Book review: Switzerland: A democracy under pressure By Stefanie Frey et al. Verlag Merker im Effingerhof, CHF 59.00
Swiss–United States relations have been strained in recent years by disagreements on several issues, most recently banking secrecy, security and privacy issues. Does the US have good reason to criticize Switzerland, or do US politicians not understand the subtleties and logic of Swiss policy making? Or worse, is the US just plain bullying Switzerland for party political purposes or to further its own interests? US political and media assaults often appear to be footnoted by references to Switzerland’s record during World War II. Swiss responses to the country’s past record have not always been transparent, and an increasing number of Swiss are critical of this and indeed of the official report by the Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland – Second World War, published in 2002.
In an attempt to set the record straight, Dr Stefanie Frey, a respected historian and author has written the definitive examination of Swiss–US relations during the war. Part of a five book series, and staggering in its breadth and depth of research, it draws on contemporary official records and media to paint a perceptive picture of the opposing views at play within and between governments of both countries (and the European powers) at that time. She deftly weaves the facts together to show the evolution in relations between countries. The facts she recounts often speak for themselves and force the reader to reassess accepted history.
The flavour of the book is attractive, even charming. Frey gives us a wealth of European and US social history, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and bon mots of the commentators and leaders of that dark time.
This book is no apologist’s tract. It is compelling and comprehensible and should be read by anyone searching for insight into US and Swiss policy-making during the war and, especially, today. The parallels are clear to see – sometimes disturbing, often reassuring. And smartly, Frey does not err by pointing them out.
The series includes Dignity and Coolness 1940 -1941; A Courageous Stand 1941; Liberty, Independence, Neutrality, 1942; and A Sane Standpoint, 1944. The set is available from the publishers for CHF 100. email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.verlag-merker.ch.