Operation Tannenbaum

Operation Tannenbaum (translated in “Operation Pine” from the German), formerly known as Operation Green, the plan was never carried out of the invasion of Switzerland by the German troops.

Even before the war, Switzerland suspected invasion of its territory. After the arrival to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933, he sought to annex to Germany all of the countries that he considered part of the German people, then Austria and Switzerland, through the Anschluss.

For tactical reasons Hitler kept repeating that Germany would respect Swiss neutrality in the event of a European conflict. In February of 1937 reiterated the former Swiss Federal Councillor Edmund Schulthess respect the neutrality of Switzerland before the ‘invasion of Poland in 1939. These were, however, purely political maneuver designed to ensure the passivity of Switzerland, before Nazi Germany could dispose of the independence of that country after defeating his main enemies in the European continent.


In a conversation with Benito Mussolini, and Galeazzo Ciano of June 1941, Hitler stated the following:

In a subsequent discussion with the then German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop directly alluded to a possible future division of the Swiss territory between the two Axis powers:

In August 1942, Hitler described Switzerland as “a pimple on the face of Europe” and as a state that no longer has the right to exist, denouncing the Swiss population as “an illegitimate branch of the Volk.” Despite Hitler despised the democratic mentality of the German-speaking Swiss considering the same as “rebellious branch of the German people”, he recognized their status as Germans. In addition, the open policy objectives pan-German Nazi Party, called for the unification of all Germans in a Großdeutschland (literally “Greater Germany”), included the Swiss people. The first objective of the 25 points of the National Socialist program stated that “We the Nazi Party require the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of peoples to self-determination”.

In their maps of Greater Germany, the German textbooks included the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria ‘s, the Bohemian-Moravian German (Sudetenland), parts of Switzerland and western Poland from Gdansk to Krakow. Ignoring Switzerland as a sovereign state, these maps often showed its territory as a Gau German. The author of one of these textbooks, Ewald Banse, explained that “It is natural that we rely Switzerland as an offshoot of the German nation, along with the Dutch, the Flemish, the Lorraine, the Alsatians, Austrians and Bohemians. One day we ourselves will be grouped around a single banner, and whoever wants to separate themselves from us, it will be exterminated!” There have been several rumors about the Nazi plan to “expand the frontiers of Germany to the ends of the old Holy Roman Empire, and even beyond”.

Although not politically or ideologically aligned with the Nazis themselves, the geopolitical Karl Haushofer, although he had offered them their intellectual support, had also supported the partition of Switzerland between the surrounding countries, namely the Western Switzerland (Welschland) would have been assigned to France The canton of Ticino to ‘Italy, Switzerland and Central and Eastern Europe to Germany.

Military preparations

An increase in defense spending Swiss had been approved, with a first tranche of 15 million francs (the total multi-annual budget of 100 million Swiss francs) to go towards modernization. With the surrender of Hitler of the Treaty of Versailles in 1935, this expense immediately jumped to 90 million francs. The Schmidt Rubin K31 became the standard rifle for the infantry in 1933, as better than the Mauser Karabiner 98k in terms of ease of use, precision, and weight. By the end of World War II, they were produced almost 350,000.

Switzerland has a unique form of generalship. In peacetime, there is no officer with a rank higher than that of Oberst (Colonel). However, in times of war and ‘need’, the ‘Federal Assembly (ted. Bundesversammlung) elects a general in command of the army and air force. On August 30, 1939, Henri Guisan was elected with 204 of 227 votes cast,  immediately taking the situation in hand.

The Wehrmacht invaded Poland, three days later, at noon, and Britain declared war on Germany. At 12:10 Guisan called for a general mobilization, and released the ‘Operationsbefehl nr. 1, the first of what was to be a series of defensive plans. The first floor gave the existing three army corps to the east, north and west, with the reserves in the center and south of the country.  Guisan reported to the Federal Council on September 7 that since the British declaration of war, “our army was deployed immediately in their operating positions in ten minutes.” In addition, his Chief of the General Staff raised the limit on eligibility for military service from 48 to 60 years old, and he ordered the formation of an entirely new corps of 100,000 men.

Germany began to plan the invasion of Switzerland June 25, 1940, the same day when France surrendered. At this point the German army in France was made ​​up of three armed groups with 2 million soldiers in 102 divisions. Switzerland and Liechtenstein were then completely surrounded by occupied France and the Axis Powers, and so Guisan issued the ‘Operationsbefehl No. 10, a comprehensive review of current plans for the defense of Switzerland. The steps of Saint-Maurice and St. Gotthard south and the fortress of Sargans in the north-east would serve as the defensive line. The Swiss Alps would have been their natural fortress. The 2nd, the 3rd and 4th Corps had the task to delay action at the border, while the remaining soldiers retreated to the mountain hut is part of a series of defensive structures better known by the name of Reduced national or in Réduit French national. The towns located in the northern plains, would be left to the Germans in order to allow the rest of the population to survive.

