Nazi monument at Swiss cemetery sparks controversy

1 month ago 8

The ample  granite monument astatine  the cemetery successful  the centre of the Swiss municipality  of Chur

Image caption,

Questions person been raised implicit what to bash with the ample granite monument astatine the Swiss cemetery

By Imogen Foulkes

BBC News, Chur, Switzerland

For decades the immense monolithic artifact of granite successful the mediate of the cemetery successful the Swiss municipality of Chur was ignored by passers-by; nary 1 seemed to cognize rather what it was.

But the 13-tonne chromatic monument that dwarfs the adjacent gravestones is present causing contention - and embarrassment.

Research by a section writer has revealed links to Nazi Germany, and to neutral Switzerland's ain awkward relations with its World War Two neighbours.

Chur's cemetery is successful the centre of town. Many people, similar vigor writer Stefanie Hablützel, walk it each time connected the mode to enactment oregon retired shopping.

Nowadays the monument astatine the cemetery, untended, is covered successful moss. The engravings connected it are hard to discern.

Image caption,

The origins of the monument and its links to the Nazi beingness successful Switzerland were unknown

"At archetypal show it looks similar a warfare memorial," says Stefanie, pointing retired immoderate faint lettering: "1914 - 1918; hier ruhen deutsche Soldaten… present prevarication German soldiers."

Why, though, would German soldiers beryllium buried here?

In fact, thousands of wounded prisoners of war, French and British arsenic good arsenic German, were treated and interned successful Switzerland during World War One. Some died from their injuries, others during the 1918 flu pandemic.

But Chur's monument was not built until 1938. "That's 20 years aft these men died," says Stefanie. "It wasn't built to mourn these dormant soldiers, it was built for propaganda reasons, for the Nazi regime."

Swiss historian, Martin Bucher, explains that, arsenic the Nazis grew successful powerfulness successful Germany, their propaganda progressive cult-like worship of their warfare dead. In the 1930s the German War Graves Commission became portion of Hitler's propaganda machine. Its task, to make disposable signs of Nazi powerfulness successful Germany's neighbours arsenic good arsenic astatine home.

There were galore thousands of Germans surviving successful Switzerland astatine the time, and, Martin says, they were organised. "In Switzerland each these organisations you cognize from Germany existed. The National Socialist Party, the German Labour Front, the Hitler Youth. They were each here, but lone for Germans, not for Swiss people."

Germany's War Graves Commission submitted ambitious plans to physique a immense mausoleum successful the Swiss municipality of St Gallen. This was rejected by Swiss authorities. But the monument successful Chur was approved. Polished and engraved successful Munich, utilizing the Nazis favourite Fraktur font, it was delivered to Chur connected the eve of World War Two.

At the time, says Martin, Chur's residents indispensable person known what it was. "On Nazi holidays they enactment Swastikas connected this monument… radical would person seen it was a Nazi monument."

Some were intelligibly unhappy. Stefanie uncovered an indignant missive to the section newspaper, written successful 1938, asking: "Why bash we person a Nazi chromatic successful our cemetery?"

Stefanie Hablützel, a section  vigor   writer  successful  Chur, Switzerland


I didn't realise however galore Nazi organisations were contiguous successful the 1930s, present successful Chur

But immoderate volition person been supportive. Swiss sympathisers of Nazi Germany were well-documented successful canton Graubünden, of which Chur is the capital. But homegrown Swiss fascist parties ne'er truly took off, getting lone 2 seats successful the Swiss parliament successful 1935, and ne'er lasting again.

While Switzerland inactive has nary authoritative memorial to the Holocaust, parliament did o.k. plans for 1 successful March past year. There are, however, astir 50 unofficial monuments.

Throughout the war, Germans successful Switzerland continued to beryllium progressive successful the Nazi party, and continued to show their Nazi sympathies. And the Swiss, hoping arsenic accustomed to enactment retired of the fighting, made compromises with Berlin, banking Nazi gold, and turning distant Jewish refugees.

Then, conscionable 1 time aft the warfare ended, neutral Switzerland got disconnected the fence. "There was a immense purge," says Martin. "The Swiss authorities tried to punish Swiss Nazis, determination were trials."

German Nazis, meanwhile, were expelled. "I deliberation aft that a batch of radical were reasoning it's done now, the Nazis are away, nary problem," says Martin. "And I deliberation they forgot this monument."

Image caption,

Historian Martin Bucher says Hitler's propaganda instrumentality was tasked with creating disposable signs of Nazi powerfulness successful neighbouring countries

So implicit was this corporate amnesia that today, among radical similar Stefanie, calved decades aft the war, the origins of the monument, and the Nazi beingness successful Switzerland, were a revelation.

"I grew up present successful Chur," she says. "And I didn't realise however galore Nazi organisations were contiguous successful the 1930s, present successful Chur."

Even section subordinate of parliament Jon Pult was taken by surprise. "Switzerland wasn't Nazi free, and I knew that," helium says. "But I didn't cognize astir this monument.

"I unrecorded possibly 500 metres from the cemetery wherever this chromatic is, and I walked past that chromatic astir apt a 100 times, and I ne'er realised that it is of people a Nazi stone. Now that I cognize it's precise clear. I get it, I spot it."

So, what should hap now?

Despite a definite embarrassment, precise fewer radical person suggested tearing down the monument. But adjacent fewer, says Stefanie, accidental it should beryllium near conscionable arsenic it is.

Instead, statement seems to beryllium forming astir a connection to re-examine and publicise that play successful Swiss history, conscionable arsenic Switzerland had to re-examine, and apologise for, its attraction of Jewish refugees during the war.

"I deliberation it should enactment successful Chur," says Martin, adding: "But I deliberation it's important to archer radical wherefore it is there. Maybe it tin beryllium a monument to retrieve each the radical who died successful the Second World War."

Jon Pult agrees that Switzerland should "create a memorial" retired of the monument "to retrieve the horrific crimes of the Nazis".

But also, helium says, the monument, and the accusation helium expects to beryllium placed successful the cemetery with it, should service arsenic a warning.

"We should make a civilization of cognition astir this, due to the fact that arsenic we cognize determination is ever a information of fascist ideologies, totalitarian ideologies, arsenic we spot present for illustration successful Russia."

Read Entire Article