The Bergier Commission, the panel of independent historians investigating Switzerland's wartime past, has criticised a decision by the government to return company documents to their owners. The Commission's members believe this is a blow to transparency.
The Independent Commission of Experts (ICE) had asked the authorities to archive the more than 100,000 documents collected for research purposes. "Keeping the documents in one central place would have made scrutiny of the Commission's work far easier," said Jakob Tanner, one of its members on Wednesday in Bern.
Another member, Georg Kreis, had doubts whether companies would be prepared to surrender their archives to historians in the future. "Some companies were not very cooperative when it came to opening up their archives," said Kreis.
"The government's decision only reinforces this atmosphere of non-cooperation", he added. "The political climate has changed: a few years ago, the authorities would have made another choice."
The ICE said on Wednesday that its final report would be ready at the end of December. However, the report, comprising between 400 and 500 pages, will only be made available to the public in spring 2002.
The commision was set up in 1996 to investigate the size and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before and during the Second World War by both victims and perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes. It was also mandated to investigate Swiss business relations with Nazi Germany and Switzerland's refugee policy.
The commission's mandate expires at the end of this year. It employed up to 60 people at the height of its research programme.
The ICE has already published reports on the trade in gold during the war and on Swiss refugee policy.
swissinfo with agencies
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