Active service during the Second World War is the subject of many memories and discussions in Switzerland. The same applies to the réduit that symbolised Switzerland's determined resistance.
There are many different opinions among experts as to whether and when the German army had intended attacking Switzerland and why it did not do so in the end. One thing is certain: the Germans did have initial plans for attack and the Swiss general staff reckoned with a serious threat.
The Rütli Report by General Henri Guisan of 1940 became famous in this regard. Guisan chose the Rütli meadow near Lake Lucerne, a place of historical importance to the Confederation, to announce that Switzerland's defence would concentrate on the Alp region. That would have left the population of Switzerland's middle region unprotected against attack. Nonetheless, the so-called "réduit" symbolised Switzerland's determined resistance in the post-war years.
General Guisan was hugely popular in Switzerland. Even a secret agreement with the French general staff concerning the army's operations in the event of a German attack against Switzerland that was discovered by the Germans in La-Charité-sur-Loire in 1940 had no impact on his popularity.
Documents on the réduit, plans of attack, the deployment of defence forces and General Guisan can be found in the fonds of the National Defence (1600-1960) and the Armed Forces Staff: plan collection of the chief of pioneers of the army (1940-1941). Additional central documents on the planning and organisation of the army and defence can be found in the fonds of the personal staff of General Guisan (1916-1960). Further documents relating to national defence during the Second World War can be found in the estates of the two directors of the Federal Military Department, Rudolf Minger (1895-1965) and Ernst Wetter (1914-1954).
The Swiss Federal Archives also holds numerous audiovisual documents on the Second World War. The Armed Forces Staff's photo collection on the Second World War (1937-1945) is of particular importance. Army films can also be found in the fonds of the Training Group Staff (1912-1993).
Audiovisual documents can also be found in some private archives: that of Henri Guisan (1886-1988), for instance, contains numerous personal photos from the period of the Second World War. Films on active service and General Guisan can be found in the fonds of the Swiss Weekly News Film (1940-1976).
Active service, i.e. the mobilisation of the army during the Second World War, is the subject of many memories and discussions in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Archives holds many related documents: the fonds of the National Defence (1600-1960), for instance, contains the active service reports and the diaries of army units and staffs. They also contain many photos, as does the Armed Forces Staff's photo collection of the Second World War.
Additional diaries can be viewed in the fonds of the staffs and units of the Armed Forces Staff (1924-1949) and various troop units (1914-1944). The military deployment of women is documented in the fonds of the Women's Ancillary Army Service (1939-1980) and the Swiss Association of Women in the Army (1940-1999).
Tips for further research
- Historical Dictionary of Switzerland with, among others, articles on the Second World War (ger), the réduit (ger) and the Women's Military Service (ger) with extensive references to literature.
- Library on Guisanplatz (BiG): extensive literature and documentation on military history.
- Archives of Contemporary History: estates of important representatives from the field of politics and economy during the Second World War.
- Centre Général Guisan (french): the former house of the General is open to visitors as a museum.
Publications of the Federal Archives
Last modification 04.11.2019