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Swiss honoured for saving Jews

Some Swiss have already been honoured at Yad Vashem

(Keystone Archive)

Israel has honoured five Swiss citizens for saving the lives of Jews during the Second World War. At an emotional ceremony in the Israeli embassy in Bern on Thursday, the five were included among the list of "The Righteous Among The Nations".

The honour is awarded by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. More than 18,000 people from around the world have so far been included in the list of the "Righteous".

The five Swiss being recognised for their wartime efforts are the former Red Cross workers Walter Giannini and his wife Emma, Margareta Tobler, the pastor Edgar Wasserfallen and his wife Elisa. Giannini's wife, as well as Wasserfallen and his wife, are being honoured posthumously.

"Not a day has gone by in 50 years when I haven't thought about the war and the people who lost their lives," Giannini told swissinfo. "It's an honour to have helped Berthe and Rose."

The Giannini's saved two children, Berthe Silber and Rose Spiegel, from Nazi persecution in 1942 by helping them get out of France and into Switzerland.

The five honourees have joined 36 Swiss already listed among the Righteous. The best known of these is the former St Gallen police chief, Paul Grüninger, who used his position to help Jewish refugees enter Switzerland.

Grüninger was posthumously rehabilitated in 1995 for faking documents to save thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution.

Most of those honoured by Yad Vashem lived in countries occupied by Nazis, such as Poland and the Netherlands. Among the countries which were not occupied, Switzerland has received the highest number of awards.

The president of the Swiss Red Cross, Franz Muheim, told swissinfo, "The award is important because it exemplifies the work of Red Cross workers worldwide, whose aim is to help people in dire circumstances".

"It is also important never to forget the people who died and the people who worked so hard to save lives," he said.


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