The Swiss and the Nazis by Stephen P. Halbrook

Take a look at an atlas of Europe during the Second World War, and one anomaly stands out – Switzerland. From the German Anschluss with Austria in 1938 until Hitlers final downfall in 1945, the Swiss stood virtually surrounded. They were, in fact, the only country bordering the Third Reich to escape invasion. How did this happen? Stephen Halbrook has used original Swiss Documents, interviews and a wide breadth of research to attempt to answer why Switzerland escaped the Nazi onslaught.

Politically Switzerland was in a difficult dilemma. Bordering Germany, she could not afford to provoke her more powerful neighbour. Ethnically also, Switzerland is a loose confederation of different roots, and Swiss people speak French, German and Italian – a complex mix indeed in 1940. Economically, the Swiss depended on trade with Germany to survive. Intriguingly, the Oerlikon weapons company managed to trade with both Germany and the Allies at the same time.

In terms of public opinion, it seems that the hearts of most Swiss – politicians, generals and public – were tacitly with the allies. None the less, the Swiss leadership cannily realised that if they showed too much support for the Allies the Wehrmacht would roll across the border like a shot. Yet the Swiss media were allowed considerable latitude in lampooning and satirising the Nazis, something that the Germans frequently complained about, but to no avail. Crucially, the Swiss media also criticised communism as strongly. The constant being being that the Swiss seemed to oppose totalitarianism in all its forms.

Contrary to the popular perception that Switzerland is a peaceful, eternally neutral country, the Swiss have long had a martial heritage. The Swiss confederation of cantons was in fact founded by war, as the Swiss people sought to defend their right to neutrality. Swiss soldiers became highly sought after in the middle ages as mercenaries. The Vatican’s Swiss Guard are a prime example of this.

As war approached in 1939, from a young age virtually every young Swiss man had spent years practicing rifle shooting, and most owned weapons. Most had also spent time serving with the part-time army. Not for nothing was the Wehrmacht wary of the fighting potential of the Swiss – one report feared ‘a sniper behind every tree’. On several occasions Hitler ordered an invasion to be planned, but on each occasion the planning staffs concluded that the invasion would be far too costly for the gains that would be achieved.

Geographically Switzerland was also in a strong position. Much of the country is composed of the Alps, providing an ideal location for a ‘national redoubt’, where the German tanks, aircraft and paratroops would have been next to useless. A German marching song of the time referred to Switzerland as a’porcupine’. A more accurate description might have been that of a hedgehog.

Compare the Swiss experience with that of another country that was initially neutral. Holland stood in the way of the German invasion of France and Belgium, and also prevented control of the North Sea coast. The border with Germany was flat and wide open, and the Dutch armed forces were minimal, poorly equipped and lacked a martial culture such as in Switzerland.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and found it very interesting. Perhaps I might have liked to have read a little about the allied escape lines that ran through the country, with Prisoners feeling captivity to Switzerland and then being fed on home.

The Swiss and the Nazis is published by Casemate

About these ads

31 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, Uncategorized, World War Two

31 responses to “The Swiss and the Nazis by Stephen P. Halbrook

  1. John Erickson

    Switzerland has an interesting companion in its’ WW2 neutrality – Sweden. And for a couple of the same reasons. First, Sweden did TRY to play true neutral, although their pro-Allied lean was more noticeable than Switzerland’s. Second and third were the terrain and martial heritage. Both of these, just as strongly as the Swiss’, kept the Germans out. And remember, for all the hoopla about German invincibility, they were notoriously weak in mountain gear. Most of their weaponry was either borrowed from civilian gear, regular Army gear, or cobbled together items dating back to early WW1. They WERE well trained and VERY able fighters, but there was no support or enthusiasm for the Gebirgjaeger in the ranks of the German High Command. A lucky thing for both the neutrals, and later, the Allies as well! I would love to see a book about the Scandinavian countries, contrasting Norway’s occupation by Germany, Sweden’s neutrality, and Finland’s swing from pro-Nazi anti-Soviet to occupied Soviet territory. Then again, what do you expect from a guy with the surname “Erickson”? ;)

  2. x

    The Dutch don’t have a martial heritage? Really? ;)

    Up the coast a bit from Portsmouth around the corner is a little place called Chatham……….

    It is now one all in the X vs JD game of forget important chunks of military history.

    • James Daly

      I know what you mean X, the Dutch have got a great seafaring heritage – Camper Down, Beachy Head, etc. But when I think of the words ‘Dutch Army’, I’m left with a bit of a void up top…

    • John Erickson

      (Blink, blink) But, like, how can that be important? I mean, that stuff happened, like, 110 years before REAL history started, fer sure. You Europeans are, like, WAY too hung up on old stuff. Besides, we TOTALLY saved all y’alls butts in 2 world wars! :p
      Thanks for the heads-up on that, X. That’s not a really heavily covered piece of European history over here. (Like ANY of European history is covered over here!)

