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Operation Tannenbaum

Bunkeranlagen der Schweiz | Warum hat Hitler die Schweiz nicht angegriffen? |

Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II
by  Stephen P. Halbrook

Da Capo Press, 1998    (Also available in German, French, Italian, and Polish)

                        Editorial Reviews
                        From Publishers Weekly
                        The recent focus on Swiss accommodations to the Third Reich has obscured the facts surrounding Switzerland's success in deterring
                        Nazi invasion, argues Halbrook in this narrative of Switzerland's preparations for armed resistance during WWII. Concessions on
                        commercial or refugee issues, Halbrook contends, were not enough by themselves to fend off one of history's most ruthless
                        dictatorships. What was decisive, he finds, was Swiss determination to defend itself by an armed force based on armed citizens. In
                        contrast to Holland, Denmark or Norway, Switzerland during WWII successfully maintained its neutrality. It did so, argues
                        Halbrook, by convincing Nazi Germany and its own citizens that any invader would pay in blood for every foot of ground, and in the
                        end would find only devastation. Halbrook, a practicing attorney rather than an academic scholar, relies primarily on journalistic
                        sources to make the points that Switzerland was prepared to abandon most of the country and fight to the last man from an Alpine
                        redoubt. Among other questionable premises he accepts uncritically, he takes as given that militiamen armed primarily with
                        bolt-action rifles and 50 rounds of ammunition constituted an effective fighting force in an age of mechanized war. His account, while
                        written from a limited vantage point, nevertheless establishes a series of elements in danger of being submerged by the recent furor
                        over bank accounts and trade figures. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
                        Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

                        Product Description:
                        The first English book to describe the military history of Switzerland during World War II, including Nazi attack plans and Swiss
                        defensive strategies. Describes Swiss marksmanship culture and its citizens army, the largest relative to population in Europe, as well
                        as Alpine fortifications. Examines Nazi hostility to Switzerland and Swiss economic and humanitarian links to the Allies.

                        See all Editorial Reviews

                        Product Details

                             Hardcover: 320 pages
                             Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 1, 1998)
                             ISBN: 1885119534
                             Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
                             Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds.
                             Average Customer Review:  based on 12 reviews. (Write a review)
                             Amazon.com Sales Rank in Books: #184,624
                             (Publishers and authors: improve your sales)
                             In-Print Editions: Paperback | All Editions

                        Inside This Book (learn more)
                        First Sentence:
                        ADOLF HITLER WAS NAMED CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY ON January 30, 1933. Read the first page
                        Browse Sample Pages:
                        Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover

                        Search Inside This Book:

                        Citations (learn more)
                        This book cites 29 books:

                             Friendship Under Stress: U S-Swiss Relations 1900-1950 by H. Meier on 12 pages
                             General Henri Guisan: Commander-In-Chief of the Swiss Army in World War II by Willi
                             Gautschi on 5 pages
                             Nationalism and Liberty : The Swiss Example by Hans Kohn in Back Matter (1), and Back
                             Matter (2)
                             That Every Man Be Armed by Stephen P. Halbrook in Back Matter (1), and Back Matter (2)

                          See all 29 books this book cites

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                        4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

                                A spirited defense of a nation and its traditions, January 21, 2002
                                 Andrew S. Rogers (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews

                        At one point in his narrative, Stephen Halbrook quotes Philipp Etter, a Swiss federal counselor from the 1930s through
                        the 50s. In 1937, Etter wrote, 'The armed defense of the country is a primary and substantial task of the state. The
                        mental defense of the country falls primarily not on the state but on the person, the citizen. No government and no
                        battalions are able to protect right and freedom where the citizen himself is not capable of stepping to the front door
                        and seeing what is outside.' No one familiar with Halbrook's other works should be surprised that this seems to be one
                        of the key lessons Halbrook wants us to learn from his history of Switzerland in World War II.

                        Halbrook makes it clear that Switzerland walked a tightrope during the War. Fierce and well trained as the Swiss
                        citizen-army was, it was not eager to tangle with Hitler's Wehrmacht. Though unquestionably sympathetic to the allies,
                        the Swiss were determined to maintain their neutrality. If that meant making some economic concessions to Germany
                        in order to keep the Nazis from overrunning the country, the Swiss were willing, reluctantly, to do that. It's easier to
                        second-guess that decision from half a century's distance than it must have been at the time, when national-socialist
                        armies dominated the continent and liberation was still a distant dream.

