THE SWISS WERE PREPARED TO FIGHT FACISM TO THE BITTER END

By Stephen P. Halbrook

[Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright (c)1997. All rights reserved.]

Tom Bower's Nazi Gold requires a historical reality check ("What happened to all that money?"). The thesis of this tabloid-level book is that Switzerland was an ally of the Nazis when, in fact, this small neutral country was the only European country Hitler was afraid to invade.

Winston Churchill wrote in 1944: "Of all the neutrals Switzerland has the greatest right to distinction...She has been a democratic State, standing for freedom in self-defense among her mountains, and in thought, in spite of race, largely on our side."

That is why the Nazis despised Switzerland. Joseph Goebbels called Switzerland "this stinking little state" where "sentiment has turned very much against us." Adolf Hitler decided that "all the rubbish of small nations still existing in Europe must be liquidated," even if it meant he would later "be attacked as the 'Butcher of the Swiss.'"

The 1940 Nazi invasion plan, Operation Tannenbaum, was not executed, and SS Oberst Hermann Bohme's 1943 memorandum warned that an invasion of Switzerland would be too costly because every man was armed and trained to shoot. This did not stop the Gestapo from preparing lists of Swiss to be liquidated once the Nazis overran the country.

The other European nations were easily toppled and had little means to wage a partisan war against the occupation. Once their standing armies were defeated, the governments capitulated and the populaces were defenseless.

Only in Switzerland was the entire populace armed and prepared to wage a relentless guerrilla war against an invader. When the war began in 1939, Switzerland mobilized 435,000 citizen soldiers out of a population of 4.2 million. Production figures for Swiss service rifles, which had firepower equal to those of the Germans, demonstrate an ample supply of small arms. Swiss militiamen were instructed to disregard any alleged "official" surrender as enemy propaganda and, if necessary, to fight individually. This meant that a nation of sharpshooters would be sniping at German soldiers at long ranges from every mountain.

While neutral, Switzerland was prepared to fight a Nazi invasion to the end. The celebrated Swiss Gen. Henri Guisan developed the strategy known as defense du reduit--an initial opposition followed by a retreat into the Alps, where a relentless war to the death would be waged. Most Swiss strongly opposed Nazism. Death sentences were issued for fifth-column activities, and proclamations against anti-Semitism were passed at various official levels. There was no Holocaust on Swiss soil, something that can not be said for France, the Netherlands, Poland or most of Europe.

Every Allied country and every neutral country had deplorable policies that turned away refugees. The Swiss government, like the U.S. government, accepted some Jews fleeing the Holocaust and, unfortunately, expelled others.

For 700 years, Switzerland has stood for the ideals of democracy, federalism, and neutrality. These traditions were put to the supreme test in World War II and were vindicated.

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