Switzerland's president expressed regret Friday that his country failed to use diplomatic channels to stop the Nazis from executing a Swiss theology student who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler 70 years ago.
The move marks a partial victory in the campaign to call attention to the courage of Maurice Bavaud, 25, who was executed in Berlin's notorious Ploetzensee prison after failing in his attempt to shoot Hitler at a Nazi parade in Munich on Nov. 9, 1938.
By coincidence, Bavaud made his attempt just hours before Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazis destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses across Germany and Austria.
"He seems to have anticipated the doom that Hitler would bring to the whole world," President Pascal Couchepin said in a statement posted on his official Web site. "For this he deserves our remembrance and recognition."
Theologian Peter Spinatsch, who is campaigning for Bavaud's rehabilitation, says Couchepin's statement does not go far enough.
"I expected them to apologize for the despicable behavior of the Swiss police, who in 1940 wrote a report for the Gestapo that further incriminated Bavaud," Spinatsch told The Associated Press.
Bavaud, who was from the western Swiss town of Neuchatel, regarded the Nazi leader as a danger to Switzerland, Christianity and all of humanity. He was arrested several days after his failed assassination attempt and tortured into confessing his plans to the Gestapo, the secret police.
Switzerland, which followed a policy of neutrality toward Germany before and during World War II, failed to intervene on Bavaud's behalf, and he was guillotined in May 1941.
Spinatsch said the Swiss could have offered to swap Bavaud for one of the German spies caught in Switzerland after the outbreak of war.
Bavaud's story is little known outside Switzerland, unlike the so-called Stauffenberg plot in which a group of German officers tried to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, almost six years after Bavaud's failed attempt. That plot is the basis for an upcoming Tom Cruise film, "Valkyrie," in which the American actor plays the plot leader.
Adrian Bavaud, 81, told Swiss public radio DRS on Friday that he hopes his brother will one day be recognized for what he did.
"Switzerland should be proud of someone like Maurice," he said.
Source: AP News