Skip to content
Home » Blog » Swiss war memorials (yes that is a thing)

Swiss war memorials (yes that is a thing)

    Solothurn Denkmal

    Photo: Memorial to the fallen in WW1 in Solothurn.

    I can’t remember when exactly it was, probably in my first or second year here, but I do recall I was walking around the Schanzengraben in Solothurn when I took a closer look at a statue and realised to my surprise that it was a war memorial for Swiss soldiers who died during the First World War (it turns out this region is full of memorials).

    Coming from the UK/Australia you expect to find a memorial for the world wars (sometimes even back to the Boer wars) in every village. Some rural areas in Australia have an ANZAC memorial hall, a grain silo and nothing else. But in Switzerland all that essentially disappeared.

    You get used to seeing military infrastructure everywhere in Switzerland. Tank traps and bunkers in valleys/passes, conscripts with rifles and cheap beer on trains at the weekend, nuclear bunkers in the basement, etc. But war as a real active shooty thing is missing other than a distant mediaeval memory in the history books, and things like annual ceremonies to lay a wreath in memorial to the fallen are unheard of.

    Over time I have found more and more of the memorials and it has become a slight fascination for me. Some I just came across by chance, others I learned about through research and then had to actively go out of my way to find them (e.g. hidden behind a bus stop in an obscure part of Grenchen). There is a very incomplete list on Wikipedia.

    Grenchen Denkmal
    Memorial to those who died fighting the French in Grenchen.
    Chasseral Memorial
    Memorial on Chasseral to those killed in aerial combat in WW2.

    Most of the memorials are for those who died during the world wars due to illness or accidents (usually killed off at the end by the 1918 influenza pandemic), however there is at least one due to active combat (aerial combat over the Jura with the memorial near Hotel Chasseral), and some about victims of bombing in WW2 (e.g. Schaffhausen). Around the Solothurn/Biel/Bern region where the French invaded in 1798 there are also a number of memorials to those who died fighting the French (including the pitchfork wielding Anna Maria Schuerer who is somehow not better known despite this image).

    By far the most impressive is the Lueg Denkmal (for Bernese soldiers who died from the The 1918 influenza pandemic). Not only is it a very big lump of rock, but it is sat on a prominent hilltop with fantastic views over the Emmental and Alps. If you only ever visit one war memorial for Swiss soldiers then make it that one. The view is so good that the spot is worth a visit whether you care about the history or not.

    Lueg Denkmal
    The Lueg Denkmal above Affoltern im Emmental.

    Other Memorials

    The Löwendenkmal in Luzern (Lion of Lucerne) is a world famous memorial to Swiss who died in armed service (and which is nothing to do with a pig), but they were bodyguards in a revolution so I am not going to count that as a war memorial here. Curiously, that might well actually be the only memorial to any Swiss mercenaries – I can’t find any others. Granted “they died because someone paid them to fight someone else” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “they died in defence of their homeland”.

    There are also memorials related to those who were caught up in wars in and around Switzerland:

    • The Häftli by Büren aA was the biggest internment camp during WW2, but has mostly been forgotten and it is almost impossible to stumble across the information by chance. You have to be on an obscure backroad, and then turn off this backroad onto a gravel farm road, and then turn off that and go around the memorial to find the information plaque.
    • There are a number of Polenstrasse (‘Polish street’) and memorials to the Polish who were interned and put to work during WW2. I went out of my way to find the Polenstrasse and memorial near Büren aA, and even with GPS it took some effort to find the memorial.
    Häftli Denkmal
    Internment camp memorial at Häftli by Büren aA.
    Polenweg memorial Gelterkinden.
    Polish memorial above Gelterkinden.
    • Near Bätterkinden (BE) is a plaque in memory to a US bomber which limped over the border and then exploded shortly after the crew bailed out. Nobody was hurt but it did come close to taking out half of the village. The response from the locals seems to be surprisingly along the lines of “THAT WAS SO COOL!” (it probably was the most exciting thing to happen there in the last 500 years to be fair).
    • Suworow-Denkmal near Andermatt for the Russian soldiers in Switzerland during the Napoleonic wars.
    Bätterkinden War Denkmal
    Plaque for the crashed US bomber near Bätterkinden.
    Suworow-Denkmal near Andermatt
    Suworow-Denkmal near Andermatt.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *