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Executed Swiss Student Honored for Hitler Assassination Attempt

Switzerland's president expressed regret Friday that his country failed to use diplomatic channels to stop the Nazis from executing a Swiss theology student who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler 70 years ago.

Student Maurice Bavaud, 25, who was from the western Swiss town of Neuchatel, was executed in Berlin's notorious Ploetzensee prison after failing in his attempt to shoot Hitler at a Nazi parade in Munich on Nov. 9, 1938.

By coincidence, Bavaud made his attempt just hours before Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazis destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses across Germany and Austria.

"He seems to have anticipated the doom that Hitler would bring to the whole world," President Pascal Couchepin said in a statement posted on his official Web site. "For this he deserves our remembrance and recognition."

Bavaud, who regarded the Nazi leader as a danger to Switzerland, Christianity and all of humanity, was arrested several days after his failed assassination attempt and tortured into confessing his plans to the Gestapo, the secret police.

Switzerland, which followed a policy of neutrality toward Germany before and during World War II, failed to intervene on Bavaud's behalf, and he was guillotined in May 1941.

Bavaud's story is little known outside Switzerland, unlike the so-called Stauffenberg plot in which a group of German officers tried to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, almost six years after Bavaud's failed attempt. That plot is the basis for an upcoming Tom Cruise film, "Valkyrie," in which the American actor plays the plot leader.