Switzerland’s Neutrality in World War Two – Shame or Merit?

Research paper by Juerg Studer 4101448 HIST510 K001 Instructor: Prof. Gary A. Trogdon / Dr. Barbara Kaplan


Introduction During the 1990s, intense international discussions arose about the role of Swiss banks during World War Two. This provoked a profound discussion about the role of Switzerland as a nation, its refugee policy, and its economical relations with Germany during World War Two. As a result, the Federal Council of Switzerland mandated a group of historians to start investigations about “the role of Switzerland, particularly that of the Swiss financial center, as well as on the manner in which Switzerland dealt with this period of its history.”1 An independent group of nine historical experts (five from Switzerland, four from Great Britain, Israel, Poland, and the USA) wrote a monumental 25-volume study, later known as “Bergier Report” (named after the president of the group of historical experts).

Subsequent to its

appearance in 2002, the “Bergier Report” raised a lot of discussions in Switzerland. Main point of critique was its one-sidedness. In contrast to earlier reports, the “Bergier Report” mainly treated economical and financial aspects and did neither highlight subjects such as the political relations, the atmosphere among the people, nor the military aspect. The “Bergier Report” might be very voluminous but other reports treat the subject in a more holistic manner. This paper shall take the discussions and the criticism about the “Bergier Report” as a reason to investigate why Switzerland remained neutral in World War Two and how it did defend its neutrality. Furthermore, it shall determine fields of problems and seek for possible profits for Switzerland resulting from its neutral status. The scope is to answer the question whether Swiss neutrality in World War Two was rather a shame or a merit.


The Swiss Federal Council, Historical and Legal Investigation into the Fate of Assets which Reached Switzerland as a Result of the National-Socialist Regime: Appointment of the Independent Commission of Experts (Bern: 1996). http://www.uek.ch/en/index.htm (accessed November 1, 2010). Original quote: „die Rolle der Schweiz, insbesondere des Schweizer Finanzplatzes untersucht werden, sowie der Umgang der Schweiz mit diesem Abschnitt ihrer Geschichte.“ 2 For an overview about the Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War and the “Bergier Report” see: http://www.uek.ch/en/index.htm (accessed November 1, 2010).


4 Ibid. such centralization.4 No canton was ready to trade parts of its sovereignty against a centralized foreign policy. and the Swiss population. Brother Klaus is said to have urged the members of the Swiss Confederation not to “burden themselves with foreign problems” and “not to ally with foreign authorities”.. 5 Ibid. differences between the rural cantons and the urban cantons brought the Swiss Confederation to the brink of a civil war. 21.3 However. 3 .php?PHPSESSID=a51c211ac240ae08d384e5bcb81b5927 (accessed November 8. „Stanser Verkommnis“ in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz.ch/textes/d/D9805. the only way to combine the efforts would have been a centralization of the foreign policy of the confederation. This confederate body of thoughts together with the military defeats on the Italian battlefields was the matrix for a growing sense of neutrality at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. Such independent efforts were only partially successful and demonstrated that a segmented approach could not lead to the desired result. http://www. Hence. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I (Basel: Verlag Helbing und Lichtenhahn. which constituted the primary principle of the Swiss form of government so far. 1975). one has to investigate how Swiss neutrality developed and what it implies for the Swiss nation. 6 Ernst Walder.Why did Switzerland remain neutral in World War Two? To answer the above question. ultimately leading to a nation state. From 1291 to 1848 Switzerland was not so much a nation state but rather a loose confederation of sovereign cantons. hence 3 Edgar Bonjour. 2010).6 With the mediation of the hermit Brother Klaus the two divided parties settled their dispute in 1481. the cantons tried to expand their territory and their sphere of influence more or less autonomously. In one of its admonishing speeches. 6th ed. This confederation did not have a consolidated foreign policy. From the 14th to the 16th century.5 From 1477 – 81.hls-dhsdss. would have meant to limit the sovereignty of the single cantons and to break with the confederation. 22. the Swiss government.

