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Swiss central bank disputes documentary’s contention on gold coins

June 19, 1997 GMT

BERN, Switzerland (AP) _ Swiss officials on Thursday denied a British documentary’s claims that Switzerland may have used gold fillings from Holocaust victims to mint coins after World War II.

The documentary, which aired this week on PBS in the United States and the British Broadcasting Corp. in Britain, claimed laser tests conducted by the University of California found higher mercury content in 20-franc gold coins minted by Switzerland in 1945 and 1946.

The precious metal might have come from dental fillings that the Nazis had taken from concentration camp victims and sold to the Swiss, the program, titled ``Nazi Gold,″ theorized.

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Jean-Pierre Roth, vice president of the Swiss National Bank, said the Central Bank had conducted its own tests of the coins minted between 1907 and 1949. While coins minted in 1913 and 1927 had a higher than normal mercury content, the postwar coins did not, he said, adding that the amount of mercury can vary according to the care with which the gold is refined.

The Central Bank has not denied buying gold from the Nazis. An agreement Switzerland reached with the victorious Allies after the war required it to pay compensation for gold the Nazis had looted from captured countries.

But Roth said no gold bought from the Nazis, including Germany’s own pre-war stocks, was used in Swiss coins before 1947.

The creators of ``Nazi Gold,″ however, were unconvinced by Roth’s denial.

``The BBC stands by its story,″ said David Marks, associate producer of BBC Documentaries and of the program, part of its ``Inside Story″ series.