Internment camps in Switzerland 1939-1945 #holocaust
My father's first cousin, Alfred Brawer, escaped to Switzerland when Jews were expelled from his Medical School
in Vienna. In Switzerland he was put in an internment camp. From his letters it is clear the conditions in this camp,
were terrible .It appears that fearing that he would be sent to a concentration camp in 1940 he married a Swiss worker
in the camp and was never heard from after that. Are there any records from these camps?
In researching them it seems the Swiss don't want to admit they existed.
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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has some records of refugees in Switzerland. Please send his full name, date of birth, parents' names. etc. to resource-center@....
Megan Lewis, reference librarian
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
I have a similar case in my family and I found many documents on the Arolsen Archives online and there are also some records in the Swiss Federal Archives.
Maybe you will also find some documents about Alfred Brawer on the Arolsen Archives online and/or the Swiss Federal Archives.
The Arolsen Archives have not all documents online, so you should also write to them and ask if they have some records which are not online.
Arolsen Archives online
Swiss Federal Archives
Border crossings Geneva Border
Historical newspapers Switzerland
Do you know the name or place of the internment camp in Switzerland he was in?
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.
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.
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.
I had family in these camps, and I have found little specific documentation of the camps themselves. I have looked for photos but have found almost nothing. Under the laws of the time, if your father's first cousin had married a Swiss worker, she would have lost her Swiss citizenship; women were assigned the citizenship of their husbands. This was true in almost all western countries at that time. I had Swiss-born extended family who were not protected by the Swiss government during WW2 because they had earlier married men who were citizens of other countries.
The Swiss government maintained detailed records on the people in the camps, and you can order copies from the Swiss Federal Archives. Search the archives for Alfred's name. You have to pay for the copies, which are sent digitally.