4 . 385. 2010). Thus through this declaration of a limited neutrality. The original text of the citation is as follows: „Were och.14 7 8 Bonjour. (Munich. The original text of the citation is as follows: “un Estat libre et souverain”. Der Schwabenkrieg 1499. when the Swedish King Gustav Adolph sent a demand note to ally with Sweden in 1631.13 The exact term ‘neutrality’ was first mentioned in 1536 in the canton of Zurich. Oldenbourg Verllag GmbH. Peter Scheck. In the treaty of an alliance between the cantons of Berne and Solothurn dating of 1399 it was written that the two cantons should “sit still should there be a war among others”. http://www. 1998). Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I.12 Nonetheless. the European great powers acknowledged the Swiss Confederation as “a free and sovereign state”.htm (accessed November 8. 24.7 With the peace after the Swabian War in 1499.10 With the treaties of the Westphalian Peace.ch/SchaffhausenGeschichte/Schwabenkrieg1499. as the assembly of the delegates of all the cantons was named. to declare the unlimited neutrality of the Swiss Confederation in this conflict. 20. 11 Peter Stadler. especially during the Thirty Years’ War. das inwendig dem zile und jaren als unser fründschaft weren sol. 9 Bonjour. stille sitzen…“. the Swiss Confederation laid the ground for a soon declared unlimited neutrality. 22. 19. if there were not already existing obligations. 10 Ibid. „Der Westfälische Friede und die Eidgenossenschaft“ in Historische Zeitschrift – Beihefte. 27. 13 Ibid. denne sol ich der vorgeschriben margraf oder min erben mit allen den unseren und den wir ze gebieten oder ze wissen haben. 14 Ibid. one can find earlier documents where individual members of the Swiss Confederation already declared their neutrality.8 There were several attempts to draw the Swiss Confederation into an alliance. 12 Bonjour. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I.. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I.11 However.stadtarchiv-schaffhausen.. die obgenannten von Berne und von Solottern dehein krieg ankeme. it was the war between France and Germany in 1674 that led the “Tagsatzung”.to remain neutral. mit weme das were. the victorious Swiss Confederation de jure remained part of the Holy Roman Empire but de facto the Empire acknowledged the right of Swiss self-determination.9 This request was denied and the delegates of the cantons decided to deny all warring parties the transit.

Switzerland did not emerge as a nation state. it was seen as an important pillar of the European equilibrium. 215. besides formulating territorial claims.17 Additionally. „Helvetische Revolution“ in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. the less cantons of the Swiss Confederation could agree about a common denominator in foreign policy.php (accessed November 8. During the peace negotiations after Napoleon’s defeat in Vienna and Paris.The Swiss were known as fierce soldiers and therefore. the European nations mostly welcomed the neutrality of the Swiss Confederation.16 The more Napoleon was successful. Some cantons allowed Spain and England to muster mercenaries much to the disapproval of France. 137. As a result. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I. and Russia. but again as a confederation of cantons.ch/textes/d/D17217-1-2. as well as formal and authentic reconnaissance of its everlasting neutrality. such as the French speaking Vaud. http://www.19 It guaranteed territorial integrity within the new boundaries. 2010). the Helvetian Republic.15 The rise of Napoleon and his wars of conquest brought danger to that equilibrium of forces in Europe and the Swiss Confederation renewed its declaration of neutrality. 16 Bonjour. 5 . Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I. The Swiss envoy drafted a declaration of neutrality which was signed by the five great powers Austria. made neutrality its prime subject of negotiation.18 Napoleons armies entered the Swiss territory. 19 Bonjour. France. Prussia. Great Britain. each of them with an extensive amount of sovereignty. the fragmented forces of the Swiss Confederation could not inhibit the defeat and became the Helvetian Republic by the grace of Napoleon. 20 Ibid.hls-dhsdss. especially in the subordinate areas. 18 Andreas Fankhauser. „Europäisches Gleichgewicht und Schweizerische Neutralität“ in Basler Universitätsreden – 20. The French army for the time being explicitly recognized the Swiss neutrality because it could draw economical profit from it. the subordinate areas strived for independence and Vaud was seeking help and protection from France.. Heft (Basel: Verlag Helbing & Lichterhahn. 1946). the French revolution in 1789 had had its impact on the Swiss Confederation as well. 131. 15 Edgar Bonjour. 17 Ibid.20 After the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The original text of the declaration was “…reconnaissance formelle et authentique de la neutralité perpétuelle de la Suisse et … l’intégrité et l’inviolabilité de son territoire dans ses nouvelles limites…“. 21.

