The Last Swiss
Holocaust Survivors

The Gamaraal Foundation (link to the website) and the Archive of Contemporary History of ETH Zurich are the Dr. Kurt Bigler Prize Award Winner 2018 (see the Award) for excellence in Holocaust Education.

As a neutral country, Switzerland came out of World War II unharmed. Who are the Holocaust survivors in Switzerland? The vast majority were not Swiss citizens at the time. They came from the German Reich or other European countries; and as Jews, they were a direct target of Nazi persecution. Some survived concentration camps and extermination camps; others saved themselves by escaping or hiding. Most arrived in Switzerland after World War II.

The fact that there are Holocaust survivors in Switzerland entered public consciousness at the time of the debate over dormant assets and the historical research of the Bergier Commission in the late 1990s.

In 2017/18, Switzerland held the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The exhibition The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors gives a say to the last witnesses of the Holocaust and their descendants.

Then they tattooed me: 71978. I cried a lot. Not because of pain, no; because of the number. I had lost my name and I was only a number. My mother said to me, “Don’t cry, nothing happened. When we get home, you’ll go to dance class and you’ll get a large bracelet, and nobody will see the number.” I never went to dance class and never got the bracelet.
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Interview with Nina Weil
Nina Weil
Nina Weil was born in Klattau (in today’s Czech Republic), in 1932. She lived in Prague and was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942. Later she was deported with her mother Amalie to Auschwitz. She was twelve years old when her 38-year-old mother died of exhaustion there. Nina Weil survived a “selection” by the camp doctor Josef Mengele and survived a labor camp. After the suppression of the Prague Spring, she and her husband were granted asylum in Switzerland. She worked in a laboratory at the University Hospital in Zurich.
At the end of the war, I was in a labor commando in a concentration camp. We had to lay down the steel train tracks. I was the youngest and the shortest in the group. At first, there were 30 of us. At the end of 1944, two people were still alive. How did I make it? I was lucky. I had red, bright red hair. The Germans called me “Rotkopf”, “redhead”. I was given the easiest work.
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Interview with Fishel Rabinowicz
Fishel Rabinowicz
Fishel Rabinowicz was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in 1924. In 1943, his 42-year-old mother Sara and his six siblings Esther (16 years old), Jacob (12), Frimetta (10), Benjamin (8), Mania (6), and Beracha (3) were killed at Auschwitz. His 18-year-old brother Jeheskiel perished at the Faulbrück concentration camp. His 46-year-old father Israel Josef was shot dead in Flossenbürg. Fishel Rabinowicz, who spent four years in concentration camps and in various forced labor camps, was liberated in Buchenwald. In 1947, he came to Switzerland with a group of survivors in need of recovery. He stayed in Switzerland and became chief decorator of a large department store in the Canton of Ticino. Since his retirement, he has told his life story with graphic images. Fishel Rabinowicz is a widower and has a son.
Fishel Rabinowicz is a winner of the CJA Award 2019. He dedicated the CJA price to the Gamaraal Foundation, for more information:
My mother protected me in Ravensbrück. She would work in additional commandos for an extra ration of soup that she gave me. I learned to read and write; I learned the multiplication tables in the most dreadful circumstances. My mother told me, “You will need this in your life”. That was magical. That meant, “you will survive”.
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Interview with Ivan Lefkovits
Ivan Lefkovits
Ivan Lefkovits was born in Prešov (today’s Slovakia), in 1937. In the fall of 1944, Ivan, his mother Elisabeth, and his brother Paul were deported to Ravensbrück. While he was allowed to stay with his mother, his older brother Paul, who was 15, was separated from them, taken to the men’s camp and later murdered. Ivan survived along with his mother. Ivan Lefkovits came to Basel in 1969 as a professor to establish the new Institute for Immunology.