Commonly, the réduit
is a fortified defence
structure which is used in order that the defending troops can
survive and hold out an attack.
A réduit is a fortification
provides protection during a persistent attack. A citadel
, for example, is the réduit of a classical
Meaning during the Second World War
During World War II
referred to the concept of a heavily defended, "untakeable" region
of a country which provided a last hard spot of resistance, and
hopefully a base for a counter-attack, should a large part of a
country be invaded.
Battle of the Netherlands,
the last province to resist invasion was Zeeland, which was
the only part of the country not to surrender after the bombing of
France, when it became clear that the Battle of France could not be won against
the Nazis, the idea of a "réduit" in Brittany was suggested as an alternative to letting
the whole mainland France at the hands of the
Switzerland, a neutral country then surrounded by a
Nazi-occupied Europe which had witnessed the astonishing fall of
France, defence was quickly re-designed and articulated over the
idea of a réduit in the Swiss Alps.
Réduit in the Swiss Alps
Camouflaged cannon at the Lucendro dam
in the Gotthard region.
It has a 105 mm calibre and fires up to range of 17 km.
In Switzerland, the concept of "réduit" is a recurring theme of the
Swiss concept of defence. Having avoided fighting during World War
II, Switzerland retained the concept for its plans of resistance
against a putative Soviet invasion, thus shaping a part of the
national folklore, and a strong influence in the Swiss concept of
Switzerland's Réduit strategy during World War II was essentially
one of deterrence. The idea was to make clear to the Third Reich
that an invasion would have a high cost. Simultaneously, economic
concessions were made to Germany in the hope that the overall cost
of a German invasion would be perceived as higher than the
potential benefits. Despite this, it is clear that Hitler intended
to invade eventually and that the Allied landing at Normandy
as well as the
difficulties faced in invading
were pivotal in merely delaying
Switzerland was surrounded by German and Italian forces,
General Henri Guisan revealed on 25
July 1940 at the so-called Rütlirapport, a meeting of the Swiss
army staff at the founding site of the Swiss confederation,
that in case of attack the Swiss would only defend the high Alps
including the important transalpine roads and rail links.
a last resort, the army would make these routes useless to the Axis
by destroying key bridges and tunnels. This plan meant that the
populated lowlands - including the economic centres of the country
- would be effectively ceded to the Germans. The gold reserves of
the Swiss National Bank in
Zürich were moved farther away from the German border, to the
Pass and to Bern.
Many billions of Swiss Francs have been invested in building the
fortifications in the mountains, which are partly still used by the
most important buildings of the Réduit were the fortifications of
Sargans, St. Maurice (Valais) and the Gotthard region.
The caverns of those time
were equipped with the needed infrastructure, beside cannons
consisted of dormitories, kitchens, field hospitals, rooms for the
sick and bakeries; and they provided space enough to accommodate
100 to 600 soldiers for a timespan of up to several months. Because
the tensions between the western countries and the USSR cooled down
and bunkers became more or less obsolete because of newer weapon
systems, a great number of the Réduit buildings were closed. Some
of them have been reopened as museums and can be visited.
Folklore and myths
As a result of the strict secrecy, many myths and legends were
of them says that a secret airport was constructed in a mountain,
and that the aircraft would leave and enter the fortification by
large holes or even by aircraft carrier-like catapults - but this
myth may have been born because actually some military airfields
are located adjacent to caverns, where aircraft and maintenance
personnel can be sheltered; and the airfield of Meiringen is an example of
(It is true that one of today's Swiss Air Force
fighter aircraft - the
- is a naval airplane, still having
. Older airplanes like the
de Havilland Vampire
naval fighters, required by the often short runways in the Alps.)
Another myth says that one could march right through the Alps
because the army built so many caverns. However, it is possible to
spot many "secret" army buildings while hiking or travelling in the
Swiss Alps. They can often be found where alpine passes or narrow
passages into or within valleys had to be protected.
Because the Réduit strategy was essentially one of deterrence, part
of it was overt and public, and played a part in the so-called
"intellectual defence of the homeland", or Geistige
attempting to improve the morale and
cohesiveness of the nation. The Réduit strategy's use as a
deterrence/propaganda tool continued through the cold war.
the army's pavilion at the Swiss Fair (Landesausstellung) in
Lausanne had the
shape of a giant hedgehog made of
- Let's Swallow Switzerland by Klaus Urner (Lexington
- National Defense Speeded by Swiss by C.L. Sulzberger
in The New York Times, July 24, 1938. page 16.