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Bergier Commission appoints new general secretary

Myrtha Welti is to represent the Bergier Commission during its final months of work Keystone Archive

The independent panel of historians investigating Switzerland's wartime past - the Bergier Commission - has appointed a new general secretary, following a row which led to the recent sacking of Linus von Castelmur.

The Bergier Commission announced on Thursday that Myrtha Welti, a former general secretary of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, would be taking up the post on April 4. She will be responsible for external relations and administration, and will also be the Commission’s spokeswoman.

Her appointment comes after the former general secretary, Linus von Castelmur, was told to clear his desk with immediate effect.

Neither side has spoken publicly about the reasons for von Castelmur’s departure. But sources close to the Independent Commission of Experts (ICE) told swissinfo that he was asked to leave immediately by the Commission’s boss, Jean-François Bergier, after von Castelmur resigned unexpectedly.

Bergier reportedly regarded the former general secretary’s resignation as a breach of promise, and sacked him in response.

Welti’s appointment comes amid fears that the falling out between von Castelmur and other members of the Commission could disrupt work ahead of the publication of a series of case studies and its final report.

The report, due to be presented to the government by the end of the year, will list the Commission’s findings into the extent and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before and during the Second World War by both victims and perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes. It will also report on Swiss business relations with Nazi Germany and Switzerland’s refugee policy.

Welti, born in 1945, was general secretary of the People’s Party from 1994-96. Known as a more liberal member of the party, she resigned as a member last year in protest at its increasingly rightwing stance.

Bergier was quoted as saying that her political views had played no part in the decision to appoint her, and that she had been chosen on merit.

Commenting on her appointment, Welti said that the final report was “very important for Switzerland because we need to analyse our history”.

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