Re: Internment camps in Switzerland 1939-1945 #holocaust

Bernard Flam

Hi Andrea from Paris,

More than 200 men, women and children (including my mother) had been smuggled by French Bund (Workmen Circle - Arbeter Ring) through Swiss border between 1942 & 1944.

So I became a kind of specialist of this history: I spent a lot of days in Geneva state archives to copy all their files.


Only a few Swiss "cantons" / counties kept their archives after WWII, as did Geneva.

Others had to many things to hide...


For each refugee, a file was opened by cantonal (local) authorities and copied to federal authorities in Bern, as told by Corinne.

Bern's Swiss Federal Archives have also documents when this person was transferred from a canton to another.

Alfred  Brawer isn't on Geneva 28000 names (and files) lists, which is normal as from Vienna, he crossed from an eastern border with Austria.


When persons were arrested just after crossing border by military police, army or custom agents, they were sent to a first internment camp where their situation was evaluated.


We have in French, nobody is perfect, some books and documents about these internment camps and Swiss politics during Shoah.


A lot or refugees were sent back across border, as they didn't match with Swiss conditions to be considered as a refugee.
As soon as August 1942, being a Jew, threatening for his life, wasn't enough to be accepted.

On Geneva's border around 900 Jews were sent back, more than 300 died later during Shoah.


But according to your post, persons were sent back within some hours, a few days, not later.
So I never read about marrying a Swiss women to be sure not to be expelled.

But I speak about French or Polish (Jewish) citizen, perhaps situation was different for an Austrian citizen, due to Swiss' collaboration with 3rd Reich.


When persons were "accepted", men, women and children, even from same family, were separated in various working camps, sometimes not even in same canton.

Men were mostly in forest camps or some agricultural activities.

Women were in camps dealing with clothes.

A lot of children were sent in Christian children institutions, or placed in a family.

Most of "our" children kept a heart full and vivid memory of their foster family.


Words aren't numerous to describe a situation: I want absolutely make clear that Swiss "camps" could not at all be compared with Nazis camps (work / concentration / extermination) or even French terrible "collaboration" camps during same period.

 In Swiss, refugees weren't not free of their displacements, were separated of their family, were living in uncomfortable accommodation and with spare food, submitted to a not friendly administration, but that's all.


If any member of our dear JG community searches about a person who could have crossed from French to Swiss border, please send me a private mail to check if there is a file in Geneva State Archives.


Bernard Flam
Archives & History of Medem Center (French Bund - Workmen Circle)
Searching Flam / Agid around Brody / Jaworow /Lemberg
Zysman / Kronenberg / Rottersman around Lodz

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