                        As other reviewers have noted, Halbrook is clearly sympathetic, not only to the Swiss nation generally, but specifically
                        to its armed-citizenry approach to national defense. With Switzerland being so greatly maligned in recent years, it's not
                        surprising that voices have been raised in its defense as well. While not perhaps perfect, 'Target Switzerland' is a
                        fascinating and enlightening explanation of the dilemma in which Switzerland found itself in the 1930s and 40s, and why
                        and how that nation chose to do the things it did.

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                        10 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

                                David and Goliath, January 2, 2001
                                 John M Lane "lanejp" (Hardin, Montana USA) - See all my reviews

                        I am a history buff and have always been interested in World War II, especially in Europe. In TARGET SWITZERLAND,
                        Stephen P. Halbrook gives a fascinating explanation of Switzerland's role in that epic conflict.

                        I had never given much thought to the Swiss experience in the Second World War. About the only current material I
                        had seen on Switzerland tended to be critical of it for staying neutral and maintaining a certain level of commercial
                        cooperation with Hitler and his allies. Jean Ziegler's THE SWISS, THE GOLD AND THE DEAD, is an example of
                        contemporary Swiss bashing.

                        Halbrook's book provides a well-written, thorougly researched antidote. He describes how a polyglot republic with a
                        population of only 4 million could defend its territory while surrounded by 120 million Nazis and Fascists devoted to
                        Hitler's and Mussolini's dreams of conquest.

                        Switzerland placed an unprecedented one-fifth of its population under arms in the process. That didn't leave enough
                        people for agriculture so the Swiss were hungry throughout most of the war, and cold. German coal heated most of
                        their homes.

                        Yet, when Luftwaffe aircraft invaded Swiss airspace they came under attack and several were shot down. It is
                        interesting to compare the Swiss response to that of the Great Powers and their policy of Appeasement.

                        I enjoyed this book and came away with a new found respect for the Swiss and their determination to keep the
                        Holocaust off of their soil.

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                        15 of 23 people found the following review helpful:

                                Good intention - unfortunately not very correct historically, June 18, 2000
                                 Roland Seekirchner (St. Gallen, SG Switzerland) - See all my reviews

                        It is nice to hear or better, read, something positive about Switzerland and its role during WWII after so many
                        discussions and a rather bad impression we made during the discussions about returning money of dormant accounts of
                        Jewish people... Only pressure from the outside really pushed the Swiss to think about ALL aspects of this tragic

                        Unfortunately the myth of a armed and well motivated Swiss army as a major deterrent for the German forces to
                        invade Switzerland is still holding up and this book does not really contribute to give a more balances account on the
                        reasons why Switzerland wasnt invaded.

                        New information made available in the last months from the archives of the German secret service during WWII shows
                        that the Germans had very precise and detailed knowlege about the organization of the Swiss army, it's units, orders
                        and fortifications. Unfortunately a large number of Swiss did in fact spy for the Germans during WWII which resulted
                        also in more than a dozen executions during this period.

                        All in all are we still waiting for a book that really puts Switzerland in its place... Between exagerated criticism accusing
                        Switzerland of collaboration with Germany and the exagerated glorification of the role of the Swiss army.

                        The way the author insists in the fact that Swiss men keep their weapon at home makes me wonder if this isnt a
                        semi-hidden attempt to justify the legal right to own guns in the USA. He seems to forget that the reason why Swiss
                        soldiers keep their weapons at home is that we do not have any professional army... We have a milita system and
                        therefore need the soldiers to be mobilized within hours and days. Therefore his personal equipment must be available
                        at home. Its nothing more than that.

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                        12 of 14 people found the following review helpful:

                                A must read for the ex-patriot living in Switzerland, November 20, 1999
                        Reviewer: A reader
                        This book is a must read for any ex-patriot living in Switzerland or for any tourist visiting Switzerland.

                        It provides insight into the current Swiss mentality and shows how close the Swiss came to being swallowed up by the

                        The book is a bit technical and tends to focus on the same theme throughout , which at times is somewhat laborious.

                        Overall, a good read and very educational.

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                        17 of 25 people found the following review helpful:

                                Interesting, yet seems oversimplified., November 16, 1999
                        Reviewer: A reader
                        Why did Switzerland keep its independence during World War Two? According to Stephen Halbrook, it is due to a
                        well-armed Swiss population that cooperated just enough with the Axis to not anger Hitler and just enough with the
                        Allies to keep diplomatic relations alive. The delicate dance between a powerful neighbor you don't like and a distant
                        friend is the lot of a neutral and some found that the Nazis were too-often their partners : Sweden has admitted to
                        allowing the passage of German troops through their nation. Halbrook argues that be being just friendly enough to Hitler
                        and hence useful, it made the cost of invasion too high. Terrain certainly had much to do with it, and Halbrook shows
                        that the Swiss high command was willing to give up about half their country in order to conserve their forces to defend
                        a mountainous and more defensible portion. Yet, constant repetition of the point that all Swiss soldiers were good
                        shots seems to simple; at one point Halbrook seems to claim that all Swiss soldiers were riflemen. The Swiss army
                        included ski units, cavalry, mountain artillery, and even bicycle units, giving them a high degree of tactical mobility.
                        The country also boasted extensive fortifications, with no easy means of getting around them. Surely these
                        considerations also contributed to a perception of a small-yet-formidable army? Halbrook defends Switzerland against
                        charges of anti-Semitism and refusing entry to refugee Jews; his evidence seems slim and doesn't seem to fully engage
                        the critics. Further, his defense of Switzerland seems to often rely on quoting newspaper editorials in places far
                        removed from the Alps. Finally, the narrative in the book continues after the war into a discussion of targetshooting
                        events. Huh? A clear theme in this book is the importance of a citizen's militia in national defense, and those plucky
                        Swiss who keep military weapons in their homes. No problem with that, except that if your point really is just a lengthy
                        historical example in support of Second Amendment rights, just say so. (Disclosure : I'm agreeable to arguments in
                        favor of personal ownership of firearms, just don't base it on paranoia.) No need, as Halbrook does at one point, to
                        bad-mouth the unready armies of the Netherlands and Norway, a nation that, in 1940, was full of well-armed citizens.
                        An emphasis on straight-shootin' Swiss soldiers simplifies the historical analysis. Nontheless, recommended for those
                        interested in Swizerland in WW2.

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                        22 of 24 people found the following review helpful:

                                Superbly documented and beautifully written, September 25, 1999
                        Reviewer: A reader
                        A slightly different version of this review appeared in "The American Enterprise" magazine.

                        Review by: Dave Kopel

                        If all you know is what you read in the papers, then you must think that Switzerland is one of the most despicable
                        countries in the world. Switzerland, rather than joining the Allied cause, stayed neutral World War II. After the war,
                        Swiss banks helped themselves to the deposits of holocaust victims, rather than giving the deposits to the victims'
                        heirs. Case closed?

                        Not at all, historian Stephen Halbrook shows in his new book Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality In World War
                        II. Wrongful as was the bankers' post-war behavior, the behavior of the Swiss people during the war was morally
                        exemplary-superior, indeed to the conduct of most of the rest of Europe. As Winston Churchill recalled, "of all the
                        neutrals Switzerland has the greatest right 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."

                        Except for Britain, France, and Canada, virtually all of the Allied nations during World War II joined the war only
                        because the Axis declared war on them, Halbrook reminds us. Even after Pearl Harbor, the United States remained
                        neutral in the European war, until Hitler declared war on United States a few days later.

                        Nazi maps showed that the Third Reich would eventually include Switzerland, just as it would include all portions of
                        Europe with German-speaking people. While the majority of Switzerland's population is German-speaking (the rest being
                        French, Italian, or Romansh) the nation was virtually unanimous in hoping and praying for the defeat of Germany.
                        Infuriated by the lack of ethnic solidarity, and by the strongly anti-Nazi stance of Switzerland's free press, Hitler
                        predicted that Switzerland would be "liquidated" and that he would be known as "the butcher of the Swiss."

                        As Halbrook details, in every stage of the war, the Axis had powerful military reasons to invade Switzerland. Before the
                        fall of France, the non-alpine part of Switzerland offered at inviting path to sweep into France and avoid the Maginot
                        Line. After France fell and Italy entered the war, Switzerland offered the only convenient transport of military men and
                        supplies between Italy and Germany. After the Allied landing in Italy, Germany's need to swiftly deploy troops into Italy
                        became even more urgent. As the war came to conclusion in 1944-45, the Nazi leadership laid plans to make a stand in
                        the Alps, but Switzerland stood right in the middle.

