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Bergier commission dismisses criticism over wartime inquiry

Jean-Francois Bergier has rejected criticisms of bias Keystone

The independent commission of experts investigating Switzerland's wartime past has dismissed criticism that it is biased and overly critical of the way Jews were treated during the Second World War.

The commission, led by the historian Jean-Francois Bergier, defended the two interim reports published so far. At a news conference in Berne on Thursday, it said the research had been undertaken with the utmost care and without prejudice.

Commission member, Harold James, said he was not surprised the interim reports had sparked controversy. He said Switzerland’s refugee policy and its dealings with Nazi Germany were perceived differently by different generations.

The commission also rejected suggestions it had failed to rely on the accounts of witnesses who survived the war.

James told swissinfo the commission had conducted a substantial number of interviews with people who had witnessed certain aspects of Switzerland’s refugee policy. He pointed out, though, that much of the witnesses’ testimony was unreliable.

The Bergier commission did show some sympathy for the views of its detractors. Georg Kreis, another member of the panel, said that in its final the commission would do its best to show what a difficult situation Switzerland was in during the Nazi era.

Last week, prominent local figures again slammed the Bergier commission for being biased and for being overly critical of Swiss attitudes towards Jews.

The commission was set up by the Swiss government in 1996. It comprises nine experts, mainly historians, from Switzerland and abroad. So far it has published two interim reports on the government’s refugee policy and its gold dealings with Nazi Germany.

The final report is due out by the end of next year. It will include a 400-page summary as well as 16 separate studies and scientific research projects covering issues ranging from trade, armaments and industry to refugee policy and law.

by Urs Geiser

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR