Holocaust victim sues Swiss government

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ZURICH — A Jewish man whose parents perished in Auschwitz after they were deported from wartime Switzerland is suing the Swiss government.

Charles Sonabend, 67, recently told Swiss Television that he was seeking 100,000 Swiss francs — about $68,700 at current exchange rates — in damages from the Bern government. This is the maximum amount possible under Swiss law.

Sonabend was 11 years old when he and his parents entered Switzerland in 1944 from Belgium. Two days later his parents were arrested and deported to Nazi-occupied France.

They were then sent to Auschwitz.

Sonabend survived the war in Switzerland and is now living in London.

The Swiss Federal Council, the nation's cabinet, is scheduled to take up the matter this month.

In a similar case, the government of the state of Basel recently paid $33,000 to Eli Carmel of Ramat Gan, Israel.

Carmel was arrested in 1939 by the Basel police and deported to Germany. He was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, from which he escaped after a year. He then made his way to Shanghai for the duration of the war.

Switzerland expelled more than 30,000 Jews during the war, most of whom died.

At the same time, however, Switzerland provided haven to some 25,000 Jewish refugees, who survived the war together with Switzerland's 20,000 Jewish citizens.

One of those who found haven in Switzerland was Yitzhak Mayer, Israel's new ambassador to Bern.

"I was a boy of 9 when I came on my mother's hand into Switzerland," said Mayer, whose father died in Auschwitz before his mother brought him and his brother to safety.

"We had fled the Nazis for three years and were more than happy to have reached Switzerland, exhausted but saved."