Bernstein, Bernard Papers

Dates: 1863-1993; Bulk dates: 1933-1955

Lt. Colonel and Colonel, U.S. Army, and Financial Adviser to General Dwight D. Eisenhower for Civil Affairs and Military Government, 1942-45; Director, Finance Division and Division of Investigation of Cartels and External Assets, U.S. Group Control Commission for Germany, 1944-45; Legal Adviser to the American Jewish Conference, 1946-48

The Bernard Bernstein papers document principally his work as a U.S. Army officer during and immediately after World War II, when he was involved in investigating the economic resources of the Third Reich (its looted gold and other assets, as well as the activities of German cartels), and in formulating financial policies for Germany and other areas of Europe under Allied occupation. Also documented are Bernstein's career in the Treasury Department before the war; his postwar career as an attorney involved in assisting Jewish organizations in their efforts to obtain just retribution and compensation for Nazi atrocities; his interest in the Morgenthau Plan and the future of German industry; loyalty charges leveled against him and his wife during the 1940s and 1950s; and his other personal and professional activities. Much of the material in the collection is printed material relating to Bernstein's service during and immediately following World War II.

 

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

 


ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: 10 linear feet, 11 linear inches (about 22,500 pages).
Access: Open
Copyright: The estate of Mrs. Bernard Bernstein has donated its copyright interest in these materials to the people of the United States. Documents prepared by U.S. government employees in the course of their official duties are also in the public domain. Copyright interest in documents that do not fall in the above two categories is presumed to remain with the writers of the documents.
Processed by: Dennis Bilger and Randy Sowell (1998); Jan Davis and David Clark (2016).

[Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
1908 (November 30)   Born, New York City
1928   Bachelor of Arts, Columbia University
1930   Juris Doctor, Columbia Law School
1930-33   Associate, Mitchell, Taylor, Capron & Marsh law firm, New York City
1933-1942   Attorney, U.S. Department of the Treasury
1938 (August 4)   Married Bernice Lotwin
1938-1942   Assistant General Counsel, U.S. Department of the Treasury
1942   Entered U.S. Army with the rank of Lt. Colonel
1942-45   Financial Adviser to General Dwight D. Eisenhower for Civil Affairs and Military Government
1944   Promoted to Colonel
1944-45   Director, Finance Division and Divison of Investigation of Cartels and External Assets, U.S. Group Control Commission for Germany
1946-48   Legal Adviser to the American Jewish Conference
1946-90   Practiced law in New York City
1990 (February 6)   Died, New York City
[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The Bernard Bernstein Papers document primarily his service as a U.S. Army officer during and immediately after World War II, especially his role in the military occupation of Germany. As director of the Finance Division and the Division of Investigation of Cartels and External Assets of the U.S. Group Control Commission for Germany, Colonel Bernstein was involved in identifying the economic assets of Nazi Germany, in accumulating evidence that was later used in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, and in formulating policies to ensure that the products of German industry would never again threaten the peace of Europe.

These subjects would continue to interest him for the rest of his life--an interest reflected in his papers, which include an extensive amount of printed material, reports, correspondence, and speech drafts pertaining to Germany and the war. This collection also contains information about Bernstein's career before World War II as an attorney in the Treasury Department specializing in gold and international finance; his postwar association with the American Jewish Conference and other Jewish organizations seeking retribution and compensation for Nazi atrocities; unsubstantiated allegations regarding the loyalty of Bernstein, his wife, and others during the 1940s and 1950s; and Bernstein's other personal and professional activities.

The Bernstein Papers are divided into two series: a Nazi Gold File and a Subject File. The Nazi Gold File contains correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, and other materials concerning Nazi Germany's gold and other financial assets. Much of this material relates to the discovery by U.S. forces of a large cache of Nazi treasure in the Kaiseroda salt mine at Merkers, Germany, in April 1945. Colonel Bernstein was responsible for safeguarding and preparing an inventory of these valuables, which included gold, currency, works of art, and loot taken from victims in Nazi concentration or extermination camps. A significant amount of the material in this series comprises photocopies of federal records from the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration; the provenance of these materials is identified in brackets on the folder title list. The Nazi Gold File also includes documentation of the financial aspects of the war, efforts to compensate the victims of Nazi aggression, and the continuing interest among journalists and historians in the wealth and plunder of the Third Reich. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

The Subject File, which comprises over 80 percent of the collection, contains printed material, correspondence, speech drafts, and other items relating to Bernstein's career, and particularly to his service in World War II and his subsequent involvement with issues arising from the war. Bernstein's duties in the Mediterranean and European theaters included responsibility for matters involving currency exchange, finance, and property control in areas that were liberated or occupied by advancing Allied forces: North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Western Europe as well as Germany and Austria. Material relating to Bernstein's work in civil affairs and military government in these areas is filed under such headings as "Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory," "Germany," "Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.)," and "United States Group, Control Council." In 1944-45, Bernstein was also involved in the development and advocacy of the Morgenthau Plan, a proposal for the deindustrialization of postwar Germany which was formulated by his friend and former superior in the Treasury Department, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Material in the Subject File on the Morgenthau Plan is filed principally under "Germany" and under Morgenthau's name.

