Switzerland in the 1930’s
In the Swiss history of the latter, a very recent period, the most important event was undoubtedly constituted by the attitude of the Coníederation towards the League of Nations and the obligations imposed on its members. Already in the London declaration of February 13, 1920, the Council of the League of Nations had accepted the point of view of the Swiss government, in the sense that, if Switzerland was obliged to accept the commitments of an economic nature deriving from art. 16 of the Covenant, on the other hand, it was not required – possibly – to make commitments of a military nature. But even with these limitations, the obligations imposed proved difficult to reconcile with the position of neutrality that Switzerland jealously intends to maintain; and the saritions against Italy, in 1935-36, that Switzerland, on the other hand, applied, in practice, to a limited extent, were the test bed from which clearly emerged the particular difficulties for Switzerland in complying with the commitments of the Pact. The situation, already delicate after Germany’s exit from the League of Nations, became even more so after Italy too left the Geneva assembly: after that, of the three large states bordering Switzerland, two are outside the League of Nations.
In such conditions, since November 1937 a committee, set up in Geneva, asked that they be included in the Constitution, in art. 11, two paragraphs concerning the maintenance by the Swiss government, in international relations, of the principle of integral neutrality and non-participation in international sanctions of a not only military but also economic nature.
Once Italy left the League of Nations, on 14 December 1937 the Federal Council decided to initiate an action aimed at restoring Swiss neutrality in its entirety; and on April 30, 1938, he sent a memorandum to the League of Nations, asking for the recognition of its “integral” neutrality, that is, the non-participation even in sanctions of an economic nature. The Swiss request was accepted by the Council of the League of Nations at the meeting of May 14, 1938.
On 21 June, in an Italian-Swiss exchange of notes (the same took place with a Swiss-German exchange of notes), the government of Rome (and Berlin) took note with satisfaction, of the complete restoration of Swiss neutrality, confirming the Italian will already expressed in numerous declarations to respect this neutrality.
In any case, to safeguard its independence and neutrality, the Swiss government has meanwhile decided on a significant strengthening of national defense.
Finance. – In spite of the increase in revenues and the decrease of some expenses of the crisis, the balance of the budget in 1936 has not yet been achieved: the deficit for the operation of the railways, which is not included in the general budget, is still very serious. However, both as a result of the general recovery and the favorable repercussions of the devaluation, especially on exports and tourism, 1937 marked a notable improvement in the economic situation which will not fail to affect revenues.
At 31 December 1936 the public debt (all internal) amounted to 2.8 billion (of which 2.3 consolidated) and the railway debt to 3.2 billion (of which 2.9 consolidated).
On November 21, 1936, Switzerland joined the Franco-Anglo-American tripartite agreement of September 25. The product of the revaluation of the Bank’s reserves (amounting to 538.6 million francs) was used to set up a foreign exchange stabilization fund.
As of December 31, 1937, notes in circulation amounted to 1.5 milliards and reserves to 2.7 milliards in gold and 0.5 milliards in foreign currencies.
Army. – The new order of the Swiss army was established with the law of 7 October 1936. It includes: 3 army corps, 9 infantry divisions, 4 mountain brigades, 3 rapid brigades.
The army corps is made up of three divisions, 1 mountain brigade, 1 swift brigade, 1 campaign howitzers (light and heavy) regiment (except for the III Corps which has 1 heavy regiment and 1 light regiment), 1 cannon regiment motorized large caliber, 1 bridging battalion, 1 motorized telegraph company.
The division consists of 3 infantry regiments, 1 motorized infantry gun company, 1 exploration group (2 cavalry squadrons and 2 cyclist companies), 1 field artillery regiment, 1 motorized cannon group.
The 3rd and 8th Divisions also have 1 group of mountain artillery.
The mountain brigade is on 2 or 3 infantry regiments, one motorized company to guns of infantry, 1 motorcyclists company, one group mountain artillery, 1 or 2 motorized groups of cannons, 1 or 2 diggers companies, one telegraph company and the observation company for artillery.
The rapid brigade is made up of 2 cavalry regiments (3 cavalry squadrons and 1 cyclist battalion each), 1 machine gun company, 1 infantry gun company and 1 engineering company, all motorized.
Military aviation. – The military aviation had, at the beginning of 1938, a new order. It includes 3 aviation regiments, on a total of 7 groups and 21 reconnaissance and fighter squadrons, with a total of 250 aircraft, including schools.
Civil aviation. – At the end of 1937, Swiss airlines also operated the following airlines:
- Swissair: a) Zurich-S. Gallo-Monk; b) Zurich-Basel-London; c) Basel-Frankfurt;
- Alpar: a) Berna-Basil.