740.00112 European War 1939/10119

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Matthews)

The Swiss Minister2 called this morning at his request. His purpose was apparently to tell me that while the tripartite trade negotiations now under discussion in London are progressing satisfactorily there seems to be one sticking point—namely the question of whether Switzerland should give Germany any credits whatsoever. (Mr. Bruggmann in reply to my question said that there was no problem as to the amount—he thought that could be worked out—but whether the Swiss could give Germany any credit whatsoever.) He went on to explain as he has in the past how dependent Switzerland is on Germany for coal and other raw materials, how she is doing everything to keep her trade with Germany to the barest minimum but insisted that Swiss economy was so geared that some credits to Germany were essential: without such credits the Germans would refuse to permit remittances on the large volume of insurance and other Swiss investments in Germany.

The Minister went on to say that there was a tendency here and especially in Great Britain to feel that the Swiss could be tougher with the Germans and that all danger of any German military attack on Switzerland could be eliminated. He said that his Government did not feel that this presents a true picture. His argument was based on the theory that if there should be an Allied landing on the French Mediterranean coast the Germans would wish to rush troops by the quickest and most direct route from Germany to that area. That route lay through Switzerland’s weakest area, running from the Lake of Constance down through the western strip of Switzerland to the Rhone Valley. He also said that as an act of final desperation the Germans might be tempted to invade Switzerland purely for [Page 707] “vengeance”. I asked how many Divisions the Swiss had. He replied fifty, well-armed and well-equipped. I said I did not see where Germany was going to find fifty plus Divisions available at this stage of the war for a diversion into Switzerland. The Minister agreed that it was unlikely but stuck to his point that the danger to his country of a German invasion could not be ruled out.

H. Freeman Matthews
  1. Charles Bruggmann.