Swiss to put up memorial to Nazi victims at last

European nation will erect a monument to commemorate those who perished under Hitler's regime


Rhaetische Bahn/RhB - Der Bernina Express entlang des Lago Bianco. Eine Fahrt von den Gletschern zu den Palmen. Rhaetian Railway/RhB - Bernina Express running beside Lake Bianco. Ferrovia retica/FR - Il Bernina Express lungo il Lago Bianco. Un viaggio dai ghiacciai alle palme. Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn By-line: Benz

Switzerland has finally agreed to erect a monument to commemorate the victims of Nazism regime, a move welcomed by a leading academic and the Jewish community.

Professor Stefanie Mahrer, who specialises in Jewish, Swiss and European history at the University of Bern, told the JC it was high time the country faced up to its duty to honour the victims, particularly as it also does not have an unblemished record in this regard.

The Swiss Federal Council has approved £2.2 million to fund the monument, in Bern, the federal capital.

It said: “The Federal Council considers it an important task to keep alive the memory of the consequences of National Socialism, namely the Holocaust and the fate of the six million Jews who were killed and all other victims of the National Socialist regime.

“This is particularly important today, since there are hardly any survivors and eyewitnesses and the relativisation of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism are increasing again.”

During the Second World War, neutral Switzerland implemented harsh immigration policies that limited the number of Jewish refugees it would accept.

Between 1933 and 1945, Switzerland granted asylum to around 27,000 Jewish refugees, but an estimated 24,500 others were denied entry at the border, and sent back to countries under Nazi control.

“Almost 80 years have passed since the end of the war and very few people are still alive who experienced the horrors of the time,” said Mahrer. “For the survivors, the memorial could have been a sign of recognition of their suffering — a suffering in which Switzerland was also partly to blame.

“The country was not an island of the righteous fighting back against barbarism, so this monument must stand in the federal capital, where the political decisions were made. Switzerland left the borders permeable to trade and closed them to people. Taking responsibility for it means facing the past -— and remembering.”

Jonathan Kreutner, secretary general of the Swiss Federation of Israelite Communities (SIG), said: “By creating a Swiss memorial, the Federal Council is making an important commitment to the Swiss culture of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism.

“We are very pleased with this decision. The SIG has supported the project from the start and is convinced of its necessity. The victims of National Socialism and the Shoah must not be forgotten.“

Peter Bollag, of the Christian-Jewish Working Group, which worked on the initial concept for the monument, said: “We welcome the decision of the Swiss government to erect a memorial in a central location in Bern.

“The location seems right to us, because during the years 1933 and 1945 many decisions, for example on Switzerland’s refugee policy, were made in the capital and on the external borders, decisions that unfortunately often did not turn out in favour of Jewish (and other) refugees.”

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