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Old 12.05.2007, 10:31
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Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

Druing the period my father was a tank commander (RTR 1942-1945) my research suggests that life went on almost normally in Switzerland, as it did also during 1914-18, Korea 1952, Falklands, Iraq 1992 and 2003-? etc.
What have they lost by staying out of these fights? They have the same and better gizmos of civilisation here as anywhere else plus a much more democratic system - arguably the central reason they stayed out of so many unnescessary wars - how many in the UK would have voted to invade Iraq ( or declare war on Germany in 1939) had they been asked?.

The myth in the UK is that we defeated Nazism (we didn't it was the Americans and Russians) and brought about peace and prosperity, but it is likely that Hitler's system (had he succeeded) would have broken down eventually, just as it did in the Soviet Union and China and other places - but without the loss of 20m lives. Stalin was arguably a bigger monster than Hitler, Pol Pot would be another contender. Odd that we did nothing. Now we have deposed a tyrant in Iraq and justified the act the same way as we did ridding Hitler blah blah blah, no mention of the cost in lives in this justification.

It is difficult to think of an example of govermental intervention leading to any improvement of living standards of quality of life anywhere. As I see it, the gains made have all come from scientific and technological advances. Administrations have contributed nothing except to this process except to slow it up or maybe accelerate it inadvertantly from war pressure.

Can anyone think of an exception to prove me wrong?
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Old 12.05.2007, 11:19
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
Harry Lime - The Third Man
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Old 12.05.2007, 11:51
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

South Korea seems to be doing pretty damn well.
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Old 12.05.2007, 11:54
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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Druing the period my father was a tank commander (RTR 1942-1945) my research suggests that life went on almost normally in Switzerland, as it did also during 1914-18, Korea 1952, Falklands, Iraq 1992 and 2003-? etc. <snip>
It's a misconception to imagine that in a Switzerland surrounded by warring countries with borders sealed and army mobilised that "life went on almost normally". There was rationing here too in WW2.

Korea, Falklands, Iraq (and Kuwait which you missed) life did go on. Though through operation Desert Storm there was a three month period when the Swiss worried more than usual and didn't go out to dine and enjoy themselves as much.

To answer your question, I cannot recall an example where intervention helped much, but then what would the standard of life been without intervention?
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Old 12.05.2007, 12:00
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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It's a misconception to imagine that in a Switzerland surrounded by warring countries with borders sealed and army mobilised that "life went on almost normally". There was rationing here too in WW2.
To practice my German, I often talk with my wife's grandmother about what went on back then. Food was most certainly rationed and life did not go on as normal. There were plenty of shortages, etc. The people were rather frightened. You can see the German border from here as the river in this valley flows straight into the Rhine.

In that situation, a better question have been: what options did Switzerland even have? They had to remain "neutral" and reach tacit agreements with the Axis powers in my opinion if they did not want to be overrun. Let's not forget, Sweden remained neutral as well.
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Old 12.05.2007, 12:34
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

Ok, considering that the cities were not razed in fire bombings, yes, life carried on pretty much normally.

Let's also not forget that the October school holidays are called "potato holidays" for a reason.

Parks and public places were turned into vegetable gardens.

Food was rationed.

Talking to old partners in Geneva private banks, they still reminisce about people offering to work for free up to a year just to have a chance to maybe be hired.
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Old 12.05.2007, 12:39
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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<snip>
Talking to old partners in Geneva private banks, they still reminisce about people offering to work for free up to a year just to have a chance to maybe be hired.
Well, they're perhaps not the best people to offer opinons on these matters. "What did you do during the war, Daddy?"
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Old 12.05.2007, 13:10
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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Well, they're perhaps not the best people to offer opinons on these matters. "What did you do during the war, Daddy?"
"Business, son. Took my cue from American firms who did the same".
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Old 14.05.2007, 15:45
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

I remember watching that doc...demolition job on BBC about Nazi's gold and some US academic banging on about how the Swiss had a nice and easy life during WW2 (cue image of some bloke waterskiing - the kind of image of toffs having fun you could have filmed in England in 1941 nevermind Switzerland...). My father ensured me that it was far from pleasant, particularly for those living close to the borders. Of course it was nothing like living in London during the Blitz but still...
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Old 14.05.2007, 16:28
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

It shouldn't be difficult to find reference sources for how life was here in the early 40s - anyone know where the archives are?
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Old 14.05.2007, 16:33
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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It shouldn't be difficult to find reference sources for how life was here in the early 40s - anyone know where the archives are?
Would suggest you try the Central Library in Zurich, has English tomes : ZENTRALBIBLIOTHEK ZÜRICH
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Old 14.05.2007, 16:34
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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Druing the period my father was a tank commander (RTR 1942-1945) my research suggests that life went on almost normally in Switzerland,
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It shouldn't be difficult to find reference sources for how life was here in the early 40s - anyone know where the archives are?
Makes one wonder what sources was your prior research based on?

Witty retorts aside, a good place to start is this one.

If real research actually interests you, here is a small reference of books on the subject.

Last edited by Shorrick Mk2; 14.05.2007 at 16:47.
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Old 14.05.2007, 21:28
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

I remember watching the newsreels of the war years on a Swiss channel, they showed a daily news show once a day. What seemed apparent was the concerted effort to present the country as unified and united, which it was not at all at the time, a Genevan was an alien being to a Glaris resident and vice-versa.

WW2 made Switzerland in many ways. Before that it was a rather different place than nowadays, poorer, fragmented with a legacy of violence and war. Nowt much to do with that description in the "3rd Man".
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Old 14.05.2007, 21:46
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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I remember watching the newsreels of the war years on a Swiss channel, they showed a daily news show once a day. What seemed apparent was the concerted effort to present the country as unified and united, which it was not at all at the time, a Genevan was an alien being to a Glaris resident and vice-versa.
Considering even now in Valais if you come from the next valley you are considered a foreigner, that doesn't surprise me
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Old 14.05.2007, 22:00
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

Valais is our Far West/Sicily - those who think Switzerland is a law-abiding and well ordered society ought to go there and talk to the local "entrepreneurs"
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Old 14.05.2007, 22:14
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

How about Belfast? Now that there is "peace" there, house prices have gone utterly mental - I forget the road names etc, but a house on one of the most infamous streets that you couldn't have given away 10 years ago sold for about £800,000 at auction recently (!) That seems to be a bonus from governmental intervention in local conflict to me...?
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Old 16.05.2007, 21:46
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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How about Belfast? Now that there is "peace" there, house prices have gone utterly mental - I forget the road names etc, but a house on one of the most infamous streets that you couldn't have given away 10 years ago sold for about £800,000 at auction recently (!) That seems to be a bonus from governmental intervention in local conflict to me...?
Yes, prices in NI and particularly Belfast have gone bonkers. Even to the extent where the average price in NI is higher than England. It's a bit of an unsustainable bubble to be honest and looks like it might be about to burst. I'm hoping so, anyway

Ironically, if I hadn't left Ireland for Switzerland I could have 'earned' as much through buying a house then and cashing it in by selling it now as I managed to save with quite a lucrative job in Switzerland in the same time period..... Oh well, at least I got a lot of skiing and mountain-walking in.
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Old 17.05.2007, 16:33
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

Well, both my paternal granddad and granduncle lived on the Schaffhausen / Klettgau border with Germany. Both were in the Army at the time, border troops.

Due to shortages, all available land was planted ("Plan Wahlen"), heck, even Sechseläutenplatz was turned into a potato field. Clipped from here:
Textatelier Hess von Biberstein
"Er erzählte mir, wie in den Kriegsjahren 1939/45 der Kartoffelverzehr in der Schweiz stark zugenommen hatte. Aber die Einfuhr von dieser damaligen Ernährungsgrundlage und auch von Getreide und Gemüse waren stark erschwert. Die so genannte „Anbauschlacht“ im 2. Weltkrieg („Plan Wahlen“, benannt nach dem damaligen weitsichtigen Bundesrat Friedrich Traugott Wahlen) war eine Überlebensstrategie. Konrad Pfeiffer war ein Schüler von Wahlen, der an der ETH Zürich gelehrt hatte.

In den Kriegsjahren wurde versucht, die Anbaufläche überall zu vergrössern, damit es für die vom Hitler-Reich eingekreisten Schweizer genug zu essen gab. Dabei wurden auch Naturwerte geopfert, aber Bundesrat Wahlen wollte anschliessend, nach Kriegsende, der Natur wieder zu ihrem Recht verhelfen. Selbstverständlich kam es nicht mehr dazu; denn das Szepter wurde von weniger einsichtigen, weniger naturverbundenen Menschen übernommen."

Sugar was rationed from '39-'40 onward. Fuel was rationed. My granduncle and granddad, the former a carpenter by trade, the latter a forest worker, had ample access to woodchips, which they used to burn in their "Holzvergaser"-cars (Bild:Holzvergaser.JPG - Wikipedia). Unlike the city dwellers, they'd always had a veg garden, a wood lot and some fruit trees, so life was reasonably comfy in the country side.

There's several eyewitness reports on the web, understandably in German:
Untitled

Of course, my maternal grandfather, German, from 200m on the other side of the border, didn't fare that well: Rode a motorcycle, and, being a farmhand, knew how to handle horses: promptly shipped off to the East Front as a Meldereiter (Recon/shuttling dispatches from the frontline to command and back) where he was wounded badly enough to be shipped off to a lazarett in Germany. After his recovery and his unit no longer in existence, off to France to help build/defend the Atlantik Wall. Then POW on a Normandy dairy farm until 1948 (grandma joined him there). Then "Nacht-und-Nebel" repatriation, cause ze Frenchies wouldn't let him go (my mother was born in France, btw: your child ees born eere, she's French, so you stay! Vive la France! ).

Oh, BTW, the Americans bombed Schaffhausen on the 1st of April 1944
pics Stadtarchiv Schaffhausen: Sammlung Einzelbilder, Bombardierung 1. April 1944,

historical media on WW2 in Switzerland: SRG SSR Timeline: Im Zangengriff der Achsenmächte

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Old 17.05.2007, 23:36
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
Harry Lime - The Third Man
Maybe that's why so many italians want to go to Switzerland?
Maybe that's why in many of the italian cities you can not walk at night oir commerces have to pay "protection" to the Mafia AND the "police"??
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Old 17.05.2007, 23:43
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Re: Democracy or gizmos - what counts?

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To practice my German, I often talk with my wife's grandmother about what went on back then. Food was most certainly rationed and life did not go on as normal. There were plenty of shortages, etc. The people were rather frightened. You can see the German border from here as the river in this valley flows straight into the Rhine.

In that situation, a better question have been: what options did Switzerland even have? They had to remain "neutral" and reach tacit agreements with the Axis powers in my opinion if they did not want to be overrun. Let's not forget, Sweden remained neutral as well.
Swiss neutrality saved lives.
Swiss ones, and foreign ones.
Yes, money was missccarried and even stolen. But there were no concentration camps on Switzerland.
And when the War was over, as it was going to be over someday, and all Europe needed a place to sit down and talk, because even when they might hate each others guts, they would have to live together in the same small continent forever, they had a place to call upon and have a talk.
There are still in many swiss cities plaques placed by survivors of both WW, 1 and 2, who got to cross the borders and were fed, warmed and housed. With more or less "tenderness", with more or less "sweet smiles", but they did live to tell the tale and go back to their own countries and just live.
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