Forgotten History-The Swiss Airforce during WWII.

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Although Switzerland remained neutral throughout World War II, it had to deal with numerous violations of its airspace by combatants from both sides – initially by German aircraft, especially during their invasion of France in 1940. Zealous Swiss pilots attacked and shot down eleven German aircraft, losing two of their own, before a threatening memorandum from the German leadership forced General Guisan to forbid air combat above Swiss territory.

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Later in the war, the Allied bomber offensive sometimes took US or British bombers into Swiss airspace, either damaged craft seeking safe haven or even on occasions bombing Swiss cities by accident.

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Swiss aircraft would attempt to intercept individual aircraft and force them to land, interning the crews. Only one further Swiss pilot was killed during the war, shot down by a US fighter in September 1944. From September red and white neutrality bands were added to the wings of aircraft to stop accidental attacks on Swiss aircraft by Allied aircraft.

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From 1943 Switzerland shot down American and British aircraft, mainly bombers, overflying Switzerland during World War II: six by Swiss air force fighters and nine by flak cannons, and 36 airmen were killed. On 1 October 1943 the first American bomber was shot near Bad Ragaz: Only three men survived.

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The officers were interned in Davos, airmen in Adelboden. The representative of the U.S. military in Bern, U.S. military attaché Barnwell R. Legge, instructed the soldiers not to flee so as to allow the U.S. Legation to coordinate their escape attempts, but the majority of the soldiers thought it was a diplomatic ruse or did not receive the instruction directly.

On 1 October 1944 Switzerland housed 39,670 internees in all: 20,650 from Italy, 10,082 from Poland, 2,643 from the United States, 1,121 from the United Kingdom (including five Australians), 822 from the Soviet Union and 245 from France. In September the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was commissioned by the U.S. supreme command to organize the escapes of 1,000 American internees, but the task was not effectively accomplished before late winter 1944/45.

 

Soldiers who were caught after their escape from the internment camp, were often detained in the Wauwilermoos internment camp near Luzern.

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Official Swiss records identify 6,501 airspace violations during the course of the war, with 198 foreign aircraft landing on Swiss territory and 56 aircraft crashing there.

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Rosette Wolczak- the Death of a teenager.

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Rosette “Rose” Wolczak (19 March 1928 – 23 November 1943) was a Jewish child victim of the Holocaust. Born in France in 1928, she came to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1943 as a refugee, and was expelled for what the Swiss authorities ruled to be indecent behavior. She was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was gassed upon her arrival in November 1943.

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Rosette Wolczak left Grenoble for Annecy, leaving this town on 24 September 1943. She arrived in Saint-Julien-en-Genevois in Haute-Savoie by coach, this village being in the zone libre. A smuggler took her to cross the wired fences between the villages of Soral and Certoux .Rosette was arrested by a Swiss border-guide, who wrote an arrest report.

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She was taken to the police station in Bernex and then transferred to the Cropettes screening centre in Geneva, without her being able to contact her cousin residing in Geneva. She had given his address on the declaration she made to the authorities responsible for assessing her request on 27 September 1943. Her cousin, C. Neufeld, lived at Gaspard Valette Avenue, 10, in Geneva.

The Cropette screening center was located in a primary school used as a shelter center for clandestine refugees arriving in Switzerland during World War II. Forty-two percent of the Jewish refugees seeking asylum in Switzerland transited through Geneva in 1943. The cantonal archives indicate that 2526 persons transited there, of which 1622 were Jewish. Among these, 80 were expelled and 17 deported to German concentration camps.

Rosette Wolczak was a minor upon her arrival in Geneva, so she received a temporary authorisation to stay in Switzerland. She was sent to the transit camp of Plantaporrêts, when she had to wait to pass under the responsibility of the federal department of justice and police. She was obliged to give away the 30 francs she had to the authorities, and to comply with strict rules.

Rosette was caught in a dormitory lying on straw bed with a young French soldier who had escaped from Germany. The Swiss soldier who found them made a report; during the questioning, Rosette revealed that she had been abused by another man. The man in question then indicated that Rosette had had sexual relations with four military guards during the Jewish New Year celebration of Rosh Hashanah. She was arrested for indecent behavior and sent to the Saint Antoine Prison.

