57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
Lively and extremely readable, this is also a first-rate work of history, spanning two time periods-the Second World War and the Clinton Administration. Dr. Codevilla brilliantly analyzes the genuine crisis faced by Swiss politicians and military leaders during the Second World War-how to deter an invasion by Hitler's seemingly invincible Wehrmacht, which by 1940 had left the tiny country completely surrounded. How also to import enough food and coal to keep the Swiss population alive for the duration of the war? How to manage both of these tasks, without surrendering Swiss independence to the hated Nazi regime-which had been threatening invasion and calling for the liquidation of Switzerland since at least 1937? Using original sources, Codavilla answers these questions, and adds important historical perspective and moral nuance to the picture which Americans gained of Switzerland and her citizens during the late 1990s. He also addresses forthrightly the behavior of Swiss banks regarding unclaimed assets of Jews murdered by the Nazis, and the involvement of the Clinton Administration in the politicization of Holocaust accounts.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2001
Codevilla's writing is excellent and fluent and full of insight. He gives an excellent capsule history of Switzerland in WWII. I very much liked his approach of looking at several aspects: power, politics, economics and the military. Some of it I already knew more or less but it was very interesting to have everything together. He does give an objective view of the Swiss at the time: neither all heroes or cowards, nor all virtuous or villain, but by determination, cleverness and a generous amount of good luck managed to avoid a German invasion. He gives a very good picture of the unsatisfactory state of the Swiss army at the beginning of the war. Rightly he emphasizes the crucial role of General Guisan in uniting the people in their resistance. His role cannot be overemphasized. He was immensely popular; his picture hanging in almost all public places, inns and in many homes. Yet after the war he made no use of his popularity; having done his duty he became an ordinary citizen again.
The recent political machinations of US pressure groups to extract money from Swiss banks are very revealing. I suspected something along these lines, but the details of it are very interesting, how monetary contributions to the Democratic party bought the power to extort much more money from the Swiss banks. As to the consequences Codevilla again is very insightful: the image of America abroad suffered. What the author only covers lightly (out of politeness?) are the role of the Swiss government, Swiss press and the Swiss Left. By ineptitude or intention they all contributed to the success of the American operation.
Codevilla also correctly states that all this contributed to the success of Christoph Blochers (extreme?)right wing party.
I very much liked Codevilla's references to Roman quotations and excerpts from Machiavelli. The rules of politics both in war and in peace have stayed much the same.
The only critique I have concerns a number of misspellings of "Schweiz", "Schweizer" and "Schweizerisch" in the reference list.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2002
The book is brillant. It does provide outstanding, clear but still concise explanations on 3 subjects:
1. The very nature of the Swiss nation
2. Swiss neutrality during World War 2
3. The so-called "Jewish Funds Affair" which deeply affected US-Swiss relations in the late 1990's
Having closely followed the "Jewish Funds Affair" in the 1990', an affair which I considered to be a disaster as it affected relations between two countries which shared a long and intesive friendship before the "Affair", I did not expect to learn much from the book. However, I did find a wealth of informations, and an outstanding synthesis of the all "Affair", its consequences on the US-Swiss relations, and, most interestingly, the most accurate description of the Swiss nation I had ever read.
Switzerland seems peculiar to most non-Europeans: while it is sorrounded by mono-ethnical nations such as Italy and Germany, it seems difficult to understand how this small multi-ethnical nation did not break up in the course of the 2 last centuries. Well, the book by Prof. Codevilla explains very accurately why, and explains what is peculiar about Switzerland, and why the Swiss Italian and French ethnical minorities never joined the neighbouring non-ethnical nations.
In short, the book is a must for all those who want to learn about Switzerland, its nature and its history during the 20th century.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
After nearly two centuries of honoring her as a noble "sister republic," the United States suddenly turned on Switzerland in the late 1990s and all but named the Swiss the last surviving remnant of Hitler's Third Reich. Though the episode has largely passed from view today, the stench of "collaborated with the Nazis" still attaches to Switzerland's name in key parts of American media and culture. Angelo M. Codevilla gets to the bottom of this shameful episode in American history, and reveals what was really at stake and who stood to gain from it all.
As Codevilla shows, the anti-Swiss spasm in Congress and the media wasn't generated by any new facts or sudden revelations (despite what then-Senator Al D'Amato claimed at the time), but rather by domestic US political concerns and the Clinton Administration's typical desire to pay off wealthy campaign contributors. I suppose that, as a taxpayer, I should be relieved that for once, the money-grubbers set their sights on someone other than working Americans to be their easy-money cash cow. Like D'Amato, this whole sordid story makes me ashamed of my country -- but not for the same reason he gave.
Codevilla gives us chapter-and-verse of how the Clinton Administration put itself to work supporting campaign contributors' efforts to extort money, not from Swiss banks to give to Holocaust survivors, but rather from Swiss taxpayers to pour into their own tax-exempt foundations. He details the anti-Swiss game plan: dig up old and discredited arguments, rejected policy recommendations, and propaganda from American and Swiss left-wingers; clothe yourself in moral righteousness; wave the bloody shirt (Codevilla quotes one, "I speak to you today on behalf of the Jewish people. With reverence, I also speak to you on behalf of the six million who cannot speak for themselves."); employ sympathetic media and politicians to recycle your theories into "history" and your accusations into "proof;" and then watch the money pour in from the victims of your moral blackmail.
At the same time, this title is a fine work of history, as Codevilla reveals what was really going on in Switzerland during the war. Political, military, and economic strategies are all analyzed, and the reader is drawn into Switzerland's wartime dilemma: how to stand up to evil while at the same time preserving its own freedom. D'Amato and others might have preferred that the Swiss allow themselves to be overrun by the Nazis rather than make the (relatively few) compromises they did in order to keep the wolf on the other side of the door. But certainly, it's easier to argue that today than it was sixty years ago. In all, as Codevilla makes amply clear, Switzerland acted far more honorably in the desperate 1940s than America did in the cushy and comfortable 1990s. We owe the Swiss nation and people an apology.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2005
~Between the Alps & A Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and Moral Blackmail Today~ is a energetic defense of the Swiss and their role as a non-belligerent neutral power in WWII. This thorough and well-documented book challenges the myth of Swiss collaboration with the Nazis and charges the Clinton Administration for obfuscation of historical fact and betraying the national interest. With the precision of a veteran intelligence analyst, the respected Angello Codevilla offers an accurate assessment of Switzerland's geostrategic situation with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown on economics, political, and military considerations for the tiny alpine nation before and during WWII. Codevilla's opening chapter `Pseudo-Event versus Reality' chronicles the smear and extortion campaign against the Swiss by U.S. politicians and activists like liquor magnate Edgar Bronfman. Codevilla elaborates how the Swiss were berated and demonised. He describes how the Swiss banks operating in New York became the target of a political game of state-sponsored legal plunder with the help of former Sen. D'Amato (R-NY), the Democratic Party machine in NYC and the Clinton Administration. They staged a media sideshow in the U.S. Senate and talked of economic sanctions with contrived evidence in an effort to fleece the Swiss. Their campaign of moral blackmail succeeded. Codevilla meticulously documents the $1.25 billion shakedown of Swiss banks operating in America. He records how the anti-Swiss campaign failed to produce any substantive evidence to substantiate its shocking claims. Moreover, he makes light of how U.S. foreign policy can be bought by powerful lobbying groups. "Compromising America's standing in the world by franchising foreign policy to interest groups has become all too commonplace," notes Codevilla. This exposé makes light of the disgraceful selling of foreign policy for selfish political gain. As political payoffs and domestic prerogatives of private interests are being entertained, vital national interests are swept to the sidelines. Historical reality has been besmirched and the Swiss are erroneously and shamefully accused of supporting Nazi Germany and sharing culpability for the Holocaust. The settlement resulted in a mad scramble at the money trough for a cut of the $1.2 billion. The massive extortion ended up enriching Bronfman constituencies and lawyers far more than it did any remaining Holocaust survivors.
Foremost, the vast majority of the Swiss populace, even in the German-speaking regions, hoped for Allied victory. The fear of a Nazi invasion was a legitimate concern of the Swiss. Codevilla captures the excellence of Swiss military preparedness given their circumstances and limited resources. Switzerland is widely known as a mountainous country atop the Alps. The Swiss deterred Nazi aggression by keeping their country more valuable to the Germans as free nation than a conquered one. Switzerland has its back to the Alps and is well protected from the south and east, but was vulnerable to invasion from the north on an open plateau and the northwest through the Rhone Valley. The Swiss recognised their weaknesses, and as such planned accordingly. They supplied and fortified a huge military redoubt in the rugged mountainous country in the south. The underdog Swiss accepted Germany's military prowess, and defined their defense measures so as to make war against the Swiss a long and costly affair. Their plans were to hold off any invasion as long as possible with vehement resistance with border troops. If guerilla warfare ensued than productive assets, bridges, and roads would be sabotaged. No doubt, such resistance would buoy the aggressiveness of the invader, but the Swiss were adamant in their plans to vehemently resist an aggressor. The Swiss had a well-supplied military redoubt in the south where the bulk of the military was stationed and the remnant. The redoubt was a veritable fortress with earthworks, trenches, tunnels, AA guns, and machine guns. If attacked, the underdog Swiss planned to exploit the terrain (i.e. towering mountains, narrow passes) to harness every possible tactical advantage in much the same way the as the beleaguered Spartans did at Thermopylae. Codevilla chronicles their military preparations and strategic considerations with incisive detail. Even Hitler deemed an excursion into Switzerland as vain because of its well-armed militia and military preparedness.
The Swiss recognised that military power is requisite at the table of diplomacy and international relations. Codevilla makes light of intriguing details about how the Swiss stood their ground against Nazi encroachment and how Swiss military preparedness actually discouraged Nazi invasion:
1. The Swiss enjoy the distinction of being a well-armed populace. Prohibition of firearms to the great multitude of Swiss is an unthinkable as it is to most Americans. All males most render service in the Swiss militia and they keep a state-issued rifle at home. The Swiss military tradition is strong, and historically Swiss mercenaries are among the most coveted.
2. Unlike neighboring Austria, the Swiss dealt with Nazi fronts and political sympathisers in much the same way as America dealt with fascists and communists during the time. They were treated as subversives, and quite a few organisations were shut down, and jailed for espionage and sedition.
3. Before and during the war, the Swiss press regularly condemned Hitler and insulted him in his own language. In the 1930s, when the Third Reich tried to initiate agreements with surrounding German-speaking countries to keep their newspapers "friendly," only the Swiss said no. The Swiss foreign minister reminded the Germans that the Swiss press was not an instrument of government and as such they could make no commitments regarding the press.
4. While Switzerland's role as a neutral prevented her from harboring refugees under legal auspices, Swiss citizens covertly aided Jewish refugees and helped quite a number make their way into Switzerland.
5. In devising a plan of Swiss defense, Swiss General Henri Guisan established a well-understood decorum that if Switzerland were invaded that every man was to fight as long as he had ammunition or a bayonet. Surrender was not a viable option.
6. Some 328 modern Swiss fighters including Messerschmitt 109s and 202 C36 bombers were based in the fortified region. Much of the Swiss air force was securely hangered in tunnels and most of the nation's anti-aircraft guns strategically placed. The idea was to maintain air superiority over the southern fortress which could have effectively countered Nazi paratroop infiltration.
7. The Swiss would have thwarted traffic through the St. Gotthard and Simplon tunnels and simply blown them off if necessary. It was readily apparent that the strategic tunnels, roadways connecting to Italy would have been controlled by the Swiss resistance and were susceptible to sabotage if the Axis were to invade.
8. To lessen Swiss dependence upon Germany for food, the Swiss adopted the plan of agronomist Friedrich Wahlen to plant every arable plot of soil in the country, which effectuated an autarkic agricultural policy. Though parts of the nation had rationing during the war, the rations were never below 2,400 calories per day.
9. The Swiss had a near monopoly on the high-tech jewel bearings for aircraft navigation. And even after German embargos, select Swiss manufacturers managed to continue the trade through smugglers and intermediary countries which helped the Allied war effort.
10. Under U.S. statute during the war, a great deal of property including that of Jews in Nazi Germany was requisitioned by the U.S. government. In all reality, the U.S. appropriated way more unclaimed Jewish property than Switzerland. In many cases, unclaimed property was simply escheated to the U.S. of some state government for lack of a will.
Codevilla explains the art of realpolitk, and he credits the Swiss for their shrewd diplomacy and military preparations given their dire circumstances. Codevilla further explains the economic and political warfare that both the Axis and the Allies played against the small alpine country. Switzerland was indeed between a rock and a hard place but made the best of a bad situation and made the best of its geo-strategic situation. The Swiss reacted accordingly by ratcheting up their willingness to resist Nazi strong arm tactics by 1943 and would not submit to their trade demands.
With a dwindling number of Holocaust survivors still living, it is not clear how much of the settlements went to them. Bronfmann's cohorts, writers, and lawyers managed to come ahead though, as well as a rubber-stamp artist that happened to read a book on Swiss gold transactions for a $5,000 fee. The Swiss government made a separate payoff in Europe of $200 million to the WJC. Thereafter, the press told of Holocaust survivors lamenting that no payments were forthcoming. It turns out the WJC only disbursed 10% of those funds received. It had become readily apparent that politically-connected organisations were the chief beneficiaries of this fleecing campaign and the Swiss people were the victims and their honor was impugned. The event led neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer to characterise the incident as "the worst of racial hustling and class action opportunism in the United States." Even ADL chair Abe Foxman lamented that the claimants were making "an industry on the memory of the victims." This book carries the endorsement of former CIA chief and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. Quite a few historians and no doubt much of the Swiss populace are very much cognizant of the blatant hypocrisy of 'moral complacency' or 'aiding and abetting' accusations coming out of America and bombarded at the Swiss. Given that a substantial number Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany were turned away at American ports and left in limbo at sea, the Swiss can rightly retort Tu que que or as Jesus Christ would say, "first cast the plank out of your own eye before you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2001
Likely one of the most important works ever written on survival of a small nation surrounded by enemies for over seven years; surviving first by absolute dedication of the Swiss populace which democratically chose to "fight to the last man" as lead by General Guisan during WWII. By not abdicating their individual rights and refusing to abrogate their lives to bureaucrats this single action convinced their enemies that it was far better to deal in a businesslike mode than to conquer . Finally, the selling out of the highest offices of the U.S. to special interests by extorting a payment for the right to continue business here by Swiss banks in the name of victims of the holocaust is a shame on the history of our country. Although this sad chapter in the nation's history will never be told universally it is important that concerned citizens understand the real story. There are many lessons to be learned by concerned citizens in the U.S. who see the majority in this republic refusing to take responsibility for their democratic inactions - not realizing the portent of their neglect.
