Switzerland decries anti-Semitism after furor over hotel sign
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Switzerland decries anti-Semitism after furor over hotel sign

Swiss foreign ministry's denunciation comes after Deputy FM Hotovely urges 'a formal condemnation'; Simon Wiesenthal Center calls for inn to be shut

A sign put up at a Swiss hotel calling on Jewish guests to shower before going swimming (Courtesy)
A sign put up at a Swiss hotel calling on Jewish guests to shower before going swimming (Courtesy)

GENEVA — The Swiss foreign ministry said it told Israel’s ambassador that it condemns anti-Semitism, after a sign in a hotel telling Jewish guests to shower before using the pool sparked anger.

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Tilman Renz told AFP in an email that the ministry had been in contact with Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland Jacob Keidar and had “outlined to him that Switzerland condemns racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination in any form.”

The denunciation from the Swiss foreign ministry came after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely demanded “a formal condemnation” from Bern over the incident, saying that the removal of the signs after Keidar contacted the hotel was not sufficient.

The Paradies apartment hotel in the Alpine village of Arosa in eastern Switzerland has been under fire for alleged anti-Semitism after an outraged guest posted to Facebook a picture of a notice plastered outside the hotel pool.

“To our Jewish Guests, women, men and children, please take a shower before you go swimming,” it said, adding that “If you break the rules I’m forced to (close) the swimming pool for you.”

Aparthaus Paradies, Arosa (Courtesy)
Aparthaus Paradies, Arosa (Courtesy)

A second notice, in the kitchen, meanwhile instructed “Our Jewish guests” that they could only access the facility’s freezer between 10 and 11 a.m. and between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.

“I hope you understand that our team does not like being disturbed all the time,” it said.

The story quickly made the rounds on social media and was published by Israeli papers, prompting a harsh reaction from Israeli officials.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni posted an image of the sign on her Facebook page and wrote that “there can be no tolerance and no indifference” to anti-Semitism and racism, in comments that also alluded also to violence around a white supremacist rally in Virginia in the United States.

We “must not let there be a place in the free world for Nazi flags or Ku Klux Klan masks or ugly signs in hotels directed at Jews only,” she wrote. “We cannot allow acts of hate against Jews around the world to become normal.”

Swiss tourism spokesman Markus Berger also called the sign unacceptable. However, he said that “it always needs to stay in perspective: This is one unfortunate incident.”

Berger cited a recent trend of Orthodox and other Jews traveling to four Alpine villages in the area in the summertime, including Davos of World Economic Forum fame. He said didn’t know the origin of the trend, but that numbers “definitely in the thousands” have grown in recent years. He said many area hotels serve kosher food, and that Jewish guests “feel well-treated” there.

“It’s just this one lady at this one hotel who was not on top of the situation,” Berger said. “It’s an isolated incident that doesn’t need for greater action to be taken.”

Paradies manager Ruth Thomann, who signed the notices, meanwhile insisted to Swiss daily 20Minutes that she was not an anti-Semite, and acknowledged that her “choice of words was a mistake.”

She explained to the Blick daily that the apartment hotel currently had a lot of Jewish clients, and that other guests had complained that some of them did not shower before using the pool and had asked her to do something.

“I wrote something naive on that poster,” she was quoted as saying, admitting that it would have been better to simply address all guests with the same message.

The hotel is reportedly very popular with ultra-Orthodox Jewish guests because it has been accommodating to their needs, including access to a freezer to store kosher food.

Thomann told Blick that the since the freezer was in the staff room, she had felt compelled to set times when the Jewish guests could access it to ensure staff could enjoy their “lunch and dinner in peace.”

The prominent Jewish rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, also voiced outrage at the incident, publishing a letter Tuesday demanding that Switzerland “close hotel of hate and penalize its management.”

And it called on Booking.com to remove the hotel from its directory “and explain the anti-Semitic cause of the removal on your website.”

The center’s head of international relations, Shimon Samuels, pointed out that “the reference to ‘showers’ can be construed as a patently vicious reference to the fake shower (heads) in the gas chambers.”

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