Why we put up with it all – a contribution to a long overdue discussion

by Urs Graf

Switzerland with its neutrality is being met with hostility from Europe and overseas. One of the driving forces behind these attacks has been the foreign policy of the Unites States of America for quite some time. This behaviour of economic pressure and moral undermining displays some of the nonmilitary features of a so-called hybrid war. A lot of humiliating things have been said about us during the last decades. That alone is reason enough to think about the global conditions. Where does this depreciation of our political culture and history come from? It is time to defend ourselves against this. But that requires an analysis on how we got into this situation, a glance at history or the historical development during the 20th century to be more precise.

From the “Sister Republic…”

In the 20th century, the relationship between Switzerland and the USA took on a new quality. The two states had previously been regarded as (admittedly very unequal) “sister republics” for a long time. With the American entry into the First World War, a new situation arose. With its grip on Europe, the USA began to gradually replace the British Empire from its world domination, and it exerted a strong influence on the Treaty of Versailles, which already contained the seeds for the next war. Russia was weakened by war at the time and was rather busy with its Bolshevistic revolution and the accompanying war. And for many poor Europeans as well as the (still back then) emigrant nation Switzerland, the USA remained a focal point of many hopes and dreams of a better life, well aligned with the vision of “from rags to riches”.
  Then came the severe economic crisis at the end of the 1920s, which gave a powerful boost to social aberrations in the direction of fascism/totalitarianism. The next great war loomed on the horizon. Just in time, the Swiss people found their way back to better cohesion and were thus able to avert an intensified class struggle and the destruction of their democracy. They decided on “industrial peace” among the social partners and the joint readiness of all political parties to defend themselves against the National Socialist claim to power. In the years of the Second World War, this unity proved its worth and Switzerland gained international prestige. Protection of neutrality, humanitarian aid and then participation in the reconstruction of the devastated countries of Europe were major fields of activity for our country, in which the so-called active service generation proved itself exceptionally well. But as General Henri Guisan predicted, our country was facing new tests.
  After the end of the war, the Western Allies began to claim victory against the Axis powers for themselves alone, although it was above all the peoples of the Soviet Union who had contributed decisively to it at great sacrifice. But the so-called Cold War was already planned when the German Wehrmacht was still in a battle of retreat. It was the Anglo-American goal to destroy the communist Soviet Union by means of the German armies (as Truman announced in the Committee on Arms Production even before his election as US president) and thereby gain access to the old Tsarist empire, the “heartland”, as the Briton Mackinder had recommended. This strategy proved to be a failure. But under the American occupation in Western Europe, a front was immediately built up again against the Soviet Union. According to the principle “the enemies of our enemies (are our friends?) ...”, one recycled – regardless of their crimes – war-experienced fascists and used them again against the Soviet Union and also against the newly emerging anti-colonial movements in South America, Africa and Asia.

… to the “untowardly little” sister

Already during the Second World War, Swiss neutrality was disregarded, especially by the Western Allied war powers, who misused Swiss territory for extensive intelligence activities, systematically violated neutral airspace with their bomber squadrons, attacking Swiss defences and even settlements. However, Switzerland faithfully fulfilled its role as a neutral country and was engaged in humanitarian work almost all over the world. This enormous work was carried out by its officials and civilians reliably, sacrificially and without media spectacle.
  In the post-war period, Switzerland did its utmost to support the reconstruction of the European countries and, together with them, founded a forerunner organisation of EFTA. When the “Europe of the Fatherlands” envisaged by Charles de Gaulle in particular had already taken shape, it was pushed back by the Americans, who demanded a security architecture that would secure their supremacy. With its economic policy, it pursued the goal of a political union in Europe according to the strategy of its agent Jean Monnet, who planned a kind of United States of Europe under the leadership of the USA.
  The Europeans were busy rebuilding their destroyed countries, while the USA had recovered mainly from its economic crisis as a result of the war. The European post-war generation began to align itself in an almost devout manner with the “American way of life”, while gradually achieving, through hard work, a modest prosperity for the time being. Unfortunately, the spiritual-cultural reconstruction lagged more and more behind the material one. In Western Europe, a materialism of consumption was pitted against the dialectical materialism of Eastern Europe, where people had to live more modestly. In the following decades of the Cold War, America was able to rule with the help of our fear of “communism” and an arrogance of the West dragged along from history against the “rest” of the world and in blind confidence in its nuclear superiority.
  After the so-called Wende in 1989, the Anglo-American attacks began against Swiss neutrality, which until then had been officially highly valued but secretly probably only tolerated. They aimed at a moral devaluation of the Swiss Confederation through largely unjustified accusations based on its refugee policy during the Second World War.

