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The BBC's Claire Doole
"The government accepted the country's asylum policy had been marred by errors"
 real 28k

The BBC's Claire Doole
"The report says hundreds of thousands of defenceless people were abandoned"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 December, 1999, 15:01 GMT
Swiss apology to Jewish refugees

Swiss asylum policy prevented many Jews from fleeing Nazi persecution

Switzerland has apologised for its treatment of Jewish refugees at the time of the Holocaust.

The move follows publication of a report highly critical of Swiss asylum policy during the Nazi era.

The report argued that the Swiss Government at the time had helped the Nazis to achieve their goals by turning away thousands of Jews trying to escape into Switzerland.

We pay our respects before the pain of those who were denied access to our territory and were abandoned to unspeakable suffering, deportation and death
The Swiss Government
The Swiss President, Ruth Dreifuss, apologised for the country's treatment of Jewish refugees during the Nazi era, saying that Switzerland had failed to live up to its humanitarian traditions.

Her apology is the second apology the country has made since its tarnished, wartime past first came to light four years ago.

She said she was "immensely sad" to read the report and recall the suffering of her fellow Jews.

She read a statement issued by the Swiss cabinet reiterating its apologies to victims.

"Nothing can make good the consequences of decisions taken at the time, and we pay our respects before the pain of those who were denied access to our territory and were abandoned to unspeakable suffering, deportation and death," the statement said.

Ruth Dreifuss: "immensely sad" to recall the suffering of Jews
"Switzerland's asylum policy at the time was marred by errors, omissions and compromises."

The Swiss Government did however criticise the historians who prepared the report for paying too little attention to the international situation at the time.

"The perspective taken in the report relegates undeniable historical realities to a level of secondary importance," said the statement.

The BBC's correspondent in Geneva, Claire Doole, says the government is angry that Switzerland's conduct was not compared to that of other countries.

The accusations in the report

But the international panel of historians, which published the critical report, was in fact commissioned by the Swiss Government.

The panel said the Swiss Government had persuaded the German authorities to print the letter 'J' in passports held by Jews, making it more difficult for them to emigrate.

And, it said, the government closed the border with Germany in 1942, abandoning thousands of Jews to their fate - a certain death in a Nazi concentration camp.

The commission blamed a pervasive culture of anti-semitism for the failure of neutral Switzerland to provide a last hope for refugees from the Nazi regime.

Although some 20,000 Jews were allowed into Switzerland during the period, another 25,000 were refused entry.

Some Swiss politicians have criticised the commission's findings for reading more like a charge sheet than a historical document.

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  UK
Charities probed over alleged neo-Nazi links
08 Dec 99 |  Europe
Germany firm on Nazi slave offer
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Swiss banks to unveil Holocaust assets
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
Swedish press warns of Nazi threat

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