Max Heiliger—Laundering Money for the Nazis

Max Heiliger did a lot more than just launder money for the Nazis. Stolen banknotes and jewellery along with Holocaust victims’ dental gold, wedding rings, and even scrap gold melted down from spectacles-frames flooded into the Max Heiliger accounts, filling several bank vaults by 1942.

So who was this Max Heiliger? Basically, he was a nobody, and this is meant literally. He was a nobody, Max Heiliger was a fictional name created during the Nazi era under the authority of Reichsbank president Walther Funk in a secret arrangement with the leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler.

Using the name “Heiliger” was a cynical Nazi joke, the word means Saint, from the word Heilig. The Nazis often used these cynical or rather sick jokes. For example, the one-way path to the gas chamber at the Sobibor extermination camp was called Himmelstrasse, meaning “Heaven Street.”

The valuables, processed through the Max Heiliger accounts, were stolen from Holocaust victims before and after transportation by train to Nazi concentration camps. The items were carefully weighed, evaluated, and inventoried by SS accountants before transfer to the Reichsbank accounts in Berlin. Furniture and artwork left in vacated apartments and houses were collected in a separate operation and auctioned to the German population, after which the generated funds were transferred to the accounts. What the Nazis considered “degenerate art” was often sent to Geneva for auction, although some art was retained by Hitler’s art dealers, including Hildebrand Gurlitt. Stocks, bonds, and shares were transferred to the state in the same way, and companies were purchased for less than their true worth through Aryanization. The potential for corruption of such assets was substantial and an unknown amount of stolen wealth ended up in private pockets, notably with the Gurlitt Collection. Heiliger accounts were also sometimes used to fence valuables at Berlin’s municipal pawn shops.

All of this was done in secrecy, clearly, that is an indication that the Nazis knew what they were doing was criminal.



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