Conclusions

SWC Home A Survey of Nazi and Pro-Nazi Groups in Switzerland: 1930-1945
by Alan Morris Schom, Ph.D.

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CONCLUSIONS

The extraordinary variety and number of associations and societies in Switzerland representing the extreme-right--patriotic, fascist, or both -- during the Hitlerian era, is most striking. Probably no other country in the whole of Europe was so thoroughly infested with similar groups in proportion to its population and geographical area. Some of these associations had cells or chapters in more than one hundred and sixty cities, towns and villages. This report discusses a couple of dozen of these associations, large and small. If they drew their members, tens of thousands of them, mainly from the working, and lower-middle classes, at least one of them, the Schweizerischer Vaterländischer Verband, or SVV, was comprised largely of the ruling elite of Switzerland, notably the officer corps and the political, financial and industrial leaders of the country.

Another most unusual feature of the Swiss extreme-right was that the vast majority of its leaders were not the semi-literate rabble-rousing, brown-shirt-type found in the Third Reich and Austria, but educated men, university graduates, and at least fourteen of the leaders discussed in this report held doctorates -- mostly in law -- or the equivalent. Others were fairly senior army officers. Frequently these individuals came from wealthy, even distinguished Swiss families, such as von Sprecher, Rolf Henne, Eugen Bircher and his brother-in-law, Hans Oehler, Ernst Hofmann, Robert Tobler and Georges Oltramare. In several instances, their leaders included respected university professors, or sons of professors, such as Dr. Gonzague de Reynold (romance languages, Universities of Bern and Fribourg), Arthur Fonjallaz (military history, the Technical University of Zürich), Dr. Max Huber (law, University of Zurich) and Dr. Jakob Lorenz (sociology, University of Fribourg), and Professor Walter Wili (University of Bern).

The numerous publications of the right-wing press associated with these organizations, occupied a central place in their development and were frequently supported, financially and politically, by leaders of Swiss finance, industry and politics. Every member of the ruling Federal Council supported one or more of such societies if only quietly from the sidelines or through an affiliated political party. As noted earlier, Berlin, too, through the auspices of Himmler, Ribbentrop and Goebbels, intervened directly to fund various Swiss fascist enterprises and their bulletins and newspapers. Others were backed whole-heartedly, almost with the religious fervour of the "true believer," by Swiss nationalists, including perhaps the largest of them, Heimatwehr. And there were many such periodicals, some very short-lived, others in existence for years, including Der Angriff, Das Aufgebot, Eidgenössische Zeitung fur Volk und Heimat, Der Eiserne Besen, Die Front, Die Grenzbote, Die Heimatwehr, Nationale Hefte, Schweizer Faschist, Schweizerische Monatshefte and the Volksbund, to name a few. All of the newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and books written, published and distributed by extreme-right associations, reaching a most extensive audience, blatantly aimed at segregating the Jews socially from the rest of humanity, and focused unrelenting abusive attacks on them daily in every region of the Swiss Confederation.

Nor did these Swiss associations and their periodicals make any attempt whatsoever to conceal their antisemitism, or to apologize for this unmitigated public discrimination, or even their ultimate purpose of expelling all Jews permanently from Swiss territory. Indeed, so deeply ingrained was Swiss antisemitism by the early 1930s, permeating all aspects of everyday, "normal" Swiss values, thoughts and acts, that it appears no longer even to have occurred to the vast majority of the Volk that there was anything unusual, anything "wrong" or twisted in any of this. Indeed, so common was such thinking throughout Switzerlands twenty-one cantons, that very few individuals even questioned it, apart from a few isolated members of the press, parliament and the clergy. Since the sixteenth century antisemitism had been encouraged, if not cultivated, by Jean Calvin in his sermons and writings (e.g., his Institutes), by Huldreich Zwinglis denunciations in the pulpit of the Zürich Minister, and of course, indirectly by Martin Luther, including his pamphlet, On Jews and Their Lies. The repetition of such sermons and themes over the centuries had simply reinforced the acceptance of such libel, defamation and discrimination. Given this historical perspective, it is hardly surprising then that the language of hysteria and religious/racial hatred found in the articles of Ammann, Bircher, Burri, Henne, Leonhardt, Oehler, Oltramare, Schaeppi, Schaffner, Tobler, Wechlin and Zander -- language emulating that of the chief Nazi propagandist, Dr. Goebbels, himself -- startled virtually no one.

Thus a few dozen of these articles and citations have been included in this report to provide typical examples of this overt antisemitism churned out by the Swiss extreme-right until the very end of World War II. In the case of the Swiss Fatherland Association, "someone" has gone to a great deal of trouble to remove just about all of their publications from the university and public libraries of Switzerland. Given the planning and scale involved in this operation, the adherents and supporters of the SVV knew they had a great deal of most embarrassing material to destroy. And of course, the prevailing anti-Jewish sentiments of the ruling elite -- the senior bankers, insurance executives, leaders of industry, the military and politics -- continued within the ranks of the Swiss Fatherland Association, for instance, well after the conclusion of the Second World War.

Other examples of the national stance on fascism and antisemitism are to be found in Switzerland as well. Back on 4 October 1942, a large, boisterous rally of up to 15,000 German Nazis residing in the country, many of them uniformed and attended by swastikas and traditional brass bands, gathered in Zürichs Oerlikon Stadium. If in theory they had assembled to celebrate the annual harvest festival -- there was scarcely a farmer amongst them -- in reality they had come to demonstrate support for Adolf Hitler and to denounce the British and American forces. So embarrassing was this incident that even the Federal Council became anxious about the hostile international repercussions.1 In 1943 and as late as the spring of 1944, just before the Allied landings in Normandy, after swearing their Profession of Faith -- "There is no Swiss nation. We are a part of the German people" -- the last of some 1,200 crack Swiss troops training at sports schools and fencing academies in half a dozen places in Switzerland, including Kilchberg and Feldkirch, boarded trains for Waffen SS camps in Germany under the command of SS Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger.2 For many months these young men, models of the alpine race, sometimes dressed in military uniforms, carrying large red and black swastika flags, had been parading or marching through Swiss fields and villages, loudly singing their Nazi war songs. Obviously their existence was hardly unknown to Heinrich Rothmunds ever vigilant police, those police so adept at seeking out every illegal Jewish refugee hiding in Switzerland. In fact, the Swiss authorities not only closed a blind eye, but on occasion even inspected them, for the Swiss Fatherland Association -- the only civilian, non-governmental organization in the country to receive regularly secret classified government files from the Ministry of Justice and Police3 -- had given its blessing, or at least, had acquiesced. That the Federal Council and Swiss Parliament only reluctantly agreed to close down the last official Nazi offices including the infamous Ausland Organization, on the 1st of May 1945*, one week before the armies of the Third Reich surrendered, tells a story in itself.4

