Chief Delegate Minister Walter Stucki shortly before his departure to Washington. Schweizerische Filmwochenschau, 22 March 1946, cf.

The Washington Agreement of 1946

In spring 1946, a high-ranking Swiss delegation visited Washington to negotiate the release of frozen Swiss assets in the USA as well as the end of the allied boycott of companies that, during WWII, had traded with the Axis Powers. In turn, the USA, Great Britain, and France demanded that Swiss banks hand over German assets. The Washington Agreement (, finalised 70 years ago, on 25 May 1946, after difficult negotiations, represents a milestone in Swiss foreign policy. It was the clearance that ended Switzerland’s isolation and prepared the way for the country’s integration into the post-war world. «a trial to any freedom-loving Swiss» Near the end of the war, in 1944, the Allies increased their pressure on Switzerland. The country was regarded as a war profiteer that upheld tight economic relations with Nazi Germany even as the German defeat became inevitable. «It would indeed be a trial to any freedom-loving Swiss to feel that he had in any way impeded the efforts of other freedom-loving countries to rid the world of a ruthless tyrant», US President Franklin D. Roosevelt reprimanded Swiss Federal President Eduard von Steiger in January 1945 ( The Swiss media were less roundabout, stating that «the American press accuses us of supporting their enemy» (, original in German). In Spring 1945, an allied delegation demanded the freezing of German assets in Switzerland, the cessation of exports and of all gold trade with the Reich, and the termination of the transit between Germany and North Italy. The Currie Agreement of 8 March 1945 On 8 March 1945, Switzerland largely agreed to the conditions stipulated by US chief negotiator Lauchlin Currie ( Yet the so-called Currie Agreement left unresolved the question of German assets in Swiss banks, and the related question of the Swiss banking secret. Swiss bankers opined that to disclose customer information would «deal a death blow to the reputation for discretion» and that this would prove «ruinous, as foreign capital would flee elsewhere at the first opportunity» (, original in French). The bankers pointed to «these foreign assets‘ contribution to the Swiss balance of payments and national revenue», venturing that «it would be a catastrophe to destroy for decades to come that which was built in past decades» (, original in German). Federal Councillor Max Petitpierre, the new Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, assured them that Swiss diplomacy had «always taken the interests of Swiss banks into consideration and does not intend to change its attitude» (, original in French). Minister Stucki goes to Washington Pressure from the USA persisted. Washington froze Swiss assets in the USA and blacklisted persons and companies that had traded with Germany. The Federal Council nominated Walter Stucki, a high-ranking Bernese diplomate, as the chief delegate in a new round of negotiations with the USA, Great Britain, and France. In a preliminary meeting, Stucki asserted: «On the matter of Swiss Sovereignty, we will in no way be haggled with» (, original in German). He declared his «main goal» was «to find an agreement with the Allies [...] that reflects Swiss juridical principles and interests whilst also being apt to dispel the atmosphere of distrust vis-à-vis Switzerland still predominant among the Allies today.» Minister Stucki’s plan was to diminish the demands step by step, up to the «demolishing of the basis of the allied claim» (, original in German). «a scandalous insolence» These expectations were quickly destroyed by what the Swiss delegation encountered in Washington. In April, Stucki was forced to personally travel to Berne for new instructions, reporting to the Federal Council that «two walls» were facing each other. In the Allies’ opinion, German assets in Switzerland were theirs, «not from a legal, but from a higher, moral point of view». They held that Switzerland was, «as a privileged state saved by us, obliged to make these resources available to us». The Americans bluntly informed the Swiss delegation that if its members did «not change their opinion», they would best «return home» – according to Stucki, «a scandalous insolence». The Americans’ unusually brusque style of negotiation, however, mirrored the distribution of power: «The Allies indeed have the means to make our lives [...] quite miserable», as the experienced diplomat put it (, original in German). Payment of «Nazi Gold» When Stucki returned to Washington with new instructions, a «veritable torrent of attacks and defamation», awaited him. Ultimately, the delegations agreed that money that German citizens had put in Swiss bank accounts would be liquidated, paid out in half to the Allies – «as a voluntary contribution to the rebuilding of Europe» – and in half to Switzerland, in compensation for its claims against Germany. More than the Swiss had expected, allied demands focused on the question of the gold in the vaults of the Swiss National Bank, purchased «in good faith» from the German Reichbank. Ultimately, Switzerland transferred to the Allies «Nazi Gold» at an overall value of 250 million Swiss Francs, however, «without recognition of a legal obligation». In fact, this «compromise» was only slightly less than the allied demands that in Switzerland had been perceived «as insolent and impossible to meet» (, original in German). The question of «dormant accounts» The Washington Agreement can be accessed and read in detail, with its various annexes, on the Dodis database at (which includes links to all appendices). All documents relating to the negotiations can be found using the permalink and the keyword Washington Agreement. Not all of the agreement‘s appendices were made public in 1946. A document that was kept confidential is a letter regarding the «possessions, in Switzerland, of victims of the violent crimes, recently committed by the former German government, who died without heirs». The Federal Council intended to examine «sympathetically» the question of these «dormant assets» in Switzerland (, original in French). The «unclaimed assets» would occupy diplomats for decades to come (see, with the real éclat following only after the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s. The judgement of historians«I do not know how future historians will judge the operation we carried out», William E. Rappard, advisor of the Swiss delegation, wrote to Federal Councillor Petitpierre after negotiations had ended. The Geneva-based professor assumed that the achievement regarding the gold would receive praise, whereas there would be less patience for the «surrender of principles» with regard to German assets. That the small country nevertheless succeeded in denying «a significant part» of the three Great Powers’ demands, Rappard writes, «is, in my eyes, close to a diplomatic miracle» (, original in French). However Switzerland, with its financial and industrial capacity, was by no means the lightweight as which it represented itself. In addition, the country profited from the emerging Cold War. It is less the contents than the long-term consequences of the Washington Agreement that are central: For the normalisation of relations with the superpower USA, almost any sacrifice had to be accepted.
read more
From left to right: federal councillor Max Petitpierre talking to minister Eduard Zellweger (Belgrad) and to Hermann Flückiger, designated as the first envoy to Moscow. «Schweizerische Filmwochenschau» from 5.4.1946.

