Swiss reduit

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The Swiss Réduit: the blue line / zone shows the actual retreat area.
Camouflaged 10.5 cm turret cannon of the San Carlo artillery plant, the Lucendrost dam in the background
Camouflaged loopholes of the fortress Euschels (CH / FR) Quote: The works on the Euschels are among the best in the area of ​​the 1st Div. was built. (Personal staff of the General June 19, 1944)

The Swiss Réduit ( French réduit national , from the French for shack or space ) is a system of military defenses in the Swiss Alps . During the Second World War it became the epitome of the resistance of Switzerland against the German Reich - both because of their resistance willing , on the other hand because of the military resistance capability of the Swiss Army in the Alps.

The Réduit was the most important part of the new defense arrangement , which was concluded with the Operation Order No. 13 ( Réduitbefehl ) of May 14, 1941, which was based on the principle of deterrence (dissuasion strategy). The staggering of the defense in depth with the border troops, the advanced mobile troops in the Swiss Plateau and the strongly fortified central position in the Alps should be combined with the intended destruction of the important north-south connections and the prospect of a protracted, loss-making battle in the difficult to access Mountains have a deterrent effect on the potential attacker.

Beginnings of the Swiss reduit

The idea of ​​a réduit in the Swiss Alpine region arose at the latest in the 18th century and was discussed repeatedly in the first half of the 19th century. The construction of a fortress at the Alpine crossing over the Gotthard began as early as 1886, shortly after the Gotthard Railway opened ( Fort Hospiz ). This alpine fortress, designed by Chief of Staff Max Alphons Pfyffer von Altishofen , was expanded to include Airolo , Andermatt , Oberalppass and Furka and Grimsel passes ( Forte Airolo , Fortress Motto Bartola , Fort Stöckli , Fort Bühl , Fort Bäzberg ). However , after the end of the First World War , the Swiss General Staff saw no need to prepare for a major attack. In the interwar period , the majority believed that fortifications had lost their military importance. The establishment of the French Maginot Line from the Swiss border to Belgium from 1930 and similar installations in Czechoslovakia ( Czechoslovak Wall ), Holland and Belgium ( Fort Eben-Emael ) revived the idea of fortress in the Swiss military .

In 1934, the Federal Council was asked to pay more attention to the fastening issue. This coincided with a job creation program that the Federal Council prepared in 1934. The construction of new fortifications, however, could not begin immediately, because the knowledge about the construction of such systems was no longer up to date with the weapons technology and strategy of the time. In 1935, the office for fortification structures was brought back to life with the task of developing and testing appropriate building bases and techniques. From 1937 onwards, Switzerland was ready again to build state-of-the-art fortifications in series. The later concentration of the fortifications on the Alpine region was not planned at that time.

The belief in the power of the League of Nations to prevent war had brought about a standstill in the development of the Swiss defense system. It was hoped that the Geneva Disarmament Conference would be successful (February 2, 1932 to June 11, 1934, with interruptions). For years, the military budget was so low that it was not even sufficient to carry out all of the training courses required by law and the reserves had to be attacked for equipment and clothing. There was no money available for the necessary renewal and increase of weapons. Therefore, the construction of the Limmat position and the expansion of further fortresses could not begin until the beginning of the Second World War . One advantage of this situation, which was dangerous for Switzerland, was that new developments in warfare ( lightning warfare , tank battles , airborne troops ) could be continuously taken into account when building the defense lines (dynamic and deeply staggered defense, use of the obstructed terrain).

Second World War

Construction of new fortifications from 1937/1939

Artillery Works Ebersberg (A5438) on the Rhine near Rüdlingen : Gun stand 1 with camouflage
Bunker of the Limmat position - from July 1940 as an advanced position - in the moated castle

Shortly before the Second World War, new fortresses were built in the Swiss border area, such as in Vallorbe and on the Rhine. These border fortifications , like the fortifications in the Central Plateau, do not belong to the Réduit. New facilities were built on the Gotthard and in the existing fortresses of St-Maurice and (largely new) in the Sargans fortress area .

Until the capitulation of France, the fortifications had concentrated on the border zones ( artillery works Reuenthal , fortress Ebersberg , fortress Heldsberg ), Sargans, northern Jura as well as Saint-Maurice and the Limmat position . In addition to actual fortresses, the construction work also included infantry positions, gun emplacements, tank obstacles, command posts, military roads, accommodation, etc.

