The UK’s central bank helped the Nazis sell gold plundered from Czechoslovakia months before the outbreak of the Second World War, according to the apex bank’s official history.
The official history of the Bank of England, written in 1950 but posted online for the first time on Tuesday, detailed how the “Old Lady” transfered gold held in its vaults to the Germans despite the UK Government of the day placing a freeze on all Czech assets held in London.
In the history, the Bank of England insists its role in the episode was “widely misunderstood”, even though it “still rankled for some time”, The Telegraph reported.
The Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in September 1938. In March the following year, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) asked the Bank of England to switch £5.6 million-worth of gold from an account for the Czech national bank to one belonging to the Reichsbank.
Much of the gold — nearly 2,000 gold bars — was then ‘disposed’ of in Belgium, Holland and London. The BIS was chaired at the time by Bank of England
director, German Otto Niemeyer. The UK central bank also sold gold for the Nazis in June 1939, without waiting for approval from Westminster.
“There was a further gold transaction on the 1st June, 1939, when there were sales of gold (£440,000) and gold shipments to New York (£420,000) from the No 19 account of the BIS,” the banks history says.
Other released documents show the Bank in a more favourable light, relating how during the war it sold saccharin and collections of postage stamps in exchange for foreign currency.