and Russia threatened to intervene in Switzerland.. Under constitutional law. though not part of Prussia as a nation. 18. Great Britain seemed to be the only signatory nation defending the Swiss neutrality. It put the diplomatic screws on King Wilhelm IV. 23 Bonjour. Only some fifty years after the Congress of Vienna. Zurich 1901).php (accessed November 12. should the declaration of 1815 become obsolete. 1815). Switzerland self confidently demonstrated its will to defend itself against any foreign intruder. 6th ed. during which the integrity of Switzerland was not disturbed but 90’000 French troops were interned in Switzerland. 339. Neuchâtel belonged to the King of Prussia.22 After having settled the dispute. 1980). Quellenbuch zur Schweizergeschichte (2nd ed. King of Prussia. catholic cantons. Switzerland confirmed its neutrality vis-à21 Bundesbehörden (Federal Authorities of Switzerland). Swiss neutrality was challenged in World War One. the declaration signed by the great powers of Europe was subject to a first real test. 6 . 2010).26 The last time before World War Two. Kantonen der Schweiz (Zurich. http://hls-dhs-dss. 24 Ibid. and Austria the conflict was settled. 22 René Roca. the King of Prussia waived his rights on Neuchâtel.25 Further tests for the Swiss neutrality arose with the Franco – Prussian War. When the Great War broke out. France.. which became part of Switzerland. in „Sonderbund“ in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. in 1848 the first constitution of Switzerland was drafted in only a couple of weeks. 26 Edgar Bonjour. Prussia mobilized its army and prepared for war with Switzerland. August 7. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band I.23 In 1857. 25 Ibid.ch/textes/d/D17241-12. a short civil war broke out in Switzerland. with support of France. following the secession of seven conservative. Bundesvertrag zwischen den XXII. 656-658. The acceptance of the princedom of Neuchâtel as a member of Switzerland in 1848 caused the anger of Wilhelm IV. published in Wilhelm Oechsli. Shortly afterwards. 357. Austria. Russia. Prussia.21 In 1847.All aspects concerning the confederation as such were written down in a “federal treaty” containing only fifteen articles. changing the confederation into a nation state.24 Finally. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band II (Basel: Verlag Helbing und Lichtenhahn. 354.

. What were the options for Switzerland when World War Two broke out? When Hitler came to power in Germany. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band III (Basel: Verlag Helbing und Lichtenhahn. The Swiss government realized that Hitler’s word did not mean a lot and renewed its declaration that the independence and neutrality of Switzerland was indispensable for the equilibrium in Europe. repeatedly acknowledged and respected such a declaration of neutrality. the neighboring states acknowledged that declaration and assured Switzerland that they would strictly adhere to the Swiss neutrality. Therefore. during some 125 years before World War Two all the great powers in Europe signed. 50. the criticism the Swiss press expressed towards 27 28 Ibid.27 Subsequently. Hitler brought the Saarland back to the German Reich and furthermore explicitly expressed his vision of a pan-German nation including the whole German speaking population in Europe. Ibid. 134. but he also did it in regard to Austria. 5th ed. integrity and neutrality. no one imagined that six years later the world would be on fire.. The freedom of press. 1976). 238. In a 1935 speech Hitler seemed to grant this independence and integrity to Switzerland. 29 Edgar Bonjour. 30 Ibid. the Swiss press did not. written in the Swiss constitution. 133.28 The following discussions about Swiss neutrality have to be seen in the light of a more that 500 years practiced and since almost 400 years publicly declared will to remain a neutral state apart of changing alliances in Europe. This started to frighten the Swiss government which requested an unmistakable declaration from Germany that it would respect the Swiss independence.29 The Austrian decision in 1938 to avoid a military confrontation with the Nazis and to join the Third Reich provoked deep consternation in Switzerland.. Furthermore. In 1935. was (and still is) seen as a fundamental right of a democracy. 7 .vis the signature nations of the 1815 declaration.30 While the Swiss government clearly expressed its political neutrality.

