Although manifestations of antisemitism declined after the settlement on dormant bank accounts in early 2000, they resurged with the outbreak of violence in the Middle East in late September. There was a rise in far right activity in 2000.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Some 18,000 Jews live in Switzerland out of a total population of 7.13 million. More than half live in the German-speaking part of the country. Some small communities, such as those in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Biel, are declining since younger people are moving to larger cities. The umbrella organization of Swiss Jews is the Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund/Fédération Suisse des Communautés Israélites (SIG/FSCI). The German-language Jewish publications Israelitisches Wochenblatt and Jüdische Rundschau merged under the name Tachles in April 2001.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS
Nationalist and extreme right parties continued their anti-foreigner campaign in 2000 (see ASW 1999/2000). The nationalist populist Schweizerische Volkspartei/Union Démocratique du Centre (Swiss People’s Party – SVP/UDC), together with the far right Schweizer Demokraten/Democrates Suisses (Swiss Democrats – SD) and Lega dei Ticinesi (Ticino League), supported a proposal to limit the number of Switzerland’s foreign residents to 18 percent of the total population. It was rejected by 64 percent of voters in a referendum.
Two lawyers active on the extreme right scene have connections to the Geneva section of SVP/UDC: Pascal Junod, who has close ties to Holocaust deniers and skinheads, and Pierre Schifferli, who was seen giving the Nazi salute when he left the party convention. According to an article in the weekly Dimanche.ch, various members of the Geneva section have significant religious (namely, converts to Islam) and financial ties with Islamic countries, such as Iran.
The Swiss section of the German extreme right-wing National-demokratische Partei Deutschland (NPD) was founded by a skinhead from Bern, David Mulas. He was immediately prosecuted for infringing the Swiss anti-racism law. Although a spokesperson claimed the party had been dissolved, in June 2000 the first issue of NPD Switzerland, Das nationale Blatt (The National Paper), was published and NPD stickers were seen in the streets of the capital.
According to a 2000 federal government report, the number of skinheads increased from 300 to 1,000 within two years. The new recruits are younger (13 and over), more radical and more inclined to employ violence. Two branches are well organized nationally: Hammerskins and Blood & Honour. The former, who consider themselves a white racist and élitist brotherhood, meet almost weekly in a club in Malters, near Lucerne. The latter, a Swiss branch of the movement founded by British neo-Nazi rocker Ian Stewart Donaldson, are based on Waffen-SS traditions. The first issue of Blood & Honour Romandie in French was published in June.
The pseudo-intellectual New Right, led by Geneva lawyer Pascal Junod, arranges lectures on a regular basis through his organizations Cercle Proudhon, Cercle Thulé, Synergies Européennes and Amis de Robert Brasillach. These meetings, at which fascist propaganda of Julius Evola, Jean Mabire, Robert Brasillach and others is sold, are frequented by skinheads and Holocaust deniers. Roger Wüthrich, head of the far right organization Avalon, tries to unite right-wing extremists from different camps. He considers himself the “general consultant” to the Swiss far right and demands “free space for racist thought and action.”
Erwin Kessler (see ASW 1996/7) uses the pretext of Jewish ritual slaughter of animals (shechita) to further his antisemitic and Holocaust denial attacks through his Association against Animal Factories (Verein gegen Tierfabrik/ Association contre les Usines d’Animaux).
ANTISEMITIC AND RACIST ACTIVITIES
A public opinion survey on Swiss attitudes toward Jews and the Holocaust was released in March by the GfS Research Institute. The survey, which received extensive media coverage, was conducted on behalf of the American Jewish Committee and the Committee against Antisemitism and Defamation (CICAD, a Jewish organization which combats antisemitism in Switzerland). Key findings of the study show that 16 percent openly express anti-Jewish feelings, while 57 percent identify antisemitism as a problem in Switzerland and a large majority (94 percent) rejects Holocaust denial. Similar results were found concerning the reassessment of Switzerland’s controversial attitude during the Holocaust. Fifty-six percent accept the historical findings that clearly demonstrate Switzerland’s antisemitic immigration policy during World War II. At the same time, however, a majority thinks that Switzerland’s behavior was justified by the circumstances of war and that no apology is necessary. The survey revealed poor factual knowledge of the Holocaust, but overwhelming support for Holocaust remembrance and education in schools. The SVP/UDC, as well as some Swiss Jewish circles, criticized the results of the poll, claiming it reflected an exaggeratedly negative image of Switzerland.
