(JTA) — The Swiss government knew about the Nazi program to wipe out Jews in 1942 — earlier than previously known — documents publicized by a Swiss television station suggest.
A report aired by the German-language station SRF on Sunday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, said the government was aware of German leader Adolf Hitler’s extermination plan and the existence of German concentration camps as early as 1942, the year that Germany decided on its so-called “final solution” for the Jews.
Switzerland, which was neutral throughout World War II, was nonetheless throwing asylum seekers out of Switzerland that year as it tightened immigration quotas.
The TV show was aired hours after the release of a speech by Swiss President Ueli Maurer that described Switzerland as “a land of freedom and justice” during a “dark era, thanks to a generation of brave men and women.”
On Monday, three Swiss Jewish organizations condemned Maurer’s words as “a simplistic and exclusively positive” presentation that “hides the weakness and errors” of Swiss authorities in dealing with refugees. The organizations — CICAD, FSCI and PJLS — noted that the problems were documented in the 2002 final report of the Bergier commission of inquiry.
The information revealed on Sunday was in hundreds of letters, telegrams and detailed reports collected by Swiss diplomats and sent to the federal cabinet during World War II. The government also received information about the Nazi activities through photos, SRF reported.
“We can prove that the information about the murder of Jews was known in Bern as of May 1942,” Sascha Zala, director of Diplomatic Documents Switzerland, told SRF.
The previously unpublished documents were received by Eduard von Steiger, federal justice and police minister, according to the station.
Several thousand Jewish refugees managed to enter Switzerland illegally during the war, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, in addition to 30,000 Jews who entered legally.