Italy. Again. The Germans forbade a great number of Swiss newspapers and demanded not only political neutrality but also “neutrality of attitude”. Therefore. 33 Ibid. 319.34 However. Switzerland basically had three options.Nazi Germany already in 1933 but also in the following years enraged the Nazis. Denmark. Holland. At the eve of World War Two. This situation developed to a veritable press war. Holland.. Great Britain.32 When France and Great Britain offered a guarantee for the Swiss neutrality in 1939. 34 Ibid. frightened by the events. in early 1940. France and Great Britain gave way for the absorption of the Sudetenland by the Third Reich. 411-420.31 Next step on Hitler’s roadmap was to generate living space in the east and he threatened to invade Czechoslovakia.. in the late 30s Switzerland was feverishly trying to secure the economical lines of communication by negotiations with Germany. and hope that neutrality and the will to defend itself was dissuasive and respected by all warring parties.33 Economically. Switzerland found itself in a difficult situation. most of those agreements already became obsolete due to the German occupation of France. Germany and Italy protested and requested an official Swiss disapproval of the Anglo-French offer. and Norway. they argued. With no access to a seaport and no raw materials it was depending entirely on its neighbors to keep the flow of imports and exports unobstructed. 127-135. France. It could remain neutral.. Belgium. Lacking to protest against the offer was equivalent with accepting it. Denmark. Belgium. 8 .. The two remaining options were either to ally with the Axis powers or team up with the Allies. 355. Ibid. express its will to defend itself by military means. If one followed 31 32 Ibid. and Norway. In Munich. the Swiss government repeated its declaration of neutrality but it was deeply affected that the great powers in Europe partitioned a small nation without even inviting it to the conference.

37 Ibid. The French defeat left Switzerland entirely surrounded by the Axis powers or areas occupied by the Nazis. Switzerland in fact had only one option: armed neutrality. The day before the start of World War Two. In this situation.the history of the past 500 years. General Guisan ordered all his high ranking officers to the “Rütli”. 1976). 153. Switzerland anxiously observed that the Nazis did not bother about neutrality when they invaded Belgium and Holland. 22.”36 At the beginning of World War Two it did not seem as if Swiss neutrality was to be in danger... the war took part far away to the east. 4th ed. Switzerland mobilized parts of its army. as well as to profit from the mountainous landscape 35 Edgar Bonjour. With this “Réduit Strategy” Guisan wanted to concentrate the main forces in the heavily fortified center of Switzerland in order to be able to defend and control the main North-South-axes. He wanted to keep some of its forces at the border but at the same time move the bulk of the armed forces to the center of Switzerland and heavily fortify the so-called “Réduit” as this National Redoubt was called. The rapid victory of German troops on the Western Front caused downheartedness and doubts about the sense of military self-defense. the Swiss government declared again its neutrality. using almost the same wording as in 1914. This picture dramatically changed with the German offensive in the west. the Supreme Commander of the Swiss Armed Forces.37 He conjured his officers to defend their country and presented his strategy. 9 . 36 Ibid. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band IV (Basel: Verlag Helbing und Lichtenhahn. 53. The armed forces and its defense strategy When at the end of August 1939 war was imminent. This is exactly what the Swiss government chose.35 The same day the whole Swiss army was mobilized in order to preserve “the independence and integrity of the Swiss territory. the place where according to the legend in 1291Switzerland was founded.

the “Fliegertruppen” as the Swiss Air Force then was called.40 At the very beginning of 1940. They demanded the cessation of all those actions which meant in fact that Switzerland should stop to defend its airspace.42 The early days in June 1940 brought an intensification of air combats over the Jura Mountains in north western Switzerland. The German Luftwaffe respected Herbert Reginbogin. 17. the lack of qualified pilots was a supplementary handicap. 41 Ibid. Duell der Flieger und Diplomaten (Frauenfeld: Verlag Huber . 2009) 52-53.41 Earlier. the Swiss Armed Forces. (Biel: Institut Libertas. In addition. Swiss fighters for the first time fired on German intruders and downed one aircraft. Faces of Neutrality (Berlin: LIT Verlag. The conflict was quietly settled in a manner that both nations did not lose their face. Switzerland could threaten the two main railway lines between Germany and Italy and its dissuasive impact can be found in numerous German documents. On May 10. Intense diplomatic activities arose between Switzerland and the Third Reich. When war broke out. 40 Ernst Wetter. 42 Ibid. 39 38 10 . 66-67.unsuitable for the German “Blitzkrieg”.. Switzerland managed to buy an additional number of French D-3800 and Me-109 fighters. it made a crash-landing just outside the eastern border. Das Reduit – Mythen und Fakten.1987) 15. especially the mechanized formations and the air force were not ready for combat against a well equipped and trained opponent such as the German Wehrmacht. had a mere 40 modern Messerschmitt Me-109 aircraft and some 180 obsolete aircraft of various types. Roberto Bernhard. the chief of intelligence had already warned that the German Luftwaffe would enter Swiss airspace in case of war at the Western Front. The Nazis protested against the behavior of the Swiss Air Force and claimed that those had attacked German aircraft in French air space.39 Air Combat over Switzerland When World War Two was imminent. 2007) 41. 1940.38 With this strategy. Several dozens of German light bombers and fighters entered Swiss airspace and were attacked by Swiss fighters..

The Italian general staff also drafted an attack plan on Switzerland based on an attack from the south with 15 divisions.the Swiss airspace and the Swiss Air Force was imposed extensive limitations by their own government. All the saboteurs were arrested.46 The plan was adapted in fall 1940 and was subsequently based on 18-21 German divisions. 13.. The attack plan with the name “Tannenbaum”.44 This ignominy infuriated the commander of the German Luftwaffe so much that he sent saboteurs to destroy the fighters on Swiss airbases. 15. 121. was designed for a surprise attack with nine divisions from the north and the west and additional Italian forces from the south. 45 Ibid.45 Attack Plans of the Axis The Swiss efforts to settle the clash with the Third Reich quickly and silently was based on the fear that it might initiate a full military attack on Switzerland. the danger was not permanently banned. 2003). This fear was not without cause as later found documents proved. Mussolini attacked Greece by end of 1940 and when his advance stalled.. 150-151.. 11 . in Blautanne: Operationsziel Schweiz – eine Analyse (Frauenfeld: Huber & Co AG. the mission was a total failure. Therefore. Already two days after the victory against France. 128. During the time from 1941 to 1943. Luckily.. all attack plans against 43 44 Ibid. 47 Ibid. the attack on Switzerland was postponed because it would have hindered the operations on the Balkans and the attack on the Soviet Union. planned for June 1941.43 The final result of the air combats between the Swiss Fliegertruppen and the German Luftwaffe was a total loss of eleven German aircraft against only three Swiss fighters. 46 Jürg Stüssi – Lauterburg. Ibid. „Angriffe und Angriffspläne gegen die Schweiz von 1792 bis 2003“. Hitler’s focus shifted to the Balkans. the German supreme command ordered the realization of attack plans against Switzerland. German word for fir tree.47 However.

Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band VI (Basel: Verlag Helbing und Lichtenhahn. Edgar Bonjour. some soldiers dying in accidents while serving their country. 1980).49 The negotiations to secure the import of essential goods were tenacious. 12 . Furthermore. Fact is that there were concrete plans to attack Switzerland.48 What did Switzerland profit from its neutrality? Undisputedly. The German planners knew that their task was difficult and would bind a lot of forces. especially the Axis could benfit from an unoccupied Switzerland that preserved its integrity. there were other aspects where Switzerland profited from its neutral status.Switzerland were kept on the back burner. as the example of Austria showed. if one does not consider that a lot of workers served in the armed forces and that the raw materials as well as coal and oil were controlled by the warring nations. 16. Fact is also that any alliance would have resulted in a military attack and probably in occupation.. 207. There were and still are intense discussions in Switzerland whether it was its army and the will for self defense or because other nations. Its economy in general remained intact. the conquest of the heavily defended mountainous area was seen as extremely difficult and force intensive task and finally even after the conquest. A special treaty with France and Great Britain allowed Swiss enterprises to export goods to Germany. 2nd ed. and a few civil persons hit by stray bombs. An alliance with the Axis would have resulted in an attack by the Allies in 1944/45 and a subsequent occupation afterwards. A coalition with the Allies would most probably have ended in a German attack in 1940 and an occupation by the Nazis for the rest of the war. the main profit of neutrality for Switzerland was its territorial integrity and the fact that almost no one died by the war except the three pilots that were shot down. especially with the 48 49 Ibid. and the lines of communications often were interrupted. securing Switzerland would require considerable forces. First of all. and later on the attack plans concerning Switzerland dropped out of the German focus.