None of the fascist leaders, organizations, publications, street demonstrations or schools of military instruction could have existed in so public a fashion, had they not received the full support of Switzerlands great troika of power: the officer corps, the Swiss Fatherland Association, and the boardrooms interlocking-directorates. They were all united through their support of groups, institutions and publications fostering both an antisemitic theme and an "accommodating" position vis-à-vis the Third Reich.

Leaders of Switzerlands business and financial world had many close associations and affiliations with Nazi Germany and things German. "General" Alfred Schaefer, directing the operations of the Union Bank of Switzerland, maintained very close ties with Berlin. Dr. Rudolf Speich, as chairman of the Swiss Bank Corporation, did as well, to his considerable advantage. Indeed, all the major banks and a great many of the smaller private banks openly supported the Nazi cause, including the Greutert-Sturzenegger Bank of Basel, Johann Wehrlis private bank in Zurich (numbering both Ribbentrop and Göring among his clients), the Basler Handelsbank of Max Brugger (who later committed suicide in 1945), J.H. Pfeifers Bank Leu specializing in the transfer of looted gold to Portugal and Argentina, Von der Heydts bank of Locarno, Vontobels, Pictets, Lombards and Hentsch of Geneva, to name a few.5  The directors of almost every bank in Switzerland, large or small, knew Dr. Eugen Bircher and many were affiliated with his Swiss Fatherland Association, directly or indirectly.

Switzerlands all-encompassing links with Berlin throughout the 1930s and 40s become much more tangible and visible in the realm of industry. Emil Bührles Werkzeugmaschinenfabrik Oerlikon plant was pro-Nazi from the beginning, producing its Oerlikon 120mm. anti-aircraft guns, munitions and light arms for the Reich. How many thousands of Allied air crews and troops were killed by Swiss-made arms and munitions will never be known. But what is known is that Oerlikon arms of one kind or other were to be found in almost every unit of the German army. Karl Abegg of Zürichs Swiss Credit Bank, also directed the countrys largest silk manufacturing plants, as well as others in the Reich proper. He was also vice-president of the vast Nestlé Holding Company and ran two important insurance companies -- the Swiss Reinsurance Co., and the Zürich Unfall Insurance Co. A regular visitor to the Third Reich with which his companies did most of their business, it is hardly surprising to learn of Abeggs contacts with Eugen Birchers Schweizerischer Vaterländischer Verband. Dr. Hans Sulzer, of Gebrüder Sulzer, A.G., built much sought after precision instruments, machinery, trucks, locomotives and freight cars at his Winterthur works and elsewhere, by and large produced chiefly for the Wehrmacht. The SNSG, or Swiss National Union of Garage Mechanics, signed lucrative wartime contracts with the Reich to repair thousands of German army trucks.6  Otto Hurlimanns thousands of workers built powerful construction equipment for the Reich till the very end of the war. Maggi A.G. owned several factories producing food products for Hitlers armies. Their major plant built in southern Germany at Singen, run by SS officer Rudolf Weiss, employed slave-labour from Nazi concentration camps. Also located in southern Germany were plants owned by Georg Fischer Industries of Schaffhausen, managed on the spot by Alfred Horstmann (the leader of the Schaffhausen Nazi league). Fischers Maag Zahnräder plant shipped hundreds of freight-car loads of the finest gears and gear-making machinery to the Reich. Rudolph Geigy, owner of J.R. Geigy Ltd., was famous world-wide for his chemicals and dyes, so badly needed by Nazi Germany. Another powerful Swiss, Walter Boveri, owned Verwaltungsgesellschaft of Zürich, and of course presided over Brown Bovery & Co., with its lucrative exports to the Reich. Aluminium Industrie, A.G., owned by the president of the International Red Cross, Dr. Max Huber, also had armaments factories in southern Germany, employing some slave-labour and directed by SS Obersturmbannführer Achim Tobler.7 The above list, though brief, is nevertheless typical of Swiss wartime productions and links with the Third Reich and explains why the Allies black-listed well over one thousand such Swiss concerns during the war.

Professor Bonjour agrees that the vast majority of Swiss exports went to the Axis powers, but the precise figures themselves are even more compelling. Of the total 904 million francs worth of exports (excluding all banking and financial operations) produced in 1942, all but 21.6 million francs of that amount went to the Axis powers and to their collaborators, or 97.6%, and the following year that figure declined only slightly, to 95.3%.8

In addition to financial and industrial links with Germany, and often affiliated with the Swiss Fatherland Association, most of the leaders of Swiss society had studied at one or more German universities. Max Huber, for example, had read law at Berlin, Hans Sulzer at both Berlin and Leipzig, Felix Iseln, the head of I.G. Farbens Swiss-based I.G. Chemie, and a colonel in Swiss army intelligence, had studied law at both Tübingen and Berlin. Bührle was a graduate of Freiburg, while Munich was also favoured by many Swiss industrialists and politicians. This is yet another example of the strong, all-pervasive German link one finds throughout the Swiss leadership class. The extreme-right-wing Swiss fascists were not an isolated instance. Indeed, they were used by the like-minded leaders of Swiss society in furthering their own financial ends.

Not content with the preceding forms of accommodation with the Third Reich, other Swiss found new avenues by which to expand this link. In July 1941, Dr. Alfred Zander, a former leader of the NBS, or National Movement of Switzerland, formally addressed the Nazi Ausland Organization in Stuttgart offering to send Swiss volunteer military units to the Reich.9 If such a move did not receive official sanction by the Federal Council, a plan by Colonel Eugen Bircher, and sanctioned by the Komitee für Hilfskationen, did. The first of four Swiss medical missions was sent to the eastern front to aid the troops of the Third Reich on October 15, 1941. A second Swiss medical team of 80 doctors, nurses and aides, was sent to assist Hitlers armies on January 8, 1942, led by Dr. Arnold, returning three and a half months later.10 A third Swiss team of surgeons and physicians led by Dr. F. Merke was dispatched to the Germans on June 18, 1942, remaining some three months, while a fourth Swiss medical mission under the command of Dr. Howald returned from the front on March 9, 1943. All four missions were officially organized by the Medical Service of the Ministry of Military Affairs. Further medical teams offered by the Swiss government to Hitler were refused by Berlin because of subsequent public complaints of German atrocities. At a time when the refugees in Swiss camps were informed there were not enough physicians available for them, the Swiss managed to send two other missions to Greece.11 But later after one of the Swiss doctors -- Dr. Rudolf Bucher -- who had participated in one of the Swiss missions to the East, gave public lectures on the horrors he had witnessed, including the massacre of Jews in the Smolensk area, he was ordered, in early 1944, to appear before the Military Affairs Minister, Colonel Karl Kobelt, himself. He was rebuked and informed that he would face legal action should he continue to speak in public about the maltreatment of the Jews. But not content with that, the entire Bundesrat convened on March 14, 1944 -- President Philipp Etter, Justice and Police Minister von Steiger, Military Affairs Minister Kobelt, Finance and Customs Minister Ernst Wetter, Economic Affairs Minister Walther Stampfli and Postal and Railways Minister, Enrico Celio -- and unanimously condemned Rudolf Bucher, ordering his name to be struck from the armys roster.12 His crime: to have protested in the name of humanity. This was hardly surprising of course when one considers that all these ministers except Enrico Celio, were associated with some actions or members of the Swiss Fatherland Association. And given this background it is even less surprising to learn of Walther Stampflis outburst (as Economic Affairs Minister) in December 1943: "Imagine that! The Allies demand our participation in the war against Germany! Never has Germany treated Switzerland as badly as the Allies do today!"13 The Swiss could provide industrial and medical assistance to Adolf Hitler, and even send Swiss troops to the Reich, while offering nothing comparable to the Allied armies.

The Bank of International Settlements, or BIS,14 established in neutral Switzerland in 1930 by the Allies as the vehicle by which to facilitate Germanys payment of war reparations dating from the First World War, was another example of Nazi influence and values in Swiss society, apparently with the full support of the Federal Council. Throughout World War II, its Basel headquarters were known to the Allies as a de facto Nazi-run organization, benefiting the Third Reich, and not the victors of Versailles. It served as Hitlers Eurobank. Its American-born president, Thomas Harrington McKittrick, had lived in Europe many years before the outbreak of the second World War, having apparently made his initial financial contacts with the Nazi regime through his Baltic-based investments. He had many acquaintances in touch with the Swiss Fatherland Association, including Emil Bührle, Max Huber, Ernst Weber, Felix Iseln and Swiss Ministers von Steiger, Stampfli and Etter. As for his colleagues governing the BIS, they formed a regular rogues gallery: Dr. Walther Funk, Minister for Economic Affairs of the Third Reich, 1937-1945, and Hitlers personal nominee as President of the Reichsbank, 1939-45, was a most influential member of the BIS board throughout the war. His position as a high-ranking Nazi official explains all. Emil Puhl, Funks deputy, also sat on the board. Dr. Kurt von Schröder sat as a director on many Nazi wartime industrial boards, including those of Alderwerke and Thyssen Hütte. But in reality he was at the same time a high ranking officer of the Gestapo. Another member of the BIS board was none other than Dr. Hermann Schmitz, not only a high-ranking Nazi party member, but the head of the I.G. Farben world-wide network. It was he who authorized the creation of I.G. Farbens massive slave-labour factories at Auschwitz.15 At its peak, the Zyklon-B gas produced by this same I.G. Farben was exterminating some 12,000 men, women and children dailythe majority of them Jews. Schmitz also created his own Swiss banking outlet in Basel, along with the I.G. Chemie corporation that financed so many of Farbens development and production plans. He personally named his successor as I.G. Chemies new chief at the outset of World War II, Dr. Felix Iseln. He also launched GAF in the United States, which then channeled its profits back to I.G. Farben via I.G. Chemie in Switzerland. Schmitz was closely associated with three Swiss ministers during the war: Bundesrat Minister of Justice and Police, Eduard von Steiger, Economics Minister, Walther Stampfli, and Finance Minister, Philipp Etter. Between 1939 and 1945 they did a great deal of business together. Other Nazi sympathizers and collaborators on the BIS governing board included two of Mussolinis nominees, Vincenzo Azzolini, President of the Bank of Italy, and another well known fascist, F. Giodani, both men serving on the board throughout the war. Pétain and Pierre Laval named the well known right-wing extremist, the Marquis de Vogüé, and the Vichy collaborator, Yves Bréart de Boisanger, September 1940 until September 1944, the president of the Banque de France. Other well known Nazi collaborators on the BIS board included Ivar Rooth, of Sweden, and Leonhardus J. A. Tripp, of Holland. Japan was represented by Y. Yamamota as late as 1945. Switzerlands representative on the board was none other than Dr. Ernst Weber, president of the Swiss National Bank, and who as such was responsible for accepting tons of Nazi-looted gold and then transporting well over two hundred truckloads of it under the protection of the neutral Swiss flag to Lisbon, between 1944 and March 1945.16 The Bank of International Settlements, with a board of directors boasting such a phalanx of Nazi enthusiasts, appeared to fit in naturally enough in a country so linked mentally and commercially with the Third Reich.

