By Stephen Halbrook
Chapter I: From 1933 to the Eve of War
An excerpt of Target Switzerland by Stephen Halbrook
ADOLF HITLER WAS NAMED CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY ON January 30, 1933. Immediately, a reign of terror began. The Nazis attacked Social Democrats, Socialists and Communists. Their animosity toward Jews, Slavs, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill and persons with birth defects or handicaps quickly became evident. The rights to assemble and to a free press were taken away.' As an essen tial component of preventing any armed resistance, the Nazis searched homes and seized firearms from private citizens on a wide scale.
After the fire at the Reichstag (Parliament) in Berlin the following month, random massive searches and seizures were authorized; "serious disturbances of the peace" were punishable by death. Nazi thugs attacked members of the democratic parties and hauled them off. By early March, Hitler was an absolute dictator. The Parliament had ceased to exist as a true legislature and the regional German states were taken over by the central authority. The government became an instrument of terror.
In neighboring Switzerland, the press reacted negatively against the new German regime with such articles as "The Dangers of the Hitierite Dictatorship" in Geneva's leading newspaper, the Journal de Genève. The journal began to run a regular column on the subject of Nazi Germany featuring snippets about police actions against political opponents, who seemed invariably to be described as "Communists." From early in the Nazi regime, the military threat to Switzerland was plain to see. Ewald Banse, a Nazi military theorist and geographer who advocated barbaric methods of warfare, had published Raum und Volk in Weltkriegen (Space and People in World War) in late 1932. The Nazis appointed him Professor of Military Science in February 1933 and in July established the German Society for Military Policy, in part to promote Banse's ideas.
Banse frankly asserted that a war against France, Germany's historic enemy, could be favorably waged only by attacking through the neutral nations of Belgium and the Netherlands in the north and through Switzerland in the south. A key invasion path led through the Jura range and the Bellegarde (Geneva) Gap. "Swiss neutrality, in fact, is of service only to the French, and not to us," Banse asserted.
Banse rightly anticipated, however, that Switzerland would be a far harder nut for any foreign enemy to crack than the Netherlands. Topographically, the Jura contained lower mountains and valleys; even the central plateau, with its hills, streams and lakes, afforded "the chance of a stubborn defense against foreign invasion." As for the Alps, these were high mountains full of great rock masses, precipices and valleys-all watered by rushing torrents and topped by snowy pinnacles. Such terrain would impede the movement of large forces.
Despite its majority German-speaking population, Banse used Nazi racial theories to describe the Swiss as an inferior amalgamation: "Like Belgium and the United States of America, Switzerland has no people, but merely a population made up of different races." There were Germans, French, Italians and Rhetians. As for the majority:
The German Swiss imagine that in conjunction with the three other racial elements which speak foreign languages they constitute a single nationality, and they dig an artificial trench between them and ourselves, which is deeper and wider than Lake Constance [part of the German-Swiss border]. This conception, which they uphold with all the impartiality of the Eastern race, is the intellectual basis of the Confederation, which would otherwise have no reality, since the Latin elements have no such deep convictions.
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