Associated Press

Bern, January 2

Almost 60 years after the end of WW II, Switzerland has granted a pardon to people who were imprisoned or fined for helping Jewish refugees to enter the country.

A new law that took effect on January 1 annuls all sentences issued during the war to those who smuggled refugees into Switzerland or sheltered them without permission, but gives no right to compensation. Neutral Switzerland, fearing a flood of refugees, began imposing border controls on refugees from Germany and Austria in 1938, and by 1942 had closed its borders entirely to people persecuted "for racial reasons only."

Although some 300,000 people were sheltered in Switzerland between 1938 and 1945, many thousands of others were turned away at the border. Helping rejected refugees to enter the country was a criminal offense.

A government study carried out to help lawmakers decide whether to pass the legislation concluded that most of those who helped refugees enter Switzerland acted out of personal conviction rather than for money.