The town of Erstfeld in central Switzerland has erected a memorial to the victims of administrative detentions last century.
The memorial is a two-metre granite stone surrounded by two wooden benches facing the River Reuss and the mountains. It bears a plaque reminding people that throughout a large part of the 20th century, tens of thousands of Swiss children, adolescents and adults were placed in prisons and institutions without any judicial order.
The local government in canton Uri stressed that the file was not closed on this “dark chapter” in Swiss history and said the authorities wanted to make further investigations into who were subjected to coercive measures such as placements, sterilisations or guardianship.
Only 25 people from the canton have so far applied for compensation from the federal government, which has set up a fund for this purpose. However, the government assumes that the number of citizens concerned is in fact much higher. The research is not easy, especially since many children from Uri were placed in other cantons and vice versa.
A study is underway in the canton to collect missing data on the victims of these practices, which began in the mid-19th century and continued until 1981.
Other memorial sites have recently been erected in Switzerland, for example in St Gallen and Chur. The number of victims throughout the country is estimated at 50,000-60,000. A budget of CHF300 million ($302 million) has been made available to compensate them. Nearly 9,000 people have filed a claim for compensation with the federal authorities.