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Wave of anti-Semitic incidents strikes fear among Swiss Jews

ZURICH, July 14 (JTA) — Months of mounting accusations against Switzerland for its wartime dealings with the Nazis have resulted in an anti-Semitic backlash against members of the Jewish community here. “It is no secret that the we live in an anti-Semitic society,” Hugo Benjamin, president of the small Orthodox community in Lucerne, said Monday. Most members of Lucerne’s Orthodox community have had direct experience with anti-Semitic incidents, Benjamin added. “Members of our community are often suffering from verbal attacks in the streets,” he said. “These days, I do not go to those streets and places where I risk being attacked.” In Zurich last week, there were two separate incidents on the city’s trams. “I was shocked when an educated-looking man attacked a Jew, and that none of the passengers was ready to help a man with a kipah,” or skullcap, Frank Mayer, a well-known writer and publisher who witnessed one of the incidents, said in an interview Monday. Mayer said that the Jew was assaulted with the cry, “The Jews are stealing the money of Switzerland. Get off the tram, stinking Jew!” The assault was apparently prompted by recent attempts by Jewish groups to have Swiss banks return the assets of long-dormant accounts that were opened by Jews during World War II. Contributions made earlier this year by Swiss banks and industrial firms to a fund intended to benefit Holocaust survivors may also have contributed to the attacker’s ire. “I tried to stop the man, but he reacted with threats to my person,” Mayer said of the incident, adding, “None of the other passengers was ready to help.” One member of the Swiss Orthodox community said that victims of such assaults are often “advised by the rabbis not to go to media or police” in order not to stir passions. Thomas Lyssy, vice president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland, said that he, too, has observed such incidents. “I have witnessed similar cases in the last few days,” he said. “It’s obvious that these incidents have a direct connection with the present discussions about Switzerland’s past” dealings with the Nazis. One Jewish leader who asked to remain anonymous said that the recent aggressive responses from some members of the Swiss government to the charges about the country’s wartime actions are “one of the reasons” for the recent increase of anti-Semitic incidents in Switzerland.