Hitler asked to see the plans for the invasion of Switzerland. Franz Halder, the chief of the ‘Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH, the German Army High Command), recalls: “I felt constantly speak of Hitler’s angry outbursts against Switzerland, which, given its mentality, they could in any time take the initiative for military activities of the army.” Captain Otto Wilhelm von Menges OKH submitted a plan for a plan of invasion.

General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Heeresgruppe C (HGr. C) would lead the attack, which would be entrusted to the army at 12. Leeb personally made ​​a reconnaissance of the terrain, studying the most promising paths for the invasion and the paths where we could expect a lower resistance. Menges noted in his plan was unlikely that a Swiss resistance and non-violent annexation would be the most likely outcome. With “the current political situation in Switzerland,” he wrote, “may accede to the demands ultimatum in a peaceful manner, so that a peaceful invasion could be guaranteed.”

The plan underwent many revisions until October, when the 12th Army presented its fourth draft, now called “Operation Tannenbaum”. The original plan 21 German divisions, but this figure has been revised down to 11 by the Oberkommando des Heeres. Halder himself had studied the border areas, and concluded that “the Jura massif offers no favorable base for an attack. Switzerland is located in soils consist mainly of forests, along the hypothetical line of attack. The crossing points on the Doubs River and along the border are few, the stations along the Swiss border are strong. ” He opted for a fake, assuming you send the infantry in the Jura in order to draw out of their seats Swiss soldiers and then cut them out in the back, as was done in France. With the 11 German divisions and about 15 other Italian divisions available to penetrate from the south, the Swiss were prepared to suffer an invasion led by 300,000-500,000 men.

Hitler never gave the green light for the operation, for reasons that have not yet been clarified (probably because his attention, at one point, he turned to the UK and later the USSR). Even if the “fake” Wehrmacht moved to Switzerland for his offensive, he never attempted the invasion. After the landing in Normandy, the operation was suspended and so Switzerland remained neutral for the duration of the war.

Plans for the conquest of Switzerland

The purpose of the Nazi conquest of Switzerland was to incorporate within the German people the majority of the Swiss racially suitable and to annex directly to the German Reich at least, the Swiss population of ethnic Germans.

In this regard, Heinrich Himmler was evaluated as the most suitable person to hold the position of Reichskommissar in the reunification of Germany and Switzerland to the next position Reichsstatthalter with his subordinate Gottlob Berger in September 1941. Once selected, this person would have the task of facilitating the total fusion (zusammenwachsen) populations Swiss German ones.

A document called Aktion S (containing the full header Reichsführer-SS, SS Hauptamt, Aktion S chweiz) was also found in the documents of Himmler. It is well detailed the process provided for the establishment of Nazi rule in Switzerland, from his first conquest by the Wehrmacht until full consolidation as a German province. It is however uncertain whether this plan already prepared has never been approved by some high-ranking member of the German government.

After the Second Compiègne armistice in June 1940, the Ministry of Interior of the Reich presented a memorandum to the annexation of a strip of eastern France, from the mouth of the Somme to the lake of Geneva, intended to be colonized by the Germans after the war. The subdivision planned for Switzerland would be carried out in accordance with this new Franco-German border, leaving fact that it was annexed to the Reich also the French-speaking region of western Switzerland, despite the language difference.

In 1997, a Swiss researcher, Professor Jean Ziegler, the socialist deputy to the Federal Parliament and Professor of Sociology at Geneva and the Sorbonne, in his book suggests that Switzerland was not invaded for economic reasons and tactics. That basically was the safe of Hitler and the route of passage of supplies to Italy for the German front settled in the peninsula.

Involvement of Italy

During the war, Germany was allied with the Kingdom of Italy under Benito Mussolini’s government, eager to annex the Italian part of Switzerland, especially the Canton of Ticino. On a trip in the Alpine Italian Mussolini announced to his entourage that “the new Europe … could not have more than four or five large states, small ones have no reason to exist and must disappear”.

The country’s future in a Europe dominated by the Axis was further discussed at a round table in 1940, at a news conference with Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler where he participated also. Cyan proposed that in case of dissolution of Switzerland, this was to be sectioned along the central chain of the Western Alps, since Italy wanted to areas south of this line of demarcation as part of the spoils of war. That would have left Italy control of the Canton of Ticino, Valais, Graubünden and Canton of Geneva (which would be combined with the Savoy during the ‘Italian occupation of southern France in an eventual victory of the Axis).

Battles and operations of World War II

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