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swiss death trap for nazis

buschmasterbuschmaster Member Posts: 14,255 ✭✭✭
edited January 2008 in General Discussion
ST. MAURICE, SWITZERLAND - 'I shall show those insolent herdsmen and cheesmakers!' thundered Adolf Hitler in 1940, after Switzerland refused to allow the Germany Army to pass through its territory to outflank France's Maginot Line forts. Soon after France's defeat, Hitler and Mussolini ordered their general staffs to complete Plan von Menges, the invasion and partition of Switzerland by the combined armies of Germany and Italy.

But the Axis never invaded tiny Switzerland, then a nation of only 5 million. The reason was not, as revisionists claim, because they needed Switzerland for banking. Other neutrals - America, Spain, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal - were also available for finance and trade. Or because the Swiss cooperated with Hitler's Germany, an outrageous lie concocted by shady American lawyers and New York politicians seeking to blackmail and soak the wealthy Swiss. In 1940, when America was still neutral to Hitler, Swiss fighters shot down 11 intruding Luftwaffe aircraft.

The true reason was Switzerland's fierce national determination to remain free, backed by its top-secret National Redoubt - an immense system of over 100 mighty forts and thousands of casemates and bunkers buried deep in the heart of the Alps. In July, 1940, as Europe was surrendering or being overrun by invincible German armies, General Henri Guisan convoqued all senior officers of Switzerland's citizen army to Rutli Meadow and issued his famous order: 'fight to your last cartridge, then fight with your bayonets. No surrender. Fight to the death. ' The world's oldest democracy would stand alone against Hitler and Mussolini. The Germans and Italians decided against attacking Switzerland because of the casualties they would have faced.

Switzerland's 700,000 soldiers were given the grim command to be ready to leave behind their homes, wives and children, then retreat into the mountain fortress system, which had only enough food and shelter for the army. Each high Alpine valley was to become a little Thermopylae; every Alpine fort another Verdun. Working round the clock, in two years Swiss engineers created over 100 powerful artillery and infantry forts dug into granite mountain sides. Switzerland's secret Alpine Redoubt exceeded in size, strength, firepower - and, of course, effectiveness - France's famed Maginot Line, hitherto believed to be the world's mightiest fortress system.

At the heart of this huge military complex, whose existence is only now coming to light, lay Dailly, the world's largest and most powerful fort. For four decades, I have driven by Dailly without ever suspecting its existence. Now, as a guest of the Swiss General Staff and the elite Festungwachtkorps (Fortress Guard Corps), I was one of the first non-Swiss allowed to inspect the top secret fortress.

This Swiss Gibraltar lies some 15kms south of Lake Geneva's eastern end, between Montreux and Martigny, the gateway to the St Bernard Pass, commanding the Valais, a highly strategic valley formed by the Rhone River, the major land route between Italy and northern Europe. At St.Maurice, the Valais is further constricted by the outthrust of the Dailly massif, a steep, pyramind-shaped mountain spur that juts into the valley, narrowing the defile to under two kilometer's width. Here, in 47AD, Roman Emperor Claudius had the first bridge built across the fast-flowing Rhone.

Fortification of Daily began in 1892. By the early 1940's, Dailly had literally become, as the fort's technical chief, the redoubtable Aspirant Jean-Claude Raboud told me, 'a giant Swiss Gruyere cheese,' honeycombed by 60 kms of underground galleries (tunnels), with camouflaged gun embrasures, searchlights, troops barracks, magazines, supply depots and headquarters. North and south of Dailly lie numerous other forts: neighboring Savatan, Scex, Cindey, Petit-Mont, Follat_res, and more, a lethal gauntlet of underground strongholds with a staggering 300kms of tunnels and interlocking fire from artillery, mortars, and machineguns.

