Swiss television under fire for Nazi camp interview of far-right politician

Switzerland’s broadcaster, SF1, is facing criticism for filming an interview with a far-right politician on the site of the former Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald without permission.

SF1 TV interviewed Christoph Mörgeli, a lawmaker with the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP), at the camp site in eastern Germany last Thursday.

Mörgeli is at the centre of a political storm in Switzerland after alleging that the country’s federal president Pascal Couchepin, had deliberately made a pun comparing him to the infamous Nazi surgeon Josef Mengele during a parliamentary debate. Couchepin insists that his reference to “Doctor Morgele” as the infamous Auschwitz doctor had been a slip of the tongue.

In a statement, the Buchenwald Memorial Foundation criticized what it called the use of the camp for an internal Swiss political argument, and demanded an apology from both Mörgeli and SF1. “Never before have a politician or broadcaster disregarded our rules in such a way,” foundation head Prof. Dr. Volkhard Knigge said. Filming is only allowed in Buchenwald for documentaries or other programmes which depict the Nazi crimes committed there.

At least 56,000 people were killed at the camp from 1937 until it was liberated by the Third US Army in April 1945. SF1 said it was pure coincidence that Mörgeli happened to be at Buchenwald when they contacted him for an interview over the Couchepin affair. The broadcaster said the interview was filmed just outside the actual camp, but conceded that a ‘neutral venue’ would have been more appropriate.

Mörgeli denied using his visit to Buchenwald to score political points. He continued his attack on Couchepin, telling Swiss newspaper ‘Le Matin’ that the president should resign over his remarks. “If people could hear what he said, they would not want Pascal Couchepin to be president of Switzerland,” he said.

The president of the Swiss Jewish Community Federation, Alfred Donath, defended Couchepin and said that it was Mörgeli who should apologize for exploiting what he called the Swiss president’s “gaffe”.


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