Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

The first contingent of wounded British soldiers arrived on 30 May 1916 for internment in the tiny village of Chateau d'Oex.

Between 1916 and 1918, Switzerland accepted 68,000 sick and injured soldiers: French and German as well as British.

Under the agreement of the warring parties, and with the help of the Red Cross, they were transferred to Swiss mountain villages to recover, and to sit out the war.

It was a pragmatic solution welcomed by all sides. A lot of the prisoners needed medical care, but there weren't enough doctors in the POW camps, they were all at the front taking care of their own soldiers.

It was a chance for Switzerland, surrounded by belligerents at the time, to show that its neutrality could be useful. The example of neutral Belgium, invaded by the Germans in 1914, had shocked the Swiss, and for two years the government had been trying to find policies that would keep the country safe.

Humanitarian action became an important tool of Swiss foreign policy.

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POWs at Chateau d'Oex
Prisoners of War arriving at Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland.