An excerpt from the introduction to the book American Swastika by Charles Higham
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1985 - Hard cover
It was announced in the issue of Time magazine for December 19, 1983, that Hermann Abs, honorary chairman of the Deutsche Bank, had led a consortium that included the West German Government in purchasing at Sotheby's, in London, the twelfth-century German illuminated manuscript The Gospels of Henry the Lion* for the equivalent of 11.7 million dollars, the highest auction price ever paid for an artwork. Time quoted Abs as saying, regarding his native country of Germany and in terms that may provide some bleak amusement to students of economic history, "Future generations will know the good side of our historyits more noble momentsand not just the horrible days of its recent past." One has charitably to assume that the editors and researchers of Time magazine neglected to comment on this statement through an oversight, rather than through deliberate negligence. However, when the Emmy-Award-winning French film director Pierre Sauvage wrote in protest, the magazine refused to print his letter.
*The subject was a favorite of Heinrich Himmler.
Almost exactly a year before, on December 7, 1982, Time's rival publication, Newsweek, published, also without comment, the fact that the aforesaid Hermann Abs had been appointed head of a special banking council at the Vatican, heading up an investigation into the Ambrosiano and Calvi banking scandals which had engulfed the Italian economy and in which an archbishop from Chicago, Gregory Marcinkus, had allegedly been involved. I was struck at the time by the peculiarity of the fact that the Holy See had chosen to engage for this post the former personal banker of Adolf Hitler and head of the Deutsche Bank, which played an important role in the German economic despoliation of Nazi-occupied Europe. It was interesting also to note that Abs had been on the supervisory board of I.G. Farben, the Nazi industrial trust, at a time when a substantial sum was appropriated by that company for the construction of the rubber factory of Auschwitz.
I drew the matter to the attention of Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center of Holocaust Studies shortly after the Newsweek item appeared. The rabbis called a press, radio, and television conference at which the three of us expressed dismay at the appointment by the world's most powerful religious leader, Pope John Paul II, of a former financier of Hitler who had at one time employed that selfsame pontiff in one of his subsidiary companies as a slave laborer in Poland. We made clear that the matter had been brought to the attention of the Papal Nuncio and the Vatican Secretary of State, who were weighing the matter at the time the press conference took place.
It was agreed that because of their great importance, the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal would be given special consideration in the matter. Hence, the rabbis and I gave the Times and the Journal interviews ahead of other media representatives. The Times's Ralph Blumenthal filed a lengthy story. It was editorially withdrawn just hours before press time and replaced by an innocuous column item. Similarly, the Journal prepared a lengthy story, including reports from Bonn, Berlin, and Rome, and again the story was pulledthis time in its entirety.
The result of the conference at the Wiesenthal Center was that there was some public discussion but, in effect the matter sank without a trace. When the aforementioned rabbis thereafter made an official visit to the Vatican, they were advised that they should not discuss the Abs issue while in audience with the Pope. They were advised privately, "The matter will take care of itself." However, like most matters of its kind, it did not; in short, at the time of this writing, Herr Abs is still in office, as well as officially representing the West German Government in art purchases.