From outside, the forts are invisible, save for a few nondescript wooden buildings. The camouflaged embrasures for machine guns and artillery D tromp-l'oeil * that look like rock D are indistinguishable from more than a few feet away. They suddenly open, pour a withering fire, then close. Turrets are disguised as rustic chalets, sheds or boulders. All guns are pre-registered on their targets and can be fired blind, directed only by voice or electronic commands. The valley is crisscrossed by tank barriers, minefields, and obstacles. The main road and its bridges are mined with special demolition charges. Together, the Valais forts represent the pinnacle of 20th century military architecture and engineering.

Dailly staggers the mind and body. To reach its entrance at 1400 meters requires negotiating 29 vertiginous switchbacks etched onto the mountain's steep side. At the fort's narrow summit D known as 'the needle' D you look straight down, a terrifying sheer drop 1800 meters to the valley floor. From this aerie, one sees D and the fort's big guns can reach - all the way north to the end of Lake Geneva, the fabled Chateau of Chillon, and Montreux; and south to Martigny and the St Bernard pass into Italy.

The fortress was designed to accommodate 1,800 soldiers, with enough munitions, food and water to hold out 'buttoned up' for six months. Neighboring Savatan held 1,600 troops. Hewn into virgin granite, and protected by elaborate air filtration systems, Dailly and many other Alpine forts were immune to everything except for direct hits by nuclear weapons. Fearing a Soviet invasion, the Swiss extensively upgraded their forts until the late 1970's. France similarly upgraded and upgunned some of the Maginot forts during the 1960's.

Dailly's fighting power came from a variety of weapons designed for distant and close-in action: machine guns; 75mm rapid fire guns; 105 and 120mm artillery with a range of 17kms; 81 and 120mm semi-automatic mortars; 20mm AA guns; and two turrets with fully automatic 150mm cannon. These latter are fed by a elaborate production line 50 meters below the surface. Shells and propellant cartridges are loaded onto conveyer belts, mated, fused and then fed up by an ammo hoist system to the automatic cannon, huge, evil machines that can fire a storm of 22 heavy shells per minute to a distance of 25 kilometers.

Watching this production line of death in operations was a remarkable experience. My Swiss escort and friend, Lt. Colonel Marcel Krebbs, rightly described the huge 150mm guns and their 50-meter high barbettes as 'pharonic,' worthy of an Egyptian pharaoh. So were the fort's power plants, barracks, and magazines. The Swiss spared no expense on these battleships buried in the Alps.

The Cold War's end led Switzerland to sharply reduce its armed forces and decommission many forts. Large forts are being replaced by smaller artillery works armed with 155mm long-ranged guns. But much of Dailly and its neighbors are still active and serve as bases for Swiss mountain brigades defending the nation's fortress heartland.

Though I'm a veteran fortress explorer, Dailly left me at times with both vertigo from the 'Needle' and claustrophobia after hours of tramping through narrow, dimly lit concreted galleries, or squeezing in to a tiny lift that took us up through the rock inside the 150mm turret. Just looking down the 560-meter deep shaft of the funicular elevator that supplied the garrison made my head spin. After eight hours at titanic Dailly, one of the true wonders of the world, I was overwhelmed, elated, and totally exhausted. And I finally understood why Swiss friends used to tell me, 'Switzerland isn't a country; it's a fortress that looks like a country.'

Comments

  • allen griggsallen griggs Member Posts: 34,338 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Great story!
    Make sure that every adult male is armed and even a small country presents a mighty obstacle.

