THE LIFEBOAT IS FULL: Switzerland and the Refugees, 1933-1945 by Alfred A. Hasler

THE LIFEBOAT IS FULL: Switzerland and the Refugees, 1933-1945

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The story of Switzerland's xenophobic reception of refugees from the Third Reich -- particularly the Jews. The chief of the police section, Heinrich Rothmund, receives most of the blame for what is seen as an official betrayal of the Swiss heritage of political sanctuary, but the author, himself a Swiss national, assumes a mea culpa stance -- i.e., fear of ""Judaization,"" infected large segments of the population. Ultimately, in the years 1933 to 1945, Switzerland reluctantly accommodated some 295,000 refugees and immigrants -- of these, only 30,000 were Jewish. Those who were allowed to enter were frequently housed in labor camps or otherwise economically restricted (the Writers' Union barred Robert Musil and others from paid literary activity). Hasler cites speeches, articles, documents and capsule case histories, stressing the official mandates ""hermetically sealing"" the borders and one confidential memorandum: ""Refugees in flight solely because of racial reasons -- Jews, for example -- do not qualify as political refugees."" In this manner, Rothmund's police condemned thousands of Jews while maintaining the fiction of political asylum. While the author's conscience is far more notable than his prose, his book is a competent brief against Swiss self-interest. Chronology.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1969
Publisher: Funk & Wagnalls