Gerhart Riegner, who warned of Holocaust, dies in Switzerland

Gerhart Riegner was the first to tell the Americans of Hitler's final solution.

The former Secretary of the World Jewish Congress, Gerhart Riegner, has died at the age of 90 in a Geneva hospital.

This content was published on December 3, 2001 - 20:05

Riegner died early on Monday morning after having suffered from pneumonia for five weeks, according to his spokeswoman, Edda Bournot.

Riegner issued an early warning about the mass deaths of Jews during the Second World War.

Born on September 12, 1911 in Berlin, he left the city when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933. After finishing his law studies he immigrated to Geneva via Paris, where he became secretary of the World Jewish Congress in 1965.

The former German refugee continued to work for the organisation until October of this year.

Informed US

In August 1942 Riegner became the first man to inform the United States about the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.

However, as the Americans did not want to be faced with a flood of refugees, they did not take him seriously and called his information nothing more than a "fantastic" war rumour.

When Riegner took the information, which he received from a German industrialist with access to top Nazi circles, to the American consulate in Geneva on August 8, 1942, he asked the vice consul to send the information to Washington and other Allied governments.

However, the US State Department decided that the information was not to be taken seriously and did not pass the telegram to American Jewish leaders.

Riegner, who never married and had no children, published his autobiography in German in September of this year.

swissinfo with agencies

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