Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trivia Thursday

A question from last night’s trivia quiz:

Q:  With what profession are the Gnomes of Zurich associated?

A:  Swiss bankers.

Some more information:

When it comes to loved professions, bankers aren’t exactly near the top. Swiss bankers have fared even worse, with their history of secrecy, anonymity and an “ask no questions” policy that let the Nazis store a lot of money and valuables in Swiss accounts and safety deposit boxes.  From the 1950’s Swiss bankers were often seen as secretly manipulating foreign financial markets.  Economic growth in Germany and France was twice that of the United Kingdom, someone must be to blame.

In 1964 British Labour politician identified the culprits, identifying the Swiss bankers for speculation against the pound, stating "The Gnomes of Z├╝rich are at work again." Both the term and the blame were adopted by other politicians, even being used by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in Parliament in the context of resisting the "sinister" power of the Gnomes of Zurich.

In fairy tales, gnomes were originally mysterious, secretive little beings who lived underground, counting their money.  Switzerland, with its secret, unnumbered accounts, mountainous regions and secretive financiers matched the description of Gnomes of Zurich quite well.

The secretive Swiss were seen as helping ruthless international capitalists and dictators avoid taxes and protect their wealth. In World War II, neutral Switzerland appeared to help Nazi Germany financially, while taking deposits from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It failed to return many of the assets after the war and in recent years some Swiss banks have agreed multi-million pound settlements with families to avoid being sued.

Was the irony of the scapegoating of the Swiss bankers, much like the scapegoating of the Jews in Nazi Germany, noticed by anyone?

The secrecy and lack of information about the Swiss bankers, their banks, their underground vaults and anonymous accounts, led many to suspect not only financial manipulations internationally but also, with other organisations, world control. These other organisations were variously identified as the Illuminati, the military-industrial complex; the Establishment and the Fortune 500.

Some Zurich bankers took to answering the phone to British callers with "hello, gnome speaking". Others retaliated mischievously by suggesting that trade union power - "the gnomes of Transport House" - rather than currency speculation, was weakening the British economy. One enterprising, and courageous, Zurich banker moved to London to set up in business, where he was promptly dubbed "the gnome of Notting Hill".

Today the influence of Swiss bankers has declined as that of bankers in London, New York, Dubai and Shnaghai has increased.

A thought:  do the Goblins of Zurich remind anyone else of  . . .

. . . Gringotts Wizarding Bank, owned and operated by goblins?

Perhaps that's where J K Rowling received her inspiration.

Whilst on the topic of Nazis and gnomes, in 2011 a German artist used 1,250 gnomes giving Heil Hitler salutes as a piece of installation art.  This is a report from the Huffington Post on that art work:

A German artist is posing 1,250 garden gnomes with their arms outstretched in the stiff-armed Hitler salute in an installation that he calls a protest of lingering fascist tendencies in German society. Artist Ottmar Hoerl posed the gnomes in the historic central marketplace of Straubing, a town in southeastern Germany, on Wednesday. The exhibit called "dance with the devil" is to run through Oct. 19. 
Most of gnomes are black plastic, but about 20 are painted shiny gold. 
Displaying Nazi symbols is illegal in Germany but a court ruled earlier this year that Hoerl's gnomes were clearly satire and thus allowed. 
Hoerl says: "the fascist idea, the striving to manipulate people or dictate to people ... is latently dangerous and remains present in our society."

The Gnomes of Straubing:

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