A Brief History
On June 25, 1940, the day France surrendered to the Nazis, Germany began planning the invasion of Switzerland in Operation Tannenbaum.
Between June and October of 1940, a plan was worked out that called for German divisions to invade Switzerland from the North and for Italian divisions to invade from the South, with both sides annexing the respective German/French and Italian parts. The operation kept getting delayed, however, and after the Allied invasion at Normandy on D-Day, it was cancelled for good.
The Swiss knew the German were planning to invade them. In fact, in 1939 after the invasion of Poland, they fully mobilized in only 3 days and began fortifying their borders. Part of their fortifications included rigging bridges, tunnels and railroads with TNT so that they could be blown up immediately should German Panzer divisions attempt to pass.
A little known fact, however, is that Switzerland maintained these defenses throughout the duration of the Cold War and until recently (you never know when the Fourth Reich might rise…). This policy was not limited to Autobahn bridges and tunnels but also extended to wooden pedestrian bridges between the two countries!
Supposedly, Switzerland stopped this policy after the Cold War, but in November of 2014, it was made public that a 211-meter Autobahn bridge between Baden in Germany and Rheinfelden in Switzerland that had been erected in 2005 was built with TNT in its concrete, and somehow the Swiss managed to get it in there without the German construction company catching wind of it! From 1975 onwards, it was standard for TNT to be put into chambers in the concrete that had been designed for just this purpose. Approximately 14,000 cars drive over the Rheinfelder Bridge on a daily basis!
The explosives have supposedly been removed from the large Autobahn bridge in the meantime amidst concerns that it could be manipulated by terrorists. Just how many bridges still contain TNT is unknown as the Swiss Government is not releasing this information. All in all there are/were supposedly 3,000 official points of demolition, not counting the “unofficial” ones…
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever been to Switzerland? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Codevilla, Angelo M. Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and the Rewriting of History. Regnery History, 2000.