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Cashing Out

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I received an ARC of “Cashing Out: The Flight of Nazi Treasure, 1945-1948” from NetGalley and Hachette Book Group, Inc., in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, for reasons entirely within my control, I inadvertently let this book lapse. So, I decided to be responsible for my pernicious lack of timing and purchased this book to complete the review.

Written by Neil Lochery, this book is comprised of 19 chapters, along with a bibliography and endnotes. With a book of this type of historical magnitude, I expect due diligence regarding research, and the author responsibly fulfilled this to a “T.”

This was a slow-moving book for me, and particularly the beginning. The first 4 chapters didn’t really focus on “The Loot,” but rather on the roles of so-called neutral nations of Spain, Portugal, and Sweden during the war.

I learned quite a lot of information from this book. For example, Lochery revealed that during the war, the pope asked Americans not to deploy black soldiers when they liberated Rome. I’ve always known that the Pope was antisemitic, but I didn’t know just how blatantly racist he was. I wish that I could be surprised. But, unfortunately, I’m not. I was also not surprised when I read that Nazi looted gold was helped to make renovations at the Fatima shrine in Portugal.

The author showed the Nazi exodus to numerous countries in South America via the ports of Spain and Portugal. It was there, Lochery informs us, that they received protection—even after the war—from both local and national officials in those countries (e.g., police, politicians, and civil servants) either in the form of sympathy, political favors, and/or money. Even at the height of the war, it was shocking to hear how in a so-called neutral country that the Portuguese secret services and police not only helped but allowed newly-arrived Jews to be deported back to their countries of origin or straight to concentration camps. Although I’m giving Portugal as a primary example, the author outlined other countries involved in the complicity of theft: Brazil, Argentina, Italy, the Vatican, Sweden, Switzerland, and Monaco, among others.

The one major issue that I have with this book is the title. Instead of “Cashing Out: The Flight of Nazi Treasure, 1945-1948,” I think the author should have called it “Cashing Out: The Flight of Nazi-Looted Treasure, 1945-1948.” Lochery realizes that most of the treasure was looted from others—both Jewish and gentile—so retitling the book would have helped. The title as it is now falsely impresses the idea that, somehow, the Nazi’s were transferring their OWN wealth rather than having stolen it.

Books like the ones that Lochery wrote are never going to be easy reads—not just because of the writing, but also because of the subject matter. I congratulate the author on writing and completing this book. And I absolutely encourage others to pick it up and reengage with the past through modern research.

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This is a well-researched book on a complicated subject and, while informative, needed a little more organizational structure. I was hoping for a little more "Monuments Men" and a little less "history textbook", but was fascinated on the depth of knowledge Lochery had on the subject. Getting this information is no small feat, as the secrecy shrouding much of the stolen gold is not easily penetrable. Overall a good read, if you know what you're getting into.

Thank you to NetGalley for a complimentary copy

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Many books have detailed the Nazis systematic plundering of their conquered terrorizes, most notably The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War, or the work of the Monument’s Men in saving historic sites from destruction and the restitution of stockpiles of riches. Fewer have extended their scope to address the nations that benefitted financially from this plunder, especially in the immediate post war climate. Neill Lochery’s Cashing Out: The Flight of the Nazi Treasure, 1945-1948 focuses on five nations: Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Argentina and Brazil. Most of them stayed neutral through the conflict, with only the European nations able to maintain that standing to the war’s conclusion.

Locherry is very detailed in presenting his evidence, having drawn greatly form the archival records. We do not have a traditional chronological detailing, instead we journey from nation to nation seeing snippets of events and how they related. As it is focused on the end of the war and the immediate post war climate there is a lot of content on the development of spy craft and intelligence programs in each of the nations. All the nations, in some way benefitted financially, Sweden especially traded natural resources that allowed the Third Reich’s industries to maintain a war footing longer than their own networks would have allowed.

Thanks to the shipment of art and other treasures from occupied Europe, the Nazis were able to determine which regions it would be easiest to bribe their way past or who were less concerned with confirming the genuine-ness of identity documents. Some of the Nazi decision makers were also thinking in the long term, preparing for the possibilities of defeat years in advance.

Locherry looks at the competing interests in the different nations, between those nations and the Third Reich and the competing priorities of the different Ally agencies. Lacking a single united organization at many points hampered the success of the Allies to track down the gold or artworks, or at the end of the war to track and capture escaping Nazis who made full use of the rat lines to hide in place or escape to South America.

As other books have noted, the Allies postwar fell out on ideological grounds with a clear expectation of hostilities between the two remaining global superpowers.

And that is the true tragedy at the center of Cashing Out the best of intentions were not given the resources necessary to truly track and apprehend the looted gold and artwork, or capture escapees. Instead the priority was to jockey for resources and expertise for the new post war political realities.

Well worth reading for history enthusiasts or those exploring post WWII Europe, the early days of the Cold War, or the failures of de-Nazification.

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Cashing Out by Neill Lochery is a riveting and thoroughly-researched Nonfiction book about the post-WWII period when Nazis went to great lengths to obtain and retain wealth after it was clear they lost the war. Many countries were complicit with escape routes (ratlines) which helped house both the criminals and treasures. Nazis took whatever they wanted at whatever cost.

