August 17, 2009 / 10:10 AM / 11 years ago

Liechtenstein prince criticised for Jewish comments

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Central Council of Jews has accused Liechtenstein’s Prince Hans-Adam II of making a “mockery” of the Holocaust by saying bank secrecy in his principality had helped save many Jews during World War Two.

In this file photo Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein attends a news conference in Vaduz March 16, 2003. Germany's Central Council of Jews has accused Liechtenstein's Prince Hans-Adam II of making a "mockery" of the Holocaust by saying bank secrecy in his principality had helped save many Jews during World War Two. REUTERS/Sebastian Derungs

The prince made the comments in an interview with the Liechtensteiner Volksblatt newspaper, saying Liechtenstein and Switzerland had “saved the lives of many people, especially Jews” thanks to their bank secrecy laws.

He added Germany “should think about its own past” before attacking Liechtenstein and other countries for banking policies that Berlin says encourage tax dodging.

Germany’s Central Council of Jews sharply criticised the comments Monday, describing them as a misrepresentation of the historical record.

“The comments make a mockery of the Holocaust and those that survived it,” Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Council, told the Bild daily.

“It is an attempt to use the Holocaust as a defence for the prince’s political failures. Portraying Liechtenstein as a merciful helper of the Jews does not chime with the historical facts.”

Liechtenstein remained neutral during World War Two.

The prince’s father became the first monarch to take up permanent residence in Liechtenstein when the Nazis annexed Austria, which had been their home, in 1938.

Prince Hans-Adam, 64, said in the newspaper interview that during the Nazi era Jewish families had been able to use money kept in secret bank accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland to buy their freedom.

“In communist countries it was similar,” he said. “Bank secrecy saved lives and continues to save lives today.”

It is not the first time the prince, who handed over day-to-day running of Liechtenstein to his son Prince Alois in 2004 but remains head of state, has drawn the ire of Jewish groups.

Last year, in the midst of a diplomatic row with Berlin over the principality’s bank secrecy laws, he dubbed Germany a “Fourth Reich.”

Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Sophie Hares

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