Nicolas de Torrenté
Head of the Swiss Delegation to the IHRA
Member country since: 2004
Remembrance Days: 27 January (International Holocaust Remembrance Day)
Bernard Wicht (Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education) – Deputy Head of Delegation
Sabina Brändli (Zurich University of Teacher Education) – Education Working Group
Daniel Gerson (Institute for Jewish Studies, University of Bern) – Academic Working Group
Stéphane Laederich (Executive Director of the Rroma Foundation) – Education Working Group
Gregor Spuhler (Archives for Contemporary History, ETH Zurich) – Museums and Memorials Working Group
Switzerland has established a national IHRA advisory group since 2004, bringing together representatives from teachers’ associations, Jewish, Sinti and Roma organizations, governmental departments and academia. The underlying idea was to promote the implementation of the Stockholm Declaration and the goals of the IHRA in civil society. This combined top-down/ bottom-up approach turned out to be particularly successful in a multilingual and federalist country. Teamwork and diversity are Switzerland’s strengths.
On 4 June 2021, the Swiss Federal Council adopted the Report about the Working Definition of Antisemitism Developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) (in German, Executive Summary in English).
The Federal Council's report was based on the Evaluation Report on Federal, Cantonal, and Communal Measures to Combat Antsemitism (in German, September 2020) and this legal analysis of the IHRA working definition (in English, November 2020). It was prepared by a working group led by the Federal Department of Home Affairs (Service for Combating Racism), in consultation with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) and other experts.
More information can be found in this press release (in English, German, French, Italian).
An overview of all reports can be found on this page.
Dossier Tag des Gedenkens an den Holocaust und der Verhütung von Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit
Dossier Journée de la Mémoire de l’Holocauste et de la prévention des crimes contre l’humanité
Dossier Giornata della Memoria dell’Olocausto e della prevenzione dei crimini contro l'umanità
Politorbis: Magazine on Swiss foreign policy
Politorbis Nr. 47: Genocide Prevention
Politorbis Nr. 50: Dealing with the Past
Politorbis Nr. 68: Preventing atrocities; towards new paradigms?
Reports on Switzerland's IHRA Chairmanship
Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War (ICE)
The Commission was established in December 1996 by a unanimously approved resolution of the Swiss federal assembly (parliament). Its mandate is to investigate the volume and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before, during and immediately after the Second World War from a historical and legal point of view, and to present a final report by the end of the year 2001 at the latest.
On 19 December 2001, the mandate of the ICE ended and the Commission was dissolved. On 22 March 2002 the final report as well as the last seven studies and research contributions were presented to the public.
The Commission's mandate covers the gold trading and foreign currency transactions conducted by the Swiss National Bank and by private commercial banks. The objects of the investigation are all assets moved to Switzerland including insurable values and cultural assets, both of the victims of the Nazi regime as well as of its perpetrators and collaborators. The relations of Swiss industrial and commercial companies with the National-Socialist economy – especially regarding their involvement in "aryanization measures" and the exploitation of forced labourers – are also examined. Another key topic is Swiss refuge policy in connection with Switzerland's economic and financial relations with the Axis powers and the Allies. The study also includes the post-war period including government measures for the return of unlawfully acquired assets (Washington Accord 1946, Resolution the reporting of dormant accounts 1962).
Key facts about Holocaust education, remembrance, and research in Switzerland
All IHRA Member Countries are asked to complete a basic questionnaire with key facts about the state of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research in their country. The answers to the questionnaire are provided by the national delegations, who are also responsible for keeping the information up to date.
1. What are the most important policy statements on the Holocaust, the genocide of the Roma, and genocide made by your government over the last seven years? Please include the name of the statement, the body who issued the statement, the date the statement was made, and a link.
- “International Holocaust Remembrance Day: The responsibility to remember – for the victims and for ourselves”, Message by Ignazio Cassis, President of the Confederation and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, 27.01.2022, https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/speeches/speeches-given-by-federal-councillors.msg-id-86949.html
- “Pledges to the Malmö Forum Remember-ReAct”, Speech by federal councilor Ignazio Cassis, 13.10.2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fwb5-e54Y1w ; Pledges in writing: https://www.government.se/4ad3b7/contentassets/7d3985b4106c41e69d699719533f16c0/outcome-document---pledges-presented-at-the-malmo-international-forum-on-holocaust-remembrance-and-combating-antisemitism.pdf
- Report about the Working Definition of Antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted by the Swiss Federal Council, June 4, 2021.
- The Federal Council's report on the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism was based on the Evaluation Report on Federal, Cantonal, and Communal Measures to Combat Antisemitism (in German, September 2020 https://www.edi.admin.ch/edi/de/home/fachstellen/frb/publikationen/evaluation-massnahmen-antisemitismus.html) and a legal analysis of the IHRA working definition (in German, November 2020 https://www.edi.admin.ch/edi/de/home/fachstellen/frb/publikationen/juristische-analyse-ihra.html)
- “Remembering the victims, preventing new atrocities”, Message from the President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27.01.2021,
- “Having the courage to say «no»”, Message by President Simonetta Sommaruga on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27.01.2020,
- “Respekt und Würde”, Message by President of the Confederation Ueli Maurer to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27.01.2019
- On «feeling at home in the world», Message by Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27.01.2018,
- “Remembrance as a bridge”, Message from the President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27.01.2017,
- Speeches and statements in relation to the Swiss chairmanship of the IHRA in 2017,
2. Please list, with links, a short description (200 words) of any action plans, statistics, etc. related to countering Holocaust denial and distortion, antisemitism, and antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination.
Every two years, the Service for Combating Racism of the Federal Department of Home Affairs publishes a comprehensive report on racism in Switzerland. It entails a quantitative analysis of cases of racial discrimination in Switzerland, as well as listing the policies on all levels of the Swiss federal system (communal, cantonal, and federal) which aim at combating racist discrimination. The data analysis for 2019-2020 includes the results of the survey on diversity and coexistence in Switzerland conducted by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) (see below), statistical data on important areas of life and specific sections of the population, as well as data gathered by advice centers and data on judgments handed down by the courts.
While the report of the Service for Combating Racism addresses racism and racist discrimination in general, it also identifies antisemitism as a form of discrimination with specific characteristics that set it apart from other forms. Antisemitism and antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination are awarded their own chapters as “specific issues”. The Jewish, Jenish and Sinti communities are recognized as national minorities in Switzerland, while the Roma are not. The most recent report, covering the years of 2019 and 2020, was published in September 2021.
The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and the private sector NGO Coordination Intercommunautaire Contre l'Antisémitisme et la Diffamation (CICAD) publish yearly reports on antisemitism in German- and French-speaking Switzerland respectively, whose findings are reflected in the Service for Combating Racism’s official report.
In 2017, the Service for Combating Racism also issued an updated report on federal measures against antisemitism. Report on measures against antisemitism:
3. How numerous and widespread are annual Holocaust remembrance events and remembrance events dedicated to the genocide of the Roma?
The Holocaust is remembered on 27 January in a ceremony organized by the federal government, which includes addresses by the President of the Swiss Confederation and the President of the National Council (lower house of Parliament). Furthermore, there are a number of remembrance events on the cantonal and communal levels. Since 2004, activities are organized in schools across the country to perpetuate the memory of Holocaust, and to raise awareness of tolerance and human rights, combat racism and antisemitism.
4. Are there any specific academic programs or permanent professorships dedicated to the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma? Y/N If yes, please provide details.
While there are no academic programs or permanent professorships solely dedicated to the Holocaust, a number of Universities and research institutions have a focus on the Holocaust in different departments (contemporary history, political science, Judaic studies, education), generating a significant amount of
research and teaching.
5. Has any noteworthy research been published on the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma in the last seven years? Y/N. If yes, please provide details.