So many things to mull over but my favourite aspect was learning about the sheer amount of theft of some of the best-known art ever created, not to mention private collections and treasures such as gold, the latter of which was considered "ill-gotten gains" by some. Though I've read about degenerate art during this time, the author discusses it here as well. The strategic thefts changed the world economically and some opportunistic countries utilized war repercussions to augment profits by trading with Germany. Intelligence and counter intelligence were crucial. Some German prisoners quickly caved under interrogation but others didn't budge. It was interesting to read about specific personalities and what happened to some of the art collections.

If you are riveted by true crime, strategy, world economics, global players and the importance of art and treasures as a whole, this is for you.

My sincere thank you to PublicAffairs and NetGalley for providing me with an early digital copy of this fabulous book.

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An absolutely fascinating read. Lochery has become an auto-buy author for me and his latest did not disappoint. Cashing Out dives into the details of topics briefly touched on in Lochery’s previous books Lisbon and 1941- the subject of looted art, gold and escape route of Nazis all set against the web of post-war dealings between neutral countries and the Allies. The wealth of research and knowledge in this book is beyond impressive but still remains so readable and engaging. Neill Lochery’s way of writing stands out once again - authoritative and meticulously researched, his ability to weave all the little lesser-known details into the historical accounts and unique way of capturing the personalities of leaders and their own objectives in each operation kept me engaged at every page. Of particular interest were the different ways looted art moves through Europe during and post war, the failures and missed opportunities of questioning by the allies of high level German authorities, Salazar’s post war strategies to evade much of Operation Safehaven and the different intelligence agencies during this period.

Thank you for Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy.

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Everyone knows that Nazi's were evil, but the role played by neutral countries often gets overlooked. They facilitated the movement of money and stolen assets during and after the war. An engaging book that covers a large time period and geographical frame, it's a good update to The Monuments Men.

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This book is fantastic -- an absolute rip snortin' page turner. I was hooked from the first paragraph. Lots of fascinating people, certainly a fascinating time. I hope this book gets the traction, and exposure, it deserves. 5 Stars, easily !!

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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me review this book. This was an interesting read about what happened to the artworks and other pieces that the Nazis stole during WWII. It was interesting to read that several countries that were neutral still profited from the stolen pieces. I was glad to read that some of the artworks were able to be returned.

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I could not resist the book by Neill Lochery. As a fellow student of European History at the University of London, I was naturally drawn to the subject matter. Lochery's book delves into specific aspects of the war that often escape the broader historical narrative, offering a deeper understanding of this monumental conflict.
Lochery skillfully takes readers on a journey inside the countries that maintained their neutrality during WWII, namely Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and Sweden. These nations, while officially neutral, were deeply entangled with Germany and profited from their wartime connections. Their neutral status brought profound changes to their societies, allowing them to thrive economically through lucrative trade and enabling them to retain much of the gold they received during and after the war. Surprisingly, these countries also provided various forms of assistance to the Nazis, even aiding in the resettlement of war criminals and becoming gateways for Nazi escape routes to South America. Argentina and Brazil, in particular, benefitted greatly from Nazi funds and played significant roles in harboring former Nazis.
One of the book's focal points is the vast amount of gold stolen from occupied countries' central banks, as well as the extensive looting of art and other valuables from Jewish individuals. This stolen gold was then used to finance the war, as the Nazis resorted to counterfeiting currency and gold became the only acceptable means of conducting international trade. Additionally, the book sheds light on how neutral countries facilitated the trade of art and antiquities through closed circles during the war. Personal collections flourished, and auctions were frequently held, with many Jews forced to sell their precious artwork in exchange for passage on ships to safer locations or falling victim to outright theft.
I learned a lot from the book. It has details that I didn’t know but as this is a vast subject, it was hard to organize and tell the story. I also attempted to fact check some information and it seems it is hard to get accurate information as to how much gold is still in the vaults of Portugal and Spain and where it is in some of the other countries. There is so much secrecy around this subject, even the Vatican was involved, so getting to the bottom line is not easy and it is deeply complex.
Furthermore, the book sheds light on the contrasting approaches taken by the United States and Britain in handling stolen art, informants, and interactions with neutral countries. The differing styles and priorities of these two nations, despite their mutual dependence on each other, provide valuable insight into the post-war landscape and the challenges faced by a financially strapped Britain.

Neill Lochery kept me engaged and I was glad I got a chance to read the book. There is a vast amount of information to cover, and I thank NetGalley for the opportunity.

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“Cashing Out: The Flight of Nazi Treasure, 1945–1948,” by Neill Lochery (NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB); ISBN 9781541702301; Publication Date 7 November 2023) earns three stars.

The author’s research is beyond compare…thorough, deep, and unrivaled. Telling the tale is another matter. I was looking for a thorough read on art and other valuables stolen by the Nazis, and yes, there was some of that. Too often, regrettably, the author spent over much time on a few personalities, but largely went down a research rabbit trail and ended up talking about intelligence collection and the efforts of spy rings pre, trans, and post-war principally by the Germans, British, and Americans. I was disappointed in that as I was hoping to learn more how the art was stolen, traced, and in some cases, recovered, and today’s efforts focusing on the same. Still, I learned some things…which is always good.

Sincere thanks to the author and NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB) for granting this reviewer the opportunity to read this Advance Reader Copy (ARC), and thanks to Kindle (EPUB) for helping to make that possible.

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Neill Lochery does a great job in introducing the history and you could tell that the book was well-researched. It was a strong history nonfiction book and I’m glad I was able to read this.

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