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The Swiss and the Nazis by Stephen Halbrook
I've always been curious about how the Swiss survived as a neutral throughout WWII. How they managed to stay in communication with the rest of the world, what their role was in establishing communication, etc.
This book answers some of those questions but does not go deeply into them which is the one drawback.
All in all though very informative, many first person accounts which keep it very readable and interesting. I tend to plod slowly through history books of this nature but this one I went through pretty fast.
It also made me regret not grabbing a decently priced K-31 last summer when I had the chance. Opting to not get it because it wasn't "used" during the war and thus not a true WWII weapon. While these rifles may not have been "used", they most certainly contributed to the reason why they were not necessary to be used. The book left me with a huge respect for the Swiss and how they conducted themselves during the war.
As noted, the book has a lot of first person accounts so it does not go into great detail about transit, communication, etc of Switzerland and the outside world. I did learn however that the Swiss had a merchant fleet, that this fleet was in operation for the entire war and that through pre-existing treaties, they had access to the ports along specific road and rail lines which were pretty much maintained throughout the war. The Germans at times did restrict this and they most certainly monitored it but even with that, the Swiss were able to smuggle out many key munitions parts to the allies during the war along with blueprints for some of the larger weapons systems which included the AA guns used on most US and British ships.
Internment of the various military personnel was also covered and as they pretty much were allowed freedom of movement, there is one example of a "prank" being committed by US airmen against a local German consulate facility, they stole the nazi eagle from the front of the building.
Another large portion was devoted to the Jewish problem. This book attempts to correct what the author feels is a misconception of an ill deserved condemnation against the Swiss for not doing enough. Switzerland had a fairly relaxed immigration system in place for Jews and this was even further relaxed when the truth about the extermination camps became known. Prior to that, they were limiting access to women and children with the belief grown men were suited to take care of themselves. A policy they maintained for men of all nations. Switzerland would have accepted all had the western allies allowed them to move to their countries which they did in very small numbers.
All in all a good read on a topic not often covered.
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02-12-2011 10:15 AM
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Sounds like a very interesting book! Thanks.
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