Swiss right-wing party uses Holocaust memorial in campaign against open borders

Swiss right-wing party uses Holocaust memorial in campaign against open borders
Swiss People's Party (SVP) President Albert Rosti. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party has apologised after using an image of Berlin’s Holocaust memorial in a campaign to prevent Switzerland from becoming ‘over concreted’ due to increased migration.

The images, which were shared through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, have since been deleted. 

The images were part of the SVP’s ‘limitation initiative’ which seeks to restrict the amount of immigration to Switzerland from the European Union. 

The initiative, initially scheduled for May, was moved to September due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A spokesperson for the SVP said something “went wrong” with the post and lamented the “huge lapse”. 

SVP Secretary Martin Suter told the Tagesanzeiger that the post was prepared after doing a stock image search for concrete and that nobody recognised the photograph came from the Holocaust memorial. 

“We certainly didn't want to use it to provoke and fill the summer slump in the media.”

READ: Swiss right-wing party wants mandatory deportation of criminal foreigners 

In a tweet released on July 24th, the party said “We made a mistake! When several posts were released internally, we were not aware of what the symbol image used was. We apologise to all people whose feelings we may have hurt with this mistake.”

 

 

‘Limitation initiative’ 

The initiative, backed by the populist rightwing Swiss People's Party (SVP) and opposed by the government, calls for the country to revise its constitution to ensure it can autonomously handle its immigration policy.

SVP, Switzerland's largest party, has built its brand by condemning immigration as well as the influence of the European Union in non-EU-member Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Immigration of EU nationals to Switzerland 'has stabilised' 

If the initiative passes, Swiss authorities would have one year to negotiate an end to its 1999 agreement with Brussels on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the bloc.

The initiative goes even further than a similar initiative, also backed by SVP, that was voted on in February 2014. It demanded that Bern impose quotas on migration from EU countries.

That vote narrowly passed, throwing Swiss-EU relations into disarray, with Brussels warning that any curbs on immigration by EU citizens put in doubt a whole range of bilateral agreements.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The German government also decided to commemorate the Holocaust in more physical ways. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, commissioned by the Bundestag (German parliament) in 1999, was completed and opened in 2005. This controversial monument is located just one block south of the iconic Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin.

Visitors walk through the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Photo: DPA

It comprises 2,711 concrete slabs of the same width and length, but of varying heights, in a grid formation, allowing visitors to walk through the installation. The memorial has however been criticized for failing to address the suffering of the individual victims, as the monument is anonymous.

The architect who designed it, Peter Eisenman, responded that “in this monument there is no goal, no end… the duration of an individual’s experience of it grants not further understanding, since understanding is impossible”.

But beneath the memorial, there is a lesser known Information Centre, which attempts to provide a different experience. The Room of Names inside intends to “release the victims from their anonymity” by reading out biographies of Jews murdered in the Holocaust – a process which, if completed for all victims, would take over six years. The project is still collecting names and stories of the victims.

 


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