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Foreign minister says anti-semitism on the rise

Rolf Bloch, out-going president of the Swiss Confederation of Hebrew Congregations, who fought hard to win compensation for Holocaust survivors

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, says the controversy over Switzerland's wartime past has rekindled anti-Semitic sentiment.

Addressing the Swiss Confederation of Hebrew Congregations, Deiss said Switzerland's painful re-examination of its Second World War record had stirred "unacceptable" anti-Semitic sentiments.

The foreign minister pointed out that anti-Jewish feelings have been vented in "readers' mail, threatening letters to Jewish personalities or organisations, or in other ways. That is unacceptable."

Deiss echoed the findings of a government-commissioned report issued in 1998, which found that the Swiss banks' treatment of Holocaust victims' assests and the country's relations with Nazi Germany had kindled such sentiments.

In 1998, UBS and Credit Suisse, Switzerland's two largest banks, agreed to pay Holocaust survivors US$1.25 billion in compensation for wartime losses.

A government-working group has been set up to look at new ways of combating anti-Semitism and racism. Deiss said efforts to re-examine the past had opened a long overdue debate, which needed to be continued.

Deiss was speaking at a gathering to honour the outgoing President of the Jewish Confederation, Rolf Bloch, who retired on Wednesday. He praised Bloch's "very constructive" leadership of the confederation during the struggle for compensation from Swiss banks.

"By demanding that justice be done to Holocaust survivors and that fair appreciation be given to Switzerland's role, your organisation has contributed enormously to reducing tensions," Deiss said.

The confederation is due to decide on Bloch's successor today.

swissinfo with agencies

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