- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

ZURICH Angry Swiss officials are seeking ways to block the publication of a book by an American diplomat because the cover depicts the Swiss flag obscured by gold bars in the shape of a swastika.

Politicians, historians and pundits are using words like "shocked," "wrong" and "insulting" to describe their disdain for the image on Stuart Eizenstat's "Imperfect Justice," a look into the nation's World War II ties to Nazi Germany due out next month.

Even President Kaspar Villiger is said to be upset. Foreign Minister Joseph Diess has gone a step further, ordering the Swiss Embassy in Washington to examine whether the book can be stopped through legal means.

"The Department for Foreign Affairs is insulted by the denigration of the Swiss national flag," spokesman Livio Zanolari said. "We have instructed our embassy in D.C. to clarify whether there are any legal steps that can be taken against the publication of this book in this form that means with this cover."

According to the New York publisher, Public Affairs, the book tells the story of how Mr. Eizenstat, as undersecretary of state in the Clinton administration, spearheaded the fight to reclaim the stolen and confiscated assets of Holocaust survivors and other victims of World War II.

The front of the book shows eight bars of gold positioned to look like a swastika over the familiar white cross of the red Swiss flag. The subtitle reads: "Looted Assets, Slave Labor and the Unfinished Business of World War II."

Gene Taft, director of publicity for Public Affairs, said he is a little offended himself that people are judging the book by its cover.

"They have interpreted the images on the jacket in a certain way," he said, noting that the only criticism he has heard has been third- and fourth-hand. "We do not mean to offend anyone."

Mr. Eizenstat made similar comments on Swiss television, saying "at no stage have I wanted to hurt the government or the Swiss people."

Switzerland's role in World War II is still a sensitive topic among its people. Only recently has the nation known for its neutrality begun making amends for laundering Nazi gold and turning away Jewish refugees fleeing persecution.

Among his efforts, Mr. Eizenstat mediated a $1.25 billion settlement with Swiss banks and the government in 1998. It enabled Holocaust victims to receive compensation from certain banks accused of concealing their assets during and after the war.

The Claims Resolution Tribunal, established to match Holocaust survivors with their dormant bank accounts, continues its work in Zurich.

On the publisher's Web site, Mr. Eizenstat wrote of his book: "This is not a story of easy successes or an idyllic view of justice. Through the diplomatic efforts of the U.S. government, threats of sanctions and boycotts, class action lawsuits, and heated negotiations, my colleagues and I produced results far beyond anyone's expectations, but we also exposed unhealed wartime wounds.

"Each country responded in its own way: Switzerland fought the disclosures about its past and deeply resented the outside pressure it faced."

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