Target Switzerland (Halbrook) Pages 10 - 14

Augur asserted that the precise information contained in the aforementioned German plan established its authenticity. The Journal de Genève commented, however, that even if the plan were real, it could be merely a technical study such as general staffs would routinely compose, as opposed to a plan intended for actual use. The plan could also have been a fabrication intended to incite hostility against Germany and its rearmament or to create support in France for fortifying the region of Lyons.

Two conclusions were in order, according to the Journal. First, the Swiss people had the right to know if this invasion plan, which threatened their security and independence, was real. The Federal Council was urged to investigate the subject thoroughly. Second, the very fact that an eventual violation of Swiss neutrality was being publicly discussed showed the necessity of maintaining a strong national defense. In 1914, no army invaded Switzerland because her army was sufficient to deter every belligerent. In 1933, all precautions had to be taken so that the troops received modern equipment that inspired confidence in their capacity to resist.

In Germany, Reich Defense Minister von Blomberg called the article by Augur "highly imaginative nonsense. On September 26, at a League of Nations meeting in Geneva, Swiss Foreign Minister Giuseppe Motta "categorically explained to Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels that such an idea would be totally absurd. In Germany, no rational person would have in mind jeopardizing the existence of the Swiss Confederation."  Goebbels reassured him that Germany wanted nothing more from the Swiss than friendship.

Despite Goebbets' lack of credibility, the French did have an interest in publicizing the supposed invasion plan, because their Maginot Line stopped near the Swiss border. Any improvement in Swiss defenses would in effect become an extension of the Maginot Line and further secure the French southern flank. Subsequent Swiss defensive preparations, combined with the rugged Swiss terrain, would, in 1940, encourage the Nazis to attack more vulnerable armies and easier terrain. In fact, it could even be said that the Swiss in essence extended the Maginot Line eastward from its southern tip near the French-Swiss border all along the border with southern Germany to Austria. The fortifications and infantry positions essentially reached all the way from France to the Sargans fortress in eastern Switzerland, which pointed its guns toward Austria.

On October 10, 1933, Swiss Defense Minister Rudolf Minger cited the reported German invasion plan to justify increased appropriations for armaments. The Parliament voted a credit of 15 million francs ($4.5 million) as the first installment of a multi-year budget of 100 million francs ($30 million). This was a sharp upward turn. For years, following the horrors of the Great War, and with the Socialist Party's opposition to militarism, military budgets had steadily declined.

On October 14, Hitler announced that Germany intended to withdraw from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference. The Journal de Genève asserted: "The thunderbolts hurled on Saturday by Berlin have quite naturally provoked an explosion everywhere. It is an explosion of indignation, of inquietude . . . and of distrust toward Germany."

On October 18, the Federal Council responded to Germany's withdrawal from the League by resolving that "there should be no doubt anywhere concerning the will of Switzerland to defend her neutrality and her capacity to do so." The Council was expected to adopt Minger's proposal to increase appropriations to purchase arms for the infantry, as well as airplanes. On November 16, the equivalent of $39 million was appropriated for new rifles, machine guns and artillery.

Swiss commanders planned increased defenses at the German border, just as Belgium was instituting along its own border with Germany. In view of their military preparations, it was questioned whether the two countries were truly neutral; however, the more important question was whether Adolf Hitler would respect the international treaties under which their status was guaranteed. According to an article in the New York Times, the Germans would attack France through Switzerland, "crossing the Rhine upstream from Basel and penetrating to France along what tacticians call the Corridor of Belfort." While the route through Belgium was easier, analysts observed, the Swiss route would offer a greater element of surprise.

The issue of Swiss defense, said the Times, was "singularly acute since the advent of Hitlerism, and there are numerous Swiss nationals who are asking whether Switzerland's neutrality would be respected if her territory became strategic to another conflict." Fortifications were being constructed on the Rhine. Federal President Edmund Schulthess stated, "Our people are schooled by the ages in democracy and do not allow themselves to be greatly influenced by propaganda."

As the war scare continued, on December 14 the Federal Council approved 82 million francs in military spending. Defense Minister Minger stated:

The 300,000 Swiss subject to mobilization will hold from valley to valley, from mountaintop to mountaintop, from river to river ... Whoever raises the slightest doubt about this fools himself badly. Any belligerent who tries to cross Switzerland will have to reckon with the entire Swiss Army.

Besides Switzerland, there was another German-speaking nation in Europe: Austria. On the first page of Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler had declared that "Common blood must belong to a common Reich" ("Gleicbes Blut gehört in ein gemeinsames Reicb"). He referred to Austria and Germany as "two German states which we of the younger generation at least have made it our life work to reunite by every means at our disposal."- Hitler told the Reichstag on January 30, 1934, in a speech marking his first year in power, that what was happening in Germany "will not halt at the frontier posts of a land which is German not only in its people but in its history as well, and which was for many centuries an integral part of the German Empire."

Switzerland would be Hitler's goal after he conquered Austria, argued G.E.W. Johnson in the June 1934 issue of North American Review. He wrote that a "slugging contest that is now being waged between the two Austrian-born Chancellors: Hitler, the 'little corporal' of Berlin, and Dollfuss, the 'Millimetternich' of Vienna, to decide whether or not Germany is to eat Austria for breakfast." The Swiss feared that if Austria were "served up for breakfast, it will be Switzerland's turn to furnish the lunch." After all, the Nazis claimed to "voice the aspirations not alone of the sixty-five million Germans who live in Deutschland, but of the eighty million 'Germans' who comprise Deutschtum [the greater German Empire]."

Like a "restless swarm of termites," wrote Johnson, the Nazis "bored from within," to subvert regions with a German-speaking majority: Danzig, the Saar, Austria and Switzerland. Their intentions, based on kinship of blood and speech, were to incorporate Switzerland within a Greater Germany by an appeal to the historic past. During the Middle Ages, Switzerland had been part of the Holy Roman Empire, the "First Reich" in Nazi terminology, of which Hitler's was the Third.

 

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