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Swiss press praises didactic report

Jean-Francois Bergier presenting the final report, published on Friday Keystone

The Swiss press has praised the final report of an international investigation of Switzerland's wartime past.

This content was published on March 23, 2002 - 14:39

The German-language paper, Der Bund, said the report by the Independent Commission of Experts (ICE) had "definitively shattered the image that Switzerland constructed for itself after [1945], namely that of having taken a unique, moral high-ground during the war."

While the report did not send out shockwaves, it would lead to a "normalisation process" in the way the Swiss perceived their country's past, Der Bund said.

Le Temps applauded the ICE's "monumental work", which succeeded in communicating a "difficult message with finesse and without bitterness...Future generations will be grateful."

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) was more critical: "The Commission's role was not didactic enough...It's work during the last five has provoked more protest than thought."

The NZZ said the report's focus on two key issues - refugees and gold - had lead to other areas being neglected.

La Liberté, said the "turning away of refugees, the lack of compensation for victims and the blind-eye turned by Swiss businesses" would henceforth become an undeniable part of Switzerland's history.

The German-language tabloid, Der Blick, focussed on the report's findings that Swiss insurance companies had acted in line with an order by Hermann Goering to repay damages caused by Crystal Night to the Nazi regime, rather than to the Jewish victims. "The report has opened a new black chapter in Switzerland's history," the paper said.

Government urges debate

On Friday, the Swiss government issued an official statement saying it had taken note of the report.

"It is now up to all Swiss citizens, teachers and scholars to form their own opinions, to complete and discuss the findings," the statement adds.

The cabinet acknowledged the commission's findings that Switzerland's wartime governments had sometimes failed to meet their humanitarian responsibilities, in particular towards refugees persecuted by Germany's Nazi regime.

The government pointed out that Switzerland officially apologised in 1995 for the failures in the refugee policy. It also expressed its regrets about the clear cases of negligence after the war over the restitution of property, including Holocaust-era assets in Swiss banks.

Fair and just

The president, Kaspar Villiger, and the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, said the report was not condemning Switzerland's wartime generation, but was striving to give a fair and just assessment of the past.

"It is a very important [report] because (although) it has nothing to do with an official history" it has a great deal to do with enlightening the Swiss about both the "bad and good sides of Swiss policy and enterprises," Interior Minister Dreifuss told swissinfo.

Mixed emotions

Switzerland's Jewish community said it read the reports by the Bergier commission with mixed emotions: sadness that their country had treated fellow Jews so badly, but pride that it had become one of the first countries to launch such a thorough investigation into this murky period.

"It was a courageous step to look into this period, knowing that it would not show the most glorious page in our history," Alfred Donath, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish communities, told swissinfo. "It is something certain countries have not done."

He said he was hopeful that the report would not be "put in a drawer" and forgotten, but that it would be acted upon.

swissinfo

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