Antoine Fleury, Horst Möller, Hans-Peter Schwarz, eds. Die Schweiz und Deutschland 1945-1961. Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte. Munich: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2004. 311 pp. EUR 49.80 (paper), ISBN 978-3-486-64508-8.
Reviewed by Riccarda Torriani (Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs)
Published on H-German (November, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
Switzerland's Economics of Neutrality in the Early Cold War Period
[Disclaimer: The views expressed in this review are those of the author
and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Swiss Federal
Department of Foreign Affairs or the government of Switzerland.]
This volume collects papers given at a 2001 conference on Swiss-German relations in the postwar period 1945-61. The title is slightly misleading because, in spite of the reference to "Germany," the collection mainly concerns relations between Switzerland and the Federal Republic. The first contacts between Switzerland and the GDR are treated in two chapters only. According to the organizers, this was the first historical conference on the first decades of the bilateral relations between Switzerland and the FRG. As Horst Möller points out in the preface, this state of affairs is rather surprising considering the close ties between the two neighbors.
However, the absence of historical conferences on the topic is not proof of a general lack of interest. Both Richard von Weizsäcker and Ruth Dreifuss, then presidents of the FRG and the Swiss Confederation, respectively, addressed the conference. Their statements are included in the volume and act as introductions to the more substantial chapters. The latter have been organized into three thematic sections: "Politics and Diplomacy"; "Economy, Finance and Security"; and "Society and Culture." In addition, the collection includes a historical overview of Swiss-German relations by Antoine Fleury (in French) and Klaus Hildebrand's and Walther Hofer's concluding remarks to the conference. Finally, Hans-Peter Schwarz's contribution summarizes the principal points raised in the papers.
The first two sections reveal that politics and economics were closely linked. Indeed, the link seems to have been so intricate that the reader is left to wonder why this particular thematic distinction was drawn. As Ilse Dorothee Pautsch ("Vom Ausnahmezustand zur guten Nachbarschaft") and Patrick Halbeisen ("Die Finanzbeziehungen zwischen der Schweiz und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland") argue, the establishment of political relations between Switzerland and the FRG was dependent upon and driven by the clearance of outstanding debts. Solving in particular the issue of the debt of 1.121 billion Swiss francs that the German Reich had run up by 1945 became one of Switzerland's priorities in the immediate postwar period. This question defined not only its approach to the emerging FRG, but also its relations with the Allies. Steffen Gerber's chapter "Die Schweiz und das 'andere' Deutschland," on the (failed) negotiations between Switzerland and the GDR, shows that economic and financial considerations drove the establishment of political ties between Switzerland and East Germany, too. In this case, however, it was motivated by the compensation claims of Swiss businesses that had been nationalized by the GDR. The author thus demonstrates how an ostensibly financial issue became one of the highest political order, as negotiations touched directly upon issues such as the recognition of the GDR and the position of a neutral state in the context of the early Cold War.
These four contributions provide the reader with a detailed account of the negotiations and the different positions of the actors involved. However, they remain largely descriptive. It would have been interesting, for instance, to place the negotiations in the wider context of Switzerland, the FRG, and the GDR (re-)asserting sovereignty and (re-)defining their room for maneuver on the international stage. This approach might have been particularly worthwhile considering the fact that none of the negotiations were "bilateral." They could not be, as they were inevitably caught in the complex web of the (increasingly diverging) Allied interests.
The other chapters in the first two sections cover a variety of political and economic contacts between Switzerland and the FRG. Again, they are very illustrative but remain largely descriptive. Hanns Jürgen Küsters's contribution, "Schweiz und die Deutsche Frage," examines some general aspects of Switzerland's position--as a neutral state in the center of Europe--towards the two emerging Germanies. In "Anerkennung von Staaten durch die Schweiz," Urban Kaufmann examines the principles of Switzerland's practice of recognizing new states in the postwar period. Hans Peter Mensing's presentation of Konrad Adenauer's links with Switzerland ("Adenauer und die Schweiz") demonstrates an impressive knowledge of the subject matter, but remains almost entirely anecdotal. Sacha Zala tells the story of how Swiss civil servants destroyed documents before handing the German consular and diplomatic archives in Switzerland over to the Allies. In fact this chapter again illustrates the entanglement of Swiss-German contacts with Allied conceptions of postwar Germany and even postwar Europe.
The same theme--the complexity of political relations with the emerging German states in the early postwar period--provides the backdrop to Mechthild Lindemann's account of the compensation negotiations for the Swiss victims of National Socialism. Werner Bührer's examination of the links between the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie and the Schweizerischer Handelsverein (Vorort) is a classic example of the dog that did not bark. Bührer somewhat reluctantly concludes that the contacts between the two organizations were minimal, but leaves the reader slightly baffled as to the significance of this relative silence. Bruno Thoß's contribution compares the security concepts developed in the postwar period in Switzerland and the FRG. The author shows that although both countries used neutrality to legitimize their security concepts, their definitions of the former were rather different.
The third section examines cultural and social ties between Switzerland and the two Germanies. Using the writer Max Frisch and the public historian Jean Rudolf von Salis as case studies, Hans Ulrich Jost examines the complex relationship between Swiss-German intellectuals, who felt themselves culturally and linguistically part of the German sphere, and Germany. In fact, their position allowed Swiss-German intellectuals to partake in the German debates about guilt and responsibility both as insiders and as outsiders. Jost may not be doing himself justice when he cautions that Frisch and von Salis may not be representative of all Swiss-German intellectuals. Of course they were not. Questions of representation are inevitably of limited usefulness when discussing relatively small numbers of "public intellectuals" (which both Frisch and von Salis were). Instead, Frisch's and von Salis's ways of dealing with the "German catastrophe" are in themselves highly instructive.
Eberhard Busch examines Karl Barth's influence on the attitudes of the Swiss Protestant Church towards Germany and towards the reconstruction of the German churches. Here, too, the complex issue of "belonging" and "not belonging" to the German sphere emerges as the dominant theme, too: The discussions on assistance led the church leaders to question the relationship between the Swiss and the German churches during the Third Reich and thus to grapple with questions of guilt and responsibility.
Markus Schmitz's chapter on Swiss cultural assistance to the western occupation zones highlights two issues. Firstly, Switzerland did not align its assistance with that provided by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Instead, the Schweizer Spende reestablished direct contacts between Switzerland and the western occupation zones. Furthermore, Switzerland consciously challenged the embargo on direct encounters between sports teams by sending Swiss soccer teams to the western zones as early as the late 1940s. Thus, Switzerland's conceptions of its considerations of neutrality and sovereignty appear to have defined even the aid and relief programs. Philipp Mäder's highly original contribution examines two (small) waves of emigration from Switzerland to the GDR, totaling roughly thirty Swiss migrants. The author illustrates well how neither the GDR nor Switzerland knew how to deal with "ideological" migration. No matter whether they returned to Switzerland (as some did) or remained in the GDR, most of these migrants were outsiders in their countries of residence for the rest of their lives.
The present volume is a useful first assembly of research into the early relations between Switzerland and its two German neighbors. The chapters are of varying quality, ranging from the anecdotal to illustrative analyses of some of the many different aspects of these relations. They are all based on diligent research and all authors display a detailed knowledge of the sources. Nonetheless, the book as such appears rather descriptive, with little space dedicated to the wider context. Hints about the bigger picture appear throughout the book: about the role that the Allied occupation powers played in "bilateral" Swiss-German relations, or about the influence of the Cold War on the Swiss and German decision-makers, or even about the dilemmas of the Swiss-German public and intellectuals regarding German collective guilt and their own responsibility. However, the reader is essentially left to fill in the gaps herself.
What the book shows beyond any doubt, though, is the scope for future research in the area. Indeed, the conference papers may act as inspiration for such undertakings. And bearing in mind that this was the first conference in this area of historical investigation, the conference papers, and the present volume, may have fulfilled their task rather well.
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Riccarda Torriani. Review of Fleury, Antoine; Möller, Horst; Schwarz, Hans-Peter, eds., Die Schweiz und Deutschland 1945-1961.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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