“Your attention, please. This is your captain speaking,” came the well-educated British voice from the cabin speakers of the twin jet aircraft. “If you will look out the cabin windows, you will notice that we are currently flying over the famed Lake Geneva.” He then circled the lake to provide all passengers with a bird’s-eye view.
Since our departure from London earlier that morning for the northern Italian ski resort of Livigno, we had been treated to a resplendent aerial view of the French countryside and, upon crossing airspace into Switzerland, sat in awe of the snow-bedecked ranges and pristine lakes of this country, known for its abundant wealth and centuries-old political neutrality.
Switzerland is indeed beautiful. From the rippling waters of Lugano, as it hugs the Swiss Riviera, to the charm of St. Moritz, the politics of Bern and the financial strength of Zurich and Geneva, Switzerland evokes the finery of continental Europe.
Struggle for Independence
Historians claim the founding of the Swiss Confederation on August 1, 1291, as the country’s birth, but it was not until the mid-14th century that the peasants and townsmen of Switzerland gradually gained their independence from the dominant Hapsburg dynasty, which had long held power throughout the region. By the 15th century, the Swiss had acquired a well-deserved reputation as disciplined infantrymen and even subcontracted their services to French kings and Italian princes. The loosely knit Swiss Confederation, despite dissension in the faction-ridden border towns, endured. Peasant enclaves, where the movement for independence had begun, were almost total democracies, while local districts possessed their own institutions, and the larger towns were ruled by the wealthier burgesses.
In the 16th century, a young French lawyer who had converted to Protestantism settled in Geneva as a local pastor. Using Switzerland as his base, John Calvin gained immense popularity for his religious views, and thus the spread of Calvinism (a branch of Protestantism) rippled through England, France, Germany, Austria and Hungary.
At the turn of the 19th century, the Napoleonic Empire extended French influence to Switzerland before allied European nations, led by Britain’s famed general, the Duke of Wellington, enforced regional stability following two decades of war and French hegemony. Representatives of Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia brokered a peace settlement and set in place countermeasures to prevent the vanquished French from repeating their romp across Europe. The federation of Dutch republics was given a king and was joined with former Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). The Kingdom of Piedmont in northern Italy was buttressed. In place of the inanimate Holy Roman Empire, a loosely joined confederation of 39 states was set up in Germany.
Then, to ensure an effective barrier to future French expansion in the southeast, Switzerland was reestablished as an independent confederation and was declared perpetually neutral. On May 29, 1874, the Swiss Constitution was promulgated.
Blunting the Conscience
World War i provided the first great test of the 20th century for Switzerland’s neutrality. As Europe descended once more into war, tremors to the northwest—which would end in the total collapse of the czarist regime and the ensuing Russian Revolution of 1917—pushed tensions throughout the region to fever pitch.
Amid Europe’s implosion, however, Switzerland continued to function as a neutral, independent, landlocked enclave of sanity.
The Swiss Alpine town of Davos, which had developed a reputation as a health resort, provided solace for injured German servicemen. Once part of Austria, from 1477 to 1649, Davos had long maintained strong economic and cultural links with its German-speaking neighbors.
At war’s end, in a defiant speech delivered at the Peace Conference in the French city of Versailles, Germany’s foreign minister, Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, uttered a statement that illustrated the national mindset of some countries during the passions of war and one which would, in time, greatly affect the Swiss people. “Crimes in war may not be excusable,” he said, “but they are committed in the struggle for victory, when we think only of maintaining our national existence, and are in such passion as makes the conscience of peoples blunt.”
During the brief passage of peace brokered by the League of Nations via the Treaty of Versailles, Switzerland again resumed its place in the world as everybody’s friend. Business and economic prosperity sprouted as Europe rebuilt and invested in the unspoiled prosperity of the Swiss. French, Italian and German businessmen invested heavily in the country, forging mutually beneficial, strategic alliances of prosperity.
With the eruption of the Second World War in 1939, Switzerland again held to its “friend of all and foe of none” neutrality. The Alpine town of Davos again acted as a recovery ward for both Allied and Axis powers. As Hitler’s storm troopers marched across Austria and France, while Mussolini’s Italy joined the Nazi cause, Switzerland became surrounded on all fronts. Cooperating with everyone but endorsing no one, the Swiss were caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The action that forestalled fascist designs on Switzerland, many believe, was Switzerland’s threat to blow up Germany’s strategic rail routes of the Gottard Tunnel and Brenner Pass should it be attacked. The reality, however, is that Hitler, at any time, could have strolled into the Alpine country and taken control with barely a whimper from the Swiss.
Why did Hitler, after breaking treaty after treaty, storming Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France and the remainder of continental Europe and North Africa, not gobble up Switzerland? Was it that he so feared the military might of the Swiss? Was neutrality the key?
The wartime saying, “For six days a week Switzerland works for Nazi Germany, while on the seventh it prays for an Allied victory,” tells the story of Switzerland’s activities during World War ii.
Money Versus Morality
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported the financial collapse of the national airline Swissair. All appeared lost until a last-minute us$2.59 billion bailout by the government and the nation’s business leaders. However, the deal means that Swissair will remain in receivership while an entirely new airline will be launched with fresh capital. “Yesterday’s agreement is based on a business plan to resurrect the airline sponsored by the nation’s two biggest banks, ubs ag and Credit Suisse Group” (Oct. 23).
Students of history will note that it was these same two banks that collaborated with the Axis Powers in World War ii. Hitler’s personal wealth, royalties from Mein Kampf and looted Jewish cash and gold resided in an account in the Union Bank of Switzerland (ubs). Italy’s Mussolini preferred stashing his wealth gleaned by thievery with Credit Suisse.
“It was through the neutral capitals that the Third Reich could finance the purchase of vital war materials. Credit Suisse was happy to help, according to the memo [written January 30, 1945, by the Foreign Economic Administration]. It appears from the memorandum that Credit Suisse of Zurich and the Union Bank of Switzerland have been guilty of violations, not only of the standard of conduct which this and the British government indicated in June 1944 was expected of them but also of the less rigid regulations which Swiss Bankers’ Association put into effect on September 19, 1944” (Adam LeBor, Hitler’s Secret Bankers).
To frantic Jews during World War ii, Switzerland was their trustee, the keeper of hard-earned Jewish wealth and prosperity. Many were assured that, if they were to die, their wealth would live on through their families. Millions were deposited in that nation’s leading banks.
During and after the war, Holocaust survivors sought to reclaim their wealth. Unable to furnish the banks’ demands of authenticated death certificates, the Jews were left unwrapping an enigma.
For over half a century now, Jewish wealth has remained in Swiss vaults as working capital for the banks. The fruits of Switzerland and its financial institutions throughout World War ii decry any rhetoric to the contrary.
Through a policy of accommodation, the Swiss profited from World War ii at the expense of the Holocaust victims.
In 1995, under pressure from the New York-based World Jewish Congress and Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato, whose constituency in New York consisted primarily of Jews, the Swiss banks set up two task forces to look into the status of dormant Jewish accounts. The banks, which for years had considered the matter of assets of Holocaust survivors held in Switzerland closed, cited a 1962 ruling that individuals and legal bodies register with the Swiss government any assets that met selected parameters. This was an impossible request for Holocaust survivors, who barely escaped with their lives let alone documentation of their families’ financial assets. The Swiss clearly knew such documents and records did not exist. The size of the Swiss payback at the time reflected the impossibility of the 1962 ruling.
At the close of World War ii, Swiss officials had returned $60 million worth of Jewish Germans’ gold from the Swiss National Bank. The recent spotlight on Swiss-Nazi collaboration forced the big three private banks to return $70 million more. This seemingly quieted their former foes at the World Jewish Congress and removed the threat of a feared international boycott. Once again, the Swiss dodged the diplomatic bullets.
However, the investigation did expose how “… Swiss banks funded the Nazi war machine; highlighted the country’s role as a spy center and channel for secret negotiations between Jews and Nazis, Nazis and the Allies; prompted a re-examination of the way tens of thousands were turned back by Swiss border guards into the arms of the Gestapo, and severely tested relations between Switzerland and the United States” (ibid.).
Spared the ravages of two world wars, today Switzerland is one of the most prosperous countries on Earth. It stands at the crossroads of northern and southern Europe. Wedged among Germany to the north, France to the west, Austria to the East and Italy to the south, the Swiss are landlocked among high Alpine peaks, rolling hills and large lakes that dot the landscape. Its 15,942 square miles cover slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. A modern, sophisticated network of railroads and highways cover the country, while nearly 1240 miles of crude oil and natural gas pipeline convey much-needed energy to its city centers.
Though Switzerland has almost 7.3 million people, comprised of a mixture of German, French and Italians, the Swiss labor force is relatively small at 4 million. Almost 70 percent of the population is between 15 and 64 years old, ensuring that the memories of world war are but historical anecdotes. Nearly 64 percent of Swiss use the German language as their mother tongue, while the balance speak either French or Italian. When it comes to religion, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism share almost equal popularity. The Swiss boast a 99 percent literacy rate, and almost half of their population is connected to the Internet.
In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU to enhance their international competitiveness. Although the country appears not to be pursuing full EU membership in the near term, in 1999 Bern and Brussels signed agreements to further liberalize trade ties—the terms of which become active this year. Almost 80 percent of Switzerland’s imports come from the EU (31 percent from Germany). National exports and imports are at virtual parity, and the growth rate of gross domestic product has remained steady at 3 percent.
Switzerland is still considered a safe haven for the investor because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy, and its currency has kept its long-term external value. However, “The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland’s role in many UN and international organizations, may be rendering obsolete the country’s concern for neutrality” (World Factbook, 2001).
Many are now left wondering: Will Switzerland remain neutral in the 21st century?
Switzerland’s Biblical Identity
Swiss neutrality dates back to the 16th century. It has endured two world wars. However, today, with economic, political and military integration with the EU, many wonder what the future will bring. Only in the pages of the Holy Bible can we find the answer.
It may come as a surprise to the reader to learn that the Swiss are the primary descendants of the Israelite tribe of Gad. In his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, requested by over 5 million worldwide, Herbert W. Armstrong reveals the identity of the 12 original tribes of Israel, detailing the modern location of the so-called lost ten tribes. “While the birthright was Joseph’s, and its blessings have come to the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America, yet the other eight tribes of Israel were also God’s chosen people. They too, have been blessed with a good measure of material prosperity—but not the dominance of the birthright. …
“[E]ight tribes have descended into such northwestern European nations as Holland, Belgium, Denmark, northern France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway.”
Anciently, as detailed in Deuteronomy chapters 27-28, God commanded Moses to gather the tribes of Israel and take them up to two high mountains. Half of the tribes were directed to stand on Mount Gerazim and hear proclaimed the blessings for obedience to God’s law, while the other tribes were sent to Mount Ebal to hear the curses that would come for disobedience to God’s law. The tribe of Gad was directed to stand on Mount Ebal (Deut. 27:13). This meant that they were well versed in the severity of the curses that God promised He would bring upon them if they rebelled against His law.
As the biblical descendants of Gad, the Swiss are left without excuse. They have forgotten their rich history with God. God chose the Swiss people as a tribe of Israel, which was to lead the world to righteousness. If only Switzerland would hear the biblical warnings and remember its ancient history with God.
Switzerland has not received prosperity of its own devices. It is through the obedience of the ancient biblical patriarch Abraham that the Swiss have received national blessings.
“Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last” (Gen. 49:19). Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states the following about Gad: “This tribe should be often attacked and wasted by hostile powers on their borders.” For centuries, hostile powers did overrun Swiss borders. Swiss history is replete with outside forces dominating its soil.
Bible prophecy reveals the very intention of Gad’s neutrality has been to prevent future ravaging at the hands of dynasties, empires and dictators. But though the Swiss can run, they can’t hide. The illusion of neutrality will not preserve them from the aspirations of Europe’s Holy Roman Trojan horse—the increasingly federalist European Union.
For the Swiss, it is already too late—they just don’t realize it yet.
The EU’s masterful step-by-step strategy of extracting economic, political and military cooperation from its subjects has worked on Switzerland. If the Swiss think they can play neutrality games with the EU, they are gravely mistaken. They escaped two world wars, but they shall not escape the third.
Strategically placed Switzerland will soon feel the beast power (Rev. 17) bearing down upon its northern border and the false prophet mounting up to ride in from the south. In the coming final European conflict, prophecy indicates, sadly, that the Swiss will suffer much more than just the breath of Nazidom at its borders.
As a tribe of Israel which has received precious blessings of God, Switzerland will be given the opportunity to turn back to Him. Ahead of acquiring wealth and material prosperity, the Swiss must seek after the true riches and wealth that only come from unbending obedience to God’s inexorable law.
Switzerland must hear the voice of the watchman to the house of Israel (Ezek. 33:7), turn and repent of their rebellion and, with all their heart, support that voice in this last hour as it warns of the soon-coming fulfillment of God’s end-time prophecies. Heed the watchman’s warning today and “turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).
The solution for Switzerland is rooted in their history. There is only one road to travel, and that is repentance!