This article provides details of a relatively little-known Swiss initiative during the Second World War. From 1940, Swiss charities provided large-scale humanitarian aid to war-stricken children, offering short-stay evacuations of over 60,000 French, Belgian and Yugoslav children to Swiss families, including at least some French Jewish children. In summer 1942, however, when French authorities began the round-ups of Jews, this approach faltered. That September, when many French Jewish children were stranded after their parents' deportation, a meeting took place between the Swiss ambassador and the French Premier, Pierre Laval. A deal might have been struck to protect these French Jewish children from deportation and extermination, but was not the preferred policy. This article analyses that meeting, concluding that Swiss officials were bound by the view that their own self-mandated neutrality might be compromised, despite a pre-existing evacuation infrastructure and strong Swiss public support, and to the fatal detriment of thousands of French Jewish children.
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- Department of History, English, Linguistics and Music - Head of Research - Holocaust Education and Learning Centre
- Centre for Health Histories
- Centre for History, Culture and Memory