VIENNA, Austria (JTA) — Swiss authorities turned away only 3,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust and not 24,500 as believed, French Nazi hunter and historian Serge Klarsfeld said.
Klarsfeld told Switzerland’s Der Sonntag newspaper that the figure of 24,500 came from imprecise archive material processed by the authors of the 1999 Bergier report on Switzerland’s Holocaust-era record. The Bergier commission, which named the figure of 24,500, did not possess information that specified the rejection of Jews or the reasons for denying people entry, Klarsfeld said.
Last month, the Swiss SRF television station aired a documentary that suggested the Swiss government turned down refugees despite knowing of German leader Adolf Hitler’s extermination plan and the existence of German concentration camps as early as 1942, the year the Nazis decided on the Final Solution.
Klarsfeld called on Switzerland to create a new commission to examine the question of the acceptance and rejection of Jewish refugees at the Swiss border during the war years.
"The number of 24,000 is totally wrong," Klarsfeld told Swiss public radio earlier this week. "It’s unfair to let international opinion believe that 24,000 Jews were turned away from Switzerland and died because of that when the figure of people denied entry is closer to 3,000."
Klarsfeld also noted that 30,000 Jews were admitted into Switzerland at the same time.
“It should be known how many Jews managed to find refuge in Switzerland and how many were turned away and what happened to them. This is about Switzerland’s image in the world, and that’s important for the country,” he said in the Sonntag interview.
Klarsfeld is famous, along with his wife Beate, for their success in tracking down the infamous Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie in Bolivia in the 1970s. The 77-year-old now devotes himself to researching the destiny of French wartime Jews, according to the Netherlands-based news agency IEDE.