The Past

Swiss lies and Nazi gold



HE GIRL, IN the shoe shop can’t help me, nor can the kindly hotel receptionist who comes out into the street scratching her head in puzzlement.  Somehow, given Switzerland’s obsessive tradition of mercantile discretion, it seems completely appropriate that the that the system to trace money which may belong to Nazi victims should be conducted behind an unobtrusive door in a line of little shops at Number 7 Seestrasse, Zurich.

Leith Provident Fleshing Department

CERTAIN things separate one generation from the next as surely as a frontier post. Teenage music is a ghetto which older people cannot enter. If they do they may make themselves ridiculous. The clouds of bad language that rise from groups of girls at some of the posher schools in the West End are intended not just in the spirit of epater les bourgeois but to cement a group solidarity that excludes adults.
Last week I gave a talk to teachers taking a course at Jordanhill and during lunch with my fellow speakers the conversation turned to another sure indicator of age. The test is simple: Can you remember your mother’s Co-operative number? If you can you are probably over 50.
The first entries in your brain cells have clarity and permanence never later emulated. I have difficulty remembering the various pin numbers needed to make the hole in the wall cough up cash but I can instantly recall not only my mother’s Co-operative number (38660) but my parents’ telephone number as well (WAVerley 3701).