Switzerland during WWII a brief look back

The beginning

As soon as Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 Switzerland began mobilising for a possible invasion and was fully mobilised within three days with a total of 430,000 combat troops, 210,000 support service personnel of which 10,000 were female.

Swiss troops on the northern border

I can only speculated here as I couldn’t find any original pictures but I am guess they only had a small building as barracks which could have looked something like this below:

Operation Tannenbaum also known as (Operation Green) was in fact a planned invasion of the country by Germany & Italy but it was never executed due to more pressing engagements on other fronts.  Although I can’t help but also think it might have had something to do with the terrain.

Switzerland was able to stay neutral throughout the course of the second world war through a combination of military deterrence and economic concessions to Germany.  There was however an attempted but failed Anschluss by the Swiss Nazi party during the early stages of the war, its failure attributed to Switzerland’s sense of national identity and tradition of democracy and civil liberties.


The country became a hive of espionage activity during the war and often brokered communications between the Axis and Allied forces.


However Switzerland wasn’t totally neutral, Germany violated Swiss air space a total of 197 times during the war which resulted in 11 Luffwaffe planes being shot down in 1940.  This is even more mind blowing when you consider that the equipment used was in fact German!

As a result Hitler and Goring sent saboteurs to destroy equipment and airfields, they were all caught by the Swiss before they could inflict any kind of real damage though.  Small isolated skirmishes continued throughout the war between Swiss and German soldiers on the northern borders of Switzerland.

This wasn’t however limited to Germany, from 1943 the Swiss  had also shot down allied pilots violating its air space with a total of 36 airmen losing their life’s.  In total over 6,000 allied aircraft violated Swiss air space during WWII.


on the 4th March 1945 Basel and Zurich were accidentally bombed by allied aircraft resulting in a couple of buildings being destroyed and 5 civilian deaths, the bombing crews thought they were bombing Frieburg, Germany.


As Switzerland was neutral and surrounded by the axis powers it was very easy for refugees to reach it seeking asylum, however the Swiss laws regarding refugees were strict and even more so for fleeing Jews.  Only those who were is direct threat of death were granted asylum which did not include those under threat due to race, religion or ethnicity.


In total the Swiss interned 300,000 refugees, of which 104,000 were foreign troops under the rights and duties of a neutral power outlined in the Hague convention and the rest were foreign civilians granted tolerance or residence permits. None of which were allowed to part take of any kind of work.

Swiss Trading

Throughout the war both axis and allied powers exerted pressure on the Swiss not to trade with the other, this pressure came in the form of blocking trade, the country relied on trade for crucial items such as some food products and more importantly fuel like coal and oil.

However both sides continued trading with the Swiss regardless with large amounts of gold being traded from Germany.


During 1940 – 1945 Germany traded over 1 billion Swiss Francs worth of gold alone which was used to help finance their war effort, mainly used for the purchase of important raw materials such as Tungsten and Oil from other neutral countries.


This gold was mostly plundered from occupied countries and over half a billion Swiss francs worth came from Holocaust victims.  this trade however was only 0.5% contribution towards the entire German war effort.

This figure is only a mere drop in the ocean and it only serves to invoke thoughts of the vast sums of money that the axis and allied forces were in fact injecting in to the war, it also conjures up the thoughts that maybe a country surround by war can stay truly neutral!

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