The Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands, R.A.U. Juchter van Bergen Quast, met on 25 April 2019 with the Chairman of the Executive Management of Dreyfus Sons & Co Ltd, Banquiers, Mr. Stefan Knöpfel, who is also the president of the Basler Bankenvereinigung. The meeting took place at the impressive headquarters of the bank in Basel, where possibilities were explored of providing banking services to Dutch legal entities. The meeting was successful, and a first potential client has already taken an interest. At the occasion, a beautiful commemorative book containing the history of the Dreyfus dynasty was presented to Juchter van Bergen Quast.
Dreyfus Sons & Co Ltd, Banquiers
Dreyfus Sons & Co Ltd, Banquiers dates back to its founding in Basel in 1813 and is one of the oldest privately owned Swiss banks. The bank is currently managed by the sixth generation of the founding family and employs about 200 long-term employees. The main office of the bank is in Basel, with offices in Delémont, Lausanne, Lugano, Zurich and Tel Aviv.
The bank’s business activity is geared to preserving the long-term value of the wealth entrusted to it and achieving risk-controlled returns. All of the bank’s services are tailored to the specific needs of the individual client. Sustainable relationships, integrity, and individual solutions are hallmarks of their relationships with clients.
It is not unusual that the relationship between bank and client lasts several generations. The bank also values a lasting employment relationship with its staff. As a result, the same customer relationship managers are always available to their clients, enabling long-term trust to be established.
Heroic efforts during the Second World War
The commemorative book tells how Paul Dreyfus (1895-1967), Chairman of the bank from 1942-1967, led the bank through immense challenges in light of the Second World War. Already in 1933, Paul Dreyfus advised all of his Jewish friends and relatives in Germany to leave their homes with their families as soon as possible. Because the German authorities and their allies put Switzerland under severe economic pressure, the risks for the family were enormous. Dreyfus decided not to emigrate to the United States but remain in Switzerland. His decision proved to be a blessing for many Jewish families. In the first years of the Second World War, the Dreyfus family hosted and sheltered a considerable number of family members who fled to Switzerland from France, Belgium, and The Netherlands. If the family had left Switzerland during the war, these relatives faced an insurmountable danger of being deported and killed. For every person seeking a temporary residence permit in Switzerland, Dreyfus had to sponsor and pay a deposit in Bern. The heroic effort of Paul Dreyfus can not be overestimated. This ethos of responsibility parallels the motto of the bank today: ‘Your wealth, our responsibility.’
Paul Dreyfus was a true advocate of the oppressed Jews in occupied Europe. In 1942, he went before Federal Councillor Eduard von Steiger to plead the refugees’ case. With Gertrud Kurz, who framed her argument with her status as a Christian actively involved in refugee aid, Dreyfus spoke on behalf of the refugees, pointing out that he had been trying for years to discreetly collect the enormous sums necessary to aid them (Aronson pp. 69-70):
«First I told him … of the dreadful conditions in the occupied areas, specifically Holland, and of the difficulty of leaving and this whole illegal emigration all the way to the Swiss border, as well as of the nervous tension these poor people suffer, who are running the risk of being arrested every minute of every day and week, and especially the men, who risk being shot …. I also emphasized very strongly … that in my opinion it is a Swiss, not a Jewish, issue and that in these difficult times we must be concerned with more than preserving Swiss traditions; rather, we must also think of the future, when operations like Children’s Relief will give Switzerland’s image a new luster.»
Paul Dreyfus championed the case for the situation of the Jews in The Netherlands, while numerous Dutch Jews partook in resistance against the Nazis. One such example is the famous campaign of Süskind and Halverstad, which aided 600 Jewish children in Amsterdam escape the Holocaust. Paul Dreyfus was notably under torrential pressure from the allies to stop paying ransom money to save Jewish families; American and British authorities opposed his efforts in late 1942 for having been involved in buying exit permits from the Nazis allowing Dutch Jews to depart from The Netherlands. Additionally, Dreyfus was extorted by the Nazis for paying money for an exit permit for his sister-in-law and family who lived in The Netherlands (Aronson, p. 69-70).
Under these crushing circumstances, Paul Dreyfus remained active in saving Jews from the hands of terror. His courage and exemplary attitude paid off as the bank prospered during the economic upsurge in the 1950’s and 1960’s, continuing as a beacon of solidarity and security today.
- Aronson, S. (2006). Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland, Second World War Switzerland and Refugees in the Nazi Era.
- Dreyfus Sons & Co Ltd, Banquiers 1813-2013, Basel 2013.