Daniel FreiDas Washingtoner Abkommen von 1946

2.44 Daniel Frei, Das Washingtoner Abkommen von 1946: Ein Beitrag der schweizerischen Aussenpolitik zwischen dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und dem Kalten Krieg, in Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte, Band 19 (1969), Heft 3, p. 567 – 619, link: http://retro.seals.ch/-ope-nurl?rft.issn=00367834&rft.date=1969&lPage=567&PDFRequested=true
[The Washington Accord of 1946]

a) Background

The text at hand deals with the Washington Accord between the United States and Switzerland of 1946. It has been written by Daniel Frei, an eminent former professor of political and international relations at the University of Zurich. The negotiations on the Washington Accord marked the true end of World War II for Switzerland and pitted Switzerland against the United States in a hard and fierce encounter. During World War II, Switzerland has become more and more isolated and in the last years of the war has come under increasing pressure of the Allied Powers, in particular of the United States. (The interested user and reader may turn to chapters 14 Turning the Screw:

American Pressure on Switzerland during the last year of the war (page 317 following), chapter 15 The Aftermath of the War: The German Assets in Switzerland (page 347 following and chapter 16 Postwar Economic Relations (pages 371 -390) of the Swiss historian working out of the United States Heinz K. Meier in his book Friendship under Stress: U.S.-Swiss relations 1900 to 1950. At the end of World War II Switzerland was exposed to a type of isolation it had never experienced before. An important factor was the 1946 Washington Accord on German assets in Switzerland and gold as well as the exclusion of neutrals from the San Francisco conference of 1945.

Based upon the so called Currie-Agreement of March 8 1944 after a period of increased pressure of the Allied Powers Switzerland had to almost completely relinquish transit transports to Italy, to block German assets in Switzerland and to reduce exports to Germany to a minimum level.

Moreover Switzerland had to conclude a financial agreement with France on advance payments in the amount of Swiss francs 250 Million. The Washington Accord was part of the economic warfare of the Allied forces. The respective program of action used the codeword “Safe Haven”. The main purpose of the program was, to prevent Germany to build a camouflaged base for a weapons industry and training grounds for military troups. Beyond that, operation “Safe Haven” served to question looted assets transferred by Nazi Germans into neutral countries and to later include German assets outside of Germany to finance war reparations. In that context, Switzerland was a special target, since the allied forces assumed US dollars 300 millions to be in Switzerland. The more Germany’s power crumbled, the more resolute the behaviour of the Allied Powers vis a vis neutrals became. On a proposal of the United States, the Allied forces decided to link all economic negotiations with negotiations on a participation in the Safe Haven program. Switzerland therefore on February 16th 1945 decided as a preliminary measure, to block all German accounts, to institute a duty of notification of all German accounts and to waive the banking secrecy and respective professional duties of secrecy for attorneys and notaries. Switzerland assumed, that the Allied Powers started to pressure Switzerland to hand over German assets in Switzerland for the purpose of reparations. At the time of the Currie Agreement, Switzerland argued, that this would be without a legal base and that Switzerland was considering for the later negotiations of the Washington Accord to offset German claims on Swiss assets with Swiss claims on German debth. With the exception of Great Britain, the Allied Powers predominatly had a negative attitude vis-a-vis Switzerland. This was the background of the negotiations of the Washington Accord in Spring of 1946 Switzerland’s main purpose was to accommodate the US strategy and at the same time become an accepted member of the new world again.

For the purpose of this Anthology we note, that in the Swiss delegation to Washington among others participated Dietrich Schindler sen. (see text 2.45) and William Rappard (see text 2.17 and 2.27). The Swiss delegation was headed by the towering and sturdy government official, diplomat, and at times member of the parliament Walter Stucki. His life is described in a new biography by Konrad Stamm, “Der grosse Stucki, eine Schweizerische Karriere von weltmännischem Format: Minister Stucki von 1888 – 1963” (The great Stucki, a Swiss career of worldly format: Minister Walter Stucki 1888 – 1963) Zürich, 2013. The outcome of the negotiations of the Washington Accord were highly controversial in Switzerland, many spoke of a capitulation. The behaviour of Switzerland in the negotiations of the Washington Accord and in the ensuing phase of implementation was at the source of consecutive frictions with the United States. Stuart Eizenstat almost 50 years thereafter in his contested forword for the Eizenstat I report of May 1997 squarely addressed the behaviour during the negotiations and in particular concerning the performance of the Accord in harsh words (see text 2.47).