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On 13 October, the Colonel Chenevière gave the order to expel Rosette Wolczak to the border, and the First Lieutenant Daniel Odier wrote a note demanding the execution of the sentence as quickly as possible in order to “set an example”. Rosette Wolczak was finally sent away for disciplinary reasons on 16 October 1943.

With the 30 francs that were given back to her by the prison authorities, she crossed the frontier at the Moulin de la Grave with three other refugees. She was arrested on 19 October 1943 and sent by the German border guards to the Pax hotel in Annemasse.From there, she was transferred to the Drancy internment camp, arriving on 26 October 1943. She received the matricule number 7114.

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She was deported to Auschwitz on 20 November 1943 in the deportation convoy  number 62. After the call assembling the deportees at half past six in the morning, the convoy left the Bobigny station at eleven-fifty, taking away 1 200 persons, including 640 men, 560 women, and 164 children under eighteen years of age.

Wolczak arrived in Auschwitz on 23 November 1943. According to deportee testimonials, elderly people and children under 16 years of age were generally gassed upon arrival, as they were considered inept to work. Rosette was gassed to death on the day she arrived.

Nazi plunder and thievery

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Besides the murders and genocide committed by the Nazi’s ,they didn’t shy away from stealing and plundering either.

The plundering and stealing refers to art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz, although most plunder was acquired during the war. In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures. Although most of these items were recovered by agents of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program(MFAA), affectionately referred to as the Monuments Men, on behalf of the Allies immediately following the war, many are still missing.

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There is an international effort under way to identify Nazi plunder that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries.

Below are just some items which were stolen.

Jean Metzinger, 1913, En Canot (Im Boot), oil on canvas, 146 x 114 cm (57.5 in × 44.9 in), exhibited at Moderni Umeni, S.V.U. Mánes, Prague, 1914, acquired in 1916 by Georg Muche at the Galerie Der Sturm, confiscated by the Nazis circa 1936, displayed at the Degenerate Art show in Munich, and missing ever since.

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Degenerate art (German: Entartete Kunst) was a term adopted by the Nazi regime to describe Modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German, Jewish, or Communist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art.

Degenerate Art also was the title of an exhibition, held by the Nazis in Munich in 1937, consisting of modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion against modernism, the exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler visit the Degenerate Art Exhibition, 1937.

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Albert Gleizes, 1912, Landschaft bei Paris, Paysage près de Paris, Paysage de Courbevoie, missing from Hannover since 1937.

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Aleksander Gierymski’s Jewess with Oranges discovered on 26 November 2010 in an art auction in Buxtehude, Germany

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German loot stored at Schlosskirche Ellingen, Bavaria (April 1945)

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Hitler assesses looted art

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In 1943 and 1944 the shore of Lake Toplitz served as a Nazi naval testing station. Using copper diaphragms, scientists experimented with different explosives, detonating up to 4,000 kg charges at various depths. They also fired torpedoes from a launching pad in the lake into the Tote Mountains, making vast holes in the canyon walls. Over £100 million of counterfeit pound sterling notes were dumped in the lake after Operation Bernhard, which was never fully put into action. There is speculation that there might be other valuables to be recovered from the bottom of the Toplitzsee. There is a layer of sunken logs floating half way to the bottom of the lake, making diving beyond it hazardous or impossible. Gerhard Zauner, one of the divers on the 1959 expedition, reports that he saw a sunken aircraft below this layer.

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Nazi gold stored in Merkers Salt Mine.

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The Amber Room Removed from Catherine Palace, Saint Petersburg, by Germans during World War II and transported to Germany. Estimated (adjusted) value: $142 million.

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Nearly half of the gold looted by the Nazis from the Dutch central bank during the Second World War remains to this day in Switzerland, a reminder of the Alpine nation’s controversial role as a financial conduit for Hitler’s regime. About 61,000kg of Dutch war gold, currently value at about €2bn, is believed to be still in Swiss possession.

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