      • x

        You must never fall for the American History Myth.

        There was a US of A along time before there was a Germany or an Italy. The US has had the same system of government while France is on political system number whatever. As is Spain. Greece was still a part of Turkey in 1776 etc. etc. and so on. And before Independence your history is our history.

      • John Erickson

        (Gasp!) Blasphemy! The only British over here prior to 1776 were the evil oppressors of our great American forefathers! How DARE you suggest Britain and America have ANYTHING in common? We don’t even speak the same language!:D
        France ain’t so bad with governments. Don’t you know the Internet sensation known as Chat Roulette was inspired by post-WW2 Italian governments? And with all due respect to your learned-ness, I don’t think Washington or Adams were supported by PACs that drop millions of dollars to get their support. (OK, we’ll call it the same government, just with VASTLY improved cash flow.) And don’t worry, I learned to avoid the American History Myth (“If it ain’t American History, it’s a Myth!”) decades ago. Made a LOT of History teachers mad (and then WILDLY uncomfortable) when I’d refute Myth-history (like WW2 started 07-Dec-41). The odd part, was no matter how peeved the teacher was, I never got less than an A – almost as if they didn’t want to push the issue (unlike my 10th grade Social Studies teacher, who just let ME teach the WW2 section!). Lotsa fun!

  3. x

    During the Revolution a party of Red Coats were searching a village. They came to one house, knocked on the door, and the owner refused to let them in,

    “An Englishman’s home is his castle,” floated the reply from behind the door.

    The Revolution was a Civil War. In 1775 there was no difference between Scotsmen, Irishmen, Englishmen, or Americans they were all British.

    Would you feel happier if I came over and burned something down?

    • James Daly

      ‘Would you feel happier if I came over and burned something down?’

      Careful, you’ll have Mel Gibson to answer to…

    • John Erickson

      Oh sure. And I suppose the next thing you’ll tell me is you Brits trashed DC in 1812. (Oh, wait, um…) No, wait. OK, the next thing you’re gonna tell me is your precious little Monty held all the GOOD German units outside Caen, and made the Normandy breakout possible! (Oops.. dang..) Oh, foo on you! :P
      Seriously, try telling Americans the “Revolutionary War” was actually a Civil War. Jeez, you’d think you just insulted their mother or something! And then there is the much-celebrated American victory over the British at New Orleans in 1814 – never, EVER mention the minor detail that the war had been over for 2 years! And of course, the US Army carried you pathetic Brits all the way across Europe in 1944! (And now you know why Social Studies teachers in high school learned to dread having me in their class!)
      And if anybody’s gonna burn down anything, it’s me. Remember, I’m the one who’s an honourary Coldstream Guardsman, so it would be my duty. ;) (The idea I might rid America of some of its’ hated and hateful politicians is just frosting on the cake!) :D

    • John Erickson

      But this is just more of your British propaganda! Why should a good, patriotic American pay attention to the lunatic ramblings of a Limey?!? :p
      Okay, X, I give up. You’re giving me a headache trying to think like an American! ;) I’ve spent too many years learning REAL facts to try to go back to that pseudo-historic nonsense! (Dude, I had a couple HUNDRED different American re-enacting groups to join. Why the heck do you think I did German, British, Canadian, and Polish? I like my history WITHOUT an over-painting of American propaganda!) :D

  4. As numerous of you know, the Apple App Shop has been a huge achievement.
    Over 1 billion applications have been downloaded from it and significant sport businesses are creating games specifically
    for Apple gadgets. Normal people like you and me can also post programs to the Application
    Shop, some of them are great applications that everybody enjoys,
    but other people are so poor that it’s not even humorous, and
    that’s what we are going to be talking about today. The 7 apps that you
    ought to never get from the Application Store.

    You can also get an Apps pack, which contains all the important and worthwhile
    applications for the iPhone and Apple iphone 3G.
    From instant messaging apps to file managers, Bluetooth transfer apps, turn
    your iPhones digital camera into a camcorder and much more.

    When it came down to looking for applications that make a woman pleased, (a mammoth task
    to start with) all that I kept coming across dealt with infant-treatment or being pregnant,
    styling tips, designer garbs, French cooking, and of course a lengthy checklist of apps which provided to help me thin
    down. But the fact that I am a woman produced me quit right there
    before assuming that this is all there is to being a lady, that our globe revolves around infants, grooming and cooking.
    Feminist rantings apart, there are sure to be a great deal
    of issues that interest you as a individual, and not necessarily
    as a lady. Which is the reason why I’ve taken the liberty
    to add a category of applications that I think will delight
    you, simply because they sure did make me feel nice.

