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JANUARY 28, 2013 2:17PM

Swiss government revealed as knowing Nazi collaborator

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 Emmental cheese

IT’S NOT EXACTLY BREAKING news that the Swiss government’s carefully cultivated image as a defender of liberty and human rights against the evil Nazis is about as solid as a wedge of bubbly Emmental cheese. Financial shenanigans, including the squirreling away of millions in stolen Jewish assets in Swiss bank accounts, have been exhaustively documented over the years. We’ve known from the start that the infamous “J” stamped into German Jewish passports as early as 1938 came in response to a request by the Swiss police to make it easier for them to turn Jewish refugees back at the border. The human tragedy experienced by so many escapees from the Nazi regime was presented to a global public in the 1981 movie The Boat is Full.

 

In 2002, the so-called Bergier Commission presented a complete tally of Swiss economic and commercial support for the Third Reich and determined that “[b]y adopting numerous measures making it more difficult for refugees to reach safety, and by handing over the refugees caught directly to their persecutors, the Swiss authorities were instrumental in helping the Nazi regime to attain its goals.”

 

So far, the Swiss government has pleaded ignorance of Nazis crimes. But this is no longer possible. Last night, the Swiss TV station SRF reported the findings of the Swiss Diplomatic Documents project, which discovered that “during the Second World War, Swiss diplomats wrote hundreds of letters, telegrams and detailed reports. They were addressed to the Swiss Federal Council [Switzerland's 7-member executive council and collective head of state]. The Federal Council was also informed about the Nazis’ crimes using photos as early as 1942.” These reports were received and read. The government responded to this flood of information about the death camps with a resolution in August of 1942: “In the future, foreign civilian refugees must be turned away to a greater degree, even if the affected foreigners could face serious disadvantages as a result.” From this point on, Swiss refugee policy became even more radical – and more racist.

 

Swiss Diplomatic Records is a sort of state-financed historical WikiLeaks. You can access the gruesome documents (in German and French) here. Particularly this report, an eyewitness description of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp, leaves nothing to the imagination.

 

With all this in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why many Swiss Jews were less than pleased about Federal President Ueli Maurer’s speech last night marking Holocaust Remembrance Day. Rather than including any self-critical remarks about Switzerland’s own responsibility for returning thousands of German and other European Jews to their pursuers, he typically praised Switzerland’s “neutral” stand as “an island for many threatened and persecuted persons.” Still, when it comes to the PC department, Maurer is still way ahead of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, who actually used his own Holocaust Remembrance Day address to praise aspects of Benito Mussolini’s fascist policies.

 

But is it fair to beat up on the Swiss like this? After all, it’s not as if their behavior was in any way remarkable for the times. Say what you like about  their landlocked, resource-poor little mountain republic, the vast and wealthy US didn't exactly throw its borders open to Jewish refugees when it had the chance. As an old Nazi once told me back in my student days in the ‘80s, “The whole world killed the Jews.” While his remark was clearly self-serving, the old man wasn’t completely wrong: The Nazis never would have made it as far as they did without enthusiastic support from Switzerland, Sweden, the Soviet Union, Vichy France, Spain, the Standard Oil Company, Ford and IBM, and a couple of prominent families I could mention, all of which thought their interests aligned nicely with Hitler's at one time or another. The sooner we can all admit to responsibility for this crime, the better we’ll be able to avoid similar collusion with warmongers in the future – in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, East Asia, Africa, and wherever else the drones fly and the refugees run.

 

We could all go down in history as peacemakers, who placed human life and human dignity over corporate profits, rather than collaborators. So which government or company wants to go first by coming clean, foregoing cooperation with killers, opening their borders, and , in the spirit of Martin Luther King, refusing "to study war no more"?

 

 …Hello?

 

 [Cue to the sound of crickets.]

 

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Comments

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Sadly, I don't think you'll have many takers on that offer... (R)
Your comparison to then and now needs to be heard.
no one is in a position to throw stones at the swiss. unrestricted access to switzerland would have turned the european 'jewish problem' into a swiss 'jewish problem' and they are a small country.

so it became a palestinian 'jewish problem' and the western world sighed with relief.
@Judy
I agree.

@Krolik
I'm always seeing parallels like this, but I'm very much in the minority.

