Learn about Switzerland’s efforts to advance education, remembrance, and research on the Holocaust and genocide of the Roma.
Learn about Switzerland’s efforts to advance education, remembrance, and research on the Holocaust and genocide of the Roma.
Joined the IHRA
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Nicolas de Torrenté – Head of the Swiss Delegation to the IHRA
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.
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
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).
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, and to the Country Report, if available, are provided by the national delegations, who are also responsible for keeping the information up to date.
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:
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.
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.
Research publications on the Holocaust in relation to Switzerland
Swiss Migration Policy during WWII
Looted Art from the Nazi period
Noteworthy recent films concerning the Holocaust and Switzerland include
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.