    Stylish Girl is a true buddy to each woman who desires to be a natty dresser
    and that consists of practically every woman on the planet.
    With this application, you get to co-ordinate your outfits, mix
    and match in a jiffy, and even organize the contents of
    your travel bag if you’re planning a journey. The Style District segment enables you to store for clothes and
    add-ons, and there are several fascinating articles by like-minded fashion followers to study for fun.

    It sports a new chip: the A6X chip. It is two times as quick
    as the A5X chip, with double the graphics overall performance.
    They are also including a new generation of picture signal processor for facial
    recognition and image stabilization.

    Those seeking to jailbreak their gadgets require to make sure
    they are on iOS five..one initial. Common of any jailbreak, customers are warned NOT to improve their devices if Apple releases a new iOS edition, till an “all-distinct” is offered from the hacking
    teams indicating that both Absinthe A5 continues to function on the new version, or that a
    new jailbreak was produced.

    WinX DVD Ripper for Mac is the very best answer to convert
    DVD to H.264 MP4 for iPad on Mac. This DVD ripper or converter
    for Mac is devoted by Digiarty Software and gains great popularity amongst Mac users.
    And the most important stage is it can convert DVD film to the iPad supported video clip formats,
    like H.264 MP4 and MOV, change DVD audio to iPad supported music structure, change DVD single frame to iPad supported picture file.
    That is where “Best” arrives from.

    The relaxation of the procedure is carried out immediately by Redsn0w and requires no user input.
    Once Redsn0w finishes this procedure, your telephone will be jailbroken and ought
    to restart immediately. Verify under common settings and you will discover you are on iOS 4..2
    and jailbroken!

    On the web site of the merchants who promote these Coach Apple iphone 4 Instances,
    you can look at the total specs of every case accessible.
    You can purchase the goods immediately by merely adding them to your cart.
    The retailers also provide considerable warranty periods on each
    product. Moreover, if you reside inside a specific length
    of any of their shops, home delivery can be free for you.

  5. Although breaking can make your iphone much more helpful, it can also cause glitches.
    Now, if you have the Iphone 5 in hand, just wave it in front of
    a device that acknowledges NFC.

  6. X’ reveals his placement at specific times during the game and the police presents
    a minimal amount of moves each. These activities are limited but extremely
    amusing. You should buy this on-line, running between $19.99 – $9.99.

  7. There have only been 2 champions for Ninja Warrior ACTUALLY!
    The FB investigates after everyone gets a view of the
    longer term and on the planet briefly loses consciousness.
    Any TV show regarding Diddy (also referred to as P.

  8. Right here’s describing about both to save you from those annoying phone calls.
    If want pace, although, the Evo 4G beats the Iphone fingers down.
    Jabra is one of the top producers of Bluetooth headsets.

  9. After you set your personal motions you can quickly
    find and open any documents and apps. Many activities are manufactured daily and tried by app testers everywhere.

  10. Several Raleigh Facebook people help these
    Facebook changes. By opening itself for the higher Net, AOL unveiled itself as something of the wading
    pool. While in the search bar type in, “PSR” and press enter.

  11. 1) Mail app crashes after restoring backup from
    iTunes. It gives status info about options and tools. After this, re-launch
    the software from the home screen and it will work freshly.

  12. You require to be in a position to send it back and get your money back without any
    hassles. Make sure you only purchase from secure
    websites. It is made with the unique IPS technologies, so it supports multi-touching.

  13. But System restore has a lot of disadvantages. Raleigh Facebook
    people joined the remarks given just below the Facebook
    notice of change. You’ll undoubtedly find that it might scan and repair what other tools miss.

  14. continuously i used to read smaller posts which as well clear their motive, and
    that is also happening with this paragraph which I am
    reading now.

  15. Hi this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting to
    know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually
    code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding
    expertise so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  16. After the launch of Sony PS3 the hackers got down to business to split into it.
    Keep in mind You can’t unlock your device until it is
    not jailbreak. The restore process can consider a whilst, so don’t sweat it.

  17. You can have them conveniently shipped to your house or your company.

    Its because tethered jailbreaks are frustrating. Click on the title of the firmware to confirm it – a blue
    arrow will appear next to it.

  18. May I simply just say what a comfort to find someone that
    genuinely knows what they’re discussing over the internet.
    You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    A lot more people must check this out and understand this side of the
    story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you surely
    have the gift.

  19. Consider this….you are seeking for hats for your cousin for Christmas and
    you need to do a search on google for hats. For several years now, I’ve worked
    with among the best SEO professionals available.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s