                        By the summer of 1940, there was only one country on Germany's borders whose free press and rights of assembly
                        allowed the Third Reich to be publicly and lawfully denounced as the evil empire that he was. In every country on
                        Germany's borders--except Switzerland--Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other targets of Hitler's hate were sent to
                        extermination camps. But there was no Holocaust on Swiss soil. Switzerland protected her own Jews, and sheltered
                        many more refugees of all religious backgrounds. Had America sheltered refugees at the same per capita rate as
                        Switzerland, the United States would have taken in over three million refugees. Instead America accepted hardly any.

                        In all the countries that Hitler conquered, the economy was plundered for use in the Nazi war machine. As a neutral,
                        Switzerland did trade with Germany and Italy, and with the Allies. (For the Allied trade, the Swiss smuggled out
                        precision ball bearings and other military equipment disguised in consumer products like watches.) But unlike in the
                        countries which Hitler conquered, the only products that Hitler could get from Switzerland were what he could buy at
                        full price.

                        Target Switzerland includes the maps of the evolving Germans invasion plans for "Case Switzerland." Yet although the
                        Germans several times massed troops on the Swiss border for an invasion, the invasion never went forward. With so
                        many reasons to invade Switzerland, why did the Nazis desist?

                        The Nazis could have eventually have conquered Switzerland, but at a fearful price. The Wehrmacht expected 200,000
                        German casualties; it would have taken a very long time to remove the Swiss military from the Alpine "Reduit" to which
                        they planned to make a stand. And by the time the Swiss were defeated, every bridge and train track and everything
                        else of value to the conquerors would have been destroyed.

                        The reason that Switzerland was too difficult to invade-in contrast to all the other nations which Hitler conquered in a
                        matter of weeks-was the Swiss militia system. Unlike all the other nations of Europe, which relied on a standing army,
                        Switzerland was (and still is) defended by a universal militia. Every man was trained in war, had his rifle at home, was
                        encouraged to practice frequently, and could be mobilized almost instantly. The Swiss militiaman was under orders to
                        fight to the last bullet, and after that, with his bayonet, and after that, with his bare hands. Rather than having to
                        defeat an army, Hitler would have had to defeat a whole people.

                        Conversely, the Swiss citizen militia, with its extensive network of fortifications, had no offensive capability. The Swiss
                        militia was not going to sweep into Berlin; modern Swiss-bashers who condemn the nation for not declaring war fail to
                        understand that by keeping the Axis out of Switzerland, the Swiss were already doing everything they could for the
                        Allied cause.

                        From the Anschluss of Austria to the Fall of France, Hitler swallowed nation after nation where cowardly ruling elites
                        surrendered the country to the Nazis-either before the shooting began, or a few weeks afterward. But such a
                        surrender would have been impossible in Switzerland, explains Halbrook. The Swiss governmental system was
                        decentralized, with the separate 26 cantons, not the federal government, having the authority. The federal
                        government did notify the Swiss people that in case of a German invasion, any claim that there had been a Swiss
                        surrender should be disregarded as Nazi propaganda. And because the military power was in the hands of every Swiss
                        man, the federal government would have been unable to surrender had it ever wanted to. Nothing could stop the Swiss
                        militiamen from fighting to the very end.

                        America's Founders admired Switzerland as a "Sister Republic" amidst the despotisms of Europe. The American
                        Founders-like the Swiss-understood the moral implications of a universal militia system: a people who are trained to
                        self-reliance and responsibility will defend their freedom to the utmost. But a people who rely on a professional standing
                        army may not have the nerve to resist tyranny.

                        When, as William Shirer wrote from Berlin, the lamps of freedom were going out all over Europe, they burned brighter
                        than ever in Switzerland, as the Swiss people maintained their democracy, their right to assemble, and their freedom of
                        religion. And the Swiss people saved thousands and thousands of refugees from the gas chambers. A well-regulated
                        militia really was necessary to the security of a free state.

                        Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler both understood how much Switzerland damaged the Axis cause-on both a military
                        and a moral plane. Stephen Halbrook's excellent book-the first in English to tell Switzerland's history during the war-is
                        the story of how a small, isolated nation, faced with mighty enemies and gigantic dangers, can demonstrate true