The Establishment of Swiss Diplomatic Relations with the USSR

On 18 March 1946, an exchange of diplomatic notes in Belgrade ( broke a silence that had lasted almost thirty years, establishing official relations between Switzerland and the Soviet Union. The normalization of relations with the new eastern superpower was one of the fundamental conditions for the development of Switzerland's international relations in the commencing Cold War.A period without relationsAfter the expulsion of the Soviet diplomatic mission in November 1918 (, there followed a long time that saw no relations between Bern and Moscow. The attempt to establish contacts with the USSR towards the end of World War II ( was curtly rejected by the Soviets on the basis of Switzerland's «pro-fascist politics», as a blunt diplomatic note from autumn 1944 puts it (, original in French). As a result of the affront, the Swiss foreign minister, federal councillor Marcel Pilet-Golaz, resigned from his office ( end of the war and the Soviet assetsFor the new foreign minister Max Petitpierre, the normalisation of relations with the victorious power in the east became a top priority. Achieving this goal had its price; in September and October 1945, the Federal Council reversed the freezing of Soviet assets in private banks and the Swiss National Bank that had been effectuated in 1941. «Always with a view to the desirability of a normalisation of mutual relations», the national government saw this step as an «advance payment» to Moscow (, original in German). 20 million Swiss Francs were paid without Switzerland's own substantial compensation claims – over 1.5 billion for evictions, looting, and expropriations after the October Revolution of 1917 ( – having been settled.The question of internees and an immoral offerThe end of the war also saw negotiations with a military delegation about the fate of the roughly 10'000 interned Soviet prisoners of war and forced labourers who had fled to Switzerland from the German Reich. Not all of them wanted to return to the the Soviet Union; among them were a political refugee and a deserter. By international law, the two Russians should not have been extradited. However, Moscow was urging their exchange for five Swiss diplomats held by the USSR. In Bern, there were worries that «a refutation of the Russian proposal might negatively influence the Soviet Union's willingness to establish diplomatic relations with Switzerland» (, original in German). In December 1945, the federal government decided to give in to the pressure coming from the Soviet Union ( «Walk to Canossa» The agreement on the subject of the internees cleared the way for negotiations on the re-establishment of relations with the USSR. These were initiated by the Swiss envoy to Yugoslavia, Eduard Zellweger, with the Soviet embassy in Belgrade. Once again, the Soviets made steep demands. They asked the Federal Council to apologise for its «anti-Soviet attitude» in the past. Petitpierre initially declined (, original in French, see also The formulation ultimately agreed on was: «The Federal Council announces that it has changed its previous standpoint insofar as this was inimical towards the USSR» (, original in French).Normalisation after the «worst-case scenario»After the exchange of notes on 18 March 1946, things moved quickly. In late April 1946 Hermann Flückiger already took up his post as the first Swiss envoy to Moscow. Economic relations were established, too. In March 1948, Switzerland and the USSR signed a trade agreement in Moscow ( Nonetheless, the conditions under which the Federal Council had normalised relations with the Soviet Union were traumatising for Switzerland. The extensive concessions made and the humiliating procedure were a worst-case scenario for Swiss diplomacy, and had far-ranging consequences.
read more
Guatemalan statesman with Swiss roots: Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1913-1971)

