A street in Israel’s fourth-largest city has been named after Swiss policeman Paul Grüninger who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis by helping them enter Switzerland illegally.
On Monday, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann inaugurated Paul Grüninger Street in the presence of local dignitaries. Grüninger, who was a policeman in St Gallen near the Austrian border, is believed to have saved around 3,600 Jews from Nazis in Austria by forging paperwork so they could enter Switzerland.
Once his actions were discovered, Grüninger was dismissed from service in 1939. A year, later he was convicted of breach of official duties and forgery. He was ostracised and lived in poverty until his death in 1972. It was only in 1995 that his name was cleared posthumously by a St Gallen court.
“He [Paul Grüninger] determined that ethical values were more important than his duty as a police officer, thus placing humanity above his career, his social status or personal wealth,” said Schneider-Ammann in his speech.
Ammann also acknowledged Switzerland’s refusal to grant entry to Jews fleeing persecution from the Nazis, which cost many lives.
“The restrictive refugee policy adopted by Switzerland especially in 1938 and in 1942 is probably the darkest moment of our history,” he said.
Innovation and peace
Schneider-Ammann’s three-day visit to Israel is aimed at promoting greater cooperation in the areas of technological innovation and peace building. Israel is viewed as the Silicon Valley of the Near East with over 1,500 startups in growing sectors like cybersecurity, fintech and transport. There is also close academic collaboration between the two countries, with over 125 Swiss research projects featuring Israeli researchers.
The Swiss government minister also discussed Middle East conflicts with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. He offered Switzerland’s good offices to help bring peace to the troubled region. The Alpine nation represents US interests in Iran, and defends the interests of Iran in Saudi Arabia and those of Saudi Arabia in Iran. In the wake of Syrian conflict, both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been involved in a tug-of-war for influence in the region that has played out close to Israel’s borders.
swissinfo.ch and agencies