Switzerland will not pay damages to a Jewish man whose parents were killed in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz after the family was deported by Swiss authorities in 1942, the government said Thursday.
The Federal Council, or cabinet, rejected a demand for $68,000 in damages sought by Charles Sonabend under a law allowing individuals to make liability claims against the government.The 67-year-old London resident last year sought the maximum legal damage of $34,000 per victim from the government, arguing Switzerland was responsible for a policy of turning away Jewish refugees that landed his family in Nazi hands.
"The Federal Council is aware of the personal tragedy that the fate of his family has meant for Charles Sonabend," the government said in a statement.
But it rejected the demand for compensation "because the claims have expired with time and are not materially justified.
"In contrast to the Nazi regime, (Swiss) federal authorities did not commit any war crimes. It must be also be stated clearly that Swiss authorities and the Swiss people took in many refugees during the war years," the cabinet said.
Sonabend has the right to appeal the cabinet's decision to the Swiss supreme court. His Zurich lawyer, Marc Richter, has in the past said they would appeal if turned down by the government.
Sonabend has said he was more interested in having the Swiss government accept moral responsibility for the deed that led to his parents' deaths.
Sonabend was 11 years old when his family fled Nazi-occupied Belgium into Switzerland in 1942.
Two days later, Swiss police expelled the family into the hands of German guards. His parents were sent to Auschwitz, where they died.
Sonabend survived after spending the war at a Jewish children's home in Paris.
Switzerland has acknowledged turning back 30,000 refugees at the border under an anti-Jewish wartime immigration policy for which it apologized in 1995.
Thousands of Jews were unable to enter the neutral country on Germany's southern border during World War II.
Although Switzerland did host around 25,000 Jewish refugees at the war's end, it made Swiss and foreign Jewish organizations pay for their upkeep.