In December, 1945, Colonel Bernstein testified before the Subcommittee on War Mobilization of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs. Under the chairmanship of Senator Harley Kilgore of West Virginia, the subcommittee was investigating Germany's war resources and their elimination under Allied occupation. Bernstein's testimony particularly concerned the activities of I.G. Farben, the huge German industrial cartel whose officials were subsequently prosecuted at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Material on Bernstein's testimony and related investigations by Congress is filed under "Congress of the United States" and "General Aniline and Film Company," as well as under Bernstein's name.

After leaving the Army, Bernstein served for a time as legal adviser to the American Jewish Conference, and worked with similar organizations in representing the interests of those who had been victimized by the crimes of Nazi Germany. In this capacity, he attended the peace conference in Paris in 1946, and helped prepare amendments to proposed peace treaties with such Axis states as Rumania, Italy, and Bulgaria; the amendments were aimed at ensuring that the Jewish populations of these countries would receive reparations and guarantees of future security. Most of the material relating to Bernstein's work in this field can be found under "American Jewish Conference" or under the names of the individual countries. As a prominent figure in the military government of Germany and an adviser to Jewish organizations seeking indemnification, Bernstein was also in demand as a speaker during the early postwar years. His speeches dealt with the future of Germany, human rights, and other issues arising from the war, and were delivered on radio programs as well as to B'nai B'rith groups and other civic organizations. For the most part, Bernstein's speech drafts and related material can be found in the Subject File under his name, or under "Speech" or "Speeches."

The Subject File also contains material on Bernstein's prewar career as an attorney in the Treasury Department, especially his involvement in the "gold cases" of the 1930s, which tested the constitutionality of New Deal measures affecting the monetary status of gold. Documentation of his role in preparing the Roosevelt administration's response to these legal challenges is filed under various folder titles beginning with the word "Gold." A wide variety of material relating to various aspects of Bernstein's life and career--before, during, and after World War II--can be found under his name and that of his wife, Bernice Lotwin Bernstein (who was herself an attorney and U.S. government official). Some of this material pertains to allegations of disloyalty that were leveled against Bernstein, and against other persons who had served with the U.S. Military Government in Germany, by Rep. George Dondero of Michigan in 1947. (Bernstein strongly denied these allegations, and Secretary of War Robert Patterson attested to his loyalty and outstanding service record.) Mrs. Bernstein was also subjected to a loyalty investigation as an employee of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the 1950s. One document filed under her name is a lengthy biographical affidavit from her husband, which includes a description of their relationship with Harry Dexter White, a senior Treasury Department official who was suspected of espionage in behalf of the Soviet Union. More information on the unsubstantiated loyalty charges against the Bernsteins and others can be found under "Congress of the United States," "DuBois, Josiah E., Jr.," "Personal," and elsewhere.

The Subject File contains a large quantity of U.S. government publications and other printed material. A careful review of the accompanying folder title list is recommended. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Other holdings of the Truman Library that are relevant to this collection include the transcript of an oral history interview with Bernstein (OHI #188), conducted in 1975; material in the Harry S. Truman Papers (Official File 198 Misc.) relating to Senator Kilgore's investigation of Nazi gold and other assets; and documents in the John W. Snyder Papers (Secretary of the Treasury Alphabetical File, "Sweden" and "Switzerland") concerning assets in neutral countries. The Student Research Files on "United States Policy in Occupied Germany After World War II," "The War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo, 1945-48," and "President Truman's Confrontation with McCarthyism," as well as manuscript collections pertaining to these topics, contain more information about subjects documented in the Bernstein Papers.

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos.   Series
1-2   NAZI GOLD FILE, 1945-1988
Correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, and other materials relating to the gold and other assets of Nazi Germany; the discovery of a Nazi treasure cache in the Kaiseroda salt mine at Merkers, Germany in April, 1945; financial aspects of World War II; indemnification of the victims of war crimes; and research on this subject by journalists and historians. Folders containing photocopies of documents from the National Archives and Records Administration are identified as such in the folder-title list. Arranged alphabetically by subject.
3-25   SUBJECT FILE, 1863-1993 (Bulk Dates: 1933-1955)
Printed material (including many U.S. government publications), correspondence, speech drafts, and other items relating to Bernstein's service in the U.S. Army during World War II as a specialist in the financial aspects of civil affairs and military government; his involvement with the Morgenthau Plan; his testimony before a Senate subcommittee investigating the elimination of Germany's war resources; his postwar association with the American Jewish Conference and other organizations representing the interests of persons victimized by Nazi aggression; his career before the war as a U.S. Treasury Department attorney working on matters pertaining to gold and international finance; loyalty charges leveled against Bernstein, his wife, and others in the 1940s and 1950s; and Bernstein's other personal and professional activities. Arranged alphabetically by subject.
[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch |