Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis
Swiss students help Holocaust survivors
Friday, January 8, 1999
20 Tevet 5759
By NAOMI SIMONS
JERUSALEM (January 8) - Five Swiss high-school students who raised more than 50,000 Swiss Francs (NIS 148,000) for Holocaust victims, are currently visiting to witness the fruits of their efforts.
For the past two years, the students, none of whom are Jewish, have devoted their spare time to the creation of the Solidarity Fund for Victims of the Holocaust, inspired by the revelation in 1996 of how Swiss banks continued to hold the money of Holocaust victims. Kaspar Sutter, of Bern, now 19, was worried about the reluctance with which his government was moving to solve the problem. "The politicians just talked and did not want to do anything," he said yesterday. "We wanted to show Switzerland and Europe that the young Swiss are concerned."
He gathered four like-minded school friends - Christina Frauchiger, Taschi Brauen, Vinzenz Mathys, and Massimiliano Desumma - and within a week they held a press conference for the new fund and were the subject of considerable media attention. The teenagers walked the streets of Bern, talking to people and handing out fliers, and eventually enlisted students from more than 200 schools and universities in Switzerland to help them raise money.
The Fund has now donated about 50,000 Swiss Francs to AMCHA, the National Israeli Center for Psychological Support of Survivors of the Holocaust. They found AMCHA through the Bern Jewish community and were impressed by its emphasis on human contact and personal caring. "What they do here is really helping people," Sutter explained. Yesterday, the five students visited AMCHA's Jerusalem headquarters and met some of beneficiaries of their support. German and English were the common languages, as they chatted with survivors and listened to their stories.
Sonja Pach of Kiryat Shmuel, who escaped from Germany in 1938 but lost her parents and siblings and is now a member and volunteer at AMCHA, explained the gratitude she felt toward the students. "I am very touched by these young people and the fantastic work they have done," she said. "I appreciate so much that they have taken such a serious interest in us."
John Lemberger, executive director of AMCHA, officially thanked the five, who financed their trip themselves, for their support and also pointed out that the significance of the fund went beyond the money raised. "The important thing is that young people, of their own free will, decided to get up and do something," he said. A sense of achievement was felt but the work of the fund is far from over. It has committed itself to help support 82 poverty-stricken Roma (Gypsy) survivors of the Holocaust now living in Latvia.
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