Although manifestations of antisemitism declined with the settlement on dormant accounts (see ASW 1999/2000 and below), they resurged with the outbreak of violence in the Middle East in late September/early October. Many anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place at which antisemitic slogans were shouted (“Death to the Jews,” etc.). The most violent speech was heard on 8 October in United Nations Square, Geneva, where 1,000 Muslims gathered for the Friday prayer. The head of the Geneva Islamic Center, Hani Ramadan, publicly called for jihad to liberate Palestine as the only way to stop Israeli “aggression.” Hani Ramadan, the grandson of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Bana, abetted by his three brothers, is one of the most outspoken Islamist activists in Switzerland. The day after Yom Kippur, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the square to protest this call to murder and violence against Jews.
Events in the Middle East prompted letters to the editor, some of which not only defamed Israel but were explicitly antisemitic. They often revealed a desire for “revenge” on the Jews following the resolution of the issue of dormant bank accounts. This period was also marked by a spate of antisemitic insults, graffiti, stickers, hate mail or calls, and threats.
This form of spontaneous and disorganized antisemitism in response to events in the Middle East should be distinguished from far right activity which increased in 2000. The most blatant incident occurred on 1 August, Switzerland’s national holiday, on the historic site of Mt. Rutli (where a declaration of independence from Austrian rule was signed in 1291). While Minister Kaspar Villiger was speaking, a few skinheads waved Nazi flags, gave the Nazi salute and yelled fascist slogans. The police did not intervene and the minister ignored the disturbance. The media covered the incident extensively, thus raising public awareness about far right activity.
Skinheads have been using the Internet increasingly to incite violence. For example, they posted a call for the murder of two left-wing activists, showing photos of the two with the headline, “Born to be killed.” Police say skinheads are now more heavily equipped with sophisticated, illegal weapons. However, they still lack organizational structure and a charismatic leader.
It should be noted, too, that racist slogans were often shouted at players during soccer matches throughout Switzerland in 2000.
Propaganda and Holocaust Denial
Eighty-year-old Gaston-Armand Amaudruz continues to publish his monthly Courrier du Continent (readership, 400) and maintains ties with skinhead groups. The organization Vérité & Justice (Truth & Justice – V&J), led by Jürgen Graf, René-Louis Berclaz and Philippe Brennenstuhl, members of the younger generation of Holocaust deniers, sends out a two-page newsletter to members and promotes the sale of various antisemitic and Holocaust denying publications. In 2000, the organization distr“Lcontre-rapport Bergier” (The Anti-Bergier Report), an allegedly historically-based reply to the official Bergier Committee report on Switzerland’s wartime asylum policy (see ASW 1999/2000 and below). This pamphlet, inter alia, accuses the Jews of plotting against the Swiss government and of attempting to create a so-called Holocaust cult as part of a “new world order.” During its “official” presentation in a restaurant in the Valais city of Sion, access was denied to a reporter. A few weeks later, the report was mailed to all members of parliament. One of them, Patrice Mugny, a Greens representative for Geneva, filed a suit against V&J. Other publications were seized at the organization’s headquarters, and its leaders were to stand trial.
Other far right publications include Alias (appears 15 times a year; also online), an ultra-conservative bulletin founded in Valais, which defends Amaudruz’ theses; the bimonthly l’Atout (also online), headed by former member of parliament Geneviève Aubry, which regularly expresses antisemitic views; and Examiner+Agir (Examine+Act), the French version of Emil Rahm’s Prüfen+Handeln, which considers the United Nations and the European Union to be secret societies manipulated by a Jewish-Masonic plot. Max Wahl continues sending Eidgenoss to a “circle of friends,” in spite of previous convictions. Holocaust denier Bernhard Schaub, who wrote the preface to “The Anti-Bergier Report,” published a new edition of his racist and antisemitic book Rose und Adler.
In December, hundreds of antisemitic stickers appeared in Geneva, with the caption, “Only Jews have the right to be racist.” This campaign echoes a similar one in Geneva in December 1999. Four complaints were filed but the police have few leads.
In 2000, the Universal Church (see ASW 1996/7), which is known for its anti-Jewish attitudes, distributed a circular called “The Inner Light,” which read: “Snakes from the Jewish rabble will act against the guru of the Universal Church [Peter Leach-Lewis] as they did against Jesus. This vermin has spread all over the world and reached positions of unimaginable wealth and power wherever they live.”
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST
Following the global settlement between Swiss banks and Jewish organizations reached in early 2000, US Supreme Court Judge Edward Korman appointed New York lawyer Judah Gribetz to supervise the distribution of $1.25 billion to entitled beneficiaries.
