A 23-year-old Jewish medical student arrested in Basel was described by police as the perpetrator of a campaign of virulent anti-Semitic graffiti, harassment and death threats in that city last month.
The disclosure by the police last Friday that Philip Gotchel, son of a prominent Jewish family, was solely responsible for the acts called unprecedented in Switzerland, stunned Jews and non-Jews alike. The Jewish community expressed deep sympathy for the “shame and scandal to his family.” Gotchel has been placed under psychiatric care.
The young man, nephew of a leading physician, was said to be an excellent student at the Basel medical school. Most of the anti-Semitic acts were directed against Jewish fellow students, their families and their non-Jewish friends.
Several Jewish students in their third year at the school received anonymous letters last month saying “Death to the Jews,” “Hitler was right” and “No more Jewish doctors in Switzerland.” Similar slogans were daubed on the walls of local synagogues, the Jewish cemetery and public buildings.
The families of non-Jewish students friendly to Jews received menacing letters and anonymous telephone calls saying “Your son has been killed.” Warnings were painted on the university walls advising Jewish students not to attend a faculty party because they would be killed. The campaign aroused serious concern in the city and Swiss army units were sent to help local police protect Jewish students.
Gotchel, at one point, claimed that he had seen rightwing students break into his family’s home. In fact, it was he who broke the windows, police said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.