Burkhalter hails Second World War mobilization
Malcolm Curtis · 1 Sep 2014, 22:56
Published: 01 Sep 2014 22:56 GMT+02:00
- Switzerland expands Ukraine crisis blacklist (27 Aug 14)
- Ukraine seeks Swiss help over ex-regime assets (18 Aug 14)
- Switzerland's Ukraine crisis blacklist grows (05 Aug 14)
“Today we want to express our gratitude to all those who bravely defended our country against that terrible threat,” Burkhalter said in a statement issued by the federal department of foreign affairs.
“Switzerland too experienced dark and even bleak times during the Second World War,” he added.
“This is an opportunity for humility and reflection.”
But Burkhalter said Switzerland “also witnessed a multitude of individuals who vowed to stand up for dignity and freedom”.
At the outbreak of the war in 1939, Switzerland, although a neutral country, began to mobilize recruits for a possible invasion.
In the end the country was never invaded, although Germany had several times considered an invasion.
By the end of the war, 115,000 refugees were sheltered by the Swiss, according to a government report.
“In the course of the events that unfolded between 1939 and 1945, tens of millions of lives were lost, in Europe and around the world, and whole populations and generations were destroyed,” Burkhalter said.
“Today, we need to remind ourselves that peace, stability and international security are not self-evident, that they have to be earned by each generation by the strength of our actions and convictions.”
The president noted that the summer of 2014 has been marked by numerous days of commemoration.
“On behalf of our country, I hope that they may serve to encourage the people of Europe and the world, but also the leaders of those countries, to choose the path of diplomacy, dialogue and therefore peace, when faced with difficult situations.”
Burkhalter’s remarks came as tensions rose in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev on Monday ceded the airport of Luhansk to pro-Russian rebels.
The Swiss president this year was named chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and has been active in seeking a diplomatic solution to end the Ukrainian conflict, which arose after the ousting of Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year.