Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Meili Affair

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In 1997, Christoph Meili was a night guard at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich, Switzerland. There he discovered that UBS was destroying documents about orphaned assets (of the deceased whose heirs could not be located) and documents the German Reichsbank, including stock accounts for companies involved in the holocaust.

He took some of these files and handed them over to a local Jewish organization, which published them. The Swiss authorities filed a case against Meili for the violation of the laws on banking secrecy, a dire offense in Switzerland. Melli was granted an unprecedented political asylum in the United States.

The whistleblowing forced Swiss banks to remunerate to the victims of Nazi looting and to create a fund for the Holocaust victims. The same year, a conference on Nazi Gold was held in London. It also lead to a controversy of photographic sorts–on 13th January 1997, Gisela Blau Guggenheim took the picture of Christoph Meili with two folios he stole from the UBS. The titles of the tomes, “Directions-Protokoll No. XIII” and “Protokoll des Bankdirectoriums” were clearly visible.

The British Broadcasting Corporation used this photo in “Nazi Gold”, a film shown on television in several countries including Switzerland in July 1997. The BBC used the photo without first obtaining permission from Gisela Blau Guggenheim, who subsequently sued the broadcaster. Blau Guggenheim v British Broadcasting Corporation BBC stretched on until 2004 when it was decided in the favor of the photographer.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

December 10, 2009 at 10:34 am

2 Responses

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  2. listengyao

    April 19, 2011 at 8:42 am

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