@al loomis
Bingo! Yes, if the US government really loved Jews that much, you'd think the least they could have done would have been to give them a US state to settle in where they could live for all times out of harm's way - say, a chunk of New Mexico, or the whole of Delaware. It's funny, but somehow I can't remember ever hearing that being offered...
[r] Alan, you always write such interesting and important things, important to be heeded!!! thank you.

I remember hearing a noble story about the king of Denmark wearing the required by Nazis identifying "Jewish arm band" when he gave a speech from a balcony to his people was it, and encouraging other Danish citizens to. That was long ago I heard of that and felt some pride being part Danish. I should try to access more info today about the reality there, too, though I may not like it all or much of it at this point.

I have just been reading about the tragic treatment of Afghan refugees, even children and pregnant women, how badly they are being treated in Greece and the rightest policing (thuggery) and deported back there when they have tried to go to Italy for survival and are turned back ruthlessly by Italy without even being allowed to communicate their life and death need for asylum.

It certainly sounds like what you are writing about above, now in real time. How horribly displaced people are being treated and how cruelly non-empathetic the EU and its membership countries are being. The suffering and the cruelty of the colluders if not direct perpetrators seems to have no end.

If the US were near the countries it is now destroying or enabling others to destroy for regime change and faux-humanitarianism, I have no doubt walls would be erected, and our thugs would push back and xenophobics would be blocking human kindness en masse.

One hears the numbers killed and displaced and it doesn't seem possible. The latest victims in Syria. 60,000 dead. And diplomacy was never seriously embraced. NEVER.

We need a paradigm shift to humanism. Partnership and cooperation. The universal "family" of man and woman should be honored and supported.

best, libby
@toritto
"hypocrisy... even in the Vatican."
I like that!
@libby
I agree that the parallels between then and now are strong, and I mean from a purely humanitarian point of view, except that this time we can't even pretend we don't know what's going on around us.
The New Jew - persecuted class - in the US has an F for felon stamped - might as well be a tat - on his record. Five decades of post civil rights era internal state sponsored terrorism has created over six million of them, and not even the Jews have complained much. Neither the Italians or Swiss have that much blood on their hands.
@Snowden
In this case too, I don't think our descendants will look back upon us fondly.
alan, from kreickenbaum at wsws re Mid East refugees escaping brutal conditions in Greece to Italy and being sent right back with NO consideration for their welfare:

"Many unaccompanied children were among the deported refugees arriving from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. Such group deportations constitute a blatant violation of internationally binding legal agreements and provide a classic example of the ruthless treatment meted out to refugees within the European Union (EU).

"In the second half of 2012, Human Rights Watch interviewed 29 refugees deported from Italy to Greece. All testified to human rights violations and abuses committed by the Italian and Greek security authorities.

"The refugees had tried to escape the life-threatening conditions in Greece by crossing the Adriatic Sea to Italy as stowaways. Following their discovery by Italian border guards, however, they were sent back to Greece within hours. There, they were handed over to the Greek police, often maltreated and imprisoned for weeks, without being accused of any crime.

snip

"Group deportations violate both the Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to these international accords, unaccompanied children are not to face deportation if it puts the child’s welfare at risk.

"The Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) also embodies the principle of “non-refoulement”. This prohibits deportation or refusal of entry at a border crossing if a refugee is threatened with torture or maltreatment, which is almost a daily occurrence in Greek refugee camps. Additionally, the signatory states of the refugee convention are obliged to submit asylum applications to due process. Expulsion of refugees without examining their reasons for flight is illegal.

[due process? what is that any more????]

"None of the children had the chance to speak to a refugee counsellor or gain access to social services, which the UN convention states as mandatory. Instead, they were locked in the engine room or small cabins on the ferries, without access to basic sanitation and often without food.

"Adult refugees are also routinely deported without having the opportunity to apply for asylum. Non-government organisations (NGOs), which are officially commissioned at the ports to support refugees and process asylum claims, are deliberately kept away from the refugees. This allows the border police to conclude the deportation process unobserved. In most cases, the refugees are even denied translators to enable them to communicate their request for asylum.

"According to statements issued by the local border police, a regular asylum procedure was accorded to only 12 of the 900 refugees apprehended at the port of Bari between January 2011 and June 2012. All the others were immediately deported without any consideration of their reasons for flight. A similar process occurred at the ports of Ancona, Venice and Brindisi. Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch thus estimates that several thousand people are illegally deported by the Italian authorities every year.

