Serge Klarsfeld, known along with his wife, Beate, for documenting details of the Holocaust and for racking down former Nazis, maintains that 3,000 Jews were stopped from entering Switzerland.
Klarsfeld’s claim, recorded in an interview with German-language weekly newspaper Der Sonntag, contrasts with the previous estimate of 25,300 made in a report issued in 1999 by the Bergier Commission.
“Since 1999, we have made progress with our research,” Klarsfeld, 77, told the newspaper.
The new estimate was made in consultation with Geneva historian Ruth Fivaz-Silbermann.
The downward revision of estimates follows studies of Jews attempting to enter Switzerland from France, Italy, Germany and Austria.
Most of the refugees had tried to enter the country from France.
“A maximum of 1,500 Jews from France were rejected,” said Klarsfeld, a French Jew himself.
From information obtained from the Documentation Centre for Jewish History in Milan, it appears 300 Jews were turned back at the Ticino border, he said.
The rest were rejected at the German and Austrian borders.
The higher estimate may have been as a result of including cases of people who were not Jews.
“We never said our figures were definitive,” Marc Perrenoud, a former member of the Bergier commission, told RTS, the French-language national broadcaster.
Perrenoud said it was always possible that new historic sources would emerge after the commission’s report was published.
Klarsfeld said Switzerland needed to create a new commission to examine not just how many Jews were turned away during the war but also how many were allowed into the country.
“It’s about Switzerland’s image in the world,” he told Sonntag.
“And this is important for Switzerland.”