Target Switzerland (Halbrook) Pages 30 - 31

On June 13, the canton of Geneva voted to outlaw the Communist Party and authorized the government to outlaw other parties affiliated with foreign organizations. Such laws would be applied to Nazis as well. A minister in Bern was quoted in August as stating: "The Germans are already treating Switzerland as if she were conquered territory. Switzerland is to come within the Nazi Gleichschaltung [forcing into line]. This is the Nazi aim, and by devious methods the Nazis are trying to familiarize the Swiss with the idea." By then, there were allegedly some 500 Gestapo agents in Switzerland conducting espionage to obtain Swiss military secrets and spying on German refugees.

In 1935 a new rifle, the K31 carbine, was introduced into the Swiss army, even as the Germans were adopting a new design of their own, the Mauser 98k, which became their standard service rifle throughout the war. Not surprisingly for a nation in which marksmanship was (and is) the national sport, the Swiss design was far superior to the German in terms of accuracy, weight, handling and ease of loading. The advantages of the Swiss model became more evident at longer distances, and even the Swiss 7.5mm bullet had a better aerodynamic shape and weight combination than its German counterpart, giving it more accuracy and a greater range. Almost 350,000 units were produced by 1945, and the K31 remains in wide use today in target matches. Had the Germans attempted an invasion during World War II, they would themselves have been the targets of Swiss snipers armed with this superior rifle, firing from rugged mountain terrain.

More important than material preparations was the cultivation of the Swiss national spirit, expressed with the term geistige Landesverteidigung (defense nationale spirituelle in French), meaning spiritual, ideological, or moral national defense. Federal Councillor Philipp Etter even authored a book with that title. The primary attributes of this philosophy were "united community, the intrinsic value of democracy, and reverence for the dignity and freedom of the person." National defense was seen as wholly dependent on the virtue and character of each citizen:

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.

The meaning of "spiritual national defense" evolved as the threat to Switzerland's existence grew. This concept of moral dedication to defense of the homeland and democratic ideals was Switzerland's answer to National Socialism, and the term applied to the distinctly Swiss military, economic, political, and cultural philosophy.

Beginning in 1933, Switzerland expended large sums of money and human effort to arm herself and to have the capacity to resist a Nazi invasion. Though many Swiss spoke German, they had no desire to give up their unique Swiss liberty to join Hitler's increasingly menacing Reich.

 

 

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