“The full extent of the Nazi threat to Switzerland during World War II has never been adequately acknowledged. The reality was that the Swiss citizenry rifles in hand, stood up to the Nazis, threatening an unacceptable loss of German blood in the event of an invasion. When the Nazis conquered France, they decreed the death penalty for any person who failed to surrender firearms. This would have special significance in Switzerland where every man had been issued a rifle for militia service.” –The Swiss and the Nazis: How the Alpine Republic Survived in the Shadow of the Third Reich, by Stephen Halbrook
Mr. Halbrook asks, “Are the lessons offered by Switzerland during World War II relevant today?” The answer is unequivocally yes.
As Mr. Halbrook points out, “The Swiss aversion to centralized authority derived in part from their mountain culture and from the enduring legacy of the Reformation doctrines of Calvin and Zwingli. This proved to be a powerful bulwark against the Fuhrer principle just as, in more recent times, the Swiss rejected integration into the sprawling bureaucracies of the European Union. Referenda, local control and democratic consensus are core values in Switzerland. Indeed the Swiss are more opposed to statism than the parliamentary democracies Hitler sought to destroy.”
As Stephen Halbrook explains, “To the Swiss, strict armed neutrality meant that they would not participate in external wars. They would fight only defensively and only if attacked…. At the peak of its mobilization, the Swiss Confederation mustered an astonishing 850,000 men under arms—out of a population of 4.2 million.”
Stephen Halbrook concludes, ”The birth of the Swiss Confederation in 1291 and the United States in 1776 are extraordinary episodes in history in which peoples banded together to win their freedom. Despite today’s vast differences in size and population, Swiss local democracy is a kind of template of American local democracy. That is why Switzerland and the United States, despite occasional bumps on the road, will inalterably remain Sister Republics.”
Originally posted January 23, 2013.