Hans Herzog

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General Hans Herzog (1871)
Commemorative medal from 1894 for the death of Hans Herzog by the Swiss medalist Charles Jean Richard from Geneva.
The reverse of this medal with Helvetia ready to defend Switzerland's neutrality .

Hans Herzog (born October 28, 1819 in Aarau ; † February 2, 1894 there ; citizen of Aarau) was a Swiss general and Commander in Chief of the Swiss Army . He is the grandson of Johannes Herzog .


Hans Herzog first studied physics and chemistry at the University of Geneva and then worked as a businessman. In 1839 he completed his first military service in Thun and developed such a keen interest in the military that he devoted all of his free time to it and from 1846 volunteered with the Württemberg artillery .

In 1847 he then took part in the Sonderbund War as an officer in the militia . In 1860 he was certified as a colonel by the Swiss Federal Council and appointed head of the federal artillery. In this function, he mainly dealt with the conversion of smooth to rifled gun barrels as well as with the replacement of the armament of the infantry with the cousin rifle .

Colonel Herzog 1867 (center), staff of the artillery troops

The Federal Assembly elected Hans Herzog general during the Franco-German War of 1870/71 (→  Switzerland in the Franco-German War ). He was thus commander in chief of the troops of the Swiss Army (37,000 men) standing at the border. After the dismissal of most of the army had been announced in August, Herzog had the courage to publicize the grievances he found in the militia army and to deliver a relentless report. At the same time he asked for his release. However, he was persuaded to take command again on January 20, 1871 and to occupy the western border of Switzerland with 20,000 men from the fourth division when, towards the end of the war, the French Armée de l'Est (Eastern Army) under General Charles Denis Bourbaki was scheduled to relieve the fortress Belfort .

When the broken army group of 87,000 men was forced to attack Switzerland at the end of January 1871, there was a risk that they could force themselves to cross the border by force of arms and that they would be persecuted by German armed forces into Swiss territory. In this situation, the general opposed the Federal Council's request to dismiss the deployed troops before this danger for Switzerland was averted.

On February 1, Herzog signed the Treaty of Les Verrières with Bourbaki's successor, General Justin Clinchant , according to which the French soldiers passed over to Swiss territory while laying down their arms and were interned in various cantons in the interior of the country. Aid committees, often spontaneously founded women's associations, were set up throughout the country to provide food for the interned French, the Bourbakis . After these soldiers had to leave Switzerland for their homeland in March 1871, the French Republic transferred 12 million francs for the aid they had provided.

General Herzog wrote a memorandum on the border service and clearly set out the weaknesses, with the aim of ending the backwardness of the federal army. He saw one reason in the fact that it was composed only of cantonal contingents. Then Herzog went back to his previous position as chief of the artillery. There he was responsible for the introduction of breech -loading cannons such as the 8.4 cm Ord 1879 field gun . In 1875, Herzog was elected Chief of Arms of the Artillery, a position he held until his death. In addition, it participated in the expansion of the state fortifications.

He died on February 2, 1894 in his hometown of Aarau. There he lived in the family's own duke, today's Herosé-Stift .


A high-rise building on Waffenplatz Thun is named after General Herzog, the General-Herzog-Haus (GHH), in which armasuisse (now the Science + Technology Division) and parts of EMPA are located. A barracks on the Bure arsenal (Jura) was also named after him .


Individual evidence

  1. Robin Schwarzenbach: Federal Councilor against General: In the middle of the Franco-German War, a dangerous power struggle breaks out in Switzerland In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of January 27, 2020