When Germans surrendered their weapons to Switzerland during World War II
It was the peak of winter; a group of German soldiers is crossing a border. World War II was raging across the world, and Germany has just opened a new war front with USSR.
German soldiers are stopped near a check post and asked to surrender their weapons. The soldiers receive a grey coat to cover their military uniforms. The soldiers oblige. The soldiers are not surrendering but going home. It is a peculiar incident which happens in Büsingen am Hochrhein the only German exclave inside Switzerland.
World War II:
World War II unofficially started with the German invasion of Poland. The blitzkrieg of the German army was a huge success bringing nation after nation under the control of Germany.
France fell in a few weeks. Italy sided with Germany as axis power. Spain; which got help from the Axis Powers to quell its civil war choose not to join the Axis s. Switzerland, the nation between Germany and Italy, decided to remain neutral. Switzerland remained neutral even during World War I. This neutrality, combined with a German enclave, created weird situations.
Büsingen am Hochrhein:
Situated in the southern tip of Germany, Büsingen am Hochrhein belongs to the Baden Wurttemberg state.
It had historically been under the control of the Austrian Empire even though it was surrounded by the municipality of Schaffhausen. After some treaties, there was a referendum held among the citizens of Büsingen am Hochrhein, who voted 96 percent join Switzerland.
Unfortunately, this referendum never got implemented as there was no land for exchange available from the Switzerland side. Büsingen am Hochrhein is separated from Germany by a narrow land strip of just 600 meters.
Neutrality during the war:
Due to the neutrality of Switzerland, German soldiers from Büsingen am Hochrhein had to surrender their weapons when returning home.
The check post was set up in Gailingen am Hochrhein a border town of Germany and Switzerland. They are provided with a Grey coat to cover their military uniforms while traveling inside Swiss territory.
How did I come to know this place:
While traveling from Stuttgart to Rhine Falls, which is in Schaffhausen, I took a Deutsche Bahn regional (German regional train ticket) ticket.
This ticket is valid until Schaffhausen, which is way inside Switzerland and doesn’t share any border with Germany. Cities like Basel in Switzerland which share a border with Germany has two stations, one for Germany and one for Switzerland.
For travel to Schaffhausen, a German regional ticket was fine. The validity of the train ticket made me curious, and I found the reason is due to the exclave Büsingen am Hochrhein. As Büsingen am Hochrhein belongs to Germany, German rails have to provide service to this region to mainland Germany. It also falls under the district of Baden Wurttemberg, so the regional tickets are valid.
Exciting things in Büsingen am Hochrhein :
- When daylight savings time got implemented in West Germany in 1980, Büsingen am Hochrhein didn’t implement it as Switzerland did not implement daylight savings time. Büsingen am Hochrhein was the only region with a different time zone than the rest of West Germany for a year.
- There are both German and Swiss rail and postal services available in Büsingen am Hochrhein
- Both the Swiss Francs and the Euro are valid as legal tender.
- Swiss and German police have legal validity in Büsingen am Hochrhein.
- FC Büsingen is the only foreign football team that plays in Switzerland Football League.
Even though its a bit complicated to be an exclave, Büsingen am Hochrhein proves to us that difference can get sorted out, and humanity can live together.