The last time the Swiss fought a military battle was 500 years ago, against the French. (The Swiss lost.) Two hundred years ago, Switzerland was acknowledged as a neutral state in the Treaty of Paris. But it wasn’t until this day, Feb. 13, in 1920, that the League of Nations formally recognized its neutrality.
Since then, despite the layman’s conflation of “neutrality” with “pacifism,” the Swiss have maintained that status fiercely, and occasionally with force. It took particular toughness to be a tiny neutral country in the midst of a world war, as TIME pointed out in 1942, when Germany occupied France, making Switzerland “an isolated little democratic anomaly deep inside totalitarian Europe.”
Like a Chihuahua defending its territory against a pit bull, Switzerland only grew more ferocious in the face of an outsized menace. The Swiss newspaper Volksrecht barked, “It is of the greatest importance that we…
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