• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Professor quits over Swiss 'xenophobia'

Josie Le Blond · 20 Feb 2014, 12:59

Published: 20 Feb 2014 12:59 GMT+01:00

German-born archaeology professor Christoph Höcker is sick of being told to go home by the Swiss.

Now the 57-year-old has left his job as a lecturer at the prestigious Federal Institute for Technology (ETH) in the Swiss capital Zurich to return to Germany.

The final straw came when Swiss voters narrowly approved a motion earlier this month to restrict immigration from neighbouring EU countries - including Germany.

"Time and again you read in the [newspaper] comment pages that the Germans might just finally disappear," wrote Höcker in an email to his students on Tuesday. "Well, that's what I'm doing; I've handed in my notice."

"I'm sure that some country bumpkin from Obwalden will manage to wangle the course," wrote Höcker.  

“I do not want more exposure to the increasingly xenophobic climate in Switzerland,” Höcker told Switzerland’s 20 Minuten newspaper.

The professor, who took up the regular lecturing post at the ETH in 2001, also has a teaching post at the University of Augsburg in Bavaria where he lives most of the time.

As a German, Höcker told the paper he had felt unwelcome in Switzerland for some time.

The country is not a member of the EU but counts the bloc - and Germany in particular as its main trading partner.

Yet amid growing anti-foreigner feeling stoked by the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party (SWP), some show open resentment towards well-educated Germans moving there who are perceived to steal the top jobs. 

On February 9th, a narrow 50.3 percent of Swiss voters approved the SWP's "Stop Mass Immigration" initiative to void a pact giving equal footing to EU citizens in the Swiss labour market.

Höcker, who was born in Kiel, believes this shows the extent of anti-German feeling, which he says he has experienced firsthand.

"My tyres were slashed because my car has a German number plate. They broke off my mirror and showed me that I wasn't wanted here," he told Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

"I've been to many countries, but nothing like that has ever happened to me anywhere else," he added. He called on German nurses and doctors to follow his example and get out of the country.

"If the Swiss don't want us, they should see how they get on without us," said Höcker, and went on to warn that ETH would likely lose The Times newspaper ranking as the best university in continental Europe unless it continued to attract top minds from across the world.

"If the international network collapsed it would be fatal," he told the paper.

Read The Local's Swiss edition here

Story continues below…

Höcker, an expert in ancient architecture, emphasized that he had had no negative experiences from his students, many of whom have contacted him to offer their support.

But other ETH staff have questioned whether the professor, who has not lived full time in Switzerland, may have overreacted to the vote.

"We don't recognize this problem of hostility towards Germans and I'm speaking from my own experience here," Höcker's colleague at the ETH History and Architecture Institute Andreas Tönnesmann told the paper.

Höcker's decision appeared to have been quite sudden, said Tönnesmann. "He did not inform me and went straight to the students. I suspect however, that Mr Höcker overreacted."

When asked for a comment by The Local, ETH said they first found out about Höcker's decision from the media. "We don't want to comment on his personal decision," a spokesman said.

READ MORE: Merkel comes to Swiss defence over immigration poll

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Josie Le Blond (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Telekom warns all users to change passwords after scam
Photo: DPA.

German giant Deutsche Telekom is warning customers to change their passwords after finding that up to 120,000 customers' data was being sold on the black market.

Brexit vote
How Brits can escape to Germany and still feel at home
The store Broken English in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Giving up on the UK post-Brexit? Come to Germany - it's not so different!

German MPs file war crimes suit against Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

A group of German politicians and public figures have filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of committing war crimes against his country's Kurdish minority.

Brexit vote
Merkel: no backroom deals with UK on Brexit
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out on Monday informal talks with the UK on the terms of a Brexit, but said the EU should be patient with London.

Sartorial slip-up leads police to pipe bomb
A sign reading FCK CPS. Photo: Jürgen Telkmann / Flickr Creative Commons.

Police stopped a man because he was wearing a FCK CPS shirt, only to discover he had been making a pipe bomb.

Gay German MP 'violently arrested' at Istanbul demo
Volker Beck and Terry Reintken in Istanbul. Photo: DPA

One of the most prominent members of Germany's Green party has been arrested in Turkey after attending a banned demo at the end of Gay Pride Week.

Man Utd target blasts Germany to win over Slovakia
Julian Draxler (l) celebrates with Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller. Photo: DPA

Germany coach Joachim Löw appears to have found the right formula to get his attack firing at Euro 2016 after Julian Draxler's outstanding contribution in Sunday's 3-0 win over Slovakia.

Germany says 'won't let anyone take Europe from us'
Steinmeier called the European Union “a successful project of peace and stability”. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that the EU would weather the shock of the British vote to leave the union as he convened crisis talks.

Brexit vote
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
A sign in Berlin's tech giant and startup-building company Rocket Internet. Photo: DPA.

London is currently thought of as the main hub for startups in Europe, but that will all turn around when the UK leaves the EU, tech industry experts say.

Brexit vote - Analysis
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
British Leave campaigners celebrate Brexit result. Photo: DPA

Britain leaving the EU means trouble ahead for Germany - and its hardest task will be convincing the Brits to drop a self-defeating ideology, a leading foreign policy expert told The Local.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
7,843
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd