Lawyer throws book at controversial cover

The book's cover has caused outrage in Switzerland Keystone Archive

A Zurich-based lawyer is taking legal action against the author of an American book, which carries a picture of the Swiss flag covered with a swastika made of gold bars.

This content was published on January 13, 2003 - 14:44

Werner Stauffacher claims the cover of "Imperfect Justice" breaches a Swiss law protecting the national flag.

Stauffacher argues that the book's cover represents a "falsification of history" and links a symbol of the Swiss state with the Nazi regime.

He said on Monday that it was his duty as a Swiss citizen to "throw the book" at author Stuart Eizenstat.

"I took on this action because nobody else did it. I felt I had to do it because I am Swiss," Stauffacher told swissinfo.

Eizenstat, a former United States undersecretary of state, faces a fine of up to SFr5,000 ($3,600) or a maximum of two months in jail, if found guilty.

"Imperfect Justice" recounts the struggle of Nazi victims to reclaim their assets held in Swiss banks. Historians have not challenged the accuracy of the book's contents.

Stauffacher, who is bringing the legal action in his own name, said he was surprised that the Swiss government had not taken similar action.

"I'm convinced that there is a possibility to stop his [Eizenstat's] action and to stop him selling his books in Switzerland," he said.

Eizenstat is due to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos in two weeks' time and his challenger is hoping to get the author in front of a Swiss court during his visit.

No case to answer

The Swiss foreign ministry abandoned the possibility of suing Eizenstat in the United States in December last year, after legal experts warned the suit had no chance of success.

Charles Poncet, a Geneva-based lawyer, shares this view and calls Stauffacher's lawsuit "absolutely ludicrous".

"The law itself provides that the Swiss courts have jurisdiction only when the person who committed the offence is domiciled in Switzerland or if the result of the offence arose within Switzerland," he told swissinfo.

"It seems to me pretty difficult an argument for a book that's published in the US. I think this is absolutely ludicrous," he added.

Eizenstat said last year that he would consider changing the covers of the French and German versions of his book, which is due to go on sale shortly in Swiss bookshops.

However, he says he has nothing to apologise for, since the Swiss National Bank did process Nazi gold during the war.

Eizenstat played an important role in the negotiations between Swiss banks and Jewish organisations in the late 1990s.

This resulted in a $1.25 billion (SFr1.73 billion) settlement for the owners of dormant Holocaust accounts and their heirs.

swissinfo with agencies

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