Not a topic I like talking about, really, or something that I like to give much attention to. But it seems that many people are intrigued as to why Adolt Hitler didn’t invade Switzerland.
Now, there are multiple reasons, let’s discuss them in further detail
First and foremost it is crucial to understand exactly where Switzerland is located.
Where Exactly is Switzerland Located?
Check out the map of Europe below.
Look for the little white country in between France, Germany, and Italy. You can see how strategically the country is located and also understand why Switzerland has 3 official languages!
4 Reasons Why Hitler Didn’t Invade Switzerland
History tells us that there are multiple reasons why Hitler didn’t invade Switzerland, let’s dive into them in no particular order.
Was it one specific reason or a mixture of a few?
We will never know exactly.
Let’s start with the French & German ceasefire.
1. French & German Ceasefire
According to the German historian Stefan Schäfer who wrote a famous book on the subject named “Hitler und die Schweiz” or Hitler & Switzerland, it was more complex than people think.
After in-depth historical research into the subject, Schäfer concludes that one of the main reasons why Switzerland was not invaded was due to a ceasefire between France and Germany.
Basically, France accepted, actually had to forcefully accept a ceasefire following an aggressive German offensive in 1940.
He goes on to say that if the offensive was maintained and that there was no ceasefire that Switzerland would have been dealt a full military offensive.
Although Switzerland was not a primary target, it was a strategic one. Switzerland is perfectly located between France and Germany and would have been a great asset for the Nazi regime.
To top that off, Italy, which at the time was an ally of Adolf Hitler, was placed perfectly to the South and South-East of the country.
2. Swiss Army Prepared For Invasion
The Swiss Army follows in line with Swiss culture and always have been well-maintained, high-quality, and efficient.
For a small country, Switzerland army has always packed a relative punch; why? Service in the army is compulsory, and recruitment for some duties can start as early as 16 years old for some.
Note that Swiss military service is compulsory for men, not women; now, let’s see how the Swiss efficiency resolved in an extremely fast mobilization.
Swift Army Mobilization
On the flurried outbreak of World War II in 1939, Switzerland mobilized its army in three days. That was impressive back then and even more so compared with some armies by today’s standards.
Within three days, the Swiss had an army of some 430,000 troops ready to fight with the helpful addition of 210,000 support crew too. Boom!
What next? Bring on the National Redoubt.
The Swiss army was strategically placed throughout the Alps to ensure that nobody could cross into the country. They basically controlled the major mountain crossings and railway connections.
This strategy was designed as a very strong deterrent, and it played a part in deterring Hitler, but what about the mountains?
3. Topography, Mountains, Lakes & Rivers
Switzerland’s mountains have played a huge part in the lives of Swiss people in many, many ways. When it comes to a military deterrent for invading forces, the mountain ranges contributed to Hitler thinking twice.
When looking into troop placement, the mountains were an incredible asset for the Swiss. Swiss troops were strategically placed to defend alpine crossings.
With alpine crossings highly guarded, there was no way that German troops would be able to cross the mountains.
Talking about the upper hand, Switzerland literally had troops higher and better positioned in the mountains, thanks to the National Redoubt plan mentioned before.
Benefits of Mountains
Below is a key list of mountain benefits for a defending Switzerland:
- Natural Borders: Mountains act as huge, sturdy borders. Troops could not cross these high-altitude areas with harsh conditions, especially with limited technologies and equipment in the 1940s.
- Camouflage: Swiss mountain ranges offer endless camouflage capabilities for both troops and weapons. Unlike a flat surface, mountains over many surfaces, shapes, sizes, and colors that troops can hide into, under etc. Whether it is rocky ledges, ice or dense forest trees, the mountain ranges of Switzerland offer all these. Aside from camouflage for troops, the Swiss military had the perfect canvass to store weapons and military supplies secretly.
- High Ground: What is the benefit of the high ground? Returning to Lao Tzu’s Art of War, holding the high ground or elevated positions is said to be beneficial for the main reason of offering a wide field of view, aka a better vantage point to spot the enemy.
What about the lakes and rivers of the country? How did they play a part?
Benefits of Rivers & Lakes
Switzerland is full of rivers and lakes, which also added to the list of the country’s deterrents.
Rivers and lakes slow and condense the enemy in crossing locations. Mix this with the upper hand of the mountains and raised positions, it was a recipe for disaster if Hitler was to attack.
What about the supply of goods? Did Switzerland supply Adolf Hitler with weapons?
4. Switzerland Supplied The Nazis
According to in-depth research, the Swiss Confederation did supply the Nazis with weapons in the early 1940s.
Disgraceful, yes. But why did they do it, and what did Switzerland get out of it?
Our friends as Swissinfo.ch, state that from 1940 – 1944, 84 percent of Swiss munition exports went to Germany, Italy, and Japan, otherwise known as Axis countries. This article in the NY Times declares that the trade of weapons between 1940 – 1944 between Switzerland and Nazi Germany was worth 600 million Swiss Francs (150 million USD). Mind you, the value of this would be at least 10 times these days.
Although the Swiss profited greatly from this, apparently, it did not prolong the war.
What else did Switzerland provide the Nazis?
Gold. Well, not gold itself, but a place to process and store it; apparently, 77% of Nazi gold was carried out through Switzerland!
But isn’t Switzerland neutral?
Well, they claim to be and are in many ways, but the above certainly makes you question back then.
Why Didn’t Hitler Invade Switzerland? – Conclusion
In one of the saddest, most disgraceful times of human history, nobody will ever truly know the answer to why Hitler didn’t invade Switzerland. Was it one of the above, or was it a mixture of them all?
Furthermore, due to the lack of invasion, Switzerland’s old towns are in incredible condition; in fact, some of the buildings throughout Zurich and Geneva are still in their original condition from hundreds of years ago.
Is Switzerland neutral?
Switzerland still remains neutral and has the oldest policy of neutrality in the world. Although Switzerland is closely tied to the European Union, they are not a full voting member and have not adopted the Euro currency.
Is Switzerland in NATO?
Switzerland is not part of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
Is Switzerland safe to visit? Absolutely it is, in fact, it is one of the safest countries in the world, and somewhere you must visit. Check out the US Government Website before you travel.
Want to know more about this amazing country, check out our article 10 Things That Switzerland is Known For!
What Language do They Speak in Switzerland? Great question; there are actually 3 official languages in the country, including German, French and Italian.
But don’t worry, the Swiss speak great English too. I’ve written an article on the languages of Switzerland and some simple words you can learn before you travel; check it out here.
Or, if you are contemplating a job or moving to Switzerland, check this article out.