nazi financial fixer who funded Palestinian terror
The untold story of how François Genoud, a Swiss banker, executed a secret plan to eliminate Jews from the Middle East

In all the commentary about the roots of Islamic extremism that fuelled October 7, one important element has been overlooked: how the eliminationist anti-Jewish policies at the core of Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups is the product of a secret post-Second World War plan executed by a Swiss financier and ex-Nazis to incite Arabs to believe that the independence of their own countries was possible only without Jews in the Middle East.

This is not some wild conspiracy theory. It is based on two years of research into François Genoud, a Swiss banker who laundered looted Nazi treasure. A tip from a Catholic priest with a chequered past — criminal convictions for smuggling stolen art and trafficking heroin — kicked off our investigation into Genoud’s efforts to make Arab nationalists the new warriors in a Holy War against Israel and all things Jewish.

Lausanne native Genoud was a zealous 17-year-old admirer of National Socialism when he met his idol, Adolf Hitler, in 1932. Two years later, on a trip to Palestine, he met Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. They had a common enemy: Jews. Genoud became a militant advocate for pan-Arab independence.

During the Second World War, Genoud worked for Swiss intelligence and the Abwehr, German counter intelligence. He created an off-the-books operation to move currency, diamonds and gold — anything the Nazis did not want in official ledgers. He handled slush funds for SS generals and Nazi ministers. When the Grand Mufti set up a Palestinian “government in exile” in Berlin, Genoud provided a money pipeline for Arab insurgents in Palestine.

After the Nazi defeat, Genoud flourished as a behind-the-scenes powerbroker who knew how to get money and stolen plunder out of Germany. The Grand Mufti, who escaped to Egypt, appointed Genoud as his legal representative with control over his European financial interests. After the 1948 Arab-Israel war Genoud started recruiting ex-Nazi intelligence officers, propaganda specialists and armaments engineers to help Arab countries build their military and intelligence services. Declassified US intelligence files demonstrate the extent to which he succeeded.

Genoud sent Johann von Leers, a Nazi propagandist, to Egypt to direct anti-Israel propaganda. The head of the Gestapo for Jewish Affairs in occupied Poland created the framework for the secret police. Genoud’s friend, Otto Skorzeny, a military adviser to the Egyptian government, provided commando training at makeshift camps to Palestinian refugees who raided Israel via the Gaza Strip starting in the mid-1950s. One of those was Yasser Arafat.

Genoud also helped Nazi fugitives escape justice. Among those he got to freedom in Egypt or Syria were concentration camp doctors Hans Eisele and Albert Heim, Treblinka commandant Franz Stangl, and Walter Rauff, inventor of mobile gas vans that killed 97,000 Jews. Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s aide, got to Damascus and in 1957 teamed up Genoud in a company that smuggled weapons to the Algerian underground.

By the mid-1950s he had launched a new business: publishing. He made a fortune by obtaining rights to the archives of Hitler’s deputy, Martin Bormann, struck a deal with Hitler’s sister and also got the rights to Joseph Goebbels’ diaries. Genoud also published and disseminated antisemitic and anti-Israel propaganda throughout the Middle East, including the first Arabic translation of the notorious tsarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This was the period when Western intelligence reports mention Genoud for the first time. The CIA noted he sent money to the Algerian Liberation Front and he opened Swiss bank accounts in the names of nationalist Arab movements. The State Department concluded he was a “key middleman” rallying ex-Nazi and right-wing opposition to Nato. The US Embassy in Morocco reported he was partners with former high-ranking Nazis on “massive investments”. In 1958, Genoud opened his own Geneva bank, the Arab Commercial Bank, and he enlisted Albert Huber, a Swiss Nazi who converted to Islam (as Ahmed Huber), to be the conduit between the Muslim Brotherhood and Switzerland’s Al Taqwa Bank.

By the late 1960s, Genoud had become friends with George Habash and Wadie Haddad, radical Palestinians who had founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Declassified CIA files obtained by the authors reveal that Genoud had also become friends with Jacques Vèrges, a radical French lawyer. The PFLP pulled off the first armed air hijacking in July 1968. Genoud paid Vèrges to defend the captured terrorists.

When four PFLP terrorists in Zurich the following year killed an El Al pilot and seriously wounded half a dozen passengers, Genoud not only paid for the defence and sent money to the families of the terrorists but momentarily came out of the shadows to sit next to Vèrges during the Geneva trial. According to US classified cables, Genoud had become Wadi Haddad’s strategic adviser. Haddad christened him “Sheik François”.

Genoud’s wartime Nazi intelligence handler Paul Dickopf had become the director of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police in 1965. A month before the first PFLP hijacking, Dickopf was elected chief of Interpol. No one knew about Dickopf’s Nazi past. He made a deal with Genoud: Interpol refused to investigate any Palestinian terror attacks, deeming them “political matters”.

The same year as the Olympics attack, five PFLP terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa 747 with 188 passengers at Bombay’s airport. The following day, a ransom letter from Cologne demanded $5 million and included explicit instructions that rivalled anything from a John Le Carré novel. The PFLP freed the crew and passengers after it received the $5 million ransom. Genoud did more than fund the hijacking. He had driven overnight to Cologne with his wife carrying the ransom letter. After sending it to Lufthansa, and a copy to news agencies, the couple took off to the Belgian Ardennes for a holiday.

One unidentified intel agency had enough of the surge in terrorism and Genoud’s role. It leaked information about Dickopf’s SS past, forcing him to resign. Genoud had lost his most important police contact. The Mossad opened a Genoud file shortly after the Munich Olympic massacre. He was also on the intelligence radar of half a dozen Western and Eastern bloc nations. The authors discovered that the US National Security Agency had intercepted a telephone call that raised suspicions that Genoud might have had foreknowledge of the Olympics attack. The intelligence agencies played a complex game of chess over Genoud through the 1970s, as they suspected his financing behind dozens of hijackings, assassinations, car bombs and hostage situations. Genoud encouraged Arab nationalists to cooperate with European terror groups such as Germany’s Baader-Meinhof and Italy’s Red Brigade.

By the 1980s, Genoud’s grand plan for Arab nationalists to revive National Socialism was stalled. When Bolivia extradited Nazi fugitive Klaus Barbie to France in 1983, Genoud paid Jacques Vergès for his defence. He did the same a decade later when the PFLP’s top operative, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Carlos the Jackal), went on trial in France.

In 1987, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded Hamas. Genoud told colleagues he liked Hamas’s commitment to driving all Jews from the region. “A free Palestine,” Genoud reportedly told a colleague, “is one without Jews.”

Genoud narrowly escaped injury when a bomb exploded in 1993 at his Lausanne home. What worried him the most, however, were the distant drumbeats of justice from Holocaust survivors’ groups and the World Jewish Congress. They were demanding accounting records on stolen wartime assets from Swiss banks and Allied countries.

On 30 May, four weeks after the World Jewish Congress and Swiss banking officials announced a historic commission to examine sealed government and private banking files, Genoud took his two daughters and a few close friends for lunch at his favourite restaurant on Lake Lausanne. They returned home after the meal. There, one of his friends took a packet of powder provided by a Swiss suicide-assistance group and dissolved a poison in water. Eighty-year-old Genoud lifted the glass to his lips and drank.