German professor quits over Swiss 'xenophobia'

Malcolm Curtis
Malcolm Curtis - [email protected] • 19 Feb, 2014 Updated Wed 19 Feb 2014 23:13 CEST
German professor quits over Swiss 'xenophobia'

A German professor at the Federal Institute for Technology in Zurich (ETH) has made a splash in the media for quitting his job over the Swiss vote to limit immigration.


Christopher Höcker, who had taught at the university’s Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture since 1999, told his students this week he was stepping down.

The decision by Swiss voters in a February 9th referendum to narrowly support quotas for immigrants from the European Union was the last straw for the 57-year-old German citizen.

“I do not want more exposure to the increasingly xenophobic climate in Switzerland,” Höcker told 20 Minuten newspaper.

The teacher said he was going back to his native country because he was tired of the German-bashing in Switzerland, which can sometimes take violent forms.

German immigrants, many of the well-trained and taking top jobs, have become a focus of resentment for many Swiss citizens, particularly in German-speaking cantons.

The number of Germans living in Switzerland doubled between 2002 and 2009 to 266,000 and has increased since then, aided by the freedom of movement agreement with the EU.

Höcker told 20 Minuten he has had the tyres on his car slashed, and a rear view mirror broken because it still bears German licence plates.

He said if it were up to him trained Germans, such as doctors and nurses, would all turn their backs on Switzerland.

“If the Swiss do not want us, let them see how they will get along without us.”

Höcker emphasized that he had had no negative experiences from his students, many of whom have contacted him to offer their support.

But he told 20 Minuten his mind was made up and “I’m sure many other foreign scientists working and teaching . . . are thinking about the same step.”

Höcker has a home in Augsburg, Germany where he also teaches at the university there, so he will not have to search for a job.

The canton of Zurich was ironically one of the few German-speaking cantons where a majority of citizens voted against immigration curbs.

However, an online poll in the Zurich-based Tages Anzeiger newspaper showed that most (73.3 percent) readers felt that Höcker’s decision to quit was an overreaction.

By late Wednesday evening more than 3,900 people had taken part in the unscientific survey.


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