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Jewish groups call for ban on Nazi symbols and salutes in Switzerland

Unlike in many other parts of Europe, the use of Nazi symbols such as swastikas and salutes, is not banned in Switzerland.

A sign from a concentration camp which says 'work will set you free'
In January, a Dutch woman was fined and convicted for giving a Nazi salute underneath the 'work will set you free' sign at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Fabian Sommer / dpa / AFP

In January 2022, Polish police detained a Dutch tourist for making a ‘Nazi salute’ at the former death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

While the tourist said the salute, which took place under the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) gates, was “a bad joke”, she received an undisclosed fine from Polish police as a result.

READ MORE: Tourist detained for Nazi salute at Auschwitz

Such actions are banned in Poland – where such salutes are deemed to be “spreading Nazi propaganda” – and much of Europe, including Germany.

In Switzerland however such actions only receive legal sanction if they are deemed to be publicly promoting racist ideology.

‘Hurtful and incomprehensible’

Concerned about rising antisemitism, Jewish groups are pushing for a change.

Swiss Federation of Israelite Communities (SIG) said on Wednesday that a ban on the use of Nazi salutes and symbols was necessary.

“Right-wing extremists take advantage of this fact (the lack of a prohibition) at demonstrations or concerts. This is hurtful and incomprehensible, especially for affected minorities,” the SIG said.

While the SIG has previously agitated for greater restrictions, “we have not yet called for such a ban as clearly and decisively as we do today.”

In addition to rising antisemitism, the issue has become prevalent in recent months as part of the pandemic.

Opponents to Covid measures have frequently made direct comparisons between the treatment of Jews and other minorities during the holocaust and restrictions such as the Covid certificate and other restrictions targeted at reducing the spread of the virus.

The SIG said the measure would win widespread support in Swiss parliament.

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