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Swiss high court ruling favors Jewish man handed over to Nazis

ZURICH, April 25 (JTA) — The Swiss Supreme Court has called for an investigation into the case of a Jewish refugee whom Swiss border guards handed over to Nazi Germany in 1943. Joseph Spring, 72, who now lives in Australia, had demanded about $67,000 in compensation from the Swiss government, which denied his request last June. In its decision last Friday, the high court ruled against the government, which had said Spring’s claim had no legal basis. Spring charged that in 1943 he was turned away twice at the Swiss border. The first time, 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, Spring and his companions had false papers to mask their religion. But when they arrived in Switzerland, they showed their real papers, thinking that they would get asylum more easily as Jews. After they were handed over to the Germans, they produced their false papers to avoid detection as Jews. But German officials knew they were Jewish — because, Spring charged, the Swiss border guards gave the Germans their real identity papers. Spring was sent to Auschwitz, where he survived the war. In a separate development, the right-wing Swiss Popular Party called over the weekend for a referendum on using a portion of Switzerland’s gold reserves to help the aged and sick rather than create a foundation to help Holocaust victims. The call came after Swiss voters approved a new constitution last week which eliminates the requirement that the country’s currency be backed by gold. The vote cleared the way for the Swiss government to sell some of its gold reserves to create a $5 billion foundation to help victims of genocide, war and natural disasters. The foundation was first proposed in 1997, when Switzerland was confronting charges of financial complicity with Nazi Germany, but it has since become unclear whether any of the foundation’s moneys will be used to help Holocaust victims. The initiative by the Swiss Popular Party, which attacked the foundation when it was proposed two years ago, would do away with the foundation altogether in favor of increased contributions to the Swiss national insurance fund.

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