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American book cover stirs Swiss passions

The image on the cover that has led Deiss to try to stop the book's publication

(Keystone)

The Swiss government has taken steps to stop the publication of a book that it claims is an insult to the Swiss flag.

The book's cover - a white cross on a red background covered by a swastika made of gold bars - has sparked outrage among members of the Swiss government.

"I am angered over this monstrous belittlement of our flag," Joseph Deiss, the Swiss foreign minister, told the German-language "Blick" newspaper.

Deiss has asked the Swiss embassy in Washington to look into stopping the book's publication through legal measures.

The book, entitled "Imperfect Justice", is about the fate of Holocaust survivors and the negotiations involved in reclaiming their assets.

Author surprised

The author, Stuart Eizenstat, said he was surprised by Switzerland's reaction.

"The image reflects the fact that the Swiss National Bank was the most important beneficiary of Nazi gold," Eizenstat told the "SonntagsZeitung" newspaper.

Eizenstat, a former United States undersecretary of state, was a key player in the negotiations between Swiss banks and Jewish organisations in the late 1990s.

Apology

Eizenstat, whose controversial book is due out in January, said he did not design the cover but approved it. "I am sorry that it has been taken as an offence," he said.

"The Swiss should not be insulted because it is a story with a happy end. The Holocaust victims have been compensated, the Swiss banks have their credibility back and Switzerland has become stronger because they courageously faced their past," Eizenstat said.

The Eizenstat report, published in 1997, accused Switzerland of acting as the Nazis' banker during the Second World War.

Its publication sparked off a series of lawsuits against Swiss banks, which later agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement for owners of dormant Holocaust accounts and their heirs.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss government is taking steps to stop the publication of a book that it says is an insult to the Swiss flag. The book's cover depicts a swastika with a Swiss flag.

Joseph Deiss, the Swiss foreign minister, has asked the Swiss embassy in Washington to find out about legal measures.

The book, entitled "Imperfect Justice", is about the fate of Holocaust survivors and the negotiations involved in reclaiming their assets.

The author, Stuart Eizenstat, on Monday apologised for any offence that might have been caused, saying he was willing to reconsider the cover of the French and German editions.

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