Research publications on the Holocaust in relation to Switzerland
- Entrechtet – beraubt – erinnert. Eine Dokumentation über Opfer des Nationalsozialismus mit Bezug zu Zürich (2021) IG Transparenz, Heinz Nigg – Zürich: edition 8 https://edition8.ch/buch/entrechtet-beraubt-erinnert
- Erzählweisen des Sagbaren und Unsagbaren. Formen des Holocaust-Gedenkens in schweizerischen und transnationalen Perspektiven / Between Commemoration and Amnesia. Modes and forms of Holocaust
- Remembrance in Swiss and Transnational Perspectives, Wien, Köln, Weimar (2021). Azaryahu, M., Gehring, U., Meyer, F., Späti, C., & Picard, J. https://www.exlibris.ch/de/buecher-buch/deutschsprachige-buecher/erzaehlweisen-des-sagbaren-und-unsagbaren-between-commemoration/id/9783412521608?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7Zup677Z9AIVweJ3Ch32wgh1EAQYASABEgIbt_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
- Arrests, Internments and Deportations of Swiss Jews in France and the Reactions of Swiss Authorities, 1941–1944 (2021) Späti, Christina – in: Holocaust and Genocide Studies vol. 35, no. 1 (Spring 2021), 25–43.
- Historiografie des Nationalsozialismus in der Schweiz: punktuell, aber bedeutsam, in: Olivier Dard, Michel Grunewald, Reiner Marcowitz, Uwe Puschner (Hg.), Con-frontations au national-socialisme dans l'Europe francophone et germanophone / Auseinandersetzungen mit dem Nationalsozialismus im deutsch- und französischsprachigen Europa (1919-1949), Volume 1: Introduction générale - Savoirs et opinions publiques/Band 1: Allgemeine historische und methodische Grundlagen, Bern etc. (2017), 63-83.
- Les victimes oubliées du IIIe Reich. Les déportés suisses dans les camps nazis (2021) Balz Spörri, René Staubli, Benno Tuchschmid – Neuchâtel: Editions Alphil. https://www.alphil.com/index.php/les-victimes-oubliees-du-3e-reich.html
- Die Schweizer KZ-Häftlinge. Vergessene Opfer des Dritten Reichs (2019) Balz Spörri, René Staubli, Benno Tuchschmid – Zürich: NZZ Libro. https://www.nzz-libro.ch/schweizer-kz-haeftlinge-opfer-des-dritten-reichs-namensliste
- Die Schweiz und der Holocaust: Rezeption, Erinnerung und museale Repräsentation, (2017) Späti, Christina – in: Andrea Brait/Anja Früh (Ed.), Museen als Orte geschichtspolitischer Verhandlungen. Ethnografische und historische Museen im Wandel, Itinera: Beiheft zur Schweizerischen Zeitschrift für Geschichte 43 (2017), 61-76.
- Unter Schweizer Schutz. Die Rettungsaktion von Carl Lutz während des Zweiten Weltkriegs in Budapest – Zeitzeugen berichten (2020) Agnes Hirschi und Charlotte Schallié (Hrsg.). – Zürich: Limmat Verlag / https://www.limmatverlag.ch/programm/titel/881-unter-schweizer-schutz.html
- Under Swiss Protection. Jewish Eyewitness Accounts from Wartime Budapest (2017) Agnes Hirschi, Charlotte Schallié (eds.). – Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag https://www.ibidem.eu/de/under-swiss-protection.html
- La Suisse face au génocide. Nouvelles recherches et perspectives (2019) Mé morial de la Shoah (é dit.) – Paris : Revue d’histoire de la Shoah 2019/1 (No 210). Actes du colloque du 4 fé vrier 2018 au Mé morial de la Shoah https://www.cairn.info/revue-revue-d-histoire-de-la-shoah-2019-1.html
- La fuite en Suisse: migrations, straté gies, fuite, accueil, refoulement et destin des ré fugié s juifs venus de France durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale (2017) Ruth Fivaz-Silbermann. – Université de Genève https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:96640
- La Svizzera e la Seconda guerra mondiale nel Rapporto Bergier (2017) Pietro Boschetti. - Giampiero Casagrande editor https://atistoria.ch/quaderni-dell-atis/la-svizzera-e-la-seconda-guerra-mondiale-nel-rapporto-bergier
- Mémoires de survivants de l’Holcauste. (15 volumes et cahier «Passeurs de mémoires») (2017) Ivan Lefkovits et François Wisard (é dit.). Kontaktstelle für Überlebende des Holocaust / https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/fr/dfae/actualite/informations-dfae.html/eda/fr/meta/news/2017/11/27/memoiren-holocaust
Swiss Migration Policy during WWII
- Fluchtort Schweiz. Schweizerische Flüchtlingspolitik (1933-1945) und ihre Nachgeschichte (2017) Koller, Guido – 1. Auflage. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Print.
