Searching for Switzerland 1938 information about Bernhard SIGAL

Selma Sheridan

Please help me to find information about my father's stay in Switzerland in
summer 1938. Bernhard SIGAL was a medical student at University of Vienna.
On 11 July 1938, the day before he was to be sent to Dachau, he fled from
Vienna to German- speaking St. Gallen in neutral Switzerland, although he
knew no one there. (He could not convince his parents to leave, and they
perished in 1941.)

Here is what my father told me about his stay in Switzerland. He crawled
over a bridge near the border, bullets flying overhead. He stayed in the
"bridal suite" of a hotel in St. Gallen on the first night, as all other
rooms were occupied, and the hotel owner took pity on him. He was
penniless, and received some money from "the Rothschilds". After about 2
weeks somewhere in Switzerland, he received a letter from his parents,
saying the SA had come to arrest him the day after he fled; he did not say
if he wrote back to them. He crossed from Switzerland into France, and
reached the home of his cousins in Lens, Nord Pas-de-Calais.

This is how I have searched so far, in 2002: Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv,
Bern - they had only his name, and that he arrived and left in 1938, so he
must have reported twice to an official organization. Staatsarchiv, St.
Gallen - no documents. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich - no
information. I have not read Henry Spira's 2010 book, "Daily Events at the
Jurassic frontier 1939-1945", since it seems to exclude 1938.

Questions: How and where would Jewish refugees seek financial aid from the
Rothchilds in Switzerland? Does the Swiss Rothschild family have contact
information, or historical records? Or was it the Montefiore family, or
another charitable organization? Were there transit camps for refugees?
How could my father receive mail from his parents, since they did not know
his address? Were there organizations which helped refugees to exchange
mail? What is the likeliest place where my father could have crossed the
border illegally from Switzerland into France?

Is it worth contacting the 3 Swiss organizations above for updates? Are
there other organizations which have kept records about Jewish refugees to
Switzerland in 1938? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance,

Selma Sigal Sheridan
Oswego NY

Bernard Flam

Hi from Paris,
I have been often searching Geneva State archives for persons crossing illegally the border from 1942 to 1944 : last October, I copied there 250 files  of persons linked to French Arbeter Ring / Workmen Circle, including my mother who was 13'.
Obviously, the easiest area to cross from Swiss to France was on southern part of Geneva Lake where border is just a line in middle of a field, specially in 1938 when France wasn't at war.  I took some pictures near Annemasse, I could send privately to you.
I attach a 1942 map of Swiss custom / police stations in this area : in middle of map, lake's waters are colored in blue.
Mrs Ruth Fivaz, a Swiss historian, became History Doctor two years ago with her thesis " the flight to Swiss : migrations, strategies, flight, ... and fate of Jewish refugees from France during WWII".
I am sure she could be the "specialist" able to give some clues to you.
Bernard Flam
Archives and history of Medem Center, i.e. French (Bund) Arbeter Ring / Workmen Circle

Lewis, Megan

Ruth Fivaz-Silbermann's dissertation can be downloaded via GoogleScholar ( You need to search under the French title "La fuite en Suisse: migrations, stratégies, fuite, accueil, refoulement et destin des réfugiés juifs venus de France durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale."

Bernard, this map is great.  Where is it from- archives, collection, etc.?


Megan Lewis  Reference Librarian  202.314.7860
National Institute for Holocaust Documentation
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Support the Campaign for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Angie Elfassi


Some years ago, I found information on line about my REICHZELIGMAN family, that had died in Zurich,

I wrote to the archives and they were very helpful.

Having said all that, I would suggest you write to the State Archives in Bern

They might be able to help you!

Angie Elfassi