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Swiss Jews criticise powerful Israeli rabbi

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef described Holocaust victims as "reincarnated sinners". Keystone / EPA PHOTO / AFP FILES / Menahem Kahana

The Jewish community in Switzerland has sharply criticised the most politically powerful rabbi in Israel for saying the Nazi Holocaust was God's retribution on sinners.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities denounced the views outlined by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in a sermon on Saturday.

The spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party unleashed an international outcry by claiming that the six million Jews killed by Hitler’s regime were re-incarnations of past sinners who were born again to be punished.

The Jewish community said the statement “sullies the memory of the victims and deeply insults the survivors of the Shoah. An attitude like that hurts Jews’ feelings and should be rejected vehemently.”

On Sunday Yosef retracted the statements, saying all Holocaust victims were “holy and innocent” but failed to quell the outrage.

An Israeli businessman is reportedly suing Yosef for damages of about SFr400,000 ($233.000). He said the health of his father, a Holocaust survivor, had deteriorated after hearing the rabbi’s comments.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR