In a series of interviews, Swiss soldiers and officers recall their experiences about an epoch when every day could have been the day when all hell would break loose and they would meet the enemy.
Blitzkrieg plans against Switzerland devised by the German Wehrmacht in , including German assessments of Swiss resistance, are described in detail. Switzer land was an armed camp, with countless fortifications along rivers and in the highly defensive Alpine terrain, against which the Axis could have attempted access only with extreme costs in blood.
Struggle for Survival: Food, Fuel, and Fear , the third unit, presents oral histories of daily life during the war with its shortages and alarms, rumors and tedium. Espionage and Subversion , the fourth and final unit, covers larger strategic issues as well as fascinating intelligence activities in Switzerland during the war. Aggressive intentions against Switzerland—from attack plans to bickering within the Gestapo about who would rule the conquered Swiss territory—persisted throughout the war.
None of these critical topics was addressed in the 25 volumes issued by the Bergier commission. While most European countries were conquered by the Nazis, provided slave labor to them, and failed to prevent the deportation of their Jews to death camps, Switzerland success fully avoided all of these horrors. The Bergier reports include no volumes on some fundamental aspects of Swiss life during the war, including Nazi blitzkrieg plans, Swiss military defenses, Swiss ideological resistance against Nazism, and the patriotic willpower of an Alpine democracy that survived intact when every surrounding nation had fallen to Nazi arms or intimidation.
These topics are covered in this book, and bring to the attention of scholars and the public alike aspects about the role of Switzerland during World War II that are little known in the U. It is pleasing to note that in recent years interest in the actual record of Switzerland in World War II has increased.
A growing body of impeccable scholarship on Switzerland during the Second World War is emerging, including both original works and others translated from German or French. Americans in particular should realize that while their own homeland was not threatened by invasion during the war, Switzerland was under constant threat. If Hitler had found the opportunity to concentrate his main forces against the Alpine republic, it surely would have been conquered, albeit at the cost of a gigantic number of casualties.
Other individuals provided tours of military fortifications, arranged conferences with historians and military officials, and furnished a steady stream of out-of-print books and documents. Many such persons are identified in the text or endnotes. The author is grateful for the assistance of all such persons, regardless of whether their names are mentioned. Sebastian Remus, a professional German archive researcher, shifted through thousands of documents pertaining to planned hostilities against Switzerland in the German Military Archives.
Lisa Halbrook indefatigably scoured through reams of archival documents. Tom Ryan and Steve Smith provided invaluable and diligent editorial assistance. Needless to say, the author is solely responsible for the interpretations and any inaccuracies in the work. For this study, exhaustive searches were made in the German military archives for documents pertaining to Switzerland during the time of the Hitler regime. German intelligence kept a close eye on Switzerland during the entire period of the Third Reich.
The Nazi hierarchy saw Switzerland as a land in which the ideals of freedom and federalism posed a threat to their New Order. At various times, operations specialists from the German armed forces made detailed plans for blitzkrieg attacks against Switzerland. Administrators were likewise put to work pre paring a new civil organization for the country once it had been overrun. A year later, he increasingly turned his attention to other parts of Europe. German diplomatic and military reports coming back to the planning centers began to reflect his priorities and concerns.
Hitler himself knew that sooner or later there would be war. France would be a major target. Switzerland was neutral, but the country offered a relatively direct southern route into France.
How the country would respond to German—or French—initiatives was recognized as critical. If the French sensed that a German offensive was imminent, they might move into Switzerland to block it or to counterattack. Successful as a deterrent against head-on attack, the existence of this line placed new importance on the smaller countries to both the north and south, on whose territory the only mobile operations could take place.
National Socialism was regarded as warlike. The Swiss feared that a revived Germany might attack France through Switzerland, moving through Geneva to fall upon the French from behind their maginot line. They would likely annex German-speaking Switzerland in the process. But later? He wanted to add that France would not wage a preventative war but that, if Germany rearmed, the danger would return. But the chaotic aftermath of the Great War, the runaway inflation of , and the Great Depression left the German economy in ruins.
Disaffected, unemployed workers threatened stability in every country. Hitler sought to repudiate both the reparations imposed by the disgrace of Versailles and commercial debts. Switzerland had to realize that the Nazi regime was securely in place and therefore must accommodate it. Likewise she must get used to National Socialism in the north.
The Swiss still see as criminal the conversion of their small, democratic Austrian neighbor into a dictatorship, and then how trouble looms westward into France. Austria had just become a dictatorship under the rule of Engelbert Dollfuss. However, the Swiss, with their centuries-old resistance to emperors, instinctively opposed the centralized statist regimes they saw in both Germany and the Soviet Union.
Our left flank would be pressed up against a country with , rifles, which would be ready to be used sooner against us than against France. The Swiss had ample reason to fear German aggression. Their German-speaking region was appearing in Nazi maps of a Greater Germany, and an alleged German plan to attack France through Switzerland had been published in Swiss French-language newspapers.
After German statements had spread fear last fall that the new Germany was aiming at splitting the Confederation and annexing the German-speaking part of Switzerland, we were able to clear up these fantasies in discussions between the Foreign minister of the Reich and the head of Swiss foreign policy, Mr. Motta, as well as with the publication of the content of these discussions…. For a while, Swiss circles remained nervous because ill-meaning elements had spread rumors about an alleged new plan of Germany to march through Switzerland.
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After a statement by the War minister of the Reich put out that fire, things calmed down a bit. However, new concerns about German annexation desires were being stirred up by a certain French source that is in close contact with the French Embassy here, and careless statements by certain German personalities who visited Switzerland about a month ago revived the fear of annexation. A previously friendly high-ranking Swiss military officer had become an enemy of the new Germany.
Similar instances had been noted in a Swiss newspaper. As events would show, he would waiver between the two roles. In fact, it became ever more clear that the Nazis intended to subvert and annex Switzerland. The alleged influence of the French in Switzerland was an important intelligence topic from this period all the way through the war years.
The latter thinks that French influence on the Swiss army is increasing constantly, also within the corps of German-speaking Swiss officers. Apparently, this influence is promoted with a very skillful anti-German propaganda and in particular because very many Swiss officers are dispatched to French military schools.
That has become a permanent institution and has created a certain connection between the two armies. Swiss officers start thinking along French political lines without even noticing it. The fear of National Socialist ideas taking over in Switzerland and threatening the basis of Swiss statehood also fosters anti-German sentiments.
The general owned an estate in Switzerland on lake murten and had observed Swiss military maneuvers. Swiss lieutenant General Wille, who was considered pro-German but not pro-Nazi , reportedly had lost influence, while the influence of his successor as chief of arms of the infantry, the pro-French major General Borel, had increased. I have been told confidentially that officers dispatched to Switzerland are speaking too openly to Swiss officers about our armament plans.
Apparently they tend to forget that just because Swiss officers speak German they are not necessarily pro-German and that there are numerous connections to the French army. In his welcoming remarks, Federal president pilet-Golaz stated that the Swiss had the will to defend their country against any attack. Federal Councilor Rudolf minger, head of the Swiss military Department, and Corps Commander Roost indicated that the situation in Europe was prompting improvements in Swiss national defense.
Fortifications needed to be constructed, he said, on all fronts. A one-sided fortification against Germany ignored the danger that a socialist government at the rudder in France could march against anti-democratic neighbors. Switzer land must form a hedgehog against all sides, offering each of her neighbors the assurance of a certain flank in event of an armed conflict, without compromising Swiss neutrality. The Swiss spokesmen well knew that the only real threat was from Germany. In the mids, Germany escalated its rearmament program.
The Swiss public willingly bought defense bonds to support these efforts. German military intelligence carefully watched these developments. The explanation has appeared exceptionally calming in Switzerland.
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Federal President Motta explained that neutrality is also guaranteed by the league of Nations. Rabble-rousing Swiss propaganda against Germany was the subject of a report from the German legation in Bern on April 13, , concerning allegations in the Geneva socialist paper Le Travail that Hitler was preparing a war to be unleashed soon at the Czechoslovak border.
The German legation protested to the political Department of the Swiss Confederation against the Swiss press influencing public opinion against Germany. This particular prediction came true the following year. The Anschluss of Austria in march was achieved through intimidation and did not require a war. But the following September Hitler massed forces on the border of Czechoslovakia, and war was avoided only when England and France gave Hitler what he wanted at the Munich conference, causing the dissolution and German occupation of that country.
It appeared that small countries could expect no help from the major powers. Switzerland redoubled its military and ideological preparations to avoid a similar fate. His report of October 24, , reiterated previous concerns about a Swiss military alliance with France:. The discussion of the Envoy with lieutenant General Wille confirmed, however, that France has in fact taken some steps in that direction.
I doubt that they were merely intended as bluff because if they served only bluffing purposes, they would not have been kept secret as anxiously as they were and would have been brought to our attention in one form or another. In addition, [German consul] Mr. Von Bibra by chance a few days ago learned from a Scandinavian diplomat accredited in Belgium that France had taken similar steps in Belgium. Leaks and alleged misrepresentations in the Swiss press continued to infuriate Hitler.
The Nazi press waged a relentless campaign against Swiss newspapers. Indeed, members of the Swiss press were openly threatened with death by the German media, and were undoubtedly on blacklists compiled for the time of invasion. Matters that first appeared in intelligence reports spilled over into attacks in German newspapers.
So far there have been only words, no actions. The federal government has taken actions, energetic actions, only against pro-German efforts. A wave of persecution of anything suspected of being pro-Third Reich has been tolerated and assisted by the Federal Council in the past months. House searches, confiscations, arrests and prohibitions have been common. Swiss were even considered traitors if they were friendly to a Reich party member. On the other hand, neither the Federal Council nor the Cantons have done anything to counter the unbridled agitation and the psychosis of hatred which have seized the Confederation.
The publishers Europa, Oprecht and Reso [? A prohibition was issued against the pro German Internationale Presse-Agentur of Franz Burri from lucerne, but in the same place a Jew named Waldemar Curian who converted to Catholicism was allowed to publish his German Letters without encountering any difficulties from the authorities.
Nobody has thought of making life hard for the Katholische Internationale Presseagentur in Freiburg either. A group called Youth Action Community has begun to get rid of the German poison in books and newspapers flowing into Switzerland. A film association has set up with the same goal. In addition, a volunteer news service directed exclusively against the Reich was set up. This service has a connection to Swiss living abroad, is subject to a certain foreign influence and has personal ties to the Bund in Bern, which is part Jewish.
The Neue Basler Zeitung , which is not particularly pro-German and cannot be suspected of bringing National Socialist thoughts to Switzerland, but is solely trying to be objective toward Germany, has great difficulties. It has been investigated and persecuted, while the Communist paper Freiheit, whose agitation in Germany could not be any greater, has been tolerated.
We have even reached the point where a paper that contains nothing but agitation against the Reich, namely the [illegible] am Sonntag , was allowed to start publishing again without the federal government intervening.
We could fill many columns talking about the Swiss activities against Germany if we wanted to show how fertile the Confederation is for enemies of Germany and how shamelessly the Swiss neglect their simplest neighborly duties. The fact is that Switzerland is more and more becoming a ground for hatred and agitation against the Reich…. But what the Reich may demand with determination from a small neutral state is that it have an objective and just attitude towards all things German….
Since the Anschluss of Austria and the Sudetenland have taken place, there have been strange contacts between the [deposed Austrian] Schuschnigg government and Switzerland, and the agitation has become unbearable. Abstract : An autobiography of Gustav Durrer with further notes completed by his wife Margot. James Peter Zollinger. Melchers Abschied. Aregger, Manfred and Leo Schelbert.
The article is based mostly on letters written by Josef and Anton Marbacher and follows the emigration of the extended Marbacher family while providing genealogical information on family members. Josef was the first of the Marbachers to emigrate, arriving in upstate New York in and finally settling in Chicago in The letters end in , when the remaining members of the family came to the United States. Winkler, Albert.