History Content for the Future

IF THE NAZIS ATTACK: The Steely Swiss Strategy

In today’s On The Homefront episode, Anna talks about how a staged German invasion of Canada is used by the Canadian government to promote the sale of war bonds on the Homefront. Such an invasion actually taking place is of course pretty unlikely, but you can’t blame the Canadians for being scared of it.

Plus, their preparations for invasion are child’s play compared to the defensive strategy formulated by the Swiss after they find themselves hemmed in on all sides by Axis Europe. It is an expanded version of the 19th-century era defensive plan of a National Redoubt.

It is almost apocalyptic in it’s cold-logic. The driving rationale is that Switzerland can never win a war against Germany, but can make German victory so costly that it dissuades them from invading. Upon invasion, the bulk of the Swiss Army is to retreat into a Redoubt in the Alpine regions and a network of nearly impregnable fortresses. Any possibility of a paratrooper assault, like the one that took place on the supposedly impregnable Belgian fortress Eben-Emael, can be forestalled by emplacements up and down the mountains, resulting in anti-aircraft fire from high and low. Hangared in tunnels in the mountains, Swiss planes can also dart out from the fortifications and engage enemy aircraft or bomb ground troops before safely getting behind the mountains again.

On the ground in the lowlands, border guards and civilian militias will be left to either effectively sacrifice themselves to slow the enemy advance or engage in guerrilla warfare once the region is occupied. Civilians themselves will be barred from entering the Redoubt, and it would be life-threatening for them to do so as all entrances will be booby-trapped. All infrastructure is to be blown-up as the Swiss retreat.

As one senior officer puts it “In our situation there can only be one aim, to resist as long as possible … We want to go down fighting, leaving the aggressor only a totally devastated country without material or human resources of any kind.”

Curious to know more about the Swiss neutrality during the war? Watch our WW2 Special “Switzerland: Neutral or Nazi Ally?” here: https://youtu.be/L74VSK4-5e0?t=233