Grüningers Fall (1997)


Grüningers Fall is a Swiss documentary film that was produced in 1997 for the Swiss television SRF.

The film focuses on the events of late summer, 1938, when Paul Grüninger saved the lives of up to 3,600 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria by enabling them to migrate ‘illegally’ to Switzerland by pre-dating their visas.


The documentary focuses on the fates of Jewish refugees who ‘illegally’ migrated to Switzerland before World War II.

In August 1938, Switzerland closed its borders to Jewish refugees that tried to flee the Nazi regime. Every migration of Jewish people by crossing the green border to Switzerland was declared by the Swiss government to be illegal, and refugees had to be sent back to Germany or Austria.

Furthermore, hundreds of people without a valid visa tried to cross the green border to be secure in Switzerland from the Holocaust, most of them by crossing the border to the Canton of St. Gallen.

This “illegal migration” and the background of these border crossings, its support by officials and citizens in Switzerland, came to the attention of the Swiss immigration police.

The events of August 1938 and thereafter and the characters base on facts respectively on historical personalities. Paul Grüninger was degraded, dismissed from the police service and sentenced to a fine and loss of pension.

Paul Grüninger died in 1972, nearly forgotten in Switzerland and without rehabilitation by the Swiss authorities – in 1971, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial foundation in Israel honoured Grüninger as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

In 1995 the district court of St. Gallen revoked the judgment against Paul Grünginger, and in 1998 the government of the Canton of St. Gallen paid compensation to his descendants.

The Rhine bridge between Diepoldsau (Switzerland) and Hohenems in Austria, which was one of the locations in the film, was named after Paul Grüninger in the summer of 2012.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Richard Dindo.
  • Writers: Richard Dindo and Stefan Keller (book).
  • Music: Arvo Part.
  • Cinematography: Pio Corradi and Rainer Trinkler.
  • Editors: Richard Dindo, Georg Janett, and Rainer Trinkler.
  • Distributor: Lea Produktion GmbH.
  • Release Date: 1997.
  • Running Time: 100 minutes.
  • Country: Switzerland.
  • Language: German and Swiss German.

YouTube Link

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