François Genoud (26 October 1915 – 30 May 1996) was a noted Swiss financier and a principal benefactor of the Nazi diaspora through the ODESSA network and supporter of Middle Eastern militant groups during the post-World War II 20th century.
Genoud was from Lausanne, Switzerland. He met Adolf Hitler in 1932 as a teenager in a hotel while studying in Bonn. He joined the pro-Nazi National Front in 1934, and two years later he traveled to Palestine where he met the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini. Working for both Swiss and German intelligence agencies, Genoud traveled extensively in the Middle East.
World War II
Genoud traveled to Berlin frequently during the war "to see his friend the grand mufti," and visited him afterward many times in Beirut. The grand mufti allegedly "entrusted Genoud with the management of his enormous financial affairs".
In 1940, together with a Lebanese national, he set up the Oasis nightclub in Lausanne to serve as a covert operation for the Abwehr. In 1941, Abwehr agent Paul Dickopf sent Genoud into Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Belgium. Genoud befriended several top Nazis, including Karl Wolff, "supreme SS and police leader" in Italy. At the end of the war, Genoud represented the Swiss Red Cross in Brussels.
Genoud is notable for being the executor of last will and testament of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and for reportedly making a fortune from publishing Goebbels' diaries which he held the posthumous rights for along with Hitler and Bormann's works. This enterprise suffered a setback in 1960 when Paula Hitler died without his securing the full rights to the literary works of Adolf Hitler.
Nazi hunters such as Serge Klarsfeld and Simon Wiesenthal, journalist David Lee Preston, and others have asserted that his role as a benefactor for surviving National Socialist interests goes much deeper, offering evidence that Genoud was no less than the principal financial manager of the hidden Swiss assets of the Third Reich after World War II.
Genoud became a passionate supporter of Arab liberation causes, funding many nationalist and left-wing organisations.
Algerian Liberation Front
While in Egypt in the 1950s, through contacts in Gamal Abdel Nasser's government, he was introduced to the leaders of the Algerian Liberation Front, which he would eventually finance by 1954 after originally supplying weapons. In 1958 he founded the Arab Commercial Bank, which would be active in lending to Arab nationalist groups and as the chief repository for the Algerian National Liberation Front.
In the 1960s Genoud began supplying arms for Palestinian causes. The Lausanne-based New European Order organisation, met in Barcelona in April 1969 where Palestinian groups received financial support and Genoud placed them in contact with former Nazis who would assist their military training, including pledged support designated for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. He was a close associate of Dr. George Habash and Jacques Vergès, and in September 1969 he contributed finances for the legal expenses of three Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine following their attack on an El Al flight in Zurich, where he personally sat at their defense table.
Notable aid recipients and associations
Genoud financed several legal defenses, including Adolf Eichmann and Klaus Barbie. He financed the defense of Bruno Breguet during the 1970s after a bombing mission in Israel in 1970. The PFLP called for the release of both Breguet and Leila Khalid, part of the Che Guevara Commando Unit of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, together in 1970.Genoud helped Ilich Ramírez Sánchez in 1994, after playing a key role in the success of his missions in the previous decades.
He was closely associated with Ali Hassan Salameh, providing him medical care, and he also bankrolled Ayatollah Khomeini's exile in France when Iran was governed by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. He was a mentor of Ahmed Huber.
Throughout the 1970s Genoud financed many left-wing groups with the goal of armed Arab liberation. It is alleged that he delivered the ransom demand after the Lufthansa Flight 649 hijacking in 1972.
Along with Noam Chomsky, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and other intellectuals, Genoud was a member of a committee which mounted a humanitarian campaign in the 1970s, which resulted in the pardon in 1977 of Bruno Bréguet, a Swiss militant who was the first European to be tried and sentenced in Israel for their pro-Palestinian activities; Bréguet had served seven years of his 15-year sentence.
Genoud found himself in legal troubles from time to time, such as in 1983, when he was represented by Baudoin Dunant, a leading Geneva-based lawyer who sits on the board of over 20 companies, including the Saudi Investment Company, the overseas arm of the Saudi Binladin Group.
In popular culture
In the miniseries Carlos, Genoud is mentioned by Ilich Ramírez Sánchez's character portrayed by Édgar Ramírez. The production has been criticized for downplaying the historical role of Genoud with Sánchez.
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