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Archive documents How Switzerland reacted to the death of JFK

As the US National Archives releases thousands of files covering the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, this is how the Swiss reacted to his death, from the halls of government to the streets. (SRF/

Rarely had the Swiss public been shaken by the death of a foreign head of state to such a degree, wrote the Basler Nachrichten, which in 1977 became the Basler Zeitung newspaper.

“With surprising spontaneity, flags everywhere in the city, in private homes and gardens, were flown at half-mast.”

As the above video clip from Swiss public television shows, emotions among the public included sadness, shock and disgust. 

The documents approved for releaseexternal link and made public by the National Archives on Thursday capture the frantic days after the assassination on November 22, 1963, during which federal agents madly chased after tips, however thin, juggled rumours and sifted through leads worldwide. 

They include cables, notes and reports stamped “Secret” that reveal the suspicions of the era – around Cubans and Communists. They cast a wide net over varied activities of the Kennedy administration, such as its covert efforts to upend Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba. 

For historians, it’s a chance to answer lingering questions, put some unfounded conspiracy theories to rest and perhaps give life to other theories.

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