"The Italian government refused to end this practice in January 2011, when the European Court of Human Rights invoked the Dublin II Regulation to prohibit deportations to Greece because of continuing serious human rights violations on the part of the Greek asylum authorities."

snip

"The catastrophic situation of refugees in Greece has now been extensively documented. In its report of December 2012, the Amnesty International human rights organisation described the situation there as a “humanitarian crisis in the middle of Europe”. Even Cecilia Malmström, the EU commissioner responsible for asylum affairs, described the conditions in the Greek refugee “reception centres” as “downright disgusting”.

"These deportation prisons are hermetically sealed and guarded. The inmate’s only “crime” is to have entered the EU without permission in the hope of securing a better life. They must on occasion share a cell with more than 70 people, are given moldy bread to eat, and are accommodated in unhygienic and foul conditions. Even infants are occasionally detained for weeks on end.

"The conditions are so unconscionable that a court in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa recently acquitted 15 refugees who had escaped from detention. The 15 refugees had been forced for months to endure living in a 15-square-metre cell 24 hours a day—without any fresh water, beds, showers or clean clothes. Some of them were infested with parasites and were suffering from typhoid infection. The court deemed that their escape was lawful because it was undertaken in order to protect health and life.

"There is effectively no possibility of receiving a normal asylum process in Greece. Authorities in the city of Athens—with a current population of more than 3 million people—accept only about 20 cases a week for processing. All other refugees are forced to subsist on the streets of Athens as illegal immigrants without any financial or material support.

"They thus become fair game for gangs of fascist thugs and especially the police. Since the Greek government initiated operation “Xenios Zeus” in August 2012, the police have been hunting down migrants and refugees. They have arrested more than 67,000 migrants as part of this campaign in Athens alone. More than 4,000 of these were incarcerated because they had no residence permits, and they will now be deported."
-----

best, libby
@libby
Thanks. As I told Snowden above, I suspect posterity will not treat us respectfully, just as we look down on the generations that brought us the Dred Scott decision and the Agent Orange bombing of Vietnam. Why do we always close our eyes? Distraction, that's all there is to it. Just look at what grabs headlines these days. That tells you the whole story.

@Mary
Yes, the tale about the adulteress and the stoning is more than relevant here, even though theologians are now saying that Jesus never told this story, but rather it was invented by a later scribe. But hey, as the Italians say, se non è vero, è ben trovato.
Fair point about the culpability of many other nations in refusing to help the WW2 Jewish refugees Alan. Even Canada turned back a ship of them. That still doesn't let the Swiss off the hook. Had they been inclined to behave honorably even after the fact, they might have made assiduous efforts to track down the rightful claimants of the stolen riches. In fact they lied and covered up for decades, as you note.
Your first sentence says it all, and I think you could say the same for all of Europe's WWII neutrals (Switzerland, Sweden and Spain). That being said, they had to walk a very fine line or risk catastrophe. And as you point out, the US didn't exactly set the humanitarian example before December, 1941.
Different countries behaved differently; different groups within different countries behaved differently. The Danes tried to save Jews. The Hungarians and Lithuanians killed Jews competitively with the Nazis. The Bulgarians saved their Jewish population completely. The Poles killed Jews in pogroms in 1946, after the war was already over, like the Nazis didn't do a good enough job.

The Serbs were good to Jews. This posed an interesting problem during the breakup of Yugoslavia: While American Jews were at the forefront of international efforts to rescue the Bosnian Muslims, a greater percentage of Israelis than American Jews were Holocaust survivors and so were aware that we owed the Serbs so Israel did not condemn the Serbs, though Israel did take in Bosnian refugees.

Mostly, Europe wasn't good to the Jews during the war and Europe isn't good to Muslim refugees now.
Without making light of thistragedy, is it any different then what our wall street under Bush did with our economy

about 15 TTRILLION in family net worth stolen and destroyed. The number of suicides isnt available but an FBI agent told me that about 100 families - th4e distaught father who lost everything actually killed their own families and themselves. Probably about 500 total

Who has yet to be put in a cell and the lock welded shut for mass murder courtesy of the wall street banks.
Excellent, accurate piece.