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>Israel Faxx
>JN Jan. 29, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 19

Swiss Must Deal with World War 2 Role

By Arutz-7 Radio & Max Ruston (VOA-New York)

The Swiss ambassador to the U.S. resigned yesterday, following his proposal to declare "war" on the Jewish organizations working towards the recovery of Jewish Holocaust victims' money in Switzerland.

Arutz-7 Radio spoke with a prominent Jewish resident of Zurich, David Jesselsohn, who said that he does not sense "hostility" in the air, but that there has been an awakening of certain anti-Semitic feelings in Swiss society. He said that there are basically two issues that the Swiss are trying to deal with at present.

The first is Switzerland's role in World War 2. Until now, they had always believed that they were a "fortress standing alone against the forces of darkness, but now, in the wake of the recent revelations and the Jewish claims, they are beginning to question whether the actions taken 50 years ago, which seemed then to be justified, were in fact correct...This is a difficult period for them," he said.

The second issue is the question of money - whether they should establish funds to compensate the Jews, and the like. Jesselsohn further said that the Jewish organizations there are in the forefront of the struggle to recover the lost monies, although, in keeping with Swiss culture, they are not as vocal as their American counterparts.

Some U.S. politicians and Jewish leaders are pressing for a new round of talks with Swiss authorities to discuss allegations that Switzerland is hiding billions of dollars in assets that belonged to Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Jewish leaders say they hope the resignation this week of Switzerland's ambassador to the United States will lead to new progress in the talks, following disputes over the size of a proposed compensation fund.

The resignation of Jagmetti has been welcomed by American Jewish leaders as a move that could clear the air in talks between Jewish leaders and Swiss authorities.

Jagmetti resigned after the publication of a diplomatic cable in which he described Jewish groups as "adversaries who cannot be trusted." He also characterized the dispute over compensation for Holocaust survivors as a "war," which Switzerland must do its best to win. On Monday, in a letter to the Swiss president, Jagmetti expressed regret for offending Jewish groups and submitted his resignation.
His resignation was immediately applauded by Sen. Alfonse d'Amato, R-NY, who has been pressing the Swiss government to investigate its past.

"I think the resignation was appropriate, and it is now even more essential that the Swiss government repudiate the chilling remarks made by the ambassador as they reflect on Jewish groups 'as the adversaries who must be defeated.' I think the Swiss government must make clear quickly that this is wrong and bring about the long sought-after quest for justice. The Swiss government must return to the victims of the Holocaust the assets that are rightfully theirs."

Jewish leaders have held several rounds of talks with Swiss authorities during the last few months. They say Swiss banks are in possession of billions of dollars of assets belonging to Jewish people persecuted in the Nazi Holocaust. They have accused Switzerland of working with Nazi authorities during World War 2 to transport and hide these assets.

Jewish leaders are demanding that a fund be set up to compensate Holocaust survivors and the relatives of Holocaust victims once their claims have been established. Switzerland is reported to have agreed to set up a fund, but Jewish leaders say the amount offered is too small.

During the past few weeks, relations between the two sides have deteriorated. They have exchanged angry accusations and charged each other with being greedy and insensitive.

At a news conference in New York, d'Amato said he hopes negotiations between the two sides can move forward again following the resignation of Jagmetti. The executive director of the World Jewish Congress, Elan Steinberg, echoed his remarks, saying it is time to begin a more constructive round of talks.

But d'Amato said he remains somewhat skeptical about the prospects for progress in talks. He said it is important that the Swiss government repudiate Jagmetti's statements immediately and clarify its stand. D'Amato's statement comes amid reports that some senior Swiss officials are still reluctant to investigate their country's relationship with Nazi Germany or admit that any mistakes were made.


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