- Accolti e respinti. Gli ebrei in fuga dall’Italia durante la Seconda guerra mondiale: nuove analisi e nuovi dati (2021) Bazzocco, Adriano – in: Archivio Storico Ticinese 170, S. 32-57.
Looted Art from the Nazi period
- “Jüdische Kunsthändler und Galeristen.” (2021) Eggimann Gerber, Elisabeth – Böhlau Verlag. Print.
- Provenienzforschung im Museum. (2021) Lange, Carolin Dorothée, and Thomas Schmutz – Zürich:
Verband der Museen der Schweiz.
- Kriegsgeschäfte, Kapital und Kunsthaus: Entstehung der Sammlung Emil Bührle im historischen Kontext: Forschungsbericht zuhanden des Präsidialdepartements der Stadt Zürich und der Direktion der Justiz und des Innern des Kantons Zürich (2021) Leimgruber, Matthieu – Kölliken: Buch & Netz.
- Kunstfund Gurlitt : Wege der Forschung (2020) Baresel-Brand, Andrea, Nadine Bahrmann, and Gilbert Lupfer. – [1. Auflage]. Berlin: De Gruyter.
- Gurlitt - Status Report. Munich: Hirmer, (2017).
Noteworthy recent films concerning the Holocaust and Switzerland include
- La Suisse, coffre-fort d’Hitler (2016), Xavier Harel, Olivier Lamour
- Un Juif pour l’exemple (2016) Jacob Berger,
- «Entrechtet – beraubt – erinnert. Eine Dokumentation über Opfer des Nationalsozialismus mit Bezug zu Zürich» (2021) Heinz Nigg
- «Die letzten Zeugen, Leben nach der Shoah» (2018) Gamaraal Foundation
Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War (ICE)
The Commission (often called “Bergier Commission” after the name of its Chairperson) was established in December 1996 by a unanimously approved resolution of the Swiss Federal Assembly (Parliament) with a mandate to investigate the volume and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before, during and
immediately after the Second World War from a historical and legal point of view. In 2002 the final report as well as the last seven studies and research contributions were presented to the public.
6. Have any surveys been conducted to assess the post-war public understanding of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma? Y/N. Please provide links.
The Federal Statistical Office conducts a survey on diversity and coexistence in Switzerland every two years, with the aim of presenting an accurate picture of the issues raised by the coexistence of different groups currently living in Switzerland. The survey collects information on the acceptance, rejection and integration of certain groups. While the survey does not specifically interrogate the public’s knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust and/or genocide of the Roma, it does allow for the monitoring of trends in society in several areas such as racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, or discrimination. The data collected helps to guide policies on integration and anti-discrimination.
7. What are the most used textbooks and teaching materials on the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, and when were they published and/or updated?
In the Swiss federal political system, education is within the competencies of the cantons (states). Holocaust education has become an integral part of the general curriculum in teacher-training colleges. To consolidate the many available resources, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), which is responsible for cooperation between the cantons, has compiled a comprehensive list of teaching materials recommended for lessons on the Holocaust and antisemitism. Furthermore, the EDK planning to work on developing teaching materials on the topic of the genocide of the Roma, which has hitherto received too little attention. (https://edudoc.ch/record/125290?ln=de)
There have been many recent developments, particularly in the area of educational digital applications (for instance the app: « Fuir la Shoah. Ma rencontre avec des témoins » https://www.fuir-la-shoah.ch/ «Fliehen vor dem Holocaust. Meine Begegnung mit Geflüchteten.» http://www.erinnern.at/app-fliehen), the digital book «Schweizer Jugend im Zweiten Weltkrieg» with witness videos https://www.ch-jugend2wk.ch/#Intro_-_Deutsch; or «ZOOM – Verfolgt und vertrieben» to learn through biographies https://www.lmvz.ch/wissen/zoom-verfolgt-und-vertrieben.
A special issue of Didactica Historica was published in June 2019, following the International Study Days “Teaching about and Learning from the Holocaust. Practices and Experiences in Education” that were organized at the University of Teacher Education in Lausanne, Switzerland in January 2018, during Switzerland’s Presidency of the IHRA.
