It is a personal matter to me, following the articles by Gotthard Frick, to hint at a book by Alice Meyer called “Conformity or Resistance, Switzerland during German National Socialism”. Current Concerns already printed a review of this exceedingly readable book in 2013.
Since Switzerland is facing attacks against its sovereignty, its neutrality, its tried and tested values for a long period of time, a look at history might prove interesting. Upon reading the book, one can find parallels at every step of the way.
Before National Socialist Germany threatened Switzerland militarily, Alice Meyer writes, since 1933 it was also threatened primarily intellectually-politically, specifically through the “extended strategy”, what is now called propaganda or manipulation. Much of what Alice Meyer describes in detail from that time sounds very familiar to today’s readers: The Gleichschaltung (forcible-coordination) of the press was one of the first measures of the National Socialist regime. Immediately after the National Socialists came to power, the German newspapers were placed under the control of the Ministry of Propaganda.
At the time, however, the Swiss did not allow themselves to be deprived of objective, free reporting for the independent formation of opinion in a democracy. It is exciting to read how, thanks to the wisdom of National Councillor Feldmann and others, we were spared a press agreement with Germany in 1937. But the question remains why the Swiss press today voluntarily gives itself up to writing a “one-size-fits-all” pulp.
An example out of the political party landscape: On 31 January 1937 – we can read – the Socialist Party (SP) empowered the confession to Swiss democracy, to neutrality and the absolute will to defence in case of war. “Realising that her fate was inextricably linked to Switzerland, it put the country’s overall interests above her party interests in perilous times.” Thus, the SP took a step towards cooperation, which in turn made it possible for the Liberals to take a step towards working together. And this important political step towards reconciliation also created the precondition for the peace agreement between employers and trade unions in the summer of 1937. Using Austria as an example, Alice Meyer shows that the failure to reach an understanding opened the door to Hitler’s plans. Then, on 21 March, there was an “unprecedented demonstration of national unity” in the Federal Assembly. How we would like to have united parties today that recognise the seriousness of the situation and put the overall interests of the country first!
An interesting example on the subject of sanctions: Even then, Switzerland was urged to support foreign sanctions. This contradicts Swiss neutrality. On 29 April 1938, Federal Councillor Motta submitted a memorandum to the League of Nations in which he pointed out that “the conditions under which Switzerland entered the League of Nations had changed thoroughly” and he asked the Council, “supported by the powerful determination of the Federal Councillors and the people, to declare the comprehensive neutrality handed down to it compatible with the provisions of the League of Nations Covenant”. In its resolution of 14 May, the Council of the League of Nations then declared its willingness to no longer invite Switzerland to join in sanctions on the basis of its perpetual neutrality.
What was possible then can happen again today in a similar way. We need “intellectual national defence”! It is very exciting what was achieved in the thirties and forties! Many things that we take for granted today – book guilds, Adult Education Centres, women’s education, etc. – were created back then to strengthen the will to defend ourselves. It is important that we gratefully preserve and cultivate these treasures.
Ursula Richner, Sirnach
Thank you for the interesting article by Marianne Bürkli in Current Concerns No. 8 of 25 April, highlighting many important aspects about needlework lessons. I myself had the pleasure of good needlework lessons at a Bavarian primary school, the lessons always took place in the afternoons, and there was an atmosphere without competition between the pupils, because we all worked on a different design, we were allowed to choose the colours of the wool, and I was very proud of my orange cap with the white-orange pom-pom I knitted, even with a pattern. Third grade!
I also very much enjoyed embroidering a cushion cover in special yellow woven fabric, also in a relatively complicated pattern, and delighting my parents with little embroidery pictures. I have very fond memories of that – also of the large wall pictures with the crochet methods drawn on them, which the teacher used to explain crochet. It was quite easy when you looked at the pictures.
Needlework at school is a good preparation for later hobbies, and for me it still has meaning today. I like to knit a jumper, a scarf, and a very young relative was delighted with the jacket for her child – she had hardly ever seen anything so pretty ...
Whoever eliminates handicraft lessons from the school curriculum is talking about a throwaway society, because todays and future mothers are not capable of plugging a hole or threading a yarn. They then always have to buy new things, and this serves the consumer society, which offers ever more impermanent, flimsy clothing with the intention that as soon as possible the jacket may get holes in it until it disintegrates and one has to buy a new one. With ever new clothes, ever new money is earned – in the long run, this serves no one – except the traders! The fact that dumping wages are paid in developing and Eastern European countries in production is coolly taken into account, and it is also an offence against nature with its valuable resources!
Susanne Wiesinger, Freiburg im Breisgau
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