The fortresses of Sargans, St-Maurice, Gotthard and the Lint Plain ( Grynau infantry fortress ) later belonged to the Réduit, the other areas became the advanced position that encompassed most of the Central Plateau. This advanced position ran from Sargans in the northeast along Lake Zurich and the Limmat to the Hauenstein area, from there to the Murten fortification , then westward over the Jura to the Jolimont between Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Biel , on over the Wistenlacherberg and then from Murten to the Saane . The advanced position was much less developed than the Réduit.

First army position

On the evening of August 28, 1939, the Federal Council announced by radio that the border troops (80,000 men) could be partially mobilized on August 29, two days before the German invasion of Poland . The Federal Assembly elected on 30 August Henri Guisan as General. At noon on September 1st, the day the war broke out, the Federal Council posted posters ordering general mobilization ( general mobilization ) for September 2nd (1st day of mobilization). On September 2, 630,000 men (430,000 soldiers and 200,000 conscripts) moved in and moved into a standby position in the Central Plateau.

With operational order No. 2 of October 4, 1939, the general ordered the occupation and expansion of the “Limmatstellung” as the first army position of the Swiss army in order to be able to stop an attack from the north and a bypassing of the Maginot Line through Switzerland .

On June 23, 1940 - one day after the de facto surrender of France - Guisan gave the order to stop the fortification work in the previous positions. Only the last finishing work was to be carried out.

The planning of the reduit

From the spring of 1940, various plans were drawn up for the Réduit. The main differences were in the intended size, with two solutions to be narrowed down:

The most consistent solution was the plan by Oscar Adolf Germann (1889–1979): a compact Réduit that was to be defended by mountain troops . The Gonard plan , which was finally implemented, however, comprised a more extensive system that included the three fortified zones of Sargans, Gotthard and St-Maurice. The plan was named after Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Gonard (1896–1975), then chief of the general's personal staff and the actual operative head of the Swiss army. General Guisan and his Chief of Staff had to decide to what extreme degree of consequences in relation to the Réduit they might have to go. The orders were then based on considerations of a strategic and tactical nature. These consisted of gradually moving into a defensive position in the central area and thus following a tactic of defense in depth.

The “Réduit national” as Switzerland's answer to the 1940 encirclement

Instructions to the civilian population (1942)

With the capitulation of France a completely new situation arose for the defense of Switzerland. It was now completely encircled by the Axis powers . Due to the course of the western campaign , a rapid breakthrough ( Blitzkrieg ) and a subsequent collapse had to be expected. If they had remained in the advanced positions, many troops would have been uselessly sacrificed.

The debate on the Réduitlösung began on 22 June 1940. On 25 July 1940 informed Guisan occasion of the Rütli rapport all senior officers about the plan in case of attack by the Axis powers the defense of Switzerland to the field of high Alps with the important mountain passes, especially the Gotthard massif , to concentrate and to destroy all access roads to the mountains if necessary.

With the operational order No. 12 of July 17, 1940, three divisions (Div 1, 3, 8) were moved to the foothills of the Alps / Alps. Together with the two divisions (Div 7, 9) that were already in the reduit area, there were now five divisions in the reduit. With the operational order of August 17, 1940, the 6th Division was added. After fortresses had been built there and supplies for the troops and the local population had been laid out for six months, the other three (Div 2, 4, 5) divisions were also relocated to the central area with Operation Order No. 13 of May 24, 1941. The majority of the civilian population and the key industries were protected during the two general mobilizations only by the "no longer heavily endowed" border troops, light troops, territorial troops and the local defenses . These also had the task of preparing industrial plants, transport networks, bridges, tunnels and communication facilities - in the event of an invasion - for destruction ( scorched earth tactic ).

Operation Order No. 11 of July 12, 1940

“SECRET […] V. I have made the following decision. The defense of the country will be organized according to a new principle, that of gradation in depth. [...] The resistance squadrons will be:

  • the border troops
  • an advanced or secured position
  • an alpine or central position (réduit national), which runs through to the east, west and south
  • the included fortifications of Sargans, St-Maurice and the Gotthard is flanked. [...]