    I am reminded of a visit by Kaiser Wilhelm to Switzerland in 1911.
    He was talking with a Swiss general, and he casually mentioned that he might send some German divisions to invade Switzerland.
    The Kaiser said, "My army would outnumber yours two to one!"
    The Swiss general replied, "Then each of my soldiers would have to fire twice!"
  • dan kellydan kelly Member Posts: 9,799
    edited November -1
    top story! and good on the swiss...[8D]
  • 11b6r11b6r Member Posts: 16,725
    edited November -1
    I work for a company HQ'd in Switzerland. Really nice having a HO that has a BUNCH of riflemen. When they found out I shoot a K-31, they sent me a bayonet for it.
  • TooBigTooBig Member Posts: 28,561 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thanks for the History lesson very good[:D][:p][:0]
  • v35v35 Member Posts: 13,200
    edited November -1
    It sounds impressive but I don't buy in.If Hitler had nothing else to do, really wanted it and was willing to pay the price, I believe he would have laid seige to the country, found an Achilles Heel, made the people scream and taken it. A six months' food supply when you're landlocked and surrounded by an enemy isn't a lot. And then there's a fuel supply to power the country and its' underground network.
    Switzerland served a useful purpose so he let it have its' neutrality.
    I don't believe it had clean hands during or after the war.
    It offers little or no interest on funds in exchange for strict confidentiality. It's the repository of monies looted from their countries by tin horn dictators in Africa, South America and around the world.
    I view revelation of these secrets as an attempt to white wash the countries history.
  • Rack OpsRack Ops Member Posts: 18,597 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by v35
    It sounds impressive but I don't buy in.If Hitler had nothing else to do, really wanted it and was willing to pay the price, I believe he would have laid seige to the country, found an Achilles Heel, made the people scream and taken it.

    Sometimes the idea isn't to make your position unconquerable, but to make it not worth the cost to your enemy.

    Could Hitler have taken the Swiss? Likely yes.....but they would have chewed a hole in his army in the process.

    An army that would have been decimated in the Swiss Alps would have been in no position to launch an offensive into the Soviet Union. After 1941 Germany had bigger problems to deal with.
  • joeaf1911a1joeaf1911a1 Member Posts: 3,340
    edited November -1
    V 35 : Glad someone else here realized this was a crock of shot. Only thing the Swiss wanted was to have the BIG deposits of gold and money in their banks from the Krauts lootings of other countries. They gave the Krauts " carte blanc " in Switzerland in WW 2.
  • allen griggsallen griggs Member Posts: 34,338 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Sometimes the idea isn't to make your position unconquerable, but to make it not worth the cost to your enemy.

    Could Hitler have taken the Swiss? Likely yes.....but they would have chewed a hole in his army in the process.

    An army that would have been decimated in the Swiss Alps would have been in no position to launch an offensive into the Soviet Union. After 1941 Germany had bigger problems to deal with.


    Well put, Rack Ops.
    In fact, it was Hitler's detour to "mop up" operations in Greece that led to his downfall in Russia. The German invasion of Greece was supposed to take only a week, but it took 6 weeks.
    This put the Russian invasion 5 weeks behind schedule, and by the time the Wehrmacht got to the outskirts of Moscow, the snow had begun to fall.
  • TxsTxs Member Posts: 18,801
    edited November -1
    The Swiss deserve no respect for their actions during WWII. They sat by as spectators while the rest of the world made huge sacifices to take out a force that would've eventually owned them.

    Germany simply stayed too busy in areas more critical to their larger plan at the time. Bypassing Switzerland in this phase of the war wasn't a risk because they definitely weren't going to leave their borders and go on the offensive. Switzerland was of no significance to Germany at the time, but would've fallen like a stack of cards if Germany had succeeded in other areas.

    This grand plan the Swiss had of moving their entire military into established forts deep within the mountains was totally outdated by the 1940's. All it would've taken would be for Germany to leap past them by conducting airborne assaults on their now undefended cities, industries and agricultural areas. All those Swiss troops hunkered down in their bunkers awaiting a 19th century style assault on their borders would've lost their country within short a short time, then eventually just be starved out. Their tactic was as much a folly as the Maginot line.

    Switzerland was like the neighbor peeking out their blinds and whispering quietly as they watched a gang of thugs wipe out their neighbors one by one, not willing to get involved because they weren't being directly threatened. If Hitler hadn't bungled his General's efforts in other regions Switzerland would've ceased to exist.

