Seventy years ago, Switzerland surrounded by invasions


“The first week of June has produced events of capital importance, events which rank together with Germany’s attack on Western Europe in 1940, with her onslaught on Russia in 1941, with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in the same year, and with the Allied landing in North Africa in 1942,” announced the Swiss Observer radio programme, looking back on the D-Day invasion and the capturing of Rome by American forces, which had happened just two days before on June 4, 1944.

Indeed, the Short Wave Service’s lack of broadcasts referencing the Normandy landing – just three over the course of three days – show that the country was still processing the news that Hitler had lost Rome to the Americans. “The capture of Rome that we announced yesterday was followed this morning by an event which overshadows it,” began the announcement of the D-Day invasion. “Switzerland is determined, under all circumstances, to defend this country’s neutrality against all invaders,” Böschenstein continued in his commentary.

“This means that although she is not directly attacked, Switzerland must stand ready to deal with still greater formations of foreign armies that might be forced on to her territory. These forces would have to be disarmed and interned according to international law. She must also be prepared to extend care in just as great a measure as possible, to civilians who might be forced across our frontiers by approaching military operations.”
Böschenstein had in the past written pieces advocating accepting more war refugees from neighbouring countries, and the Swiss government had, by 1944, received considerable criticism from abroad for not accepting more. Although its refugee policy was hardening, in the days following the Normandy invasion, the Swiss government’s censorship and civilian control policies were showing signs of relaxing. These were early signs that the Swiss were breathing some sighs of relief and cautiously foreseeing an end to the war.


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Skip Cole is the director of the Swiss property website (, the largest online shop window for properties for sale in Switzerland.

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