Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II

by Stephen P. Halbrook

Da Capo Press, 1998

(Also available in German, French, Italian, and Polish)

Available in Paperback and Audio Versions (Cassette or Download)

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In 1943, Adolf Hitler proclaimed that "all the rubbish of small nations existing in Europe must be liquidated," even if it meant he would later "be attacked as 'the butcher of the Swiss.'" In his diaries Josef Goebbels described Switzerland as "this stinking little state." The Gestapo prepared lists of Swiss to be executed once the Nazis overran the country. Yet, as the Nazi tide spread across Europe from the Pyrenees to the Volga, one nation stood free, albeit armed to the teeth-its flag unbowed in a sea of twisted crosses.

This book examines German plans for the conquest of Switzerland, as well as Swiss preparations to resist the assault. After the fall of France the German Army was at the height of its power-but would "blitzkrieg" have worked in the Alps? On the other side stood General Guisan, with the best armed and trained citizens army in the world. Guisan planned to concede the lowlands and take his forces to the mountains-an "Alpine Redoubt" the Germans would later consider as unassailable.

Stephen P. Halbrook provides a brief military history of Switzerland, from the days when its pikemen ruled supreme on medieval battlefields, through the American Constitutional debates during which Swiss militia example was considered by the United States, to the 20th century, when Switzerland fielded Europe's highest per capita of trained riflemen. European neutrality has never been a "gift" but a status, earned through armed deterrence. The little-known magnitude of Alpine fortifications is examined, as well as Swiss military doctrine, including its concept of instant mobilization, and the record of its air force in border skirmishes with the Luftwaffe. The Swiss have remained armed and free, ready to combat any aggressor, since 1291. When the ultimate cataclysm came to Europe in the 1940s, even the Nazis were deterred by the Swiss.

Beneath their benign "Heidi" image the Swiss have never trumpeted the fact of their military preparedness. The book will be an eye-opener to many Americans, who never imagined that the nation that retained its straight cross, not a twisted one, was a nation of shooters, fully prepared to turn the Alps into a deathtrap for the panzers, if the Germans had dared to attempt a conquest.

Book Contents

  • Prologue: Companions of the Oath
  • From 1933 to the Eve of the War
  • 1938: Anschluss of Switzerland?
  • 1939: Hitler Launches World War II
  • Spring 1940: All Fall But One
  • Fall 1940: Target Switzerland
  • 1941: The New Order
  • 1942: "Oasis of Democracy"
  • 1943: "A Pistol at Their Heads"
  • 1944: War at the Border
  • 1945: The Liberation of Europe
  • Armed Neutrality to the 21st Century
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