The Bergier report on Switzerland’s asylum policy toward Jews drew criticism from the older generation and from nationalist circles, which did not gain much public support. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in the public surveys mentioned above, many Swiss have difficulty in understanding the moral aspect of the debate over the country’s attitude during World War II. The question of its behavior toward Jewish refugees was raised again in the case of Joseph Spring, whose suit against Switzerland came before the Swiss Federal Court. In 1943, Joseph Spring, along with his cousin and a friend, tried to cross the border into Switzerland. A Swiss guard caught them and handed them over to the Nazis (who occupied France), identifying them as Jews. Spring is the only one of the three who survived Auschwitz. An Australian resident, he filed suit against Switzerland for moral harm and asked for compensation of SF100,000. The judges stated that “morals can not influence a legal decision,” and that “Switzerland’s asylum policy, as hard as it may have been, was legally acceptable.” Rejecting all moral responsibility, they granted Spring the amount he was asking as “expenses.”
The Historians’ Committee, headed by Professor Jean-François Bergier, set up to examine Switzerland’s attitude during World War II, released an intermediary report about the country’s discriminatory asylum policy toward Gypsies (Roma). The final report is due at the end of 2001.
The Swiss Solidarity Foundation, announced by Minister Kaspar Villiger in 1997, is to allocate SF7 billion of national gold reserves to fight violence and poverty in Switzerland and abroad. However, this project will probably be rejected in a referendum as the various political parties propose different uses for the money.
Two influential bodies apologized to Jews in 2000 for the behavior of Switzerland during the war. The Geneva canton expressed its regrets to victims and their families for its attitude toward Jewish refugees, admitting partial responsibility for their tragic fate. Geneva is one of the very few cantons with complete archives from the years 1933 to 1945. The Conference of Swiss Bishops asked forgiveness for its attitude toward Jews during the Holocaust: “Too little was done to protect and help persecuted people. Protests against antisemitic Nazi ideology were not enough,” the statement read.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
In October 2000, Holocaust denier Jürgen Graf was due to begin a 15-month jail sentence for writing and disseminating antisemitic texts. However, he fled Switzerland and is said to have found refuge in Iran, where he carries on his activities freely, using the Iranian media as a forum for his Holocaust denial. Graf was also one of the main organizers of the aborted international conference of Holocaust deniers which was to have taken place in Beirut in early April 2001.
The far right activist Aldo Ferraglia was given a 20-day suspended prison sentence for selling illegal antisemitic books, such as Roger Garaudy’s Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. He has moved to Vuadens, a small village near Fribourg in Switzerland.
A higher canton court reduced to three months a one-year jail sentence imposed by a Lausanne court in April 2000 on veteran Nazi Gaston-Armand Amaudruz for infringing the anti-racism law. Amaudruz had published articles in Courrier du Continent, denying the existence of the gas chambers and minimizing the Holocaust. The decision was criticized by the media and by anti-racist and Jewish organizations for disregarding antisemitism and underestimating Amaudruz’ influence on the far right. Amaudruz has filed an appeal to the Federal Court. In the meantime he continues his activities.
Former Waffen-SS member Walter Stoll, 79, was given a four-month suspended sentence for sending antisemitic threats by mail.
Two federal employees were dismissed, one because of racist postings on the Internet, the other for his sustained ties with the far right.
Official and Public Activity
The Federal Commission against Racism lacks the means and scope to exert real influence and still relies on privately funded organizations to conduct educational programs, lectures and public opinion polls in the struggle against racism and antisemitism. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it would allocate SF10 million (about US$6 million) to anti-racism educational projects, but most of the money will be given to the Federal Commission to hire new employees.
After the skinhead incident on Swiss National Day, Minister of Justice and Police Ruth Metzler said: “We take far right extremism seriously, but without dramatizing it.” She added that it was not a critical security matter or a threat to public order. A legal study mandated by the Justice Ministry suggested the following measures: creating a list of acts of hooliganism committed in Switzerland; making far right and racist gestures (such as the Nazi salute) and displaying symbols (such as the swastika) punishable by law; forbidding entry into Switzerland to notorious far right activists from abroad; monitoring mail, phone, fax and e-mail of far right activists; and relinquishing Switzerland’s reservations about freedom of speech in the International Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Racism. So far, none of these measures has been implemented, at least officially.
A federal report on racism, including issues linked to the Internet and preventive measures, was due in 2001.