From Publishers Weekly
The recent focus on Swiss accommodations to the Third Reich has obscured the facts surrounding Switzerland's success in deterring Nazi invasion, argues Halbrook in this narrative of Switzerland's preparations for armed resistance during WWII. Concessions on commercial or refugee issues, Halbrook contends, were not enough by themselves to fend off one of history's most ruthless dictatorships. What was decisive, he finds, was Swiss determination to defend itself by an armed force based on armed citizens. In contrast to Holland, Denmark or Norway, Switzerland during WWII successfully maintained its neutrality. It did so, argues Halbrook, by convincing Nazi Germany and its own citizens that any invader would pay in blood for every foot of ground, and in the end would find only devastation. Halbrook, a practicing attorney rather than an academic scholar, relies primarily on journalistic sources to make the points that Switzerland was prepared to abandon most of the country and fight to the last man from an Alpine redoubt. Among other questionable premises he accepts uncritically, he takes as given that militiamen armed primarily with bolt-action rifles and 50 rounds of ammunition constituted an effective fighting force in an age of mechanized war. His account, while written from a limited vantage point, nevertheless establishes a series of elements in danger of being submerged by the recent furor over bank accounts and trade figures. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Halbrook vigorously and, inevitably, controversially argues a conservative defense agenda with his thesis that Switzerland's federal system, which lacks a central authority capable of surrendering the country, and its militia-based defense (shades of the Minutemen, the Second Amendment, and the NRA!) effectively enabled Swiss neutrality during World War II. He offers much evidence that the Swiss armed and equipped themselves at considerable cost to defend their independence, for which most of them were prepared to fight even against the might of the Wehrmacht. Whatever the range of Swiss sympathies was, and however much the necessary bribes to the Third Reich may have benefited the Axis, the Swiss deterred the Germans, remained neutral, and thereby benefited the Allies--and the many thousand refugees allowed into Switzerland--far more. Whether the Swiss would have offered a last-ditch resistance in the face of the full range of German terror tactics remains an open question, of course, but Halbrook suggests that the question of Swiss "complicity" with the Third Reich should also remain open. Roland Green