Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Swiss Papers See Increase in Anti-semitic Letters to Editor

June 17, 1998
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Swiss newspapers have been flooded with anti-Semitic letters to the editor as a result of ongoing pressure on the country to confront its wartime past.

The Swiss daily Blick said this week that the country’s newspapers have received hundreds of anti-Semitic letters, the majority of them far too insulting ever to reach print.

There have been previous anti-Semitic backlashes during the past years, as revelations surfaced about the Swiss banks’ role in financing the Nazi war machine and about their unwillingness to return dormant bank accounts opened by Jews during the war years.

The efforts of the Volcker commission, a panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker investigating the extent of the dormant accounts, were targeted this week by a newspaper in the canton, or state, of Ticino.

Referring to members of the commission, the Sunday paper Il Mattino della Domenica reported that “emissaries of the Jewish lobby” were sending “blackmailers” to a local town, where they would be staying at a luxury hotel.

The paper suggested that the commission members would be better off if they went to the “Hotel Buchenwald in Dachau.”

Swiss federal police officials in Bern called on authorities in Ticino to launch an investigation of the newspaper’s publisher, Giuliano Bignasca, who is a well-known right-wing figure.

The latest anti-Semitic backlash came in the wake of a report published last week by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center which charged that Switzerland was “thoroughly saturated” with pro-fascist groups that influenced the country’s wartime government to support the Nazis.

The report was criticized by Swiss Jewish leaders and political figures, some of whom have threatened to bring a class-action lawsuit against the center for defaming Switzerland.

Among those contemplating the suit are Sigi Feigel, the honorary president of the Zurich Jewish community, and Francois Loeb, a Jewish lawmaker from Bern.

Swiss President Flavio Cotti, who called the report an “insult,” told Parliament on Tuesday that the government would not participate in the suit.

Rolf Bloch, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland and another critic of the report, also indicated this week that his group would not participate in the suit.

Recommended from JTA