Paul Grüninger Helps Save Jewish Refugees

Paul Grüninger portrait. He's wearing glasses, hair is combed neat and dressed in his police uniform.
Paul Grüninger

Paul Grüninger was a Swiss police commander who saved about 3,600 Jewish refugees during World War II by backdating their visas and falsifying other documents to indicate they had entered Switzerland when legal entry of refugees was still possible.

Despite the nobility of his actions, Paul faced severe consequences. In 1939, he was dismissed from his position and lost his police rank and all pension rights. In 1940, he was tried and found guilty of fraud, which led to a period of imprisonment and a fine. He struggled to make a living for the rest of his life due to his criminal record in Switzerland.

When reflecting back on his decisions later in life, he said “It was basically a question of saving human lives threatened with death. How could I then seriously consider bureaucratic schemes and calculations.”

In 1972, Paul passed away in poverty. However, his actions and sacrifices were posthumously recognized: In 1995, fifty years after World War II and twenty-three years after his death, he was absolved of all charges after his trial was reopened.

The following year, in 1996, the Swiss government fully rehabilitated him. Paul was also recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Foundation in 1971, acknowledging his extraordinary efforts to save Jewish lives during one of history’s darkest periods.


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