Book Chapter

Switzerland: a neutral of distinction?



Wylie N (2011) Switzerland: a neutral of distinction?. In: Wylie N (ed.) European Neutrals and Non-Belligerents during the Second World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 331-354.

Of all the neutrals, Switzerland has the greatest right to distinction. She has been the sole international force linking the hideously sundered nations and ourselves. What does it matter whether she has been able to give us the commercial advantages we desire or has given too many to the Germans, to keep herself alive? She has been a democratic State, standing for freedom in self-defence among her mountains, and in thought, despite of race, largely on our side. Winston Churchill, 3 December 1944. Churchill's famous pronouncement provides a good starting point for any discussion of Swiss neutrality. In it Churchill highlighted four elements that, to his mind, gave Swiss neutrality its distinctive quality: Swiss democracy, its ‘armed neutrality’, humanitarian mission, and business activities. At the end of the war, the Swiss government in Berne did its best to construct an image of Switzerland's war that reflected Churchill's glowing testament. Serious debate was discouraged and ‘unpalatable’ information suppressed. When this was no longer possible, the country's pre-eminent diplomatic historian, Edgar Bonjour, was hired to present a sanitised version of the wartime events as a culmination of ‘four hundred years of federal foreign policy’. Although Bonjour's ‘report’ was by no means uncritical of Swiss policies, nor did it go unchallenged by other Swiss historians, it has been the recent ‘revelations’ about Swiss refugee and financial policies that has provoked a thorough reassessment of Switzerland's part in the war.

Publication date31/12/2011
Publication date online01/10/2011
PublisherCambridge University Press
Place of publicationCambridge

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Professor Neville Wylie

Professor Neville Wylie

Deputy Principal