National Front (Switzerland)

The National Front was a far-right political party in Switzerland that flourished during the 1930s. At its peak the group had as many as 9,000 members, according to the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland,[2] and "may have had a membership of 25,000 or so", according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.[3]

National Front

Nationale Front  (German)
Front National  (French)
Fronte Nazionale  (Italian)
LeaderHans Vonwyl and Ernst Biedermann (1933-1934)
Rolf Henne (1934-1938)
Robert Tobler (1938-1940)
Founded1933
Dissolved1940
HeadquartersZurich
Newspaper"Der Eiserne Besen"
Membership (1935)9,000
IdeologyFascism
National Socialism
Swiss nationalism
Antisemitism
Political positionFar-right
Party flag
Flag of the Order of St. John (various)

[1]
Volksrecht NZZ 17 Juni 1934
Newspaper article about court proceedings against frontists in Zurich (1934)

Formation

The party began life amongst a number of debating clubs at ETH Zurich, where antisemitism, Swiss nationalism and support for ideas similar to those later adopted in the racial policy of Nazi Germany had become popular among some of the young academics.[4] A number of these groups (all of which co-operated in a loose federation) were formally brought together by Robert Tobler in 1930 to form the Neue Front[5] although this group was not fully committed to fascism.[4] A more radical group, under the leadership of Hans Vonwyl, broke away in the autumn of 1930 to establish the National Front, which aimed to expand its operations outside the university.[4]

Growth

Initially the National Front did not grow far outside the confines of the University but soon the party newspaper, Der Eiserne Besen (The Iron Broom), became widely read and its antisemitic message found an audience.[4] Chaired by Ernst Biedermann,[6] the group experienced growth and in April 1933 formed an alliance with the Neue Front which, under the leadership of Tobler, Paul Lang and Hans Oehler, had itself radicalised and become more open to fascism.[7] The National Front absorbed its counterpart the following month although the Neue Front leadership quickly took charge of the combined movement, with Rolf Henne emerging as chairman.[7] Emil Sonderegger, a former member of the Swiss General Staff, was a prominent speaker and propagandist of the National Front at this time.[8] The party continued to grow and soon won seats on Zürich council, as well as the support of well-known Swiss writers of the time, such as Jakob Schaffner.[3] In all they held 10 seats on Zurich municipal council following the September 1933 election.[7] Ernst Leonhardt, the party's organiser in the North-West, left soon after this after an internal dispute but the move had no impact on the growth of the Front, with a party newspaper, Die Front, established soon afterwards.[9] By 1935 the party claimed 10,000 members.[9]

They did not come out completely in favour of any regime and instead sought to unite German, French and Italian speakers in a common Swiss identity (they maintained links with a minor Romansh far right group, although the National Front did not campaign amongst the Romansh). Nonetheless their support was more or less wholly confined to German-speakers, with other groups picking up the support of fascist-inclined voters in the other linguistic groups (Union Nationale for the French and Lega Nazionale Ticinese for Italians).[10] Eventually they reached accommodations with the other groups and abandoned campaigning in non-German areas altogether.[9] The party's main support base was in Schaffhausen where it gained seats in the local council, as well as electing a single member of the National Assembly in 1935.[10] The seat was held by Robert Tobler.[11]

The party came under the leadership of Rolf Henne in 1934 and began to pursue a more openly Nazi ideology, in keeping with Henne's personal beliefs.[12] Taking advantage of the direct democracy model used in Swiss politics the National Front forced a referendum on a constitutional amendment in 1935 that sought to redesign the system of government on more nationalist, racial and authoritarian lines. The proposal was heavily defeated.

