Here is Switzerland's plan to survive nuclear holocaust.
MOST PEOPLE have heard the story of William Tell, the Swiss hero who was ordered to shoot, with a bow and arrow, an apple off his little son's head. But what is not so well known is that, according to the legend, Tell had another arrow hidden beneath his cloak. If he had missed and killed his son, he was ready to strike the other arrow through the heart of the man who had forced him to risk his son's life. Switzerland today is like that. There is the Switzerland that everyone knows — mountains, alpine meadows scattered with wild flowers, pin-clean towns and villages, and healthy peace-loving people who enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. But look carefully, and you can sometimes see the outline of an "arrow hidden beneath the cloak." "Like there, for instance," said Andreas, who had offered to take me on a rather unusual tour of his homeland. We were driving along a winding country road through gentle hills close to the Swiss-German border.
An Armed Camp
Andreas had pointed to several rows of metal plates embedded across the road. "Tank traps," he explained; "If an invader tried to enter Switzerland along this valley, we would unlock those plates, pull up the traps and have this road totally blocked in a few minutes. Then we would probably finish off the tanks from there." He pointed to a slot in the wall of a harmless — looking barn. "That's for a machine gun, or perhaps an antitank gun. They are not in position now, of course, but they could be — very quickly. And some of these fellows," he gestured toward some men working in the fields, "know how to use them." The idyllic Swiss scene suddenly seemed less peaceful. I was beginning to understand something that every Swiss knows. Their peaceful nation is an armed camp. Switzerland, or the Swiss Confederation ("Confoederatio Helvetica," to give the country its official name), has been a neutral state since 1815. The Swiss people, once among the most militant in Europe, have decided that they will never go to war, will never serve in other nations' armies, and never attack unless they themselves are attacked. But for that neutrality to be credible the Swiss have also decided that they must be heavily armed. This policy is called "armed neutrality." The Swiss are prepared to defend their declared state of neutrality. If the Swiss are attacked, they are well equipped to defend themselves. Within hours, this most neutral nation can be on a war footing. It is no secret. The Swiss want the world to know that the cost of invading Switzerland would be high, and the invader would stand to lose more than he gained. That's why Hitler avoided direct confrontation in World War II — he knew the loss of manpower and time were not worth it. As we drove through the gentle country between Zurich and Bern, Andreas pointed out more of the "arrow beneath the cloak." The center divider of the four-lane super highway was designed to be easily removed. The long stretch of highway then becomes an airstrip for the several hundred jet fighters of the Swiss air force. And hundreds of strategic bridges and overpasses are permanently mined, ready to be destroyed by designated individuals at a moment's notice, to impede the path of an invader. Almost every able-bodied Swiss male between the ages of 20 and 50 is a well-trained soldier. The genial farmer, the cheerful barman, the mailman have their uniforms hanging in the closet at home along with an assault rifle and 24 rounds of live ammunition. Through regular training, which they take very seriously, this citizen army maintains itself at a high state of readiness. Each man knows exactly where to go and what is expected of him, should he be called upon to defend his country. In effect, Switzerland could mobilize an army of more than half a million within a few hours. "Don't misunderstand. We aren't looking for a fight," explained Andreas. "But we Swiss are realists. We live in a dangerous world and we have planned to survive."
Just how thoroughly the Swiss plan to survive can be seen by what can be described as one of the wonders of the atomic age — the Swiss "Zivilschutz" or Civil Defense System. This little nation has always had reason to be shelter — conscious. Neutrality has not always guaranteed that the Swiss will emerge unscathed from Europe's wars. During World War II Switzerland suffered more than 100 bombardments — accidental, but no less destructive for that. But with the threat of nuclear war the Swiss have made civil defense a major priority. A nuclear conflict and the ensuing fallout and contamination would be no respecter of national boundaries. No nation, however neutral, would be safe. Even the most secluded mountain valley would be a potential war zone. And so in 1971 the Swiss upgraded their already ambitious civil defense program. The goal now is to ensure that just as the nation is ready to defend itself if attacked, it should also be able to offer protection and a high probability of survival to most every inhabitant of Switzerland in the event of natural or man-made disaster. The Swiss, always realists, know that because of Switzerland's small area whole-scale evacuation of the population to "safe zones" is impossible. Shelter must be provided where the people are: at home, at school or at work. Thus since the late 1960s every new building in Switzerland must have provision for adequate shelter. The additional cost is shared between the builder and the government.