A clear refutation of the indictment of Switzerland as a collaborateur of Nazism and to the contrary defining its role as banker of the War providing the only trade negotiable currency for both the allies and axis and a commonality for settlements in a post war Europe requiring a point of stability from which a rebuilt Common Market could eventually germinate and thrive. Dr. Codevilla's historical and world wide perspective is a basic course in power politics and negotiations. It should be required reading in every business and civilization course in the country. To know Machiaevelli's concepts is one thing but to understand them in a historical period of fifty years of power politics is quite another. A must read!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2001
This is a clearly-written and fascinating description of what happens when special interest politics collide with historical reality. Codevilla describes in great detail the enormous military and economic pressures the Swiss were under while trying to stay free while surrounded by Fascism during World War II. In order to preserve what freedom they did have, the Swiss were indeed forced to import gold from Nazi Germany, but most of it ended up leaving the country to pay German debts throughout the world and had long since been 'laundered' before it even entered the country. The Swiss settled upon reparations with the Allies directly after the war, and the amount of money found later in dormant accounts belonging to victims of the Nazis was relatively small.
None of these facts stopped the World Jewish Congress and other special-interest bureaucracies from using their influence over the U.S. Democratic Party and that party's control of the New York City courts to blackmail several large Swiss banks into handing over a large portion of their profits in the form of reparations to private organizations whose constituencies are unclear (and in so doing ignoring the ever-so-slightly-more legitimate claims of actual Holocaust victims). The United States government made certain that it was only indirectly involved in this "private foreign policy" that served to enrich the Democratic Party and the various Jewish activist bureaucracies, while alienating the Swiss people. Codevilla's conclusion is that this whole episode only hurt the United States' image while providing no benefits whatsoever to the country as a whole. This is yet another example of the intellectually-dishonest Clinton administration putting its private gain ahead of the national interest.
Although Codevilla is a bit too pro-military and partisan for my taste, this book provides a much-needed and fairly-presented perspective on a rather shameful episode for the United States that has been conspicuously absent from the mainstream U.S. media. The Swiss bank saga is over for the moment, but with the continuing calls for World War II reparations, this book will provide an important and much-needed perspective on current affairs (and breath of intellectual honesty) for some time to come.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2001
Was amazed by author's detailed research regards contribution of Swiss to Allied war effort 1942-45. Sure, mistakes were made; but the courageous acts of individual Swiss were astounding. Having lived through the period '42-'45 myself, partly inside Germany and then with US Army, I am grateful to Angelo Codevilla having exposed the undue pressure on the Swiss which has been very unfairly exploited by part of our US media. Glad that we have types like A.C. in the US who don't shirk to speak out with a clear mind. Fascinating book. NDG
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2002
This is an excellent book for setting straight the misleading publicity Switzerland suffered during the unfortunate turmoil about reparations begun by a well known U.S. Senator. Although his intentions may have been good, the newspapers did a public disservice to a country which during World War II was, besides the U.S., the only other democracy in the world.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2002
BETWEEN THE ALPS AND A HARD PLACE sets the record straight regarding the myth of Swiss collaboration with the Nazis during WWII. The book is crammed full of facts explaining the amazing survival of this small democratic nation surrounded by totalitarian warlords. As an American I am deeply ashamed of the strong-arm extra-legal processes employed by the World Jewish Council, the Clinton Administration, and the Democratic Party to wring 1.2 billion dollars from Swiss banks--nothing short of protection money, or as the Swiss referred to it, a legally required bribe. The one-sided, incomplete, and (bad) coverage of this episode in the American media at the time leaves me with even less faith in their objectivity and competence.
I wish there were someone in Washington with the moral courage to undo this wrong, repay the billions, bring the corrupt American officials to justice, and APOLOGIZE to our long-time most democratic friend, Switzerland.
An entertaining, well written, and highly educational book!