History & references

From the summer of 1940 until the autumn of 1944, Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers and was particularly threatened by the Third Reich, who would have eventually included them in its “New Order”. Taken aback after the lightening defeat of France, Switzerland organised itself around its “national redoubt”; Fort Chillon was the Western gateway.

The history of the Second World war will never be an easy subject to broach, as an analysis made 10 years after the Bergier Report said:” Perceptions have become so polarized that two very different stories are told, and both have found their audience. One evokes a Switzerland and its highly developed industry and its close association with the Axis powers. The other highlights the will of a people to defend itself and the political, social and cultural independence of a small neutral state. Separating the two interpretations of history reveals two opposing myths; a business orientated and immoral Switzerland verses a brilliant Switzerland with a successful survival strategy” (Source: Memorado.ch.The Bergier report 10 years later)

During the period 39 – 45, four main actors came together to communicate and interact both inside and outside the country.

  • The Federal council
    The Federal council received the right to full authority from both chambers on August 30, 1939 and ruled the country without referring to any other governing body during the war period.

  • Le Général Guisan
    The two chambers almost unanimously elected General Guisan on the same day (204 votes out of 229). He was omnipresent both among the troops and the civilian population and became immensely popular.

  • Finance
    The National Bank, public and private banking, insurance, law firms and fiduciaries.

  • The economy
    The Vorort, heavy and precision industries continued to develop their exploitations.

The Bergier report only dealt in depth with the attitude of the Federal council with regards to the asylum and repression policy, the role of the economy and forced labour in the subsidiaries of Swiss companies in Germany, train transit
and the SNB’s gold and dormant funds. They drew the appropriate conclusions by publishing evidence of events. However, military threat or Switzerland’s role as an intelligence hub were never discussed.

On the other hand, the Army, with its strategy of national redoubt and led by a charismatic general remained almost unchallenged until the end of the Cold War

Switzerland avoided invasion with its National redoubt strategy. Was it a bluff or the reality? Why not both?

Anyway, the stage was set and the myth was born. General Guisan made a success by playing his “joker card” and thus made his mark in history.

The “redoubt” remained the common thread running through the strategy of the Swiss army until the end of the Cold war. The Redoubt has become a part of Switzerland’s DNA; Do the Swiss not build fallout shelters in their our own homes?


Vigilant Switzerland (Film shown at EXPO64)

An overview of the Swiss army (youtube)