Shelter for All
The backbone of the program is the basic home shelter. Every home or apartment must provide two and a half cubic meters of basement shelter space for each room of the building that is above ground. The shelter must have a gas filter, artificial ventilation and be built so it can withstand the pressure waves from an atomic blast. I was shown through one of these private shelters under an apartment block on the outskirts of Bern. It looked at first glance like a normal basement- just a concrete cellar with some wooden partitions, cluttered with surplus furniture, children's bicycles, garden tools and a workbench. But if there was an alert all this would be thrown out and we would move in," explained the landlord. t is then that I saw that this was not just an ordinary basement. Flat against the wall behind the rather flimsy peacetime entry was a concrete blast-proof door, more than 12 inches thick. When this massive door is pulled shut and sealed, it would provide protection from anything except a direct hit. Two gas filters hung on the wall, with a ventilation fan that could be operated electrically, or by hand in the case of power failure. There was space for storing water and food. Everyone in the apartments would be alerted in advance and instructed via the post office as to what he or she was to bring to the shelter in an emergency. The occupants of this apartment complex are thus provided with Spartan, but safe, living conditions and have some chance of survival should disaster strike. For those unable to reach the safety of a home shelter, or in areas where there are older homes built before the shelter ordinances came into effect, public shelters have been constructed. They — are often built in conjunction with the underground parking facilities in public buildings. These seemingly ordinary garages are also equipped with massive blast-proof doors, gas filters, ventilation systems and escape tunnels. They can be made ready at short notice to become shelter for hundreds of people. Some public shelters are more elaborate. In them, corridors lead to underground command centers with telephone switchboards, emergency generators, fuel and water supplies and kitchens continually stocked with emergency rations. From these command posts trained civil defense workers could supervise efforts to get the nation going again. One facility I was shown had a complete underground fire station, containing fire-fighting equipment especially designed to operate in rubble-strewn streets. Seemingly every detail has been considered, right down to fire axes and first-aid equipment, which are stacked neatly or shelved in orderly rows. Swiss civil defense officials point out that the program isn't only designed to protect against nuclear war. Their plans also provide for conventional conflict and natural disasters. But pragmatically they realize that they must engineer their shelters to withstand the worst case scenario of a full nuclear attack on Switzerland. An eerie feature of some of these big shelters is the decontamination room, a system of air locks and showers. Workers who would venture into the post-attack world and be subjected to deadly radiation would be able to be decontaminated before reentering the shelter.
The Hospital Underground
Although the civil defense officials make it clear that the emphasis on the civil defense program is to protect the population from harm, remarkable provision has also been made to care for the casualties. I asked if I could visit one of the many underground hospitals. I was taken to what looked like just another entrance to the underground parking lot of the Children's Hospital in Bern. But as the metal door slid up, I could see the now — familiar heavy blast-proof door recessed into a massive wall of reinforced concrete. A brightly lit passage sloped gently down, turned a sharp angle (to deflect the blast) and then opened up into a labyrinth of rooms. Here beneath the Children's Hospital" was another hospital complex — a stark but efficient facility for the treatment of several hundred casualties. Every detail had been planned in advance. The main ward area is used as the hospital's parking lot in peacetime. Colored marks on the floor indicated the exact location of several hundred beds — which are stacked in an adjoining room. Gas pipes were already in place on the walls to carry oxygen to areas designated for intensive care. A morgue, a triage room (where survivors are separated according to their likelihood of survival), laboratories, nurses accommodations and fully equipped operating theatres led off from the main ward. Adequate supplies of fuel and water are stored, and a big diesel generator is kept primed and ready to be started at a moment's notice. This silent, artificially lit, empty hospital, dozens of feet under the earth's surface, is kept in perpetual readiness. It typifies the Swiss determination to survive. If threatened, the entire Swiss nation plans to move quickly and efficiently underground where they hope they will weather the worst of the storm.
