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Schmid says never again to war

Swiss President Samuel Schmid Keystone

Swiss President Samuel Schmid has said remembering the end of the Second World War 60 years ago is a duty, and one which Swiss people have every reason to observe.

This content was published on May 8, 2005 - 15:37

"May 8, 1945 marks the end of one of the greatest catastrophes in humanity," declared Schmid in his radio and television address on Sunday.

Schmid said that the memories of 60 years ago force everyone to resolutely oppose new extremist and totalitarian attempts in addition to all forms of anti-Semitism and racism.

He paid homage to all those who gave their lives so that others might live in freedom and also to the six million Jews who were "odiously assassinated" in concentration camps.

Schmid praised in particular the Swiss veterans who were on active duty at the time and who ensured that Switzerland remained faithful to its democratic and constitutional legacy.

They also deserved thanks, he said, because they were prepared to fight with weapons. Switzerland preserved its freedom through self-defence.

"Switzerland can look back on the war with pride, as democracy was asserted."

Never again

In recent years Switzerland has been coming to terms with the Second World War - including the darker chapters.

A commission into Switzerland’s behaviour during the war was set up, under foreign pressure, in 1996.

It concluded that some of Switzerland’s politicians and businessmen contributed to the Holocaust by turning back about 20,000 refugees, at times discriminating against Jews.

In August 1942 Switzerland closed its borders for some months to those fleeing - as a police circular put it - "only because of their race, Jews for example".

By then, not for the Swiss in general but for the authorities concerned, "there was little doubt" of the fate awaiting Jews.

Schmid acknowledged this. "Unfortunately thousands of refugees were turned away at our borders," he said.

Swiss protection

But it was also the case, he said, that thousands of persecuted refugees were welcomed and protected in Switzerland.

"This dark chapter must never be allowed to happen again. Never!"

On Monday Schmid will represent Switzerland at celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Along with many other heads of state, Schmid will be received by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin before attending the anniversary celebrations and grand parade in Red Square.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Second World War is the largest and bloodiest conflict ever.
An estimated 60 million people died, including 20 million civilians.
It started on September 1, 1939, in Europe when Germany invaded Poland.

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