Switzerland during WWII
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No European country remained truly neutral during WWII. Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland all worked to some extent with the Axis. In Switzerland, the people who lived through the war wanted to believe that it was their army and fortifications that kept the Nazis out. Historical research and documents clearly show that if the Nazis wanted to invade Switzerland, it would have been quick and relatively easy. The reason Germany spared its tiny neighbor to the south was because Switzerland proved much more useful as an independent state than as a satellite. The Swiss made many useful weapon components (aluminium for the Luftwaffe, spark plugs for jeeps taken from the Russians, timing devices for bombs, among other things), and thus their factories were not bombed every night. The Swiss National bank bought gold from the Reichsbank, the Reichsbank was given Swiss francs in exchange, and used them to buy cobalt, nickel and tungsten from the other “neutral” countries. The Turks, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, who were all under heavy pressure from the Allies not to accept direct gold payment from the Reichsbank, then exchanged the Swiss francs for gold. The problem was that the German gold came from the Belgian National bank reserves (not from concentration camps as some sensationalists would have it) and the neutrals knew it. Finally, the Swiss allowed trains to carry food and non-weapon supplies from Germany to Italy, with dozens of trains every day on their way to Africa. But did Switzerland have any other choice? Probably not. Totally surrounded by the Axis, most of its coal supply came from Germany every week, and all of its exports had to go through Axis controlled territory. For a landlocked country with no natural resources, this meant the Swiss had to work out some form of accomodation with their neighbors. The problem is that the postwar generations have been raised to believe that it was the Swiss army, and not the country’s usefulness to the Germans, that protected it from the wrath of war. The Swiss are now coming to terms with this part of their history, as for example the people of France and Japan have. As a foreigner, it is best to avoid passing judgment on them and giving lessons, at the risk of offending your hosts.

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