n her 1943 published essay «We Refugees» Hannah Arendt pointed to the different notions of the term «refugee» and that Jews did not necessarily consider themselves as such. From an inner-Jewish perception, she suggested different terms like «newcomers» or «immigrants». Other actors such as public authorities and (Jewish) relief organisations adopted one or the other notion according to their agendas. The Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, for example, deliberately referred to them until 1944 as «immigrants» avoiding the term «political refugees» and thus being able to send them back to the places they had come from. At the same time, Jewish relief organisations, whose goal was to rescue Jews, worked with terms such as «Halutzim» (pioneers), «immigrants», «migrants» or «refugees» – depending on the organisation’s tasks, their Jewish applicants and the moment.
All these organisations not only talked about refugees but dealt with them and faced multiple challenges: In the Swiss case, the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities had to adopt the official Swiss policy which meant that «immigrants» as referred to in the previous paragraph could only stay for a short time – if at all. Otherwise, the communities felt responsible for their co-religionists and therefore organised their emigration or took care of those who stayed in the country. In doing so, they cooperated both with state officials, and (Jewish) relief organisations on a global scale. Such national and international relief organisations, however, did not act out of pure altruism. Rather, they had to make concessions, accept limitations and suffered conflicts. In short, they sometimes cooperated and sometimes were in competition with each other. In 1940, the Swiss government accepted its responsibility and established camps to provide the refugees with food, shelter and the possibility for religious practice. For the government, this was also an instrument to keep the refugees under control. The Association of Swiss Jewish Refugee Aid and Welfare Organisations approved this policy and thereby reduced its own financial burden. Providing many refugees with all the goods needed, preserving a system of camps and allowing a Jewish life in refugee camps were the challenges the Swiss government faced together with the Swiss Jewish communities.