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2 Jews suing Switzerland for World War II restitution

ZURICH, March 15 (JTA) — Two Jewish men are bringing separate suits against Switzerland linked to the country’s policy toward Jewish refugees during World War II. Charles Sonabend, whose parents were murdered in Auschwitz after Swiss authorities deported them in 1942, is bringing his compensation claim before Switzerland’s Supreme Court. The move comes after the Swiss Cabinet recently rejected his claim. Sonabend, a 67-year-old resident of London, is seeking $68,000 in damages — the largest amount possible under Swiss regulations — under a new law that allows individuals to make liability claims against public officials. The law leaves the decision to the Cabinet, but allows for an appeal to Switzerland’s Supreme Court. Sonabend was 11 years old when he and his parents entered Switzerland in 1942 from Belgium. Two days later, his parents were arrested and deported to Nazi- occupied France. They were then sent to Auschwitz. His suit, which was first filed last year, focused renewed attention on the refugee policy of Switzerland, which expelled more than 30,000 Jews during the war. Most of these Jews died. At the same time, however, Switzerland provided haven to some 25,000 Jewish refugees, who survived the war together with Switzerland’s 20,000 Jewish citizens. A second suit is meanwhile being brought by a 71-year-old Jewish man now living in Australia. Joseph Sprung is seeking compensation for having twice been turned away at the Swiss border. The first time, according to Sprung, Swiss border guards sent him back to occupied France, but on the second occasion he and three others fleeing with him were handed directly over to the Germans. In that second attempt to cross the Swiss border, Sprung and his companions had false papers to mask their religion. But when they arrived in Switzerland, they showed their real papers, thinking they would get asylum more easily as Jews. Handed over to the Germans, they produced their false papers to avoid detection as Jews. But German officials knew they were Jewish — because, Sprung charged, the Swiss border guards gave the Germans their real identity papers. Sprung was dispatched to Auschwitz, where he managed to survive the war.