Swiss Miss

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 I’m not talking about hot chocolate. In fact, I’m going to say something negative about Switzerland here. I personally don’t even know anyone from Switzerland. If you happen to be Swiss I hope this doesn’t offend you. This is really about perceptions that people can have, especially me as an American. I really do think Americans don’t get the full news, the true story sometimes. News is often slanted. I’m sure it happens in other countries as well, not even counting those countries that totally control the newpapers and television. It probably happens in France although I have to say that I will see things on TV here that aren’t shown in the States on the news.

 Anyway. One day while at a tennis match I took a break to make my way to the toilets. On the way back I saw and smelled some waffles being made and stopped and bought one with chocolate on it. Later as Maurice and I passed by the stand he asked if I wanted one and I told him that I’d eaten one earlier. That’s when he said, “You mean like a Swiss?” I said, very puzzled, “What? How is that like a Swiss?” He explained to me that during WWII, when Switzerland declared itself neutral, many people right across the border in France were starving and the Swiss, who weren’t, didn’t help them. Maurice had relatives who lived near Annecy which is 30 minutes from Switzerland. Now I know you can’t paint the whole country with the same brush and that there were many brave people in Switzerland who helped many people during the war. Really, is there one country in this world that doesn’t have something to be ashamed of? The USA and the Indians–hello.  France with its Vichy government during WWII, etc.

http://sites.younglife.org/sites/zurich/Photo.aspx?AlbumUrl=Home%20Page&ImageNumber=1

 But it made me realize that I had been taught to think of Switzerland and their neutrality as noble. I’m not sure why. It made me change my perception then of something I’ve always assumed. Maybe being neutral isn’t noble. It’s a way of staying on the fence, not getting involved and sometimes taking advantage of those not neutral, but suffering in a war. It was a horrible time. Perhaps if they had been invaded it would have been different. I don’t know enough about history to even know why Germany didn’t invade Switzerland. I read that the Alps made an invasion look to difficult to Hitler.

 At first when Maurice started saying that to me-“Oh, like the Swiss?” I was a little amused but now it makes me mad. It’s like saying I’m selfish and it sends me off like a rocket. Of course, when he is in the kitchen making tea for himself, does he ask me if I would like some? Not usually. Then I tell him, “Don’t ever call me a Swiss again!”

 Any Swiss out there reading this who would care to give me their views?

13 thoughts on “Swiss Miss

  1. It’s good to have such things pointed out now and again because the vast majority of people tend to forget about them after a while and some 60 odd years down the line certainly counts as a “while”.

    I suspect that Germany didn’t invade Switzerland as the war finished before they got around to it. They certainly didn’t respect any country’s sovereignty so why would they bother respecting neutrality other than for the convenience that they could rely on Swiss, Irish etc troups not fighting them whilst they were dealing with other places.

    The other big thing that’s “forgotten” is what America, Australia, Canada and the UK did for Europe. Just the other day one French response to something was “what did the UK ever do for Europe?”. I think that the majority of Europe would find itself under the sucessor to the Vichy government et al today if we’d not been around.

  2. Wow, that’s a loaded topic, Linda. I also considered Switzerland noble because of their neutrality, but that has changed when I met my husband. His views are very different indeed.
    He claims that SL proclaimed neutrality to benefit from both sides! Just like today, they are not members of the United Nation or the European Union, do not pay any dues or taxes, but they get all the benefits of the free trade…
    And just like during WWII they still turn away any political refugees from their borders. I bet Maurice has some feelings about that, as well;-)

  3. I have a question. Wasn’t France and Italy aligned with Hitler at the beginning? I’m pretty sure, if I remember my history lessons correctly, that they were allies until, eventually, Hitler’s regime turned on France. I think Italy remained allies until the end, but I’m not positive…

    This has always perplexed me…the perception of people from different countries that were under Hitler’s thumb; because some of these countries were actually Hitler’s allies before becoming his prey.

    If I’m remembering incorrectly, if this was in fact not true (I’m going to look it up now, actually, to make sure) please let me know…

    In any case this topic (the topic of Hitler’s allies, etc) gave me a different perception of the nations involved.

  4. Mlle Smith… OH MY, Yes by all means, PLEASE grab some history books. Hitler invaded France, France fell, Germans occupied Paris… then the notorious Vichy government and collaborators come into the picture.

    I know, I grew up in American schools, and they are sooooo weak on European history.

    Alas, it is hard enough sometimes being an American living in France…

  5. Hey Ben,

    Actually, I learned this while overseas in Europe…I’m promising to look this up because I’m pretty positive there is validity to this.

    Also, I learned this overseas, so I’m probably more partial to believe it than if I learned it in American history courses, books, etc…

    When I look it up, I’ll post what I actually find. Right now, j’ai faim!! :0)

  6. Last year I learned this expression in French: if you are at the table, and a person picks up the wine bottle and pours himself some wine without offering to refill other people’s glasses, people say “il est en train de boire en Suisse.” I think it means to drink like a Swiss person, not to drink in Switzerland. I guess the Swiss are seen to be selfish. Ask Maurice about it.

  7. Arnold, what’s more often forgotten in Europe and the US is the importance of the role of the Russians in defeating the Germans. Even that great anti-communist Churchill said that “the Red Army tore the guts out of the Wehrmacht” and they fught about two-thirds of the Germany forces for most of the war, eventually rolling them back.

    Mlle Smith, you’d do better to chack your history before making allegations. You’re wrong, France was NOT allied with Germany, though there were sympathisers with the Nazis, as there were in the UK and the US. In relation to Italy:

    “During the rule of Mussolini (1922-1943), dictatorship Italians enjoyed a long period of stable government but they were deprived of political liberty and economic advancement. ltaly remained a poor and backward country. It is no wonder that Italy met with defeats in the Second World War and Mussolini’s regime was overthrown by the Italian people in the midst of the war.” – not right till the end of it, and the many communists in Italy opposed the fascits, as did the communists in France, who were the backbone of the Resistance.

    Oh and let’s not forget that some US companies traded with the Nazis – G. W. Bush’s father being one of them:

    “Ben Aris in Berlin and Duncan Campbell in Washington
    Saturday September 25, 2004
    The Guardian

    George Bush’s grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.
    The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

    His business dealings, which continued until his company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1312540,00.html

  8. Ted and everyone else…I just finished speaking with my guyfriend in France about this. I wanted to see if they perhaps perceive things differently from the rest of historians.

    He informed me that YES FRANCE WAS AN ALLY OF HITLER’S REGIME, INITIALLY. While under the Vichy government, they collaborated with Hitler’s regime…during this period,many Jews were deported and handed over to Hitler’s regime.

    Eventually, Hitler turned on the Vichy government…France. This took place in November of 1942. He informed me that they don’t believe Vichy was surprised by this, as this was consistent with Hitler’s previous behavior toward other allies.

    Nevertheless, if you still find this odd, you can read the news in France…one of the collaborators within the French administration under Vichy, his name is Maurice Papon, he died yesterday…nevertheless, he was tried and condemned to prison and later released due to his health…but he was responsible for the deportation of many of the Jews that France handed over to Hitler during this period of collaboration.

    If you still find this hard to believe or to accept, then I don’t know what to tell ya. But this is common knowledge to the rest of France and to the rest of Europe.

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