Decline

The Front experienced decline as fascism came to be characterised in the media as decidedly "un-Swiss" and there was a popular backlash against the movement.[9] In the Berne Trial, the party faced charges that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion violated Swiss law against obscene publications. Despite these setbacks the National Front reacted by hardening their approach further, establishing a militia group and taking more directly from Nazism as an ideology.[9] Their 26-point programme, published in 1935, underlined the party's fascist credential, calling for the corporate state and containing strong attacks on Bolshevism, socialism, Jewry, Freemasonry and the media.[13] They were able to gain a seat in the National Council for Zurich in the 1935 election although results elsewhere were poor.[9]

Internal wrangling followed that led to further decline with revelations regarding allegations of funding from Germany, leading to many members leaving over what they saw as a compromise of Swiss independence.[14] Counter-claims were also made that leaders of the moderate tendency were secretly Freemasons, resulting in further internal strife.[14] Henne was dismissed as leader in 1938 and he, along with Oehler, Schaffner and their supporters, left to form the Bund Treuer Eidgenossen Nationalsozialistischer Weltanschauung, which openly espoused Nazism.[14] This group would ultimately emerge as the National Movement of Switzerland. Meanwhile, those more predisposed towards the Italian model of fascism tended to support the groups of former NF member Colonel Arthur Fonjallaz.[15]

With Henne gone, Tobler assumed leadership duties in 1938, although in that year's local elections and the federal election the following year they lost all of their seats.[14] Tobler's moderation did not avert the suspicions of the Swiss government however and police investigations into their activities followed.[14] In 1940 the party was formally dissolved after Tobler was briefly imprisoned for espionage.[16] Tobler would reform the group as Eidgenössiche Sammlung soon afterwards, although this too was gone by 1943 after the Federal Council decided to crack down on groups linked to the Axis powers.[16][14]

Federal elections

Federal Assembly of Switzerland[17][18]
Election # of total votes % of popular vote # of seats won
1935 13,740 1.5% Increase 1 Increase

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ http://www.hls-dhs-dss.ch/thumbs/3836.jpg
  2. ^ "Nationale Front", in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (in German).
  3. ^ a b A Survey of Nazi and Pro-Nazi Groups in Switzerland: 1930-1945
  4. ^ a b c d Glaus, p. 467
  5. ^ Neue Front, in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (in German).
  6. ^ Glaus, p. 471
  7. ^ a b c Glaus, p. 468
  8. ^ Rees, p. 365
  9. ^ a b c d e f Glaus, p. 469
  10. ^ a b Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-45, Routledge, 2001, p. 309
  11. ^ Stephen P. Halbrook, Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II, Da Capo Press, 2003, p. 37
  12. ^ Rees, p. 178
  13. ^ Glaus, p. 476
  14. ^ a b c d e f Glaus, p. 470
  15. ^ Rees, p. 129
  16. ^ a b Rees, p. 391
  17. ^ "Nationalratswahlen: Mandatsverteilung nach Parteien" (in German). bfs.admin.ch. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  18. ^ "Nationalratswahlen: Stärke der Parteien" (in German). bfs.admin.ch. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
Arthur Fonjallaz

Arthur Fonjallaz (2 January 1875 – 24 January 1944) was a Swiss military figure, publisher and fascist.

The son of a vineyard owner from Lausanne (he was born in nearby Prilly) he attended the Military Academy of Modena and pursued a successful career in the Swiss Army, achieving the highest peacetime rank of brigadier general whilst commanding the 4th Infantry Brigade.Fonjallaz took an early interest in politics, although his ideas were ill-defined as he was both a radical and an admirer of Enrico Corradini, whilst also becoming involved in an agrarian progenitor of the Swiss People's Party. Leaving the party in 1932, he took up a post as principal of military sciences and war history at the École Polytechnique Féderal in Zürich Colonel Fonjallaz was, however, relieved of his duties in 1933 after it came to light that he had been a member of the governing board of the fascistic Heimatwehr as well as the National Front, both of which were noted for their virulent anti-Semitism.The wealthy Fonjallaz then set up Helvetic Action Against Secret Societies which was particularly geared towards opposing Freemasonry. Taking advantage of the initiative process, Fonjallaz attempted to pass an amendment to the Swiss Federal Constitution banning the practice, but this was defeated in 1937.In 1932, he had also led a group of his supporters to Italy for a meeting with Benito Mussolini and became a strong supporter of Italian fascism as a result. He soon founded the Swiss Fascist Federation, which received 2 million lira a year from Mussolini. A devoted follower of Mussolini, he spoke of the power of the rhetoric of Il Duce in glowing terms.