Although a much riven society for such a small country with its considerable array of political parties, sharp religious divisions between Catholics and Protestants, and linguistic and cultural differences all such differences ended in the market place. Money was the great reconciler of national divisions, and thus the boardroom was in essence the ecumenical hall of the Swiss Confederation throughout the period under discussion in this report. Many senior army officers, and all the key politicians and captains of finance and industry sat on these boards, some frequently sitting on twenty or more boards, establishing them firmly in the Swiss world of inter-locking directorates. Indeed even several of the leaders of the extremist, far-right action groups sat on many of these boards, including the Heussers, Toblers, Hennes, Oltramares and Birchers. But despite the battle cries and rabble-rousing of all the fascist and super-nationalist societies and organizations in Switzerland, only the Swiss Fatherland Association continuously had the ear of the government. Indeed the association included senior politicians in its membership. Just how influential that Association was during the Hitlerian era can now be confirmed through a series of Swiss government documents, some of which I have included in Section 4 of this report.

These documents reveal, for instance, that the Swiss government, chiefly through the Ministry of Justice and Police, carried out a deliberate policy of segregating the Jewish refugees/émigrés from all others. Again the designation "Catholic" or "Protestant" refugee does not appear once in any of these official records. This policy the Federal Council carried out throughout the 1930s until the very end of World War II. These senior Swiss government officials saw the presence of Jews in Swiss society as "a danger" a description they used time and again. Finally these documents establish that the Federal Council sought a means of fending off Jewish refugees, preventing them from ever crossing the Swiss frontier in the first place. But curiously enough, most of these anti-Jewish activities appear to have involved an unofficial, indeed, illegal, alliance between the Federal Council and the Swiss Fatherland Association, a collusive relationship first developed by its founder, Colonel Eugen Bircher, MD, and maintained by that Associations succeeding presidents, including Colonel Heusser during the peak war years.

"The relations of the Confederations Justice and Police Ministry with the Swiss Fatherland Association have always been very good," Dr. Eduard von Steiter, head of that ministry, stated at a secret conference with the Swiss Fatherland Association on the morning of January 26, 1946.17 Representing the SVV were its president, Colonel Heusser and its Recording Secretary, Dr. G. Huber. "To a certain degree," Steiger continued, "the Swiss Fatherland Association has even enjoyed a special, privileged position of influence. If the Swiss Fatherland Association has had information to report [during the war], it was able to do so in an unimpeded fashion. . . . . On the other hand the Swiss Fatherland Association has frequently received materials that have been classified as official [State] secrets. To be sure the special role that the Swiss Fatherland Association assumed regarding the refugee situation lay outside the scope of its normal organizational interests. On the other hand that issue was considered of special concern to the Association, as being in the interests of the Swiss people and in that of the defense of their country. For this reason they frequently passed on information to our Department, for which we were grateful. We were pleased when they reported directly to our Department [instead of through the lower, normal channels], thereby permitting us to take the appropriate measures required as soon as possible. . . . Federal Legal Counsellor, Dr. Stämpfli [also present today] has confirmed that relations between the Federal Attorneys Office [Attorney General] and the Swiss Fatherland Association have not only been good, but have remained so since the founding of the Association. Our police inspectors have also worked directly with the Association. The reports it has provided us with [concerning refugees/Jews] have always been given serious attention* . . . . The Swiss Fatherland Association has even supplied us with intelligence overlooked by our own Federal Police. . . . Therefore it is in the interests of the Federal Attorneys Office that relations with the Swiss Fatherland Association continue now in the same unimpeded fashion," von Steiger concluded.

"We have done all that was required of us to support the Federal authorities in their struggle [regarding the refugees]," President Heusser replied. "That has been possible because we are widely represented throughout the country, and because we have maintained an effective intelligence gathering network. The Association has taken it upon itself to maintain its character as a non-partisan institution working for the good of the country. The Swiss Fatherland Association continues to work in a disinterested manner." Then discussing the war, the Associations recording secretary, Dr. Huber, commented: "The Association considered the treatment of the refugee question to be one of the Associations tasks because it decided that the flow of refugees [Jews, into Switzerland] in fact posed a danger to the country." And then more frankly still, he referred to the late 1930s and early 40s when the Association "had written the Federal Council expressing the opinion that our native Jews be held responsible [morally and financially] for the refugees and emigrants. . ." And of course the Federal Council had immediately adopted that advice. This secret meeting, held as usual in von Steigers Federal chambers, clearly reflects without the usual Swiss tangle of legalese syntax precisely what they did and their view on the "refugees", the Jews. This also establishes the collusion between the Federal Council and the private organization, the Swiss Fatherland Association. This in turn provides a good introduction to Switzerlands official attitude to the Jews during the Hitlerian era, as now revealed in fresh documentary evidence, in particular through the governments relations with the Eugen Bircher organization.

"Given the widespread concern about the future of our country. . . the Swiss Fatherland passed a resolution [at its annual meeting on July 13, 1940] to present to the responsible authorities stating that . . . . The Swiss People expect action and deeds." "and to be executed expeditiously."18 In particular they were referring to "foreigners" and "emigrants," that is to say, "Jews." The Association now demanded that "the instructions to the Federal Police Office for Foreigners [the Fremden polizei], regarding emigrants, must adhered to strictly without exception . . . In this regard our country may be faced "with some difficult situations stemming from the behavior and attitude of some Jews, especially emigrants. Such undesirable elements will undoubtedly bring the Jewish Question to a crisis in Switzerland." These Jews were largely involved in "Communist educational activities." "Morally speaking, from our viewpoint, such individuals have not behaved properly." Therefore, the Swiss Fatherland Association has demanded that the number of police raids on Jews be stepped up, including the number of expulsions from Switzerland. Only these measures "will free us from such [Jewish] elements." But naturally there was more at stake here. "We must also insist, "the president of the SVV at that time, Dr. A. Gannser, closed, "that the Federal authorities act with the greatest care regarding all financial transactions, ever a matter of primary concern to Jews [and evidently to members of the Association] and in particular their transfer of capital out of the country, transactions that do not necessarily take into consideration the good of the Fatherland."

