As it looks ahead, the Bank of International Settlements must ponder its past.
During World War II, the BIS disregarded politics and handled gold for both Axis and Allied members.
"We believe the public has a right to know anything that is relevant in the archives from that period," says bank president Andrew Crockett. During the war, Nazi Germany's Reichsbank sent about 15 tons of gold to the BIS. About half of that gold was for debt service payments on reparations from World War I (which Mr. Crockett regards as strange, since Germany was at war), postal settlements, and railway settlements.
Four tons of gold was determined to have been looted from Belgian, Italian, and Dutch central banks and was returned after the war.
The source of another three tons remains a mystery. "I don't think we'll ever know exactly where it came from," Crockett says. "It could have been melted down by the Nazis from previously privately owned gold. It can't be excluded that it was Jewish gold. And that gold was not restituted, so that will have to be looked at."