Military jurisdiction, peace movement and conscientious objection

During the course of the 20th century, Swiss citizens have adopted a critical view of the army. Antimilitarists and proponents of the peace movement attracted the attention of the federal police, whilst conscientious objectors had to appear before military tribunals.

Antimilitarism and pacifism

Antimilitarism and pacifism are traditional strongholds of the political left. Large sections of the population adopted a critical attitude towards the military, especially during the 1920s and from the end of the 1960s onwards. These societal trends have always had an impact on the number of conscientious objectors. Swiss conscientious objectors were prosecuted under military jurisdiction until the 1990s. An alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors came into existence in 1996. Only a few person-related files on conscientious objectors exist for the period preceding 1910. The collected court decisions of the Divisional Courts – in the pertinence fonds E27 for the years up to 1910, and from approx. 1908 onwards in the fonds of the Military Attorney General – are, however, complete. Person-related files on conscientious objectors from 1911 onwards can be found in the fonds of the Military Attorney General, and from 1969 onwards in the fonds of the Office of the Military Attorney General. Swiss citizens who had provided military services to foreign armies also had to face military tribunals. During the 20th century, these were mainly foreign legionnaires and voluntary brigadists who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Information on the subject is also available from the private archives of antimilitarists and pacifists, such as that of Max Daetwyler.


Many antimilitarists and others active in the peace movement came under the observation of the federal police prior to and especially during the years of the Cold War. The Swiss Federal Archives hold files from the Federal Prosecutor's office on persons and issues in relation to antimilitarism and the peace movement (up to 1957, as of 1958). The systematic gathering of information was exposed in 1989 and triggered the so-called “secret files scandal” (“Fichenaffäre”) that was the focus of a parliamentary investigation commission of the Federal Department of Justice and Police.

Related topics

Last modification 04.11.2019

Top of page


Swiss Federal Archives

Archivstrasse 24
3003 Bern

+41 58 462 89 89


Opening hours reading room

Tu-Th, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Details and closing times

Print contact


Swiss Federal Archives

Archivstrasse 24
3003 Bern

Show map

Print contact