Pro Memoria

Switzerland’s situation with regard to its refugee policy had already been carefully and honestly reviewed in the 1960s. Mistakes had been admitted, but the extraordinarily difficult situation of Switzerland in the face of encirclement by belligerent powers had also been examined in detail. We are reminded here of the television documentary by Werner Rings, in which he carefully explained Switzerland’s role as a major diplomatic power during the war. The attacks on Switzerland in the 1990s completely ignored these research findings, just as the authors concealed their own inglorious role with regard to the refugees. For Switzerland had been shamefully abandoned after the Evian Conference of 1938 in the face of the expected wave of migration of Jewish and political refugees. No country in the world took in more Jewish refugees, neither in absolute numbers nor in relative terms as a proportion of the population, than the small neutral country in the midst of the fascist Axis powers, threatened by invasions and challenged to provide for 4.5 million inhabitants under blockade conditions. Why was all this “forgotten”?

Psychological operation …

It was obviously about something else! Switzerland’s worldwide trade relations had meant that many foreign assets were also managed by Swiss financial institutions. Some of these assets remained lying around after the gigantic human losses of the World War because the account holders could no longer be found. Unlike in other countries, these dormant assets were not confiscated in Switzerland. They were now the target of covetousness, and after decades American circles suddenly began to accuse Switzerland of having profited from the murder of Jews by the Nazis, and they posed as the trustees of the “aggrieved parties”. A discrediting campaign went on around the world, and class action suits led by US lawyers demanded billions and billions from Switzerland. This was followed by years of enormously costly investigations by the so-called Volcker Commission. They finally revealed the amount of about 50 million Swiss francs in dormant assets – as it had already been estimated by the Swiss banks themselves. In 1998, the banks agreed on a settlement with Judge Kormann that cost them 1.8 billion Swiss Francs. In the end, large portions of this were distributed according to the watering can principle, even to recipients who only weakly substantiated their claims as descendants or relatives of victims of the Holocaust.
  By this time, the Swiss Federal Council had already buckled under blackmail and, in particular, the threat by the New York Stock Exchange Commission to exclude Swiss financial institutions from trading. But even since then, the Swiss financial center has remained the target of unfriendly measures by its US competitors. Have we forgotten that the Swiss transit axes have certainly become no less important for logistics in Western Europe than they were at the time of the Second World War? In the hands of a neutral Switzerland, they remain a pawn against blackmail – just not to everyone’s delight.

… against Switzerland’s  immune system

Far greater than the economic damage caused by blackmail, however, was the emotional weakening of a then young generation of Swiss people as a result of this unjust moral devaluation of the historical achievement of their grandparents in the World War era. The contemporary witnesses of the war generation were not even allowed to speak. Switzerland should be ashamed of itself, was the motto. Cultural workers who saw themselves as avant-garde in the sense of the “critical theory” of the so-called Frankfurt School played an inglorious role. They began to defame the country that granted them a good education and the possibility of uncensored creativity. Whereas literary figures such as Dürrenmatt and his so-called critical patriotism, and cultural figures such as “700 Jahre sind genug” (700 Years is Enough) had already emotionally distanced the academic Swiss youth from their homeland, their defeatist work was now taken even further. Today, many Swiss react with a shrug of the shoulders, perplexed, or even try to make nice with the authoritarian attackers.

Objection necessary

What is needed again is a healthier self-image and a corresponding immune reaction from the middle of the population, which still (or again) knows where she comes from and, above all, knows where she wants to go in this world of ours. Objection necessary!   •

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