On May 23, 1941, von Steigers principal intermediary with the public, federal police chief Heinrich Rothmund, also a member of the SVV, implemented the Associations demands vis-à-vis French children fleeing Nazi round-ups in their country. "Those whose French citizenship has been proven (but excluding automatically children of emigrants or those, French citizens or not, who are of non-Aryan descent)" were to be accepted in Switzerland.19 Once again Jews were discriminated against.

Three months later, Rothmund issued further instructions expanding the rejection of more Jews. On August 14, 1941, he issued a fresh "Internal Order" to the federal police and frontier guards, using as a pretext the situation in Serbia.20 He began by stating that as a result of the new orders issued by the military chiefs of staff in Serbia on May 30, 1941 concerning "Jews and Gypsies," based on similar laws and decrees already in force in Germany, "Jews and Gypsies are prohibited from participating in the cultural and economic life of the country." Everywhere, Rothmund pointed out, nations were protecting themselves from the Jews. Now more of them from the "Eastern and Balkan States" would be fleeing to Switzerland. Therefore, "entry visas for non-Aryans are to be rejected automatically. . . ." Over the next year Steigers ministry issued similar such instructions to Swiss border crossings concerning Jews fleeing Belgium, Holland and again, France. "Political refugees are not to be turned back," Steigers "CONFIDENTIAL" instructions from Bern dated August 13, 1942 stated. [But] "Refugee status based on racial grounds alone, does not qualify as political refugee status."21 The message and intent were clear. And yet according to the Swiss, "This Department [Ministry] would "certainly not prevent a community from accepting refugees," Justice Minister von Steiger informed Colonel Heusser, "but at the same time the Swiss people should be fully aware of the moral, political and financial consequences involved in this matter.22 Heussers response: "The screws must be tightened and now." And another official of the SVV pointed out anxieties about Jews who had been given refugee status and growing Jewish activity. "At Montreux, a Talmud seminary apparently has been established. This sort of Jewish activity is precisely the sort of thing that incites the Jewish Question." Clearly there was another Jewish plot afoot. At the same time Dr. Dick, of the Attorney Generals office, assured the SVV that though Swiss Jews have "on many occasions attempted to bring lawsuits against those persons defaming them by using the expressions Jew-pig and stinking Jew (Saujude, or Stinkjude) . . . We have rejected such suits."23 Therefore any Christian could insult any Jew in Switzerland, and the Jew would have no legal recourse, according to this statement by the Federal Attorney Generals office. The laws of defamation and libel applied only to Christians. Eugen Bircher took full advantage of this. "The emigrants are . . . interested in gaining a place in our economy. They constitute a foreign body among our [Christian] people, and must be removed as soon as discovered. These people bring political lice into the country and that we do not need."24 Heinrich Rothmund felt the same but expressed it differently, stating that "both the people and the authorities in Switzerland must recognize the danger of Judaization [Verjudung] of the country and defend themselves against it. . . The danger can only be addressed effectively by excluding Jews "[from Swiss territory] at the very outset by making sure that it is quite impossible for them to obtain visas."25

Despite all the efforts of the Swiss government, Jewish refugees "emigrants" kept arriving, now in even greater numbers and thus once again the Association, the SVV, demanded an emergency meeting with the Justice Minister, Eduard Steiger. They convened in Steigers private chambers on October 17, 1942, Colonel Heusser, the new president, representing the Swiss Fatherland Association.26

"The object of these on-going negotiations with the Swiss Fatherland Association regarding emigrants (reaching Switzerland)," the minutes of the meeting began, "have now been upset by the strong invasion [of Jewish emigrants] from France [since the German occupation of that country in June 1940]. The Association strongly believed that the head of the Ministry of Justice and Police must share this common concern, which in turn has led Parliament to go on record stating that from now on the refugee question must be dealt with by the head, and no longer by the heart." The SVV felt that "despite assurances received in February 1942, nevertheless stringent enough measures had not yet been taken to halt the flow of emigrants into Switzerland. . . and the dangers involved in the acceptance of refugees," it continued. "Human considerations are still given too large a role in that decision-making . . . ." For the first time, however, the Association admitted the problem stemmed not from the lack of food, but as a result of "the political and cultural dangers [brought by these Jews]. . ." For instance, they were not exaggerating in saying that it was the simple village peasant woman who "will suffer in the end. And it is she who feels most strongly that the Jews do not belong in this land."

The Federal Government must crack down on these Jews, Colonel Heusser argued. "Raids on political gatherings must be carried out. Also. . . . it would be inappropriate for the Swiss people [the Christian population] to lay out the resources required to cover the costs of sheltering emigrants. The Jews alone should pay for the care of the Jews. This expense should not be carried by the Federal budget. It also appears unnecessary to have to pay those emigrants who are working in our labour camps, since those people should be grateful just to be in Switzerland and therefore content to work for our country gratis. . . . The Association also aims at making the Swiss people aware of the fundamental necessity of not permitting the settlement and naturalization [of the Jewish] refugees." The Federal Government "should not avoid the Jewish Question, . . . Whether we like it or not, this is a question of race . . . of the Jewish influence [in Swiss society]."

"This is a question of race," never before had any official Swiss document acknowledged and recorded so frankly a debate within government regarding its attitude towards Jews, any Jews, in Switzerland, and in his response von Steiger assured the SVV that "their recommendations will remain confidential." He and the federal government "are aware of all the dangers that the emigrant problem poses for the country. . . . But "from a practical viewpoint, how do I go about telling that to the Swiss people?" The borders were sealed even more securely against Jews by the end of August 1942 and that was "meant as a warning shot regarding this growing danger. We intend to reduce fundamentally even more the flow [of Jewish refugees]. The Swiss people must learn the significance of what it really means to have foreign Jews among us. . . ." But the Swiss Justice Minister continued that public opinion had to be taken into consideration and the "negative diplomatic effect, which means that we must not discuss this issue publicly." Therefore, Steiger "expressly desires the Association to avoid raising the Jewish Question [in public], for it would be misinterpreted . . . as if we were developing a special set of laws to apply to Jews alone. Therefore, the use of the term Jew must be avoided altogether in discussions before Parliament . . . ." Instead the Swiss Minister asked the Association "to work quietly with him in the task of enlightening the people, and to desist from loud publicity. . . . Thus. . . disguise your help! Crude rhetoric by you only helps the opposition."

