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Guard who saved documents demands apology from Swiss

JERUSALEM, Sept. 16 (JTA) – A former Swiss security guard who rescued Holocaust-era documents from the shredder lashed out at the Swiss government during a visit this week to Israel. “I need from Switzerland an apology,” Christoph Meili told a news conference here. “I want an apology from the government, and this has not come.” Meili, 29, was making his rounds as a night watchman at the Union Bank of Switzerland in January when he discovered the documents headed for the paper shredder. He secretly turned over some of them to a Jewish organization in Zurich – a move that created a storm of controversy in Switzerland, cost Meili his job and forced him to flee the country because of threats on his life. In July, President Clinton signed into law a bill unanimously adopted by Congress granting permanent U.S. residency status to Meili, his wife and their two children. Meili spoke Tuesday of the hostility he encountered in Switzerland before fleeing the country. “In all the world I am a hero. In Switzerland, no. The people say, `Why have you stolen the documents? Why have you broken the bank secrecy law?’ “People began to ask me, `You are a spy? You work for the Mossad? Jewish people pay for you?’ And I received more and more death-threat letters. I received letters that people will kill my kids.” Meili said he had come to Israel to help heirs locate the Swiss bank accounts opened by relatives during World War II. He added that he had brought with him some of the documents he saved from the shredder and would give them to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. While in Israel, Meili received the Righteous Gentile award from the Jerusalem Boys Town high school. “He really put himself in danger,” said the school’s executive vice president, Rabbi Ronald Gray. “Christoph is a living representation of that which we are trying to teach our children.”