Swiss government says won’t re-examine deportation of Jewish refugees

(JTA) — The Swiss government rejected a request to re-examine the number of Jewish refugees that Switzerland turned away during the Holocaust in light of research suggesting that it was lower than accepted accounts.

“A new committee would not necessarily yield more accurate figures than the ones reached” through previous inquiries, the Swiss Federal Council said in its reply published Thursday in Le Matin, a Swiss French-speaking daily, to a request by Swiss lawmaker Yvan Perrin to re-open the issue.

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In his motion, Perrin cited research conducted by the French Nazi hunter and historian Serge Klarsfeld. In February, Klarsfeld he said that Swiss authorities turned away only 3,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust and not 24,500, as determined in 1999 by the Bergier report on Switzerland’s Holocaust-era record.

The Bergier commission did not possess information that specified whether the rejected refugees were Jewish, Klarsfeld said.

In January, a separate report by the German-language station SRF said the Swiss government was aware of German leader Adolf Hitler’s extermination plan and the existence of German concentration camps as early as 1942, and nonetheless refused entry to Jewish refuges.

Earlier this month, Swiss President Ueli Maurer apologized for neglecting to mention the turning away of Jewish refugees during a speech in January, in which he described Switzerland as “a land of freedom and justice” during a “dark era, thanks to a generation of brave men and women.”

“Not only what we say matters, but also what we don’t say,” Maurer said during an address before Jewish leaders on May 8. “ I would like to apologize for ignoring this aspect.”