This single document is probably one of the most damning pieces of evidence produced against the Swiss government. "Whether we like it or not, this is a question of race."27 Neither the members of the elite super nationalist organization, the SVV, nor the Swiss federal government wanted Jewish refugees, or indeed, any Jews, on Swiss territory. That this was confirmed and recorded in official state documents by von Steiger, the future president of the Swiss Confederation, removes any doubt whatsoever of the intentions, of the real feelings and policies of the federal government concerning "the Jewish Question" during World War II.

Nevertheless, even from within the ranks of the Federal Police, an occasional voice of protest could be heard, however briefly, as in the case of a senior government lawyer, Dr. Robert Jezler, who was later to succeed Rothmund in 1954, and his "Report by the Police Division Regarding the Refugee Problem," dated July 1942 and classified "STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL."28 After explaining how Jewish refugees had been turned away initially by the Swiss, and how the Germans "began to deport those Jews....to Poland," Jezler states: "More recently we have no longer been able to carry out such expulsions in that manner. The policy of deportation [of Jews], and the conditions of the Jews in the East are so abominable, that one can understand the desperate attempts by the refugees to avoid that fate, and therefore we can no longer be held responsible for expelling them." As for the Jews living in German-occupied countries, they know they can be "taken as hostage, or even summarily executed without reason or warning. . . ." Alas, this appears to be one of the very rare glimpses of humanity found within the Federal Councils files.

"What good is it to preserve and defend Switzerland if by imperceptible degrees we surrender the only thing that justifies the existence of our Confederation our function as "the protector of freedom and human kindness?" Professor Hans Zbinden asked.29 Nor was he alone. "There are situations in mens lives and those of nations when silence is tantamount to the gravest of injustices reflecting a faithlessness and total lack of character, so far as ones own principles are concerned," Swiss parliamentarian Dr. Albert Maag declared.30 Such words and feelings were expressed by many decent Swiss citizens throughout the Second World War. The Reverend Drs. Karl Barth, Gottfried Ludwig, Paul Vogt, Albert Hübscher and Max Gerber, among the theologians, Professor Leonahard Ragaz, Karl Frey, Carl Albert Loosli, Gottlieb Duttweiler, Albert Oeri, Johann Rusch and of course the great Swiss heroine, Regina Kägi-Fuchsmann, represent the Swiss who stood up to declare themselves against the policies of the Federal Council, a brave, distinguished minority.

* * * *

But why then did they not triumph over the Steiger-Bircher antisemitic legislation, policies and acts of the Swiss federal government during the war? Historically, their own Christian theology over the centuries, so frequently antisemitic, undermined the Swiss Christian leadership now, resulting in Christian organizations and congregations refusing to fully support their own leaders. Major newspapers, such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, waffled in legalistic jargon and compromised with the Federal Council, criticizing some right-wing deeds and philosophy, while at the same time endorsing extremist parliamentary candidates, publishing long accounts of their meetings, including the long antisemitic speeches of Swiss Fatherland Association officials, not to mention Nazi and antisemitic advertisements. On the other hand there were opponents of official Swiss antisemitism, but these individuals who failed to both gather enough prominent supporters and to maintain the momentum required in their denunciation to government policies and of those of the extreme-right. On the other hand they were facing not only numerous well organized fascist and super-nationalist groups and societies, but the ruling troika of the Swiss confederation as well. And in the final analysis it was this most formidable troika, this interest group that literally ruled the land. Its members commanded the Swiss Army, employed the masses in their factories and corporations, and administered the federal government and its policies. In effect, every phase of Swiss society was both carefully manipulated and directed . . . by a few hundred men.

Since 1945 the myth of Swiss neutrality, of Swiss humanity and good works, has been protected and perpetuated to one degree or other by "patriotic" Swiss historians who do not wish to be considered traitors to the Vaterland. This applies to Jewish Swiss historians as well and is reminiscent of the superpatriotism one found in Germanys Jewish communities during World War I and its aftermath. Indeed, we now see a direct replay of this in Switzerland. And even the others, historians such as Edgar Bonjour, suppress or alter the emphasis on major aspects of recent Swiss history, including the full extent of the Swiss "accommodation" with the ideologies, economy and leaders of the Third Reich, or the true pervasive extent of antisemitic feelings in Swiss society.

And perhaps the Armistice Day speech given by the president of Switzerland before Parliament on May 7, 1995,31 provides a good example of the historic myopia and insensitivity still thriving in that country. Switzerland, which had hosted Nazi organizations on its soil until just seven days before the armistice of 1945, an armistice they had found so utterly distasteful then, was now, fifty years being claimed by President Kaspar Villiger, a victory, one Switzerland now suddenly shared in.

"Our country was spared the Second World War [on its own soil]. That should fill us with gratitude. Other countries liberated Europe, saved European culture and permitted us, too, to share in a free future. Our country, placed in an extremely menacing position, did all that was humanly possible to preserve its independence, its values and its integrity. . . .but Switzerland did not act in all it did, as its ideals might have required. That should make us think a bit. Switzerland was in fact guilty regarding its attitude to the refugees. We are talking about all the Jews who, refused entry into Switzerland, were thereby assured of certain death. Was the life boat really full?. . . . Have we always done everything possible vis-à-vis those who were being tracked down and deprived of their rights? As far as I am concerned, beyond all doubt we are guilty of having supported that policy towards the persecuted Jews. But it would be wrong to blame the Swiss authorities in charge at that time. All those in positions of responsibility for the country then acted solely for its well-being, according to their lights. Therefore to nail them to the pillory today would be quite unjust. . . ."

