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UBS changes ad campaign after Le Corbusier controversy

Swiss bank UBS has decided to withdraw part of an advertising campaign based on Le Corbusier, a spokesman said on Wednesday, after fresh controversy over antisemitic comments by the historic Swiss architect.

The image of Le Corbusier, who died in 1965, was among those of Swiss pioneers who were highlighted in the campaign to spruce up the bank’s image and bolster public confidence after its woes during the global financial crisis.

“Our advertising is meant to communicate a message to our clients and we want to avoid that this message should be weakened by a controversy over Le Corbusier,” a spokeswoman for the country’s biggest bank said.

“For this reason we will no longer use the images of Le Corbusier in our advertising campaign,” she said in a statement.

Le Corbusier’s image has been used on some Swiss banknotes since 2007 and his pioneering work as an urban architect in the 1920s to 1950s has won international acclaim.

However, Swiss media have in recent days highlighted some of his comments and writings referring to Jews and alleged admiration for Adolf Hitler in the pre-war period.

“Le Corbusier was a radical theorist … and virulently antisemitic,” the Sonntagzeitung newspaper quoted architectural historian Pierre Frey as saying.

Art historian Stanislaus von Moss told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that researchers had found “unequivocal” antisemitic comments.

The latest has added resonance since UBS was also one of the Swiss banks at the heart of a scandal in the 1990s over hoarded accounts of Holocaust victims.

In 1998, UBS set up a 1.2-billion-dollar compensation fund with Credit Suisse for Holocaust survivors.