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Extremist Swiss legislator denounces Holocaust fund

ZURICH, March 3 (JTA) — In a speech laced with anti-Semitic references, a right-wing member of the Swiss Parliament has lashed out against his country’s decision to endorse a memorial fund for needy Holocaust survivors. Addressing a rally here Saturday, Christoph Blocher also said that Switzerland had no reason to apologize for doing business with Nazi Germany and that the country would be admitting guilt if it contributed to the memorial fund. Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers were among the crowd, distributing leaflets stating that “Zionists cooperated with Hitler.” Their open activities at the rally caught some observers by surprise, because Holocaust denial is a crime under Swiss law. Witnesses said two female Jewish journalists were roughed up by some members of the crowd. Last week, the Swiss government formally approved an agreement delicately negotiated with Jewish groups on how to control the fund, recently established by Switzerland’s three largest banks. Last month’s announcement of the fund’s creation, which the banks initially infused with some $70 million, had ended months of public acrimony over Swiss compensation for dormant bank accounts of Holocaust victims as well as for the nation’s wartime role. The Swiss government has said it would not contribute to the fund until after a panel’s investigations into Switzerland’s wartime role is released later this year. Blocher, who has stated in recent days that Switzerland should never allocate taxpayers’ money for the fund, told an audience of 1,400 people at Saturday’s rally that they should not mistake Jewish motivations. “The Jews in the present discussions tell us that money is not important, but I ask you: What we are discussing now? The Jews are only interested in money,” he said to heavy applause. Blocher, a successful industrialist who is president of the Zurich Branch of the right-wing Swiss Popular Party, also attacked the “banks, Federal Council and the Jewish organizations inside and outside Switzerland” that played a part in the creation of the memorial fund. Blocher, who draws most of his support from farmers, also said, “We can all be very proud of Swiss policy during the last war,” adding that Switzerland should not rewrite its history. Blocher’s comments were condemned by Thomas Lyssy, vice president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland, who rejected the allegation that Jews were only interested in money, adding, “We are sorry that this man is using anti-Semitic slogans” to back up his stances. Stefan Keller, a Swiss historian and well-known writer, said he had attended the rally and was “shocked by its dangerous and reactionary atmosphere.”