This speech by President Villiger is laced with irony and dishonesty. It would be wrong to blame the Swiss authorities of that time, but he admits that their policy towards, and treatment of, the Jews, was wrong. In fact the blameless federal authorities at that time were deliberately supporting and encouraging a policy of antisemitism within Swiss borders while executing a policy of closed borders for Jews from without. Nor was the Villiger family tree free of taint. Kaspar Villigers father and uncle had illegally acquired from the Nazis, cigar factories stolen from a Jewish family. And when fifty years after the end of the war Villiger states that the Swiss should sit back and reflect on their actions and what had transpired, this same Kaspar Villiger still refuses to return the looted property to its rightful heirs, or to indemnify them for their loss. Kaspar Villiger is a prime example of the Swiss. Kant, hypocrisy and greed continue to determine and expedite Swiss politics, and to deny the full historical truth. In Switzerland, too often, money and property would appear to come before humanity and international integrity.

The organizations, articles and documents presented and discussed in the preceding pages of this study reveal a series of orchestrated plans of a specific, nay, profound antisemitic nature. The intent and effect of these plans was discriminatory and unequivocally focused on the Jews as both a race and religion. The language of the various campaigns utilized both words, "race" and "religion." Both the people and their talmudic teachings were suspect, "out of place" in Christian Switzerland, a land bristling with extremist right-wing fascist or fascistic organizations. The only conclusion possible to be drawn from the pattern and documentation presented in this report is that Switzerland was a land saturated in greed and xenophobic hatred. According to the Swiss government today, in 1998, the Federal Council and government authorities never discriminated against Jews, as citizens or refugees. "The refugees accepted were treated according to their legal status . . . But they were never divided by race or religious faith . . . . All civilian refugees were treated equally," Ambassador Thomas Borer, the spokesman for the official Swiss Task Force still insists.32 But the findings of our investigations incontrovertibly refute such claims and protests. Indeed, they confirm clearly the existence of both calculated campaigns by private organizations, and federal policy to discriminate against Jews and Jewish refugees. They confirm clearly the intent to harass, libel, defame or threaten Jews, and even to allow them to be murdered through "a policy of deportation" to the Germans, or by denying them a safe haven. Special regulations, even J-stamps, "Aryan Certificates" and "internal orders" were created with the sole purpose of keeping "undesirable elements" -- Jews or Jewish refugees -- out of Switzerland.33 Swiss Foreign Minister Pilet, for one, successfully recommended that the Swiss Red Cross reject French Jewish children. Many hours of special meetings were convened by Swiss government officials at the highest levels throughout World War II, dedicated to "the Jewish Question," and several examples have been included in this report. Indeed, a future president of Switzerland, no less, admitted in the minutes of his meeting with the Swiss Fatherland Association on January 26, 1946 to having handed over "classified . . . . official [state] secrets" regarding Swiss Federal policy concerning the Jews, to a private group, the SVV, this in violation of Swiss federal law.34 In that same document von Steiger segregated Jewish refugees from all others, dedicating the entire meeting to "The Jewish Question in Switzerland." Steiger had also authorized Heinrich Rothmund to inform Swiss frontier posts that "entry visas for non-Aryans" were to be "automatically rejected." "Jews alone should have to pay for the care of the Jews", and not the federal budget, which paid for the Protestants and Catholics alone. According to Bircher, the godfather of the SVV, Jews "constitute a foreign body among our peoples. . . . (and) bring political lice into our country." (Bircher was a close friend of both von Steiger, and of the latters close subordinate, Heinrich Rothmund, a well known member of the SVV). "Whether we like it or not, this is a question of race," the president of the SVV had told von Steiger, who replied: "The Swiss people must learn the significance of what it really means to have Jews among us. . . ." Nor must one forget the four medical missions sent by the Swiss to aid the armies of the Third Reich, nor the Swiss troops they permitted to train on Swiss soil for the Waffen-SS as late as 1944.

Documentary evidence from the Federal Archives introduced in this report establishes that the Swiss government denied Jewish citizens of Switzerland the right of legal recourse in the case of alleged defamation and libel based on grounds of antisemitism. Evidence from the Federal Archives equally establishes that the Federal Ministry of Justice and Police conspired with the Swiss Fatherland Association in the development of an anti-Jewish policy regarding refugees. This same evidence proves that the federal authorities adhered to this policy during the period of World War II, resulting in the development and execution of a number of measures over the years "to tighten the screws." This evidence demonstrates that senior Swiss government officials knowingly, intentionally and with studied deliberation over the years discriminated against Jews as a special group of refugees. The evidence established that the Federal Council acted with deliberation to discourage "Jewish" refugees from reaching Swiss frontiers. The evidence from the Federal Archives establishes beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Federal Council practised a policy of severely restricting the number of Jewish refugees as a special category accepted within the country during World War II. In brief, the evidence produced in this report proves conclusively and beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Federal Council of the Swiss Confederation knowingly, deliberately and intentionally established and executed a special policy vis-à-vis Jewish refugees, and in so doing, knowingly and deliberately acted with the intention to discriminate against members of the Jewish faith.


1Edgar Bonjour, Histoire de la Neutralit Suisse, IV, 429.

2Ibid., vol. IV, 394-6 and 455-6.

3To be discussed shortly. See also Section 4, doc. no. 7, dated January 26, 1946.

*Author's italics.

4Bonjour, op. cit., IV, 434.

5Nicholas Faith delves into the world of Nazi banking in Safety in Numbers (London, 1982), e.g., pp. 102 et seq. See also Tom Bower covering more recent developments, Nazi Gold (New York, 1997), e.g., chapters 4, 7 and 11.

6Article in Journal de Genve, October 21, 1996.

7Prof. Jean Ziegler, University of Geneva, discusses some of these connections in his La Suisse, l'or et les morts (Paris, 1997), pp. 162-9.

8For the full set of export figures, see J. Murray Luck, Hisotry of Switzerland (Palo Alto, 1985), p. 805.

9Bonjour, op. cit., IV, 437.

10Ibid., pp. 443 et seq. The full correspondence on these missions is to be found in Documents Diplomatiques Suisses, vols. 14 and 15.

11Bonjour, op. cit, IV, 437.

12Again Bonjour covers these events succintly, ibid., IV, 448.

13Ziegler, op. cit., p. 176.

14On the BIS see Gian Trepp's excellent work, Die Bank fr Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Bank geschfte mit dem Feind (Zrich, 1993). Full board of directors listed pp. 236-237.

15On all aspects of the role played by I.G. Farben, see Joseph Borkin, The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben (New York, 1978).

16Jean Zieglar, op. cit, p. 75. The original source here was an O.S.S. interrogation of the Reichsbank's official, Dr. Karl Graupner on August 15/16, 1945 - "the Swiss National Bank transported the gold from this deposit [in Switzerland] to Lisbon at every opportunity through Swiss transport enterprises by trucks". RG260 OMGUS, Box 204, Frankfurt-a-M, August 15/16, 1945, Nat. Arch. Washington DC.

17All citations referring to the that secret conference are to be found in the Federal Archives Document J.II.11/1, Schweizerischer Vaterldischer Verband, Bd. 25, "Transcript of Consultations between the Justice and Ministry Department and the Swiss Fatherland Association," January 26, 1946." See also Section 4 of this report, document no. 7.

*Author's italics this section

18Federal Archives, Bern, J.II, 11/1, Schweizerischer Vaterlndischer Verband, Bd. 25, Aarau, July 13-25, 1940.

19Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Justiz-, und Polizeidepartement E4800.1 (Handakten Heinrich Rothmund), 1967/111, vol. 342, Circular Letter, Bern, May 23, 1941.

20Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Justiz-, und Polizeidepartement E4800.1 (Handakten Heinrich Rothmund), 1967/111, vol. 342, Internal Order, August 15, 1941.

21Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Justiz-, und Polizeidepartement E4800.1 (Handakten Eduard v. Steiger), vol. 253, 702/1, Bern, August 1, 1942, "Instructions for Border Crossing Posts."

22Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Justiz-, und Polizeidepartement E4800.1 (Handakten v. Steiger). Vol. 253, 702/1 "Memorandum: Consultations, February 15, 1943, with Swiss Fatherland Association."

23Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Justiz-, und Polizeidepartement E4800.1 (v. Steiger), vol. 253, 702/1, February 15, 1943, ibid.

24Rothmund quoted by Maz Schmid, Schalom! Wir werden euch toten. Texte und Dolumente zum Anti-semitismus in der Schweiz, 1930-1980 (Zrich, 1979), p. 167.

25Rothmund quoted by Max Schmid, op. cit, p. 167. See also antisemitic cartoons in Section 15 of this report, "Illustrations."

26Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Justiz-, und Polizeidepartement E4800.1 (Handakten v. Steiger). Vol. 253, 702/1 "Memorandum Regarding Conversations with a Delegation from the Swiss Fatherland Assoc. and Fed. Councilor v. Steiger, Sat., Oct. 17, 1942.

27As late as June 15, 1944, senior federal Police officer Heinrich Rothmund reiterated the official denunciation of Jews and Jewish refugees in a speech in Bern on that subject before Swiss journalists of the extreme-right. Fed. Arch, E4800.1 (Handatken H. Rothmund), 1967/111, Bd. 72.

28Fed. Arch., Eidgenssisches Militrdepartement, E27, Bd. 14446 (Bericht Jezler. Police Division Report Regarding the Refugee Problem, July 1942).

29August 22-23, 1942, Die National-Zeitung.

30Alfred Hsler, The Life Boat is Full, p. 133.

31Speech quoted in most Swiss newspapers the following day, including the Neue Zrcher Zeitung. Prof. J. Ziegler discusses the illegal 1935 acquisition of the Strauss family cigar factories at Stuttgart-Lanstatt and at Sarrebrcken by Max and Johann Villiger, in La Suisse, L'or et les morts, pp. 167-168.

32Article by Borer in the Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1998.

33Throughout the war the Swiss Federal Council frequently held meetings, or corresponded on, the Jews, and many of these minutes and letters have been published in Documents Diplomatiques Suisses, volumes 13 (1939-1940), 14 (1941-1943) and 15 (1943-1945), e.g. in the correspondence of August 18, 1942 between M. Grssli, the Swiss Consul General at Bratislava and Pilet-Golaz in his capacity as Swiss Foreign Minister (Chef du dpartement politique), regarding the "Judenfrage" - Doc.. Dipl. Suisses, Doc. 225 of vol. 14 (Fed. Arch., E2001 (d) series, regarding the large number of Jewish Czech refugees, and again on September 2, 1942, between the Swiss minister accredited to Vichy, Walther Stucki and Dr. E. de Haller, dlgu of the Federal Council, regarding "Enfants d'migrs juifs dports de France," concluding that "It would be both dangerous and inopportune for the Children's Aid Department of the Swiss Red Cross to take the initiative in accepting these children" (Docs. Dipl. Suisses, vol. 14, p. 753, Fed. Arch. E2001 (d) 1968/74/15; or the declarations by Pilet to von Steiger on September 16, 1942 (Doc. 238, E4001 (c) 1/257) in which Pilet declares among other things that "I have lost any illusion at being able 'to sweeten the pill' for the Swiss people, to make them appreciate more fully the impact of the refugee problem." He further complains that "some diplomats should have liked to apply pressure on us to open our doors still wider" to Jewish refugees. But instead, "we must remain dignified, firm and careful, but neither with illusions nor sentimentality when it comes to the necessity of not playing games when it comes to a question of the country's internal or foreign security." Pilet was for keeping the Jews out at any cost.

34The Federal Council not only created the "J-stamp" for German-Jewish passports, but in the case of Roumania, demanded that that government provide Christians with "Aryan Certificates," if they were to be able to enter Switzerland. Thus the Swiss government was able to eliminate most Reumanian Jews as refugees, by having the Roumanian government reject their visas for them. Swiss Minister R von Weck, to the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Bucarest, 23 Decembre 1941, E2001 (D) 3/281, published as Documents Diplomatiques Suisses, vol. 14.

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