Switzerland: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Switzerland, the Treaty of Westphalia and the Swiss history of neutrality.



The Swiss like to cite the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) as the beginnings of their present commitment to neutrality. However, between 1663 and 1789 Switzerland supplied mercenary soldiers to all countries in Europe but especially to the French. The famed Swiss Guard was the finest physical and ornamental defense between the French kings and their peoples. Today the Swiss Guard at the Vatican is the last vestige of an age when Switzerland was the broker for mercenary soldiers.

The official Swiss policy of neutrality, which has enabled Switzerland to avoid the dreadful experiences of both world wars, encourages the image of the removed and distant Swiss. Switzerland is not a member of the United Nations, NATO, or the Common Market. Although neutrality may explain the apparent indifference of the Swiss to the plight of her continental neighbors, it has also made Switzerland a haven for international organizations and emigre intellectuals. After W.W. I the League of Nations made Geneva its headquarters; today the European branch of the UN is located in Geneva. The International Red Cross--founded by a Swiss--and many UN agencies such as UNICEF and UNESCO are based in Geneva. The dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is only the most recent "man without a country" who has lived in Switzerland. During W.W. II, many European intellectuals, such as Thomas Mann, found asylum in Switzerland. Long before Mann, however, many European thinkers gravitated to Switzerland's uncomplicated distance from the vortex of European power struggles. Hermann Hesse, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jacob Burckhardt lived in undisturbed tranquility in Switzerland as did Voltaire and Edward Gibbon.

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