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Government expresses regret over treatment of gypsies

An estimated 600 children were taken away from their parents between 1926 and 1972

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss government has expressed its "profound sympathy" to gypsies for their treatment in Switzerland during the Second World War.

The statement was in response to an independent report published on Friday, which accused Switzerland of carrying out a systematic policy of expelling gypsies or refusing them entry.

The report by the independent Bergier commission said the overall aim of government policy was to keep foreign, stateless and even Swiss Roma, Sinti and Jenisch people out of Swiss territory.

It said the Swiss authorities carried out their policy without considering the likely risk of persecution and the danger to the lives of people expelled to Nazi Germany.

A government statement thanked the authors of the report for highlighting "a difficult chapter in the country's recent history". It said the study contributed to a better understanding of the history of travelling people in Switzerland and the discrimination they have suffered.

"These efforts to shed light on our past should increase our determination not to repeat the mistakes which have been committed," the statement said.

It went on to point out that the federal authorities had already taken steps to compensate victims of former unjust and cruel policies.

The Bergier report says Switzerland was one of the first European countries after 1913 to carry out a systematic policy of refusing entry to and expelling gypsies.

It also claims that some gypsies faced abuse inside Switzerland. The report says that children were systematically taken from their parents, gypsies were incarcerated in special educational establishments and mental homes, faced forced sterilisation and were not allowed to marry.

"This was the policy of the Swiss authorities towards gypsies living in Switzerland, the so called Jenisch people. They were either Swiss citizens or had been living in Switzerland for several generations," one of the report's co-authors, Regula Ludi, told swissinfo.

The commission also accuses Swiss scientists, who are not named, of helping to legitimise the theory, prevalent in Europe at the time, of Aryan supremacy.

The Society for Threatened Peoples welcomed the publication of the Bergier report. It called on the government to show generosity towards the gypsy minority and to grant Romas who fled Kosovo the right to continue living in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies


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