as the tide on the battlefield began to turn.. and forage. 54 Ibid. Germany increased its pressure on Switzerland.54 Watch parts were of high interest because they could also be used to fabricate timers. 324. following the Swiss negotiations with the Third Reich to keep the Swiss imports running. 251-268. 55 Ibid..50 It is self-explanatory that all the negotiation about imports to Switzerland were bound to conditions. besides the few other neutral countries such as Spain or Sweden. 52 Ibid. machinery tools. Ibid.. Switzerland tried to do business with the allies as well but after the fall of France.. the Axis dictated those conditions. After the victory against France.52 In 1943. 323.Third Reich. 229-250.53 Italy proofed to be a docile pupil of the Nazis and in return to free passage of goods to Switzerland from the port of Genoa demanded high credits. 13 . 213. 201-212.51 During the whole period from 1940 – 1944. A considerable amount of war essential goods that could not be exported from Switzerland to Great Britain through Germany found its way through smuggling routes transiting VichyFrance. Switzerland was entirely surrounded by territory controlled by the Axis and therefore.. the Germans put heavy economical pressure on Switzerland.. Great Britain remained the only nation not belonging to or being occupied by the Axis powers in Western Europe. In 1941 the Third Reich requested vast amounts of credits against coal and iron and in 1942 the Nazis demanded the stop of any exports to Great Britain. 53 Ibid. the grip started to loosen only in 1944. Great Britain aggravated the blockade and let only pass cereals and 50 51 Ibid. One of these was an unhindered flow of German coal transports through Switzerland to Italy. Great Britain’s interest in Swiss goods concentrated on essential products for its war production. The Nazis made it clear that “it would be the end of Switzerland if something should happen to the coaltransports” through the Swiss Alps.55 During 1941/42.

Hidden Contacts The neutral status of Switzerland fostered the opportunity for hidden contacts. However. 14 . One of the reasons why the Allies loosened the grip around Swiss import was probably the fact that Switzerland bound itself not to export ball bearings to Germany. Two different kinds of hidden contacts took place. Ibid. 13.58 56 57 Ibid. the Allies requested that Switzerland reduced the flow of merchandise through the north-south transit routes to Germany to a “token transport” and offered to facilitate the transit of import goods.animal feed to Switzerland. One of the most dangerous hidden contacts took place between the Swiss and the French general staff at the beginning of World War Two. Switzerland undoubtedly profited from the fact that it was not a warring party and therefore.57 Economically. 367. Negotiations were tough and did not produce concrete results until 1943. 2nd ed. the population had to endure shortages of coal and oil for heating.56 At the beginning of 1945. 58 Edgar Bonjour. not suffered damage from bombardments. 1971). It concerned a possible military cooperation between the two nations in case of a German attack on both countries and took place without the knowledge of the Swiss government. food rationing and loss of earnings to a similar magnitude as the warring factions in Europe... 355. on one side direct contacts between the Swiss and representatives of other nations and on the other hand contacts between the warring parties with the Swiss as mediators. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band V (Basel: Verlag Helbing und Lichtenhahn. Some documents about those talks were captured by the Germans and posed a real danger because the Germans had already presented papers giving “proof” of a breach of neutrality to justify their invasion in other neutral countries. the Swiss economy heavily suffered from the allied blockade and the German counter-blockade.

60 Another valuable aspect was that Schellenberg was known to let vanish compromising papers.64 The Swiss Colonel Martignoni drove to the US headquarters in Como to negotiate the capitulation 59 Christian Birchmeier. Schellenberg delivered some precious information to Masson. the Vichy-regime. The Swiss envoy in Vichy successfully mediated between the partisans. 34 60 Bonjour. 277. The two generals kept secret contacts throughout the war. When the French army pushed towards the Black Forrest. later chief of the German intelligence service. There is no evidence that it happened through Schellenberg. 2009).59 The chief of the Swiss military intelligence service.. 64 Vigilio Massaroti. Maréchal Pétain. but the compromising papers that proofed the hidden contacts between General Guisan and the General de Lattre de Tassigny somehow seemed to have disappeared.The drivers of those contacts were the Swiss General Guisan and the French General de Lattre de Tassigny.. the Allies pushed the Germans in Italy northwards towards Switzerland and some 400 heavily armed Germans threatened to enter Switzerland. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band V. General de Lattre de Tassigny made sure that the 18th SS Army was not able to evade to Switzerland. 334. Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität – Band V. 163. „18. 74-82. Mai 1945: «V + 10»“ in Schweizer Soldat Nr 03.61 There were numerous Swiss serving as mediators in order to prevent unnecessary bloodshed. 63 Ibid. tensions arose when French partisans threatened Vichy-France and the Germans moved in and arrested the former head of state of Vichy-France. 2010). After a hidden personal meeting in Switzerland. March 2010 (Biel: Verlagsgenossenschaft «Schweizer Soldat». 15 . 61 Ibid. Masson built up contacts to the German General Schellenberg.63 In April 1945. and the Germans to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. In 1944. 62 Bonjour. With the landing of General de Lattre de Tassigny in southern France in 1944 the contacts reintensified. Una Vita in Grigioverde (Locarno: Pedrazzini Edizioni. 84.62 The Swiss head of mission in Cologne in 1945 managed to mediate between the advancing US forces and the German defender resulting in the fact that the city was not completely destroyed and numerous lives were spared.

