Huge Switzerland Surrounds Tiny Germany

The strange German enclave of Busingen, surrounded on all sides by Switzerland
The strange German enclave of Busingen, surrounded on all sides by Switzerland

That’s one weird map! Welcome to Busingen, the weird bit of Germany stuck in the middle of Switzerland. It’s German territory, but it’s surrounded on all sides by Switzerland.
Formerly Austrian territory, but the Swiss kept trying to conquer it. The Austrians would never give it up, just to spite the Swiss. Finally the Austrians lost it with the Peace of Pressburg in the early 1800’s and somehow it made its way into German hands.
1919 was a particularly horrible year for Germany. A young officer named Adolf Hitler was discharged from the hospital, full of rage at Jews and other “traitors” who sold out his nation and lost the war. There were battles in the streets between the reactionary neo-fascist ultranationalists of the Freicorps (mostly former soldiers) who battled the Socialists and Communists in the streets.
This was the time of Rosa Luxemborg. Revolution was in the air, the Bolsheviks held Russia, but Civil War raged across the East. The Communists were headstrong and cocky. They took Hungary in a short-lived dictatorship under Bela Kun noted for its cruelty.
In Germany, the Communists were armed, set off bombs, engaged in street battles, took over factories, blew stuff up. They were trying to take over Germany via armed revolution. Hundreds died. They ultimately lost, the the end result of this loss, was ultimately the rise of Nazism, the Holocaust and WW2, but that’s another tale. In 1919, things were very much up in the air, and the land was in chaos.
Down in Busingen in that year, a whopping 96% of the citizens voted to join Switzerland. But the Germans demanded land to trade, and the Swiss offered none. The strange exclave remained, and stays to this day. You would think the mellowed-out Germans of today would just hand it over to the mellowed-out Swiss, but nationalism is like a tough old codger who never goes easy or quick, sputtering and gasping till his last.
Exclaves are an interesting concept. The word is similar in German, Italian, Spanish, French and Russian, all derived from the Latin. The parts of the word mean “key” and “locked in.”
Another great map from Strange Maps. I can’t get enough of this site these days!
Another weird site: the Exclaves site. You wonder why such an absurdity as “exclaves” even exist in our rational modern world.

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9 thoughts on “Huge Switzerland Surrounds Tiny Germany”

  1. Dear Robert
    To be perfectly pedantic, Kaliningrad is surrounded by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic. The Russians can reach it by sea without having to cross any other country. In that way it is like Alaska. It is an exclave, not an enclave.
    I knew a Latvian lady who had spent a lot of time in what was then Köningsberg before the war. In the 1990’s she visited the place again and cried, she said, because it was really run-down and only a shadow of its former self.
    Probably the stupidest enclave of them all was West Berlin. It was a constant source of tension. It would have been far smarter for the Americans to cede it to East Germany in return for a complete Russian withdrawal from Austria and Nato membership for Austria. The Russians did eventually abandon Austria, but the other 3 powers had to do so to and Austria had to become neutral. It is not well-known that in Austria there was the same setup as in Germany, with 4 zones of occupation and with Vienna stuck in the Soviet zone and divide in 4 sectors, although Austria had one government.
    Regards. James

  2. Hi James. Khrushchev was actually trying desperately to cut some kind of a deal with the West re: Germany, in particular re: Berlin. West Berlin was definitely a thorn in his side. I’m not sure of the details of the what the Soviets wanted. It had something to do with arms control and a peace treaty with East Germany. Khrushchev was terrified of Germany and that they might get nukes. The US refused to deal because they insisted on reunification for Germany, which was a nonstarter with the Kremlin. Upshot was this was part of the Soviet brinkmanship about the missiles in Cuba – they were trying to force some sort of an agreement about Germany and arms.

  3. Dear Robert
    I don’t know about Chroestjov, but the intial Soviet position under Stalin was that Germany could be reunited as long as it remained neutral and would never join NATO. That’s what was done with Austria in 1955. All foreign troops left and the country remained neutral. It is true that the West didn’t recognize the legitimacy of East Germany until WillyBrandt had the wisdom to do so.
    West Berlin was a leak in the Soviet system. After the Wirtschaftswunder had started in West Germany, month after month, East Germans were moving to West Germany through Berlin. The Russians didn’t dare to cut the links of West Berlin with West Germany and at first they didn’t dare to build a wall in Berlin either, as Walter Ulbricht had proposed to them. When the Russians gave the East Germans the green light, the wall was built and the situation was stabilized.
    I don’t see the connection between Berlin and Cuba. The wall was finished in 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis occurred in October 1962. I’m not sure what motivated the Russians to place missiles in Cuba, but the Cuban motivation was clear. They wanted to use the Russian missiles as an insurance policy against an American military invasion, which seemed quite likely given the American determination to undermine Castro’s regime.
    I’m of the view that states should not be in the business of exporting ideology. The ideology of foreigners is none of our concern as long as they do not seek to export it. One of the curses of te Cold War was that both sides, but especially the West, tried to export their respective ideology.
    As to international migration, you either believe in open borders or you don’t. If you don’t believe in open borders, and no reasonable person does, then states have the right to control both immigration and emigration, which are two sides of the same coin. To say that people have the right to emigrate but not to immigrate is like saying that people should have the right to buy booze but not the right to sell it, even though selling and buying are two sides of the same transaction. Every sale is at the same time a purchase, and all emigration is at the same time immigration.
    Let’s take Pedro and Pablo. Pedro is a poor Central American peasant who would desperately like to emigrate but no rich country wants to take him, so he is stuck in his country. Pablo is a Cuban doctor who would very much like to emigrate so he can increase his income but the Cuban government won’t let him, so he is stuck in Cuba. I see no moral difference between those two cases. International migration is hindered as much by restrictions on immigration as it is by restrictions on emigration. If you think that countries should not be prisons, then you should logically advocate completely open borders.
    There is no doubt that during the Cold War, the West tried to use emigration as a weapon against the communist countries. Everybody from an East Bloc country could freely defect to the West. The West cynically denounced the lack of freedom of emigration under communism while at the same time relying on this lack of freedom to insure that the trickle of defectors would not become a flood. Nobody really wