At the height of the Second World War, when nations across Europe were tearing each other apart, one country was able to keep its firm grip on neutrality despite standing in the heart of this bloody, brutal conflict: Switzerland.

Home to the world’s most panoramic alps, luxury watches, trustworthy banks, and the best of the best production of chocolates and cheese—Swiss is likewise known for its long-standing neutral policy.

In fact, the last time the Swiss engaged in any military skirmish was over a hundred years ago when the country had a short civil war. It also attempted to invade neighboring states years prior, but when that did not work, the Swiss seemingly decided to simply stop such efforts in the future and instead settled for what it had, subsequently adopting perpetual neutrality.

Switzerland via Google Earth

Though, sometime in the mid-1850s, the Swiss had temporarily mobilized its armed troops to deter any possible invasion by Prussia, and another one during the early 1870s at the onset of the Franco-Prussian War. But after that, they adhered to the policy of staying neutral, especially in times of global conflict.

Switzerland demonstrated its impartial standpoint during the First World War, mobilizing its armed troops only for deterrence and accepting refugees from both warring nations—refusing to take sides militarily. Staying neutral was and still is a challenging feat that was put to the ultimate test with the outbreak of World War II.

Neutrality, No Matter What

As the Third Reich aggressively expanded across Europe, the Swiss had been actively reviewing its defense and deterrence tactics considering that the main villain of the Second World War lived next door.

From 1940 through 1944, Switzerland was surrounded by Axis-controlled territories. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Even though Adolf Hitler had earlier promised that he would respect the Swiss neutral stand, after seeing how Poland, who received the same reassurance, had badly fallen into the hands of the Nazi dictator, had urged the small alpine country to reconsider its defense strategies and proceed to expand its existing fortifications just in case.

Ramping up its defense budget, Switzerland began lacing its thousands of miles of borders with explosives to deter invasion from all sides—taking advantage of its enormous, extremely rugged mountains to develop a stronghold buffer from the surrounding power-hungry Axis. Combined with its exceptional construction and engineering ingenuity, the Swiss likewise built hundreds of bunkers strategically situated near choke point routes allowing its armed forces to swiftly destroy crucial passages in the event of an attack.