The Other Side
Not all Swiss agree with these extensive and expensive preparations. Some feel that it is ultimately a waste of time — that nuclear war is not survivable. Shelters, however elaborate, give a sense of false security, they say. And, they argue, even if the Swiss do survive, would it be worth it? Latest research indicates that the effect of nuclear devastation might be worse than has been thought. When the survivors crawl from their shelters on the "day after," they would emerge to find their nations ruined, the atmosphere polluted, and the structure of the ecosphere permanently damaged. Life in such a world, even assuming it was possible, would not be worth living, say those who oppose civil defense preparations. Some opponents take this still further. I spent an afternoon with Konradin Kreuzer, a critic of the civil defense program. It is his opinion that by the elaborate preparations they have made to survive, the Swiss may be, in fact, contributing to the chances of a nuclear war. Switzerland holds a prestigious position in the international community. Publication of civil defense information is a vital "part of Swiss foreign policy. Opponents postulate this sort of foreign policy should be transformed into stating worldwide that shelters are not a viable means neither in nuclear war nor in any form of catastrophe of natural or technical origin." Many nations recognize the Swiss are world leaders in civil defense and come to them for advice. The Swiss are generous with their aid. They publish material on survival topics in several languages. People around the world have used this information to transform their basements into nuclear hideaways. But, says Mr. Kreuzer, his nation is fostering the illusion that nuclear war is survivable, and thus it becomes a viable possibility. Only by stressing the total futility of nuclear war, showing that no one could possibly win, that even survivors would be losers, could the danger possibly be averted. Mr. Kreuzer believes that Switzerland should use its considerable international credibility and focus all its attention on working for the prevention of nuclear war, rather than promulgate the "fiction" that it can be survived anywhere on earth.
What Have They Overlooked?
Most Swiss, however, take passive comfort in the shelters. They rest secure in the knowledge that if worst comes to worst, they stand some chance of survival. The Swiss have prepared for the unthinkable with characteristic thoroughness. By the year 2000, when the shelter program is complete, the inhabitants of even the most remote mountain valley will have a place to go. Food, water, fuel, air, medicine, clothing — the careful Swiss have tried to think of everything. But they have overlooked something — something of vital importance. That neglected source of contemporary history — the Holy Bible — shows a nuclear war will be unleashed. It will be fought primarily between two great powers in Eurasia. No nation, however neutral it tries to be, will escape the consequences. The Bible predicts that so great will be the devastation that unless the war is halted, no life would be left on earth (Matt. 24:21-22). It will be stopped — just in time, but only because of the supernatural intervention of the Creator God. At that moment God himself will enter the battle. He will send Jesus the Messiah back to this earth, with all power and authority. His mission will be to forcibly take over the rulership of the earth and lead the nations into peace for 1,000 years — which is, incidentally, the real "day after" (Luke 21:36). Any nation, or person, who intends to prepare realistically for future survival must take these revealed prophecies into consideration. Albert Einstein once observed, "Atomic physics has changed our. world, but not our thinking." The apostle Paul, writing the book of Romans 1,900 years ago, said plainly, "And the way of peace have they not known" (Rom. 3:17). It is our thinking that must be changed before we can ever know peace. When it comes time for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to shake the world to its senses, he will not relax his grip until all men are willing to give up their ways that have led to war, and learn instead his way of peace. Meantime God can and will protect those scores of thousands who have already been brought to their senses, who have already submitted their lives to him, and who are even now learning the only way of life that brings peace. Those who are willing to do this now are building the only certain shelter against the dangers of the future. It is a protection that is to be gained only by transforming the mind, spiritually.