Schweizer Wappen

Die Bundesbehörden der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft


Declaration of the Federal Council on the occasion of the  publication of the final report of the Independent Commission  of Experts : "Switzerland – Second World War"


Following five years’ work, the Independent Commission of Experts: "Switzerland - Second World War" (ICE) presents its final results today. In December 1996, the two chambers of the federal parliament unanimously mandated the ICE to proceed with historical and judicial investigations of unprecedented scope. The Federal Council asked the ICE to give priority in its investigations both to the gold transactions and to Swiss policy towards refugees during the Second World War. Interim reports have been published on these two topics. The results of these reports have since been completed and refined. The final synthesis, which the ICE has presented today, is accompanied by an impressive number of separate historical studies and legal opinions. The Federal Council thanks the Chairman of the Commission, Professor Jean-François Bergier, the Swiss and foreign experts, and the research staff for the high quality and broad scope of their work, achieved in circumstances which were not always easy.

The Commission of Experts was given the task of casting light on Switzerland’s attitude during the period in question, in particular the attitudes of the Swiss authorities and of the financial community towards National Socialism and its victims. The Swiss political authorities consider that present and future generations of Swiss people should be better informed about the conduct of their country during that period – a time when the most fundamental human values were terribly endangered. Although a number of historical studies have already been published, these left painful questions open and requiring clarification.

To arrive at answers concerning the past which are both as precise as possible and will remain valid for as long as possible, complete independence as well as the highest degree of transparency must be ensured. For this reason public and private archives were made available to the members of the ICE, and the results of their work have been published in full. Switzerland can thus have confidence in the efforts undertaken to achieve a better understanding of their country's history. In this spirit, the Federal Council takes note of the final results of the Commission. It is now up to all Swiss citizens, especially teachers and scholars to form their own opinions, to discuss and to complete the findings. The Federal Council welcomes the ICE’s call to Swiss and foreign specialists to continue to pool their knowledge.

The Commission reminds us that Switzerland, in particular its political leaders, did not always respond to the humanitarian needs of the time. This is principally true of Swiss policy with regard to refugees. The fact that Switzerland offered shelter to more persecuted people than it turned away does not mitigate its responsibility towards those who were discriminated against as a result of the "J" stamp, nor towards those whom it turned away and abandoned to unspeakable suffering, deportation, and death.

The Federal Council remains conscious of those errors for which it offered its apologies in 1995. However, their research has lead the experts to repudiate three serious reproaches which have been made of Switzerland’s conduct during that period. Switzerland’s economic relations with the Third Reich did not prolong the war; not a single deportation train passed through Swiss territory; and the image of a Swiss banking system that built its wealth on assets from victims of the Nazi regime is not based on the facts.


However, together with other studies, those of the ICE establish clear cases of negligence after the war with regard to the restitution of property. The Federal Council expresses its sincere regrets to all those people who suffered the consequences of this. It hopes the measures which have been taken in the last few years will contribute to rectify these errors and cases of negligence.

An inquiry of unprecedented scope has been carried out at Swiss banks to identify unclaimed assets. Three lists of accounts have been published, and the claims made concerning these accounts are being examined by an arbitration court. A similar procedure is being carried out in the insurance industry. The Swiss Confederation has also taken measures with regard to the restitution of property in the following three areas: unclaimed assets which were identified during the 1960s but which were paid into a fund; the deposit accounts of former refugees; and looted art. In addition, the Swiss business community and the Swiss National Bank have contributed some CHF 300 million to a humanitarian fund. As the process of distributing this money draws to a close, the Federal Council would like to thank the Chairman of the Fund, Rolf Bloch, and his staff for their commitment. Finally, to promote greater awareness of human rights and to contribute to preventing and combating racism, the Federal Council – in response to the ICE’s report on refugees of 1999 – established a credit line of CHF 15 million over a period of five years. A project fund has already supported many initiatives in this area.

The ICE did not aim to write the complete history of Switzerland and the Swiss people during the Second World War. This was not its mandate. Countless other acts - heroic or despicable, anonymous or well-known – are not mentioned by the Commission. Many men and women of courage and moral rectitude defended the values of freedom, democracy and solidarity at a time when these were in grave danger. We owe these people our profound gratitude. Their conduct will remain an example to us all. The Commission reminds us that we have a duty, in justice to all the victims, to remember. With its work, the Commission has performed an act of remembrance and has contributed to a better understanding of our history.

The Federal Council hopes that the ICE's findings will be received by a wide and attentive audience. It invites Swiss citizens and all those who carry major responsibility to reflect upon the invaluable clarification of our past that it provides, while acknowledging that past errors cannot be fully righted and that some omissions can never be rectified. The Federal Council is nevertheless convinced that by facing history we not only become more aware of our obligations to today's victims, but can also draw inspiration which will guide our actions.



Bern, 22.3.2002