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August 18, 2009

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Prince angers German Jews with Holocaust barb

LIECHTENSTEIN'S reigning prince has angered German Jews by invoking the Holocaust to defend his country's banking secrecy.

The latest flare-up of fractious relations between the tiny Alpine principality and its much larger neighbor to the north follows outspoken comments this weekend from Prince Hans-Adam II on Liechtenstein's national holiday.

The prince took aim at Germany, which has been pressuring Liechtenstein to clamp down on confidential banking practices that allow German depositors to evade taxes.

"We and Switzerland saved many people, especially Jews, with banking secrecy," Hans-Adam told the Liechtensteiner Volksblatt. "Germany should clean up its own act, and think about its past."

Germany's Jewish community - which last year condemned Hans-Adam II's description of modern Germany as a "Fourth Reich" - slammed his latest comments yesterday as another insensitive twisting of history.

"He is portraying a picture of the banks which is absolutely not true," said Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the German Central Council of Jews.

Kramer said the prince falsely describing the Swiss and Liechtensteinian banks as pursuing "a rescue mission" of Jews in World War II.

He said the prince should not cite Jews' struggle to escape the Holocaust as "a defense shield against people targeting the banks and their practices today, hiding not only clean money but dirty money."

But Hans-Adam noted how some Jews were able to buy their safety during the Holocaust by using money they had deposited in Switzerland or Liechtenstein.

Hans-Adam said other nations' high tax rates - not Liechtenstein's money havens - are responsible for tax evasion.

"Germany and many other countries have an unbelievable mess with their state finances. These must first be put in order," he said.

Kramer said Hans-Adam's views insulted Holocaust victims.

"This was not some search-and-rescue mission by the Liechtenstein banks or the Liechtenstein state or the Swiss state to help those poor Jews being persecuted," Kramer said. "This was their money in their bank accounts that they then took out to get rescued from the Nazis."

The Liechtenstein royal family's press office declined to respond.


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