Recalling failure to save Jews, Swiss Jewish leader urges refugee relief


(JTA) — Citing Switzerland’s refusal to take in greater numbers of Jews during the Holocaust, the president of its Federation of Jewish Communities urged his government to take in migrants from the Middle East.

Federation president Herbert Winter’s plea, titled “Refugees: No, the Boat is not Full,” was published Tuesday in the Les Temps daily.

While thousands of Jews found refuge in neutral Switzerland from the Nazi genocide, “thousands also were turned away at the borders and murdered in concentration camps,” Winter wrote.

The Swiss are “privileged” to have good economic circumstances and “morally obligated to act for those less fortunate,” wrote Winter, who cited the integration of Swiss Jewry into society as proof that host countries benefit from immigration as much as the newcomers.

More than 340,000 migrants, many of them refugees, have crossed over to Europe from the Middle East this year, according to the European Union’s border authority. The flow has increased drastically in recent weeks, as tens of thousands entered through Hungary and Slovenia.

Jewish European groups, including the Central Jewish Organization of the Netherlands, urged European governments to act generously toward refugees from Syria and Iraq, who make up a large portion of the migrants. Some of the same groups also urged vigilance to prevent terrorism and an increase in anti-Semitic violence as a result of the stream of immigrants.

In Hungary alone, some 150 Jews are involved in relief operations for refugees, according to the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Jewish communities. And in Britain, some 150 young Jews last week took part in a march in London in support of refugees.

Separately in the Netherlands, a Jewish hotel owner, Benoit Wesly, said this week he would house refugees in two rooms in each of his two hotels in the southern city of Maastricht, where they would also receive free meals.

“Entrepreneurs must do something to solve this problem,” he told RTL broadcaster.

Recommended from JTA