The missions assigned to these three resistance tiers are as follows:

  • that of the border troops remains intact;
  • the advanced or secured position blocks the axes of incidence into the interior of the country;
  • hold the troops in the alpine or central position, provided with the greatest possible supplies without any thought of retreating. [...]

IV. Above all, however, it is important that the population does not under any circumstances flow back in the direction of the Réduit, where they would question the success of the operation and where they would not have sufficient supplies. "

- Letter from the general to the Federal Council of July 12, 1940

Assignments and operational areas during the Réduit occupation (Operation Order No. 13 of May 24, 1941)

unit commander Troop strength assignment Operational area
1st Army Corps Jules Borel 94,000 Defends the Réduit with the northern front , blocks the upper Aare valley, protects the access to the Réduit in the western pre-Alps Rochers de Naye to Hohgant
1st division Léonard Combe 20,000 Defends the Réduit between Rochers de Naye and Kaiseregg and with heavyweight along the axes that lead from Bulle into the Simmental Rochers de Naye to Kaiseregg
2nd division Jules Borel 24,000 Defend the Réduit between Stockhorn and Kaiseregg Kaiseregg to Stockhorn
3rd Division (Geb) , Bern Division René von Graffenried 16,000 Stockhorn - Lake Thun - Hohgant
Mountain Brigade 10 (Br mont 10) black 11,000 Lower Valais
Mountain Brigade 11 Simplon Brigade Buhler 13,000 Simplon Pass - Upper Rhone Valley
1st Light Brigade Charrière 10,000 Deceleration force in the midland Lake Geneva Region, Canton of Friborg
Fortified area of ​​Saint-Maurice St. Maurice
2nd Army Corps Friedrich Prisi 46,000 Defend the Réduit with the northern front , blocking access to the Brünig, left bank of Lake Lucerne Hohgant to Bürgenstock
8th division (Geb) Alfred Gübeli 16,000 Hohgant to Stillaub (Finsterwald)
4th division Emil Scherz 20,000 Stillaub to Stansstad / Bürgenstock
2nd Light Brigade Rage 10,000 Deceleration force in the midland Bernese Mittelland
4th Army Corps Jakob Labhardt 80,000 Defend the Réduit with the northern front , blocking access to the Gotthard from the north Bürgenstock to the Linth level
5th division Eugen Bircher / Rudolf von Erlach 22,000 Bürgenstock to Rigi
6th division Herbert Constam / Marius Corbat 26,000 Blocks access to the Schwyz basin Rigi - Zugerberg - Etzel
7th division Herbert Flückiger / Hans Frick 22,000 Closes access to Wägital, Sihlsee area, stops Oberegg, Etzel , delayed advance into the Lin plain Etzel - Stöcklichrüz - Linth plain
3rd Light Brigade Wirth 10,000 Deceleration force in the midland Northeast Switzerland
Sargans fortress area Gubler Sargans
3rd Army Corps Renzo Lardelli / Constam 40,000 Defend the Réduit with the southern front , blocking access to the Gotthard from the southwest, south and east Upper Valais, Gotthard, Ticino, Graubünden
9th division (Geb) Edouard Tissot 18,000 Upper Valais and Gotthard
Mountain Brigade 9 Gotthard Brigade 11,000 Gotthard
Mountain Brigade 12 Hold 11,000 Grisons
Gotthard fortress area Gotthard massif, Grimsel
Border brigades 90,000 Border areas
Border Brigades 1-5 10,000 each Geneva to Aargau Jura
Border Brigade 6 10,000 Schaffhausen
Border Brigade 7 10,000 Thurgau
Border Brigade 8 10,000 Rhine Valley
Border Brigade 9 10,000 Ticino, Bellinzona basin

The table shows the actual combat troops (infantry, light troops). These were carried out by the artillery (52,000 men), the engineering troops (30,000 men), the air and fire troops (30,000 men), the medical services (30,000 men), the catering troops (7,000 men) , the motor transport troops (9,000 men), the train (14,000 men), the auxiliary service (200,000 men) and the FHD (15,000 women).

The 1st Army Corps was the most heavily endowed. It had the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions, the 10th Mountain Brigade, the 1st Light Brigade and the fortress of St-Maurice.

From this time on, the air force formed the general's only reserve. Even the army corps could not deploy more than one regiment as a tactical reserve.

Golden eagle of the 11 Mountain Brigade on the Simplon Pass

Mobilization of the Swiss Army 1939–1945

The Swiss system of mobilization was considered to be the fastest in the world. Since the militiamen kept weapons and ammunition at home, the border troops could be mobilized within 4 hours and the entire army within 24 hours.

During the Second World War, the Federal Council ordered two general mobilizations of the entire army with 430,000 people on duty (combat troops) and 200,000 conscripts. The first on September 1, 1939 ( attack on Poland ) with a gradual reduction in the number of people on duty to 170,000 by February 1940 and from then on with a gradual increase up to the second general mobilization on May 10, 1940 ( Western campaign ) and a subsequent reduction to 150 '000 by September 1940.

From July to August 1940 six divisions and three mountain brigades moved into the Réduit and in May 1941 the remaining three divisions followed. The border brigades (90,000 men) remained in their border areas, the three light brigades (30,000 men), the territorial troops of the 13 territorial districts (90,000 infantry), the local brigades (127,000 men) in the Central Plateau. In addition to the delay fight, they had the task of blowing up and destroying communications, bridges, tunnels, storage and production facilities, interrupting the Gotthard and Lötschberg connections and fighting airborne troops.

With the acquisition of the Réduit a partial mobilization was connected and a periodic replacement of the troops was initiated. The Réduitz accesses remained permanently occupied, as there were German plans to take them with airborne troops. The introduction of "silent" mobilization by means of marching order cards enabled gradual mobilization which the intelligence services could not easily notice.

From September 1940 to the end of the war there were 80 partial mobilizations and around 100,000 people were constantly on duty, with four peaks of 150,000–200,000 men in November 1942, October 1943 ( Allied invasion of Italy ), July 1944 ( Invasion of Normandy ) and October 1944 (Allied troops on the Swiss border).

Accentuation of the Réduit strategy in May 1941

Anti-tank barrier made of natural stone blocks on the Julier Pass from 1939

With the operation order No. 13 of May 24, 1941 , the concentration on the defense of the Réduit was increased. With this order, the advanced position as an operational army position was abandoned, the final deployment of practically the entire still mobilized Swiss army (two thirds of the stocks had been demobilized after the armistice in France) was to take place in the Réduit. This concentration of defense was influenced by the Balkan campaign of April 1941. The German Wehrmacht overran Yugoslavia and Greece in just 23 days ; The process confirmed on the one hand the modern military capabilities of National Socialist Germany, but on the other hand the low defensive value of low mountain ranges as obstacles against attacking armored troops . The Swiss army command, which did not yet have its own tank weapons worth mentioning, drew the logical conclusion with the greatest possible concentration of national defense on the high mountains .

In the event of war, only a war of delay should be waged from the border through the Mittelland . The densely populated Central Plateau and with it all the economic centers of the country could not have been held against an overpowering enemy. The Réduit strategy was therefore not without controversy.

Strengthening the will to resist in the army and the population

The Federal Council responded to the postulate submitted in 1935 by the social democratic Basel National Councilor Fritz Hauser by creating the Pro Helvetia cultural foundation in order to preserve the intellectual independence of culture in Switzerland in the face of the threat posed by National Socialist Germany and its fascist propaganda .

With the Army command from November 3, 1939 ordered General Henri Guisan to, from the group army of Pro Helvetia , the adjutant general of the subordinate section army and home to form a kind of psychological service. This had the task of maintaining the military will of the troops through lectures and entertainment, even during longer military service. In the army order he wrote: It is imperative that the troops maintain a high state of mind, despite long service periods and regardless of the separation of family and work. Free of agonizing doubts and discouragement, the soldier should maintain equanimity and confidence.

After the unexpectedly rapid collapse of France and the encirclement of Switzerland by the Axis powers, the will of the Swiss population to resist, in addition to economic measures ( cultivation battle , rationing ), became a decisive factor for the army's resilience. Because civilians did not respond to the Federal Council's declaration of principles of 1938, Guisan, in his daily order of August 1, 1941 , ordered the Adjutantur General to assign the army and house to the “civil reconnaissance service” using the formula “Think Swiss and act Swiss ” expand and launch a campaign to educate civilians. For this purpose, cadres were recruited from the environment of the Hans Hausamanns news office and the resistance organizations ( officers ' union, National Resistance Campaign ).

For the historian Peter Dürrenmatt and other contemporary observers, Heer und Haus made a decisive contribution to the maintenance and strengthening of intellectual resilience ( intellectual national defense ) from 1941 to 1945 : «So one can say that there has never before in the history of the Confederation a movement of only has given almost the same creative harmony as that which had formed around the army's intelligence service, around the idea of ​​'army and house'. "

The border of the Réduit

Camouflaged loopholes ( Pak ) of the bunkered barrier Jaun (CH / FR)

The course and demarcation of the Swiss Réduit were kept confidential until the mid-1990s. It has always been known, however, that the Réduit comprised around a quarter of the Swiss territory, and the outline had been by and large publicly known for a long time. The position in the central region essentially comprised the Alpine region without the greater part of Graubünden and largely also without Ticino .

Réduit north front

The northern and western borders of the Réduit , starting from the Sargans fortress in the northeast (and counterclockwise), ran as follows:

Along the national border with Liechtenstein to the north to about Sevelen , from there to the west over the Fulfirst to the Walensee , along its southern bank through the Lin Plain to the eastern end of Lake Zurich , along its southern bank to around Wollerau / Richterswil , from there roughly along the Line Schindellegi - Raten - Oberägeri - Walchwil across the canton of Zug , on to Küssnacht to Lake Lucerne, using this to around Hergiswil NW , from there further in a south-west direction over the mountains Pilatus , Mittaggüpfi , Risetestock , Schafmatt, Schrattenfluh and Hohgant to Heiligenschwendi and Oberhofen am Thunersee . Across the lake to Einigen / Spiez , from there further south-west along the Stockhorn chain from the Stockhorn to Kaiseregg. Continue over the fortified Euschelspass (1567 m) over the Dents Verts to the southern tip of Lake Gruyère (Lac de la Gruyère) near Broc . The Jaunpass and Gross Tosse artillery works served to protect this section . From Broc, the border of the Réduit ran in a wide arc over the mountains Le Moléson and Dent de Lys to the eastern end of Lake Geneva near Montreux .

Réduit south front

Finally across the eastern tip of the lake west of Port-Valais to the French border on the Tour de Don and further south to the Great St. Bernard Pass (2469 m), which marked the southwest corner of the Réduit. The southern border of the Réduit ran from this point a good 100 kilometers east to the Gries Pass along the border with Italy and thus largely followed the main Alpine ridge, which in the Valais Alps on Monte Rosa reaches 4634 meters above sea level. Larger site fortifications were unnecessary here, the few high-altitude Alpine crossings, of which only the Simplon Pass has been built to this day , were easy to block. The massive attack with tanks, motorized infantry and heavy weapons that was feared in World War II and in the decades thereafter could not be expected from this side.

From the Griespass the border of the Réduit left the national border and headed northeast to the Nufenenpass and further along the main Alpine ridge over the Pizzo Rotondo to the Gotthardpass . The Gotthard Fortress, the fortress complex around the Gotthard Pass, was the center of the entire Réduit and at the same time marked its southern border. The upstream canton of Ticino was also largely fortified and should be defended intensively, but it did not belong to the Réduit. Around eight kilometers east of the St. Gotthard, the border of the Réduit left the main Alpine ridge and turned north, along the Graubünden canton border, to the Oberalp Pass . This border was followed by the southern border of the Réduit via the Oberalpstock and the Glarus Alps to the Ringelspitz and Kunkelspass , from there on in a curve to the northeast past Chur over the Vilan to the Liechtenstein border.

Most important fortresses and other equipment

Fortress Furggels: one of the 7.6 km long corridors in the fortress
Furggels: crew accommodation
Furggels: partially exposed tank turret with
10.5 cm turret cannon
Furggels: disassembled 15 cm bunker cannon and loopholes from the inside
Furggels: stairs to the tank turret with paternoster ammunition elevator

The Sargans and St-Maurice fortifications and the Gotthard as the center were among the most important fortresses in the Réduit:

These plants were equipped with all the necessary infrastructure. In addition to the weapon systems, accommodations, kitchens, operating theaters, sick rooms and bakeries were built into the fortresses.

The parts of the Réduit line, which were not or only insufficiently protected by natural obstacles, were fortified with several thousand artificial obstacles and all kinds of terrain fortifications , such as road barriers, anti- tank trenches and concrete hump barriers (Toblerone barriers). Bank obstacles at the lake borders and massive building walls in settlements on the Réduit border completed the defense preparations. In the event of war, there would undoubtedly have been numerous minefields, barbed wire barriers and artificial flooding (especially on the Lin Plain ). Another fixed part of the Réduit strategy was the preparation of the demolition of many bridges and tunnels, for example the Rhine bridges in Basel, but also the demolition of “normal” road and railway sections in order to render possible incursion routes unusable for a potential attacker.

Military airfields in the Réduit

With the Réduit strategy important were military airfields in the Central Plateau suddenly outside the intended defending Réduitgrenzen in the central Alps. Under great time pressure, seven new military airfields were created in the Bernese Oberland : in the far west of the Réduit with the Saanen airfield , the two military airfields Sankt Stephan and Zweisimmen in the Simmental , Reichenbach and Frutigen in the Kandertal, and finally the Interlaken airfield and the Meiringen airfield in the center .

The Turtmann , Raron , Ulrichen , Münster military airfields were built in Valais and Alpnach , Kägiswil and Mollis in central Switzerland . Together with the Sion and Buochs airfields already in the Réduit area , the army had 16 Réduit airfields.

At the end of November 1941, the command of the air and anti-aircraft troops reported that the Reichenbach, Frutigen and Zweisimmen airfields, each with runways 90 to 100 m wide and 800 to 1000 m long, were “usable at any time”. In fact, at this point in time none of the places was completely finished, only Reichenbach was usable for all types of aircraft.

In the early 1940s, the Federal Council estimated the cost of the new airfield group to be built in the Bernese Oberland with the five airfields Frutigen, Reichenbach, Zweisimmen, St. Stephan and Saanen at 1.88 million francs. So-called field bases with turf runways and runways and a small hangar were planned. There were no aircraft hangars, tank farms or ammunition depots.

The topography in the mountain area made drainage, the removal of flight obstacles, the creation of leveling and surrounding work considerably more difficult and expensive than the airfields built up to now in the Central Plateau. In November 1942, it was said that if the weather persisted, the courses would be "a bit soft and should be protected".

In 1942, the army command ordered that war airfields be made badly weatherproof and that aircraft and personnel be better protected against enemy influences. As a result, 18 hard-surfaced runways of 900 meters in length, 152 U-43 concrete shelters and seven retablation tunnels (tunnels in the mountain connected to a taxiway, instead of individual less protected hangars) were built.

Of the total of 24 military airfields, only seven are still in operation today. The Frutigen, Reichenbach, Zweisimmen, St. Stephan and Saanen plants were either abandoned in the course of the 1995 army reform or have been used for civilian purposes ever since. The inventory of historically significant air force infrastructure serves to protect historically valuable facilities: For example, the two “system airfields” Alpnach and Meiringen are to be preserved in their entirety so that their historical development can be followed.

Construction costs until 1945

According to a report in the “ Luzerner Zeitung ” on June 10, 2006 , the construction costs of the Réduit up to the end of the war in 1945 amounted to 657 million francs , which is around 3.4 billion francs in today's purchasing power. A large part of the buildings erected in the process has been abandoned in the course of the army reforms since 1995 and their secrecy has been lifted, but some are still used for military purposes.

Judgment on the reduit by the warring parties

Great Britain imposed an export ban on all shipments to Switzerland on June 13, 1940 because it considered Switzerland lost. On June 4, 1941 - after moving into the Réduit - the British envoy in Bern sent the following dispatch to his foreign minister, Anthony Eden :

“Overall, it can be said that when all geographic, economic and military circumstances are taken into account, this small but energetic and highly educated nation has shown dignity and prudence over the past twelve months. If she is given a fair chance, she can be trusted to fight bravely if her historical independence is attacked. "

The British General Montgomery described the Reduit as "impracticable nonsense". To lure the Swiss army out of its cover in the mountains, Hitler's army would only have to take action against the defenseless population.

The German General Staff of the Army said on September 1, 1942 about the state of the Swiss Army:

"If the country's natural obstacles are greatly expanded, it is able to offer temporary resistance even against a surprise attack at the borders and to hold out for a long time in the high mountains (...) The determination of the government and the people to oppose Swiss neutrality to defend any attacker is beyond doubt. "

- Small orientation booklet Switzerland for the German troops in the field

In the summer of 1943, the German mountain troop general Franz Böhme wrote in his attack plan prepared for the SS:

“The Swiss national defense has an army that is an extremely significant factor because of its numerical strength. The defeat of the bitterly defending troops in the high alpine reduit will be a difficult task to solve. "

After the Second World War

Construction defects: the "bunker trial" 1950

Shortly after the war, in 1946, the army carried out test bombing of some positions, which, contrary to expectations, were completely destroyed. An investigation by EMPA showed that a large number of botched construction was committed during the construction of the Réduit: Six percent of the buildings turned out to be inadequate and ten percent as unusable because inferior material was used, but high-quality material was offset.

The results were initially kept secret and did not leak to the media until 1949. When the authorities were informed of the results of the investigation in early 1950, a wave of public outrage was triggered. In the so-called "bunker trial" in October 1950, senior officers of the engineering troops of the 2nd Division and building contractors involved in the botch were accused of neglect of duty. After four months, most of the accused - who said they could no longer remember and had acted in good faith - ended with acquittals; only three officers and six employers received mild, usually conditional sentences .

Change in the Réduit strategy since 1990/1995

The large fortifications had crews of 100 to 600 men. From around 1990 this large number of people necessary for the operation was no longer in relation to the effects of weapons from the facilities, but above all to the completely changed threat situation since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact . Many of the facilities have been dismantled , especially since the 1995 army reform . A few have been converted into museums and can be visited. In addition to the plants in which weapons were placed, facilities were also built to accommodate consumables. Goods and facilities such as food, spare parts for the army, fuel, repair workshops, production facilities for medicines, facilities for the production of newspapers were and are in some cases still being stored or installed in these factories.

The Réduit myth and assessment of economic factors

The image of Switzerland enclosed on all sides but bravely defending itself, as symbolized by the Réduit, became a national myth after the Second World War, especially cultivated by the active service generation . In Hitler's criminal policy, there was nothing more important for a country than maintaining its own independence. Switzerland succeeded in doing this, despite the hopeless situation. The Réduit gave the war generation the feeling that they had survived the war happily on their own.

In the context of spiritual national defense , the myth lived on in the Cold War . At the Swiss National Exhibition in Lausanne in 1964 , for example, a giant concrete hedgehog served as a symbol for Switzerland in the ongoing Réduit. Today's historians relativize the importance of the reduit. More recent findings would suggest that the Third Reich was not primarily prevented from attacking Switzerland by the Réduit. According to z. B. Jürg Fink ( Switzerland from the perspective of the Third Reich , 1985) various factors of a military and civil nature, the most important of which is probably that in the event of a German invasion, the prepared explosions at the Swiss armaments factories would have been activated, which from August 1940 according to a trade agreements extorted from Germany sometimes worked almost exclusively for the German armed forces and for fascist Italy.

The encirclement of Switzerland meant, on the one hand, that Switzerland massively strengthened its defensive position with the purchase of the Réduit and, on the other hand, that it could be blackmailed economically. Although Swiss arms deliveries never exceeded 1% during the entire duration of the war, compared to production in Nazi Germany, both warring parties tried - depending on the war situation - more or less strong pressure to prevent deliveries to the other side. The British envoy in Bern, David Victor Kelly, received a daily report on the negotiations with the Germans from the Swiss delegate for trade agreements. Overseas trade became a vital question for Switzerland because they needed a permit from the Axis powers for transport to the port and from the British because of their naval blockade for transport ( Navicert ) across the sea.

At the end of the 20th century, the opinion that neutral Switzerland should not become a member of international organizations such as the UN was branded - in a negative sense - as an expression of the “Réduit thinking”.

See also


  • Hansjakob Burkhardt: Gotthard Fortress - Fortificazione del San Gottardo Foppa Grande , Koller print and copy, Meggen, 2004 (81 pages online PDF)
  • Hansjakob Burkhardt: The Gotthard fortress "San Carlo", the prototype of all artillery works with 10.5 cm tower cannons Mod 1939 L52 , Meggen, 2003 (84 pages online PDF)
  • Hans-Rudolf Maurer (Ed.): Secret command posts of the army command in the Second World War. Projects, constructions and the mobile command post. Verlag Merker im Effingerhof, Lenzburg 2001, ISBN 3-85648-120-6 .
  • Willi Gautschi : General Henri Guisan. The Swiss Army Command in World War II. 4th revised edition. Verlag NZZ, Zurich 2001, ISBN 3-85823-516-4 .
  • Roberto Bernhard: The Reduit. Myths and Facts. Military makeshift, the nation's lifeline, myth, counter-myth. Institut Libertas in collaboration with the Swiss Association for Military History and Military Science as well as the Center d'histoire et de prospective militaires and the Working Group for Lived History, Biel / Bienne 2007, ISBN 978-3-9521464-4-6 .
  • Inventory of the combat and command structures. Federal Dep. for defense, civil protection and sport, buildings division, Bern. 11-part work, published between 1999 and 2006.
The individual parts are available online as PDF from armasuisse, e.g. B. for the cantons of Glarus, AI / AR and St. Gallen
  • Hand Rudolf Fuhrer, Walter Lüem, Jean-Jacques Rapin, Hans Rapold, Hans Senn: The history of Swiss fortifications. Orell Füssli , Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-280-01844-7 .
  • Stefanie Frey: Switzerland's Defense and Security Policy during the Cold War (1945–1973) . Verlag Merker im Effingerhof, Lenzburg 2002, ISBN 3-85648-123-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Senn: The Swiss General Staff, Volume 7. Beginnings of a Dissuasion Strategy during the Second World War. Basel 1995
  2. ^ Rapold, Hans: The development of the Swiss national fortifications from 1815 to 1921 . in: The history of Swiss fortifications , Zurich 1992, pp. 11–54, here p. 39.
  3. a b Troop Regulations 1938
  4. a b c d Gotthard Frick: Hitler's war and the self-assertion of Switzerland 1933–1945 . Bottmingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-033-02948-4 .
  5. Edgar Bonjour : History of Swiss neutrality. Four centuries of federal foreign policy. Volume 9: Documents. 1939-1946. Helbing and Lichtenhahn, Basel a. a. 1976, ISBN 3-7190-0677-8 .
  6. Hans-Rudolf Kurz : look at the general cards ; in Andri Peer : The active service . Ringier, Zofingen 1975, ISBN 3-85859-016-9 , p. 28.
  7. Stephen P. Halbrook: Switzerland in sight. The armed neutrality of Switzerland in World War II . Novalis Verlag, Schaffhausen 2000, ISBN 3-907160-61-4 .
  8. Jakob Tanner : "Réduit national" and foreign trade. Interactions between military dissuasion and economic cooperation with the Axis powers. In: Philipp Sarasin , Regina Wecker (eds.): Raubgold, Reduit, refugees. On the history of Switzerland in the Second World War. Chronos, Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-905312-56-5 , pp. 81-103.
  9. Message on the federal law on the Pro Helvetia Foundation of June 8, 2007 (PDF; 553 kB)
  10. Army order “Affects the spirit of the troops”, General Guisan November 3, 1939, BAr E27 / 9049
  11. Philipp Wanner, Colonel Oscar Frey , Schaffhausen City Archives, Schaffhauser Biographien Volume III 46 (1969) pp. 73–82.
  12. ^ Hans Rudolf Schneider: 70 years of the St. Stephan Réduit airfield. Brochure for the airfield festival on August 25, 2012 with a brief description of the Bernese Oberland Réduit airfields . Publisher: Hunterverein Obersimmental with HS publications, Frutigen 2012
  13. The parameter must be a date in the form YYYYMMDDHHMMSS!Template: web archive / maintenance / datewayback
  14. ^ A b Stamm, Frey, Greminger, Wanner: Dignity and Coolness. Verlag Merker, Lenzburg 2004, ISBN 3-85648-126-5
  15. Markus Heiniger : Thirteen reasons. Why Switzerland was not conquered in World War II. Limmat, Zurich 1989, p. 171.
  16. Markus Somm: General Guisan. Swiss Art Resistance . Verlag Stämpfli, Bern 2010, ISBN 978-3-7272-1346-5
  17. Independent Expert Commission Switzerland-Second World War, final report (PDF; 1.8 MB), Zurich 2002, page 194.
  18. Federal Councilor Leuenberger in December 2001 ( Memento from June 15, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  19. ^ Roberto Bernhard: The Reduit and the civilian population. NZZ from September 1, 2009