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Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and the Rewriting of History Hardcover – November 1, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"...Kritik am Verhalten der Schweiz im Zweiten Weltkrieg wurde primër mit Argumenten aus der moralisch-idealistischen Denktradition vorgetragen." -- Hans E. T³tsch, Neue Z³rcher Zeitung, 4 Oktober 2000

From the Inside Flap

Realpolitik and Moral Blackmail

In Between the Alps and a Hard Place, Professor Angelo M. Codevilla reveals how the true history of the Swiss in World War II has been buried beneath a modern campaign of moral blackmail that has accused Switzerland of secretly supporting Nazi Germany and sharing culpability for the Holocaust. Codevilla—who practiced real-life, hardball foreign policy as an intelligence adviser in the U.S. Senate—offers a primer on the realities of power politics, using the Swiss experience in World War II to illuminate the workings of the balance of power, military deterrence, economic leverage, and subversion.

But more, he exposes how current American leaders are ignoring the realities of international affairs by putting domestic politics and political payoffs ahead of the national interest.

In the context of World War II, Codevilla shows how tiny Switzerland successfully fended off an Axis war machine thirty times its strength and simultaneously made itself available as a lifeboat to Jewish and other ethnic refugees. The Swiss recognized that military power is the foundation of international relations, and they deterred a Nazi invasion by keeping their country more valuable to the Germans as a free nation than as a conquered one.

Codevilla documents how the anti-Swiss campaign offered no evidence for its shocking claims but still managed to shake down two of the largest banks of a friendly power for $1.25 billion. The campaign set a terrible precedent, whereby a powerful domestic interest group—and major donor to the Clinton-Gore administration—harnessed the power of the U.S. government to grossly distort history and secure a financial windfall. In the process, the larger interests of the United States were subverted for the sake of a favorite domestic constituency of the ruling party.

Between the Alps and a Hard Place is both thrilling World War II history and an exposé of the shameful selling of historical truth and American foreign policy for political gain.

Angelo M. Codevilla is a professor of international relations at Boston University. He has been a U.S. Naval officer, a U.S. Foreign Service officer, a senior staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and a senior research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. His books include Informing Statecraft, War: Ends and Means (with Paul Seabury), and The Character of Nations. He lives in Dubois, Wyoming, and Wayland, Massachusetts.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery History; 1 edition (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089526238X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895262387
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. M. Hadacek on October 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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