Is Switzerland a National Socialist?

February 23, 1937 - Adolf Hitler guarantees the neutrality of Switzerland

Europe 1940: All of Germany's neighboring countries were overrun by the Wehrmacht - except Switzerland. Why does Adolf Hitler spare the Confederates of all people? To this day the myth persists in the alpine country that the defensive Swiss army held off the dictator. The Swiss sociologist and politician Jean Ziegler sees a completely different reason: "Hitler was crazy, but not so crazy to attack his own banker." For him, Switzerland was a helper to Hitler. The so-called Swiss neutrality is "a prime example of hypocrisy".

Swiss arms factories work for Hitler's war economy. The country delivers ten times more armaments to Germany and Italy than to the Allies. Above all, Switzerland buys the German spoils of war: seized securities and the gold of the central banks in the occupied countries. "It converted almost four-fifths of all German gold into highly convertible Swiss francs," says the Zurich contemporary historian Jakob Tanner. This enabled Germany to buy strategic raw materials in Spain and Portugal, for example. Switzerland had "a great benefit for German military and economic planning". In 1941, for example, Hitler received one billion Swiss francs as a loan: for the Russia campaign.

Swiss with Nazi sympathies

There is definitely sympathy for the Nazis in Switzerland. When Hitler was transferred to power in 1933, there was a "spring on the front" in the neighboring country: right-wing extremist organizations were very popular. Fear of communists and hatred of Jews are also rampant in Switzerland. In the elections, however, the right-wing extremists usually get less than ten percent of the vote. Only a few proclaim a so-called connection to the Reich. In return, official Switzerland accepts an anti-Semitic proposal by the Nazis: The Federal Council agrees to an agreement with Germany according to which the passports of German Jews are to be marked with a "J stamp".

For his part, Hitler promised a former Swiss Federal Councilor in Berlin on February 23, 1937 not to attack the Confederation. "Of course, if Switzerland had been in a marching area or on a line of attack, such a declaration would immediately have become obsolete," says historian Tanner. So Hitler did not need Switzerland for his campaign against France. At that time, other governments received similar promises - and yet the Germans invaded there.

Refugees sent back at the border

The Swiss do not want to be conquered: "The Federal Council is determined to fulfill the obligations resulting from the neutrality of the country in every situation and by all means." At the beginning of the war in 1939, Switzerland therefore relied on deterrence - with the help of the so-called RĂ©duit strategy: the Swiss army withdrew from the flatlands to the "Alpine fortress" because they could defend themselves better there with fewer soldiers. At the same time, two thirds of the soldiers are sent back home to the workbenches and can work, among other things, for export. At the same time, Switzerland closed its borders in 1942, when the need of the refugees increased. "Those who were intercepted at the border were partly put in chains and handed over to the German pursuers," said Tanner.

After 1945, Switzerland attributed the fact that Switzerland was spared the war to its own defensive forces. According to Tanner, the self-image of "Switzerland's resolute community of fate" has become a national myth. This is a lucrative life: many persecuted Jews were able to deposit money into Swiss accounts before they were deported and murdered. That stays with the banks. Anyone who wants to get the money as a descendant after the war will be turned away. At the same time, after the war, Switzerland became a discreet financial center for dictators and tax refugees. "This is not neutral behavior," criticizes the book author Ziegler. This mendacity is unbearable for him.

Status: 02/23/2012

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On WDR 2 you can always hear the due date around 9:40 a.m. Repetition: from Monday to Friday at 5:40 p.m. and on Saturday at 6:40 p.m. The deadline is available as a podcast after it has been broadcast.

"ZeitZeichen" on WDR 5 (9:05 am) and WDR 3 (5:45 pm) also commemorates Hitler's guarantee of neutrality for Switzerland on February 23, 2012. The "ZeitZeichen" is also available as a podcast.