Guatemalan coup d'état 70 years ago

On June 27 1954, a covert operation carried out by the CIA overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala. It was one of the first large US intelligence service operations in Latin America. The coup d'état against Jacobo Árbenz, whose father had emigrated from Andelfingen (Zurich) to Guatemala, appeared also on the agenda of the Swiss diplomacy.A promising startJacobo Árbenz Guzmán was elected president of Guatemala in 1951. In his inaugural speech Árbenz emphasised his will to transform Guatemala from a «backward country with a feudalistic economic system» into a  «modern and capitalistic country», as reported legation councillor Ernest Schlatter, who was delegated to the inauguration by the Federal Council. Schlatter saw the fact that Árbenz wanted to push back the influence of the USA from the region, as an opportunity for Swiss foreign commerce. Árbenz had assured him of «his big sympathies for our country and his wish to develop as much as possible the diplomatic and economic relations» (, original in French).Liberator or Communist?Árbenz' project of a comprehensive agrarian reform brought Guatemala into conflict with the powerful US food corporation, United Fruit Company, and the US government. Hereupon, US media spread the rumour that Árbenz was a dangerous communist. Swiss observers such as August R. Lindt, head of the Swiss delegation at the United Nations in New York, tried to evaluate the situation in a more differentiated way (, cf. also The swiss envoy in Caracas, Pierre François Brügger, held sympathy for Árbenz' «nationalistic» policy of socialisation in the light of «the aggressive approach of some large companies established in Central and South America [...] Everybody knows that the ‹United Fruit Co.› had acted up as an all powerful lord» (, original in German).«Green light» from WashingtonWhen, in the course of the violent overthrow, Árbenz had to flee from Guatemala, Lindt reported back to Berne: It is «generally assumed here that Washington had given ‹green light› for the beginning of the action» (, original in German). The affair became problematic for Berne when Árbenz entered Switzerland for the first time in 1955 and announced that he intended to establish permanent residence for him and his family in his father's home country ( Would Guatemala's former president plead for his Swiss citizenship or would the Federal Council be able to prevent his permanent stay in Switzerland?An unwelcome visitorIn the meantime, the coup d'état in Guatemala had in fact damaged the image of Switzerland in the US. The Swiss arms industry was reproached for delivering arms to the Árbenz government ( and Additionally, the Swiss roots of the «communist» were a significant stain in the spirit of the rigid McCarthy-Era ( Therefore, Berne was relieved when the unwelcome visitor left the country after three months. From 1967 to 1969 Árbenz lived again in Switzerland ( and However, as a Guatemalan patriot, he never claimed his Swiss citizenship - not least because this would have made it impossible for him to return to politics in his country. Árbenz died in 1971 in Mexico under unexplained circumstances.
read more
Skizze des Schweizer Nachrichtendienstes: Reichweiten sowjetischer Raketen

