Last week we shared a few interesting facts about one of our favorite European Countries, Switzerland. And this week we thought we would share a little bit of Swiss history!
One of the first significant parts of Swiss history began in 58BC when one of Julius Caesar's army's settled in the land. The name of their tribe was the Helvetian tribe, and this is why Switzerland was given its first original name of Confederation Helvetian. The Swiss still refer to this name a lot. You will see on the Swiss coins a CH, and most of the cars that you will drive past will have a sticker on their back bumper that says CH.
In the 14th Century the Swiss were invaded and taken over by the Habsburg's (an empire that was ruled out of Austria). The well-known story of William Tell is said to be the beginnings of the Swiss eventually driving the Habsburg's out of Switzerland and re-claiming their independence. When the Habsburg's Bailiff Gessler would visit Lucerne he would place his hat in the main square and order everyone who passed it to bow. William Tell refused to bow to the Bailiff's hat, and so was eventually arrested. The Bailiff learned that Tell was a great archer, so he decided to have a little fun with him instead of throwing Tell directly into jail. He told Tell to show up at the weekly town gathering with his bow and his arrow, and that if he could shoot an apple off the top of his son's head, the he would be set free. So, William Tell showed up with his bow and two arrows. He successfully shot the apple off the top of his son's head and the crowd went wild! The Bailiff said to Tell, ‘I will stick to my word and set you free, but I am curious to know why you bought two arrows instead of one.' Tell replied ‘if I shot my son, the second one was for you'. The Bailiff was furious with this response, and ordered Tell back in prison. So the Bailiff's men put Tell in a boat to sail to the prison. That night there was a wild storm, and the guards not knowing the waters well, let Tell steer the boat to safety. Tell managed to escape then came back into town and convinced the people to revolt against the Habsburg monarchy and claim their independence. This is said to be the first movement the Swiss made to become independent again.
The Swiss have also been very well known in History for being the Neutral Country. In 1864 a Swiss man named Henry Dumont started the Red Cross after visiting South America and experiencing the horror injured soldiers were enduring. The Red Cross was created to be neutral during war to help all injured soldiers no matter who they were fighting for. The Swiss remained Neutral during WWI and WWII. In the mid-1990's however, there was suspicion that the Swiss assisted the Germans during WWII to launder money via Swiss bank accounts and also being found guilty of holding onto the money of deceased victims of the holocaust. The investigation cost the Swiss millions of dollars, and these days most Swiss bank accounts are not as secure as they used to be as a result of the banks being fearful of the fines set in place after the investigation. Switzerland continues to stay neutral and is the only country is Western Europe that has opted not to join the European Union.