    They owe their existence to the sacrifices made by the Allies.
  • buschmasterbuschmaster Member Posts: 14,255 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    the article reveals their fortifications. the plans and tactics they also must have prepared at length, for when the germans would have turned to them, we can only speculate on.
  • Warpig883Warpig883 Member Posts: 6,459
    edited November -1
    Sounds like it would have been an easy task to fire a few shots to send them into the forts. Then keep them there for 6 months and they will starve.
  • allen griggsallen griggs Member Posts: 34,338 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    "Switzerland was like the neighbor peeking out their blinds and whispering quietly as they watched a gang of thugs wipe out their neighbors one by one, not willing to get involved because they weren't being directly threatened. If Hitler hadn't bungled his General's efforts in other regions Switzerland would've ceased to exist."

    So if you had been commander of the Swiss forces you would have led your forces out of Switzerland and attacked Germany when Germany was beating up on Poland in September 1939?
  • glabrayglabray Member Posts: 679 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hitler had nothing to fear from the Swiss as long as they stayed home and did nothing to help their neighboring countries that were being overrun. Since this is what the Swiss did, they were a non-issue.
  • joeaf1911a1joeaf1911a1 Member Posts: 3,340
    edited November -1
    Quote: " Hitler had nothing to fear from the Swiss as long as they stayed home and did nothing to help their neighboring countries that were being overrun. Since this is what the Swiss did, they were a non-issue." Another truth appears. And that is just what the Swiss Nation did. The "Gnomes of Zurich" won out and ended up with all the Nazi treasures to this day and are still fighting to keep it all from rightfull owners.
  • TxsTxs Member Posts: 18,801
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by allen griggs
    So if you had been commander of the Swiss forces you would have led your forces out of Switzerland and attacked Germany when Germany was beating up on Poland in September 1939?I'm saying Switzerland contributed nothing whatsoever to the Allied effort. Having such a heavily fortified area in the middle of Europe would've been useful.

    There are other well documented reasons they deserve no respect for their actions during the war.

    Many are under the mistaken belief that the Swiss were friendly toward our personnel during WWII. They took many thousand Allied personnel prisoner during the war, with many being placed in their prisons with the regular criminal population.

    Switzerland was more or less enemy territory. All personnel and equipment that ended up there was lost. The only difference being that they wouldn't fire unless fired upon and were guaranteed not to execute you when captured. Instead they locked you in jail with a Swiss version of Bubba.
  • Rack OpsRack Ops Member Posts: 18,597 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Txs
    I'm saying Switzerland contributed nothing whatsoever to the Allied effort. Having such a heavily fortified area in the middle of Europe would've been useful.


    The Allies didn't return to Western Europe till 1944.

    If the Swiss had jumped in, it would have been national suicide.
  • A J ChristA J Christ Member Posts: 7,534
    edited November -1
    About half the posters here have no idea what they are talking about and are just spouting someone else's view.

    DO some research and get the facts before you babble on and make a fool out of yourself.
  • allen griggsallen griggs Member Posts: 34,338 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    "I'm saying Switzerland contributed nothing whatsoever to the Allied effort. Having such a heavily fortified area in the middle of Europe would've been useful."

    What was Switzerland supposed to have done?
    Sweden was neutral in WW2. Are we supposed to dislike them as well?
  • jonkjonk Member Posts: 10,121
    edited November -1
    I wrote my senior honor's thesis on this topic (as well as Sweden's neutrality). From reading a fair amount on it- I'd say both sides are right.

    On one hand, the Swiss recognized Germany's power and the threat they posed, and sought to make themselves look as indegistible as possible with a well trained national militia army, dug in positions in the Alps (which if occuiped would have left something like 3/4 of the country to the Nazis with only a delaying action), and a scorched earth policy for all useful buildings, bridges, etc. The goal was to do to a potential invader what the Finns did to Russia in the Winter war- perhaps not defeat them but make any victory so bloody that it would seem a defeat, and not worth the effort.

