Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust, Restitution and Reparations, Holocaust Survivors, Law
Abstract: How can a state legally come to terms with its own history? Places where this question is pressing include Switzerland. At the time of writing, the highest Swiss court, the Bundesgericht in Lausanne, is considering two cases shedding light on the question. Charles Sonabend and Joseph Spring are former Jewish refugees who were denied entry at the Swiss border in 1942 and 1943. They are suing the state on account of this treatment. I will examine the arguments of the plaintiffs and defendants below. My purpose is not to present a legal assessment of the arguments, but to discuss certain trends of thought in the legal argumentation, including ideas relating to Swiss history and possible ties between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. This gives rise to the following questions: To what extent does pronouncing judgment mean formulating an official answer to the question of the ties between Switzerland and the Third Reich? To what extent does it mean constructing history?