60 years of the Cuban missile crisis

The world holds its breath: When in October 1962 the Soviet Union built missile facilities on Cuba for intermediate-range missiles which could have reached Washington and the United States headed for open confrontation, the world came close to a third and nuclear world war. A nuclear war, even Switzerland would not be sparedAlthough neither of the states involved wanted to enter war, the political power game between U. S. President John F. Kennedy and the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev «raised the risks of ‹war by accident› drastically», as the intelligence service of the Swiss Army reasoned (, originally in French). «The current situation is so serious», the Secretary of State Dean Rusk confided to the Swiss ambassador in Washington, August R. Lindt, «that even your country might be affected» (, originally in German).Swiss diplomats play a key role In this tense situation, the Swiss diplomats found themselves in a key position: since 1961 (and until the year 2015) Switzerland represented the U. S. interests in communist Cuba (cf. e-dossier . In fact, the U. S. asked the Swiss ambassador in Havanna, Emil Stadelhofer, for an intervention with the Prime Minister of Cuba, Fidel Castro. The crisis was eventually solved through direct contacts between Washington and Moscow. Stadelhofer, however, organized the repatriation of the body of Rudolf Anderson ( The pilot of a spy plane of the U. S. Air Force that was shot down while flying over Cuba was the only casualty of a crises, which nearly turned into a nuclear war 50 years ago. Valuable testimonies to the East-West conflictThe permalinks refer to the original documents from the Federal Archives, which are reproduced as pdf-facsimiles and are online accessible on Dodis. During the Cuban missile crisis the Cold War, due to the direct confrontation between the super powers, was in its «hottest phase». The reports of the Swiss diplomats, who had privileged access to the United States because the Swiss representation of American interest in Cuba, are a valuable testimony of the events from the heart of this confrontation between East and West.
read more
Die Schweizer Luftwaffe eskortiert die algerische Delegation nach Evian

Abkommen von Evian und Kriegsende in Algerien

1962 endete nach acht Jahren der blutige franko-algerische Krieg mit der Unabhängigkeit Algeriens von der einstigen Kolonialmacht Frankreich. Die Schweiz hatte einen entscheidenden Beitrag zum friedvollen Ende des Konflikts – der Unterzeichnung des Waffenstillstandvertrags vor sechzig Jahren, am 18. März 1962 in Evian – geleistet. Seit den Anfängen des Algerienkriegs waren Schweizerinnen und Schweizer involviert gewesen: Journalisten, Aktivistinnen und Verleger waren besonders aktiv, wenn es etwa darum ging, über die Situation im Kriegsgebiet zu informieren, den algerischen Flüchtlingen oder französischen Deserteuren zu helfen. Bitte um Schweizer Vermittlung Nachdem 1960 die Waffenstillstandsverhandlungen auf französischem Boden gescheitert waren, baten Frankreich und Algerien um die Vermittlungsdienste der Schweiz. Bundesrat Max Petitpierre, Vorsteher des Politischen Departements (heute EDA) erklärte sich bereit, diese Aufgabe zu übernehmen, die im Einklang mit der von ihm propagierten «aktiven Neutralitätspolitik» war. «Wahrung einer lückenlosen Diskretion» 1961 und 1962 organisierte der Schweizer Diplomat Olivier Long an verschiedenen Orten in der Schweiz und in Frankreich Geheimverhandlungen zwischen den Konfliktparteien. Während den offiziellen Verhandlungsrunden in Evian war die algerische Delegation in der Nähe von Genf, später in Signal de Bougy (VD) untergebracht, und die Schweizer Behörden waren für ihre Sicherheit, den Transport an den Konferenzort sowie die «Wahrung einer lückenlosen Diskretion» besorgt. Prestigegewinn für die «aktive Neutralität» Diese Vermittlerrolle Berns wurde von Paris und Algier ausdrücklich gelobt. «Neben dem direkten Nutzen unserer guten Dienste für den Waffenstillstand in Algerien war besonders auch die Gelegenheit willkommen, in einem Zeitpunkt, in dem die schweizerische Neutralität gewissen Anfechtungen ausgesetzt ist, den Wert dieser Neutralität aktiv unter Beweis zu stellen», resümierte der spätere EDA-Staatssekretär Raymond Probst 1962: «Die von uns gespielte Rolle ist in der Weltöffentlichkeit vermerkt worden […] und hat uns einen beachtlichen Prestigegewinn gebracht.» ( Dokumente zu Evian Zum Abkommen von Evian können Sie z. B. folgende Dokumente im PDF-Format herunterladen: Berichte des Schweizer Diplomaten Olivier Long (, und; Bundesratsbeschlüsse zur Organisation der Konferenz in Evian ( und; Notizen des Diplomaten Raymond Probst über das Abkommen ( und; Dokumente zur Flüchtlingshilfe (,, und; Bildimpressionen aus der Schweizerischen Filmwochenschau (,,,, und
read more

Das EWG-Assoziationsgesuch von 1961

Die Ausgestaltung der Beziehungen zur Europäischen Union (EU) sind für die schweizerische Aussenpolitik seit Jahren eine der vordringlichsten Fragen. Auch 1961 stand die Europapolitik für den Bundesrat im Zentrum des Interesses. So verfasste Friedrich Traugott Wahlen, der Vertreter der BGB (heute SVP) im Bundesrat und Vorsteher des Politischen Departements (heute EDA), am 15. Dezember 1961 im Namen der Landesregierung ein formelles Schreiben an den Präsidenten des Ministerrats der Europäischen Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft (EWG), die Vorgängerorganisation der EU. Ein Schreiben mit brisantem InhaltDer Inhalt ist brisant und hochaktuell zugleich: Die Schweiz wollte mit der EWG in Verhandlungen treten, um eine Beteiligung an der «Schaffung eines integrierten europäischen Marktes» zu erwirken ( Dabei war der Bundesrat, wie er in einem Presse-Communiqué ausführte, bestrebt, eine Form zu finden, die «einerseits der Schweiz die volle Aufrechterhaltung ihrer ständigen Neutralität gestattet und anderseits die Integrität der Gemeinschaft wahrt» ( Ein schwieriger Spagat.Gründung des IntegrationsbürosMit dem Zweck gegenüber der EWG Verhandlungsbereitschaft zu signalisieren hatte der Bundesrat bereits am 11. Dezember beschlossen, ein Integrationsbüro ( einzurichten, das sich als Verbindungsstelle mit politischen und wirtschaftlichen Aspekten der Integration in den europäischen Markt beschäftigen sollte. Diese Institution existiert bis heute.EFTA als Gegenmodell Was hatte die Eidgenossenschaft zu diesem Schritt bewogen? 1960 noch hatte die Schweiz zusammen mit dem Vereinigten Königreich, Österreich, den skandinavischen Staaten und Portugal die Europäische Freihandelsassoziation EFTA gegründet. Ziel der EFTA war die Schaffung eines freien europäischen Marktes, der, im Gegensatz zur Konzeption der EWG, nicht auf eine politische Zusammenarbeit der Mitgliedstaaten hinauslaufen sollte.Angst vor der IsolationIm Sommer 1961 stellte nun aber Grossbritannien als wichtigster EFTA-Partner ein Beitrittsgesuch für die EWG. In London hatte man besorgt das rasche Wirtschaftswachstum der EWG beobachtet und fürchtete die politische Isolation. In diesem Kontext ist das Assoziationsgesuch zu deuten, das Bern in enger Koordination mit den beiden anderen neutralen EFTA-Mitgliedern Österreich und Schweden verfasste und zeitgleich Gaulles VetoMit dem Veto des französischen Staatspräsidenten Charles de Gaulle 1963 gegen einen EWG-Beitritt Grossbritanniens wurden die Verhandlungen der EFTA-Staaten vorübergehend wieder auf Eis gelegt. Für die Schweiz war die Frage einer Assoziation an die EWG damit zwar aufgeschoben, doch noch lange nicht aufgehoben. Zum Assoziationsgesuch der Schweiz an die EWG vor 50 Jahren können Sie bspw. folgende Dokumente einsehen: o    Gemeinsame Absichtserklärung der EFTA-Staaten vom Juli ( und Wortprotokoll der Diskussion im Bundesrat über das weitere Vorgehen an einer Sitzung im September 1961 (; o    Bundesratsbeschluss vom 11. Dezember 1961 zur Schaffung eines Integrationsbüros ( und Verhandlungsgesuch des Bundesrates an den Ministerratspräsidenten der EWG vom 15. Dezember 1961 (; o    Orientierung der schweizerischen Vertretungen in den EWG-Mitgliedsstaaten durch das Departement über das Verhandlungsgesuch ( und Presse-Communiqué (; o    Zahlreiche Dokumente und Informationen über das Integrationsbüro finden sich unter, allgemein Dokumente zu den Beziehungen der Schweiz zur EWG unter
read more