As Mussolini began to speak presenting the goals of fascism, we Swiss understood immediately the significance of this man and responded to the radiant power of his personality. We were all directly convinced that such a leader could do more for world peace than hundreds of politicians.

A supporter of a possible Italian annexation of the country, Fonjallaz was expelled from the Heimatwehr for this position, but continued to be a devotee of Mussolini, publishing a biography of his hero, Enérgie et Volonté (Drive and Will), in 1937. Despite this, Italian funding ended in 1936 and Fonjallaz disappeared from public life.Colonel Fonjallaz returned to the public eye in January 1940 when border guards arrested him in Schaffhausen as he was attempting to enter Nazi Germany. In a subsequent trial, Fonjallaz was found guilty of being a spy for Adolf Hitler, spending over two years in prison as a result. Released in 1943, he died the following year.

Eidgenössische Sammlung

Eidgenössische Sammlung (German; literally "Confederate Collection") was a Swiss political party, founded in 1940 by Robert Tobler as a successor to the recently dissolved National Front.The party demanded an adjustment in Swiss policy to favour the Axis powers. This was particularly important as, after June 1940 the country was surrounded by fascist and Nazi states. It was open in its loyalty towards Nazi Germany.The Eidgenössiche Sammlung was closely supervised by the state because of its origins and so could not develop freely. In 1943 the police finally cracked down on the group and it was outlawed along with all of its sub-organisations as part of a wider government initiative against the National Front and its offshoots.

Emil Sonderegger

Emil Sonderegger (born 28 November 1868 in Herisau – died 15 July 1934) was a Swiss military officer who later became involved in the country's far right political scene.

The son of leading embroidery businessman, Sonderegger initially worked for the export branch of his father's company, travelling extensively and developing strong language skills as a result. Eventually, however, Sonderegger left the family business to follow a career in the Swiss Army, rising to artillery lieutenant by 1888. His military career blossomed and he was commanding a brigade by 1916 and the 4th Division by 1918. Leading his division to suppress the general strike in Zurich in November of that year, he gained strong approval from conservatives who dubbed him the "saviour of the Fatherland". Under the direction of Ulrich Wille, Sonderegger had positioned his troops throughout Zurich in anticipation of demonstrations by communists on November 10 1918 in commemoration of the October Revolution. He banned any communist demonstrations and although some defied the ban the small group was quickly routed by Sonderegger's troops after a minor skirmish. Promoted to the Swiss General Staff in 1920 he left the army in 1923 in protest over plans to restructure the country's military.He went on to work for Schweizerische Industriegesellschaft Neuhausen and an arms manufacturer, as well as conducting a lecture tour of China. As an arms trader he co-operated closely with Max Bauer, who secured a number of lucrative contracts for Sonderegger's companies in return for Sonderegger becoming involved in the covert rearmament of Germany. Turning his business and military mind to politics, he became a strong opponent of parliamentary democracy, likening it to the chaos of a stock exchange when a better system would be the corporation model of an amalgamated executive and legislature kept in check by plebiscite. He also supported enterprise in economics, rather than state intervention.He became a keen reader of the Schweizerische Monatshefte and its editor Hans Oehler gained something of a coup in 1933 when he convinced the national hero to join the National Front. Using his military skills, he played a leading role in transforming the front from a discussion group into a force in street politics, although he became disillusioned with the inertia of the Front and in 1933 left the group with Ernst Leonhardt to form the Volksbund. By February of the following year Sonderegger and Leonhardt had split, with Sonderegger forming his own Volksfront. He died later that same year, with his group absorbed by the Eidgenössische Front.

Ernst Leonhardt

Ernst Leonhardt (September 25, 1885 – March 26, 1945) was an American-born Swiss military figure and pro-Nazi Germany politician.

Faith and Beauty Society

The BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit (German for BDM Faith and Beauty Society) was founded in 1938 to serve as a tie-in between the work of the League of German Girls (BDM) and that of the National Socialist Women's League. Membership was voluntary and open to girls aged 17 to 21.

Franz Riedweg

Franz Riedweg (10 April 1907 in Lucerne – 22 January 2005 in Munich) was a Swiss far right Activist in the National Front (Switzerland) who, during World War II, served in the Waffen-SS as well as becoming a close associate of Heinrich Himmler.

Riedweg himself spent most of the war in Germany. In December 1947, Riedweg was sentenced in absentia by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court to 16 years in prison for treason.

German National Movement in Liechtenstein

The German National Movement in Liechtenstein (German: Volksdeutsche Bewegung in Liechtenstein, VDBL) was a National Socialist party in Liechtenstein that existed between 1938 and 1945.

Hans Oehler

Hans Oehler (18 December 1888 – 7 January 1967) was a Swiss journalist and a sympathizer of Nazism.

Initially a journalist, Oehler turned his attention towards producing pro-German material. Later he was one of the founders of the Schweizerische Monatshefte für Politik und Kultur (SM) in 1921. This very quickly became the mouthpiece for the Popular League for the Independence of Switzerland, a group he had participated around the same time which opposed the League of Nations. He briefly met Adolf Hitler when Hitler visited Switzerland in 1923 and became an sympathizer of both Fascist Italy and Othmar Spann.

Although the Popular League proved to be short-lived, Oehler continued to publish SM as an outlet for his political ideas until, in 1932, he joined the New Front. 1934 he had to resign as an editor of SM because of his pro-nazism mindset. With the launch of the National Front in 1934 Oehler took charge of editing the new party's paper Nationale Front, as well as being appointed foreign affairs spokesman. Ousted from SM by the Front he founded a new paper, Nationale Hefte and by 1938 had split from the Front altogether. After the split he joined with Rolf Henne in forming the hardline Nazi Bund Treuer Eidgenossen Nationalsozialistischer Weltanschauung, another minor group which was absorbed by the Nationale Bewegung der Schweiz in 1940.

Oehler's profile fell as World War II neared its conclusion and he became very much a marginal figure in post-war Switzerland. Having attended a meeting in Munich in 1940 organised to bring together pro-Nazi Swiss leaders, Oehler was tried for treason by a federal court in 1957 and sentenced to two years in prison. Upon his release Oehler became a leading member of the Volkspartei der Schweiz and headed up the Swiss branch of Nation Europa, an international neo-Nazi journal. He also adopted the pseudonym Hans Rudolf to translate works into German, notably Nuremberg ou la Terre Promise of Maurice Bardèche, as well as writing for the far right journal Turmwart. Oehler continued his political activity until his death at Dielsdorf.

Hirden

Hirden (the hird) was a uniformed paramilitary organisation during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, modelled the same way as the German Sturmabteilungen.

Liechtenstein Homeland Service

Liechtenstein Homeland Service (German: Liechtensteiner Heimatdienst, LHD) was a political party in Liechtenstein that advocated corporate statism and the abolition of party politics.Established in the autumn of 1933, the party's positions began to radicalize and move toward National Socialist ideas within a few months of existence. By December 1933, this radicalization caused some members (such as co-founder Eugen Schafhauser) to abandon the party.LHD merged with the Christian-Social People's Party (VP) in 1936 to form the Patriotic Union (VU).

Max Leo Keller

Dr. Max Leo Keller, born August 22, 1897 in Zürich, was a Swiss engineer and politician of the Fronts Movement, or Frontsfrühling.

National Union (Switzerland)

The National Union (French: Union Nationale) was a French-speaking fascist political party in Switzerland between 1932 and 1939.

The Union was formed in Geneva in 1932 by Georges Oltramare, a lawyer and writer. Noted for his anti-Semitic writing, Oltramare founded the Order Politique Nationale in 1931 but merged it with the Union de Défense Economique the following year to form the National Union. The group continued under Oltramare's leadership until 1940 when he moved to Paris in order to co-operate more closely with the Nazis. Oltramare spent four years as a member of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland representing the National Union.The Union became notorious for a demonstration in Geneva on November 9, 1932 when their march to the city's Salle Communale was counterdemonstrated by the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland. In the resulting trouble the Swiss army opened fire on the Socialists resulting in 13 deaths.

National Unity Party (Canada)

The Parti National Social Chrétien (English: National Social Christian Party) was a Canadian political party formed by Adrien Arcand in February 1934. The party identified with antisemitism, and German leader Adolf Hitler's Nazism. The party was later known, in English, as the Canadian National Socialist Unity Party or National Unity Party.

Nationale Jeugdstorm

The Nationale Jeugdstorm (English: National Youth Storm; NJS) was a Dutch youth movement that existed from 1934 to 1945, organized as the Dutch equivalent of the German Hitlerjugend and as a Nazi counterpart of Scouting Nederland.

Robert Tobler

Robert Tobler (December 23, 1901 – June 17, 1962) was a Swiss far right politician.

Born in Zürich, he followed his father by studying law at University of Zurich and working as a lawyer. Initially attracted to liberalism, he came into contact with Hans Oehler and soon helped to found the New Front in 1930. As chairman of the new group he was heavily influenced by Othmar Spann, although fascism quickly became more important for the Front.He served as Gaufuehrer for Zürich in the National Front and ran the party paper Die Front, which was funded by Nazi Germany. Tobler was elected to the Swiss parliament in 1935, becoming the only member of the National Front (or indeed any pro-Nazi group) to hold a parliamentary seat in the country. He took over as Front leader in 1938, leading to his predecessor Rolf Henne splitting the movement. Tobler attempted to find a common ground with the government, although by this time it was too late as the movement already had a reputation as firmly pro-Nazi. He was imprisoned in 1940 as a fifth columnist and the Front fell into decay. After his release he led the Eidgenössiche Sammlung and Schaffhausen Nationale Gemeinschaft, although both these groups were outlawed in 1943 as part of a wider ban on the National Front and its offshoots. Tobler took no further role in politics and died in his home town.

Rolf Henne

Rolf Henne (7 October 1901 – 25 July 1966) was a Swiss politician who supported a form of Nazism.

Born in Schaffhausen, Henne was a distant relative of Carl Jung on his father's side. Henne's own father was himself a prominent physician. Educated at Zurich and Heidelberg, Henne worked as a lawyer. He joined the New Front in 1932, serving as Gaufuehrer for his hometown. On February 4 1934 he took over as leader of the by then renamed National Front at a time when the movement was in trouble over the extent of its support for Nazi Germany. Henne, a strong pro-German, struggled to retain control and in 1938 he was replaced by the more moderate Robert Tobler, his close links to the Nazis and his advocacy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion making him too extreme for many National Front members. Unable to serve under Tobler, Henne left to form the fiercely pro-Nazi Bund Treuer Eidgenossen Nationalsozialistischer Weltanschauung with Hans Oehler and Jakob Schaffner. Henne was overlooked for leadership of this group, although he was confirmed as Gauführer for Schaffhausen. In 1940 he became a co-founder of the Nationale Bewegung der Schweiz.He took no further role in politics after the war, instead heading up the Argus der Presse press-cuttings agency. He died in Küsnacht in 1966.

The Immortals (neo-Nazis)

The Immortals (German Die Unsterblichen) was a neo-Nazi organization based in Germany that uses flash mobs to coordinate, gather and demonstrate. The members wear black clothing with white facial masks and carry torches when they march.

Volksdeutsche Bewegung

Volksdeutsche Bewegung (German; literally "Ethnic German Movement") was a Nazi movement in Luxembourg that flourished under the German-occupied Luxembourg during World War II.

Formed by Damian Kratzenberg, a university professor with a German background, the movement only emerged after the invasion and was declared the only legal political movement in Luxembourg by the Nazis. Using the slogan Heim ins Reich (Home to the Reich), their declared aim was the full incorporation of Luxembourg into Nazi Germany. The policy was supported by Nazis who used the Bewegung as means towards this end. The aim was accomplished in August 1942, although the VDB continued to operate and peaked at 84,000 members. Many of these joined when it became clear that membership was necessary to retain employment. A number of leading members also held dual membership of the National Socialist German Workers Party after incorporation. The movement disappeared after the war, and Kratzenberg was executed in 1946.

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