n. the Eizenstat report mentioned in its foreword several times that “the fact that they [the neutrals] pursued vigorous trade with the Third Reich had the clear effect of supporting and prolonging Nazi Germany’s capacity to wage war. National Socialism and the Second World War Final Report (Zurich: Pendo Verlag. and loans provided by Switzerland influenced the course of the war to a significant degree could not be substantiated. 66 Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War. This has less to do with a general «insignificance» of Swiss exports and financial centre services than with the enormous economic dimension of this war and the multifarious factors which determined the war economy and the unfolding of events on the front. the head of the British Foreign Office. 67 Stuart E.9. or at least no direct. the battle tactics of the military protagonists. 21. AK. Strategic bombardment. Anthony Eden.6. Already during the war. http://www. 2010) n. Did Swiss neutrality prolong World War Two? The above framed question was often heard during the discussions around the dormant fortunes stored in Swiss banks. and the propaganda war are all important factors on which Switzerland was unable to have any impact.org/assets/state/index. exports. Band 5 (Diary of the Staff of the Swiss 3rd Army Corps. Thus neither the arms supplies nor the financing of 65 Unknown.44 – 8. Switzerland.65 The mission was successful. 2002). communications systems.45.”66 In 1997.html (accessed November 15. U. 518.S.”67 The Independent Commission of Experts (ICE) Switzerland – Second World War found no proof backing these accusations.p. The theory which maintains that the services. argued that “[e]very franc’s worth of war material sent by Switzerland to Germany prolongs the war. relevant impact.ushmm. Tagebuch Stab 3. Eizenstat. the Germans surrendered to the US forces.terms for the Germans. 16 . and Allied Efforts To Recover and Restore Gold and Other Assets Stolen or Hidden by Germany During World War II. Vol 5). p.

E – 1. In 1938 only. 1996) 115. 265. which built thousands of trucks for the Third Reich. Switzerland. the Soviet Union was “supplying the Reich … with a vast volume of commodities in order to enable it to wage a prolonged war of attrition against the Western powers. Joachim Hoffmann „The Soviet Union up to the Eve of the German Attack” in Gemany and the Second World War – Vol IV The Attack on the Soviet Union. land mines and torpedo detonators. Marshal Badoglio with General Eisenhower about surrender took five weeks until a common denominator for the term “ultimate surrender” was agreed upon.F. prolonged the war. 1939-1945: A Strategical and Tactical History (New York: Da Capo Press edition. 518.strategic raw materials had any demonstrable effect on the duration of the war. National Socialism and the Second World War. 17 . there were also military decisions which prolonged the war. In the meantime. when after the battle of Arnhem Field Marshal Montgomery wanted to exploit the advantage and to drive into the Rhineland. 2007. San Francisco Chronicle.”73 Another chance to shorten the war was squandered in 1944. Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (New York: Oxford University Press.71 The direct contacts between GM and Opel were only severed after the German declaration of war against America in December 1941. wrecked Italy. Fuller. and wasted thousands of American and British lives. the Germans moved 13 divisions to Italy and thus “transformed the ‘soft underbelly’ into a crocodile’s back. Before 1941. 1993). 73 J. 72 Ibid. “Nazis rode to War on GM Wheels”. The Commission found no evidence pointing in this direction. it seems pretty absurd that a small nation like Switzerland should economically be able to support the Third Reich in order to prolong the war. In 1943.70 When World War Two broke out. The Second World War. ed. while the Allies already had landed on Sicily Mussolini was overthrown. 6000 Opel Blitz trucks were sold to the Wehrmacht.72 Besides the economical impact on the duration of World War Two. The negotiations of his successor. 70 Edwin Black.C. 68 Compared to the role the Soviet Union played. January 7. 68 69 Independent Commission of Experts. GM’s facilities started to build airplaneengines for the Luftwaffe's JU-88 bombers.”69 One could also put some of the blame on General Motors. 71 Ibid.

