Navigation

Skiplink Navigation

Main Features

Switzerland criticised for wartime policy towards gypsies

An estimated 600 children were taken away from their parents between 1926 and 1972

(Keystone Archive)

An independent commission of historians has strongly criticised Switzerland's policies towards gypsies during the Second World War. Swiss scientists also come under fire for contributing to the theory of Aryan supremacy.

An independent commission of historians has strongly criticised Switzerland's policies towards gypsies during the Second World War. Swiss scientists also come under fire for contributing to the theory of Aryan supremacy.

A report, released on Friday, said Switzerland carried out a systematic policy of expelling gypsies or refusing them entry, without regard for what might happen to them at the hands of the Nazis.

The commission, headed by Jean-Francois Bergier, said the overall aim of Swiss policy was to keep foreign, stateless and even Swiss Roma, Sinti and Jenisch people out of Swiss territory.

It said the Swiss authorities carried out the policy "without considering the persecution likely to face those under threat, and the danger to the lives of people expelled to Nazi Germany".

Responding to the report, the government expressed its "profound sympathy" with the Roma, Sinti and Jenisch communities and said it was determined never to repeat the same mistakes.

A government statement thanked the report's authors, saying the study contributed towards a better understanding of the history of travelling people in Switzerland and the discrimination they have suffered.

Regula Ludi, co-author of the report and member of the Bergier commission, told swissinfo: "There weren't many Swiss officials who had racial ideas about gypsies. It was more like a cultural form of racism directed against travellers without a steady home".

The report says Switzerland was one of the first European countries after 1913 to carry out a systematic policy of refusing entry and expulsion of gypsies.

It also claims that some gypsies faced a systemic abuse inside Switzerland. The report says that children were systematically taken from their parents, gypsies were incarcerated in special educational establishments and mental homes, faced forced sterilisation and were not allowed to marry.

"This was the policy of the Swiss authorities towards gypsies living in Switzerland, the so called Jenisch people. They were either Swiss citizens or had been living in Switzerland for several generations," Ludi said.

The commission also accuses Swiss scientists, who are not named, of helping to legitimise the theory, prevalent in Europe at the time, of Aryan supremacy.

Ludi expects the publication of the report to stir up a controversy. She said: "Part of the findings will be controversial because one problem is that there aren't a lot of written sources left... and we had to rely rather heavily on case studies. That might be controversial on a methodological level."

The Bergier commission, set up by the Swiss government to investigate Switzerland's record in the Second World War, has already published reports on Switzerland's refugee policy, its treatment of Jews, and gold policy.

swissinfo with agencies


Links

Neuer Inhalt

Horizontal Line


swissinfo EN

Teaser Join us on Facebook!

Join us on Facebook!

subscription form

Form for signing up for free newsletter.

Sign up for our free newsletters and get the top stories delivered to your inbox.








Click here to see more newsletters