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A Swiss bank guards quest to obtain justice for the Jewish people

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Published on : 01/08/2017
By : Arista Asmawati

"The reality of Christianity is that you have to go against the world at times."


A Swiss bank guards quest to obtain justice for the Jewish people


More than 50 years after the end of the Holocaust, there were still righteous gentiles willing to risk everything they had to help the Jewish people, if not to save their lives, but to at least help them obtain justice.

On the night of January 8, 1997, Union Bank of Switzerland night guard Cristoph Meili discovered that the bank in Zurich was destroying Holocaust-era documents.

“I noticed that carts full with old books and portfolios were being taken to the area where documents are usually destroyed,” he said in his testimony to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee months later.

With his Christian conscience, at the end of his shift the 20-year-old Meili decided to take some of the documents home to see if the documents were indeed related to the Third Reich or to Jewish clients whose heirs’ whereabouts were unknown.

When Meili returned to the work the next day, all the documents had been destroyed. A week later, after revealing to the Swiss-Jewish population what he had found, the police became involved and the case was made public.

“I also wanted the oppressed Jewish population – the Holocaust victims – to not again be left behind in their search for documentation at the Swiss banks and get justice,” he told the committee.

Meili’s discovery came only a short time after he saw “Schindler’s List,” the infamous Steven Spielberg film detailing the heroic actions the German Righteous Among Nations Oskar Schindler took to save the lives of more than 1,200 Jews in the Second World War.

“I removed the documents because it was the right thing to do,” he told National Catholic Reporter. “But people don’t always like you when you do the right thing,” he added, saying that Jesus had also suffered at the hands of his detractors.

“The reality of Christianity is that you have to go against the world at times and that brings you into trouble,” Meili said.

At the beginning of the ordeal, Meili was declared anything but a hero. He was suspended, and eventually fired, from his job, received death threats, and was threatened with jail time for violating Switzerland’s secrecy laws.

Meili had said at an event at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem honoring him that his actions weren’t anything out of the ordinary. 

“I think I’m a normal person. I am not perfect, absolutely not. And it’s the not perfect people sometimes who will change the world,” he said.

At his first news conference in Zurich only a week after he had taken the original documents home, Meili said that he knew he was meant to do something with them.

“When God put these documents into my hands, I had to act on them,” he said.

“I think I’m a normal person. I am not perfect, absolutely not. And it’s the not perfect people sometimes who will change the world,” he said.

Meili and his family received political asylum in the US, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. But after divorcing his wife and failing to find a significant source of income in the US, he moved back to Switzerland in 2009, eventually finding work as a sales representative.

At his first news conference in Zurich only a week after he had taken the original documents home, Meili said that he knew he was meant to do something with them.

“When God put these documents into my hands, I had to act on them,” he said.   

To learn more about Jewish-Christian relations, check us out at @christian_jpost, on Facebook.com/jpostchristianworld/ and see the best of the Holy Land in The Jerusalem Post - Christian Edition monthly magazine.

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