Enseigner la Shoah / Insegnare la Shoah / Umgang mit der Shoah in der Schule (2019) Didactica Historica 5/2019. Revue suisse pour l’enseignement de l’histoire / Rivista svizzera per l’insegnamento della storia / Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichtsunterricht – Neuchâtel: Éditions Alphil-Presses universitaires suisses. https://www.alphil.com/index.php/didactica-historica-5-2019.html
8. Have any surveys or other educational research been conducted to assess the effectiveness of teaching and learning about the Holocaust and/or the genocide of the Roma? Y/N. If yes, please provide details.
There is ongoing monitoring of the use of educational materials related to teaching about the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, with a view to improving the content and quality of the learning experience. A recent study about educational effectiveness compared experiences in the German-speaking
part of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Its aim was to analyze, develop recommendations and draw up guidelines to support universities that train teachers, as well as to support teachers in their everyday work in dealing with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and trivialization.
Gegen Antisemitismus in Schulen und Hochschulen – Zusammenschluss von drei Instituten in der Schweiz, in Deutschland und Österreich (2020) Peter Gautschi, Robert Sigel, Werner Dreier https://www.phlu.ch/forschung/projekte/12476/detail.html
9. What public or private museums, memorials, archives, and/or sites in your country are dedicated to the Holocaust and/or the genocide of the Roma? Please provide details, including the role of central, regional, or local public bodies. Are these institutions listed in the IHRA Overview of Holocaust-related Organizations, in the EHRI Portal, or other databases?
The most extensive research regarding memorials in Switzerland was undertaken in 2015 (Fabienne Meyer, Monumentales Gedächtnis – Denkmale der Shoah in der Schweiz, Zurich 2015), listing about 50 places linked to the Holocaust in Switzerland, almost all of which refer either to victims (sites mainly established by Jewish communities), or to rescuers or to individuals who helped refugees after they had entered Switzerland. Since then, only private memorial sites in a broad sense, such as commemorative plaques, have been installed. Most notable of these is the installation of memorial stones, coordinated by the association “Stolpersteine” (https://www.stolpersteine.ch/). A recent event was the installation of a commemorative tombstone in Davos (https://swissjews.ch/de/news/gedenkstein-davos- rede-lewin). The most important public (both federal and cantonal) archives are listed on IHRA overview of Holocaust-related Organizations and the EHRI Portal.
10. What steps has your country taken towards implementing the International Memorial Museums Charter?
While Switzerland has many private memorial sites commemorating the Holocaust, there is as yet no official national place of remembrance and education. In March 2022, based on the unanimous adoption of motions by both houses of Parliament, the Federal Council has initiated preparatory work for a national memorial site for the victims of national-socialism (Motions Heer/Jositsch)
The impetus for establishing a national memorial dedicated to “remembrance, transmission of knowledge and networking” originated from a civil society initiative enjoying the support from a broad range of organizations and many prominent individuals (https://swissmemorial.ch/). The process of designing the memorial and its eventual establishment, content and governance will draw from the principles contained in the international memorial museums charter.
11. If an overview exists, how many and which organizations that work in the field of Holocaust and genocide of the Roma education, remembrance, and research receive public funding?
There is no available comprehensive overview of public funding for Holocaust and genocide remembrance, education and research in Switzerland. Archives, research units, teacher training centers, museums and other entities that have a focus on the Holocaust receive public funding for their functioning when they are part of public institutions such as universities. In addition, public grants from
the federal government, cantonal (state) and municipal authorities are regularly given to research projects, including films; the development of educational applications and teaching materials and the organization of exhibits or other cultural productions. Finally, private non-government organizations with a focus on
combating antisemitism and racism receive public funding based on specific activities in the field of conducting research, carrying out public awareness campaigns etc.
12. What are the most important policy statements on genocide or mass atrocity crimes over the last seven years? Please include the name of the statement, the body who issued the statement, the date the statement was made, and a link.
- Overview of Switzerland’s work on the prevention of atrocity crimes
- Overview of Switzerland’s work in preventing violent conflict
- Switzerland’s unequivocal support to the International Criminal Court (2020)
- Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis: Preventing future atrocities begins with the present (2020),
- Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Politorbis “Preventing atrocities: towards new paradigms” (2020), with a foreward from Federal Councillor Iganzio Cassis,
- Overview of Switzerland’s work on the prevention of atrocity crimes