For the sake of clarification, the issue of dormant accounts was not directly part of the negotiations of the Washington Accord. Nevertheless this decisive post World War II encounter of Switzerland with the United States set the stage for conflicts between Switzerland and the US. This, among others, will be dealt with in the ensuing texts 2.45 – 2.49 under the title Neutrality, Morality and the Holocaust as well as in the case study of the UBS case in texts 2.50 – 2.53.

Daniel Frei is a native of Diepoldsau, St Gallen, Switzerland, where he was born in 1940. Frei was the first professor for political sciences at the University of Zurich. He studied history at the University of Zurich, where he got his PhD in 1964 with his doctorate thesis on “The promotion of Swiss national consciousness after the collapse of the Old Swiss Confederation in 1798″ After his graduation Daniel Frei did post-doc studies at the London School of Economics, the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, and the University of Michigan. In 1968 he obtained his habilitation at the University of Zürich with an analysis with the title “Dimensions of neutral policy”. In 1971 he was appointed to the new professorship for political science with particular emphasis on international relations at the University of Zurich. Daniel Frei significantly promoted the development of political science in Switzerland – not least through his research on the security policy and the East-West relations. He was regarded as the most distinguished German Swiss representative in his field. Starting in 1986 he was a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, since 1976 also a representative and a president of the Swiss Institute of International Studies in Zurich. Daniel Frei is the author, co-author and editor of the following books in English: International Crises and Crisis Management, Evolving a Conceptual Framework for Inter-Systems Relations, Definitions and Measurements of Détente, East-West Relations in Europe: A Systematic Survey, and The Risk of Unintended Nuclear War.

b) Summary

The text at hand is a scholarly article. It focuses on the Washington Accord of 1946. It was written as a contribution to the history of Swiss foreign policy between World War II and the Cold War. The text has been published in the Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte (Swiss journal for history). Daniel Frei, according to the text had access to relevant persons and archives on both sides of the Atlantic. The text is a lively and highly readable account of a crucial phase of Swiss foreign policy immeditaly after World War II and it combines historic and political science methods of research it contains a remarkable description of the state of minds and the views of the various actors involved on the Swiss and on the American side.

In the introduction, the text describes the background of behaviour of the Allied Power’s towards the end of World War II. The more the German power crumbled, the more resolute the attitude of the Allied Powers vis-a-vis the neutrals became. Switzerland was the main target.

The text then describes the moral and political isolation of Switzerland after the end of the war. The Allied Powers more and more questioned the behaviour and existence of Switzerland as a neutral state; this led to a reassessment and reconsideration of Swiss national consciousness in Switzerland.

The part of the text Die Verhandlungen in Washington: Ausgangslage (negotiations in Washington, the situation at the outset) describes the power structure of the post World War situation and the situation Switzerland had found itself in. Due to the strong and sturdy negotiation position of minister Walter Stucki, the conflict amounted to a conflict between David and Goliath. The situation was marked by trips back to Switzerland as part of the negotiation strategy and attempts to enter into direct contacts with other members of the Allied Power.

The part Der Nervenkrieg und das Abkommen (the tug of wars and the Accord) describes the complexity of the issues at hand. The key question was the determination of a settlement sum between US dollars 100 million and US dollars 250 million. An important issue was the alledgedly acquired gold by Switzerland. The overriding goal of Swiss post war foreign policy was to overcome the post war isolation.

The text in subpart Die Aufnahme des Abkommens in der Schweiz (the perception of the Accord in Switzerland) highlights the  hesitation of large parts of the Swiss population to accept the Accord.
The final part Der Beginn des kalten Kriegs (the beginning of the Cold War and its effects on the implementation of the Washington Accord) deals with a substantial realignment of American foreign policy. The Morgenthau plan to deal with Germany was discontinued.. The Marshall plan was formed in late Summer of 1947 instead. The text in detail deals with the implications of those changes for Switzerland.

The text at the end deals with “Von der “Durchführung” zur “Ablösung” des Abkommens (From the implementation to the replacement of the Accord).

The text ends with a general assessment of the achievement of the goals of Switzerland to formalize its relationship to the losing and the winning powers as well.

c) Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here:
A_2.22_Frei_Washingtoner Abkommen


© Prof. Jens Drolshammer, office@drolshammer.com,  www.drolshammer.net

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