because it mainly devoted its attention to the repulsed refugees. 78 Ibid. 370. 77 Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War. Eisenhower decided to hold the push to the east until the logistic situation had stabilized. 93. (Old Saybrook: Konecky & Konecky. worth 600 Million Swiss Francs or a mere 0. 539. „Wer hat wann den Zweiten Weltkrieg verlängert? – Kritisches zur merkwürdigen These einer Kriegsverlängerung durch die Schweiz“ Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 18 . Ibid. The supply situation was certainly difficult. combating it was a key issue for the government. but not as critical as Eisenhower estimated.77 The ICE further observed that the Swiss decision makers. 368. trapped in the complex German-Swiss relation.05% of the total German cost of war. but appropriate translations could be Superalienation (Latin super over and alias other). or Hyperxenesis (Greek ibid). 76 Walter Hofer. 2001). should have prolonged World War Two. 1997. it is hardly understandable how Swiss deliveries of war material to the Third Reich. It is understandable that in the wake of the before mentioned accusation also the Swiss refugee policy towards Jews was named and shamed. which gives the 74 75 Chester Wilmot. (Zürich: Chronos Verlag. There is no given term in modern AngloAmerican language for the German word “Überfremdung”. June 7. trying to keep the country independent considered the fate of the refugees as a minor problem.78 It looked at the Swiss refugee policy rather onesided. 1952).76 Swiss Refugee policy during World War Two The fiercest critics formulating allegations that Switzerland had profited from World War Two and prolonged it came from people close to the World Jewish Congress (WJC)... Die Schweiz und die Flüchtlinge zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus.75 Summing up the above. The Struggle for Europe. 529. therefore.74 The German General Blumentritt later argued that a push as Montgomery proposed “would have torn the German front into pieces and ended the war in the winter of 1944. The ICE argued that the Swiss government feared hyperxenesis (“Überfremdung”) since World War One.However. The Swiss refugee policy during World War Two was extensively examined by the ICE and three volumes were partly or entirely dedicated to the refugee policy.

80 Around 55’000 refugees were civil persons. The options for Switzerland were already pretty limited at the beginning of World War Two and even more when shortly afterwards it was entirely surrounded by the Axis powers or areas occupied by the Nazis. the WJC in 1942 attributed a mere $975 per month to Gerhart Riegner. In hindsight the reader always knows better. Furthermore. 19 .82 Interestingly. The Swiss decision to remain neutral was based on 500 years of de facto neutrality..83 Riegners request for more money was denied. 53. In order not to be overrun by the German Blitz. …der werfe den ersten Stein. The numbers vary from 5000 to almost 25’000. almost 300’000 refugees found a safe haven in Switzerland. Swiss representative of the WJC. 10. 79 Jean Bieri. 318. 84 Ibid. 81 Ibid. Anmerkungen zum Bergier-Bericht. he was told to seek more money among the Swiss Jews instead.81 When one tries to quantify the number of repulsed refugees the he faces the problem to find reliable facts.79 This point of view seems to be incomplete because during World War Two. …der werfe den ersten Stein: Die schweizerische Flüchtlingspolitik 1933 – 1945. 83 Ibid.84 Conclusion This paper should investigate why Switzerland remained neutral in World War Two and how it did defend its neutrality. it should determine fields of problems Swiss neutrality generated and seek for possible profits for Switzerland resulting from its neutral status with the scope to answer the question whether Swiss neutrality in World War Two was rather a shame or a merit. 82 Bieri. Each nation is unique and has its specific problems and restrictions. 99. 80 Carl Ludwig. the Swiss government had to make concessions. the fiercest critics of Switzerland. Die Flüchtlingspolitik der Schweiz in den Jahren 1933 bis 1955: Bericht an den Bundesrat zuhanden der eidgenössischen Räte (Bern: 1957). roughly half of them were Jews. economically as well as with its refugee policy. (Schafhausen: Novalis Verlag. 2002). in order to support the Jews fled to Switzerland.impression that the Swiss government only acted inhumanly and disproportionally.

“Historians and their Duties”. Nevertheless. unbiased facts with an obligation to tell the truth and covering the event from all sides. 85 Robert J. could have accepted more refugees than it did. Evans. Though. there will be no answer to the question whether Swiss neutrality in World War Two was rather a shame or a merit.he has all the necessary information at hand. Each reader has to create its own picture and his own judgment. Therefore. “[h]istorians are simply not trained to make moral judgments or findings of guilt and innocence…” as Richard Evans put it. he knows that Switzerland made mistakes. History and Theory. Additionally. 104. Theme Issue 43 (December 2004). 20 . he should do so without any bias and never forget to make his judgment not in hindsight but from a point of view and with the information the actors had at hand at the time of the event. cited in Jonathan Gorman.85 Therefore. Historians should present truthful. he also knows that the economical relationship with Germany was not of a magnitude that could have prolonged the war.

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