'Life Between the Volcanoes.' Switzerland During the Second World War



Wylie N (1995) 'Life Between the Volcanoes.' Switzerland During the Second World War. The Historical Journal, 38 (3), pp. 759-767.

First paragraph: On the afternoon of 21 April 1941, Maria Guiness, wife of one of the leading figures in the thriving English ex-patriot community on the banks of Lake Geneva, composed a letter in which she described life in wartime Switzerland. Her correspondent knew Switzerland only too well. Sir George Warner had been Britain's minister in Berne from 1936 and had only returned to London to take up a temporary appointment in the foreign office fifteen months earlier. The picture of Switzerland which emerged from the pages of Maria Guiness's letter was one which Warner would have found difficulty recognizing. Far from beauty and gaiety which coloured popular British images of Switzerland during the 1930s, the Switzerland of April 1941 was impregnated with the sulphurous stench of war and violent ideologies, filtering across the Rhine, or drifting up from fascist Italy. Daily life in Switzerland was, in the opinion of Maria Guiness, 'like living under Vesuvius when it begins to cough badly'. For the last twenty years, historical analyses of Switzerland's survival in such an inhospitable international environment have been dominated by the work of the Basle historian Edgar Bonjour, and in particular his opus magnum, Die Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralitdt. This six volume study touched on numerous aspects of Switzerland's activities, role and experiences during the war. Through the breadth of its scope, and thoroughness of the research, the Bonjour Report, as it became known, denned the historical agenda, and to a great extent set the tone for most of the studies that followed. Though Swiss historiography made significant steps in building on Bonjour's foundations, the books reviewed in this article are especially welcome, since they draw Swiss historiography away from the mould set by Bonjour, address new themes, and question the basis on which the dynamics of Swiss history should be viewed.

The Historical Journal: Volume 38, Issue 3

FundersUniversity of Nottingham
Publication date30/09/1995
Publication date online01/02/2009

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Professor Neville Wylie

Professor Neville Wylie

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