    On the other hand though, the Swiss were pragmatists. After Germany occupied Vichy France in 1942, which in and of itself was a Nazi puppet state, Switzerland was surrounded by Germany and its allies. Any imports were at the pleasure of Germany and Italy- and though morals have their place, I don't condemn Swiss bankers, munitions plants, grocers, etc. for doing business with their Axis counterparts. Was there corruption? Of course. But as soon as the borders with France were reopened, Switzerland resumed doing business with the Allies as well.

    On the subject of interns, soldiers who violated the borders from both sides were interned- often at beautiful alpine resorts- and were treated with dignity. Various treaties on neutrality demanded this and it was exercised with equality for both sides. The Swiss air force also shot down or forced down some allied planes.

    Yes, Swiss banking practices did help the Nazis- and yes the Swiss did business with them. But only solely when they could no longer do business with other customers due to the course of war. Did the Swiss have a perfect record? No. Are their actions condonable- generally. There were a few exceptions, especially regarding transit issues. Did the military play a major deterrant role? Absolutely.
  • TxsTxs Member Posts: 18,801
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by jonk
    On the subject of interns, soldiers who violated the borders from both sides were interned- often at beautiful alpine resorts- and were treated with dignity. Various treaties on neutrality demanded this and it was exercised with equality for both sides.
    Our interred personnel spending the war sitting back eating chocolates in the Alps is a popularly held image, but this was by no means universal.

    During your research did you not discover information on the large number of US personnel who spent years in Swiss federal prisons with their criminals?

    Our personnel in Switzerland didn't have Geneva Convention protections as POW's and had no right to trial or military tribunal, meaning they were legally subject to Swiss laws and being placed in civilian prisons. This was by no means a rare occurrence, with thousnds of our people actually held in this manner.

    According to our retuning personnel they were generally placed in internment camps with other Allied prisoners, but infractions of any rules resulted in them being placed in Swiss federal prisons without benefit of trial. Keep in mind too that Switzerland was officially neutral, but it's population was about 70% ethnic-German. This also held true for the rapists and murderers these personnel were locked in with.

    Conditions in Switzerland were a far cry from Japanese or German prison camps, but this country wasn't necessarily the slice of paradise that many believe.
  • jonkjonk Member Posts: 10,121
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Txs
    quote:Originally posted by jonk
    On the subject of interns, soldiers who violated the borders from both sides were interned- often at beautiful alpine resorts- and were treated with dignity. Various treaties on neutrality demanded this and it was exercised with equality for both sides.
    Our interred personnel spending the war sitting back eating chocolates in the Alps is a popularly held image, but this was by no means universal.

    During your research did you not discover information on the large number of US personnel who spent years in Swiss federal prisons with their criminals?

    Our personnel in Switzerland didn't have Geneva Convention protections as POW's and had no right to trial or military tribunal, meaning they were legally subject to Swiss laws and being placed in civilian prisons. This was by no means a rare occurrence, with thousnds of our people actually held in this manner.

    According to our retuning personnel they were generally placed in internment camps with other Allied prisoners, but infractions of any rules resulted in them being placed in Swiss federal prisons without benefit of trial. Keep in mind too that Switzerland was officially neutral, but it's population was about 70% ethnic-German. This also held true for the rapists and murderers these personnel were locked in with.

    Conditions in Switzerland were a far cry from Japanese or German prison camps, but this country wasn't necessarily the slice of paradise that many believe.
    Well, yes, but some DID sit by the mountain lake and eat chocolate too- I stayed at the Hotel Adler in Wengen, which 'hosted' the crew of a British bomber forced down in the region near Interlachen. The Brits thought so favorably of their 'hosts' that they wrote an official thank you letter at the conclusion of the war. I won't dispute that some were thrown in jail- but better a Swiss jail than a German POW camp. For that matter some Swiss officers turned Jewish refugees right back into the hands of waiting SS gaurds and some reports even detail the passage of concentration-camp bound trains full of Jews out of France and Italy through Switzerland. So again, I would agree that the Swiss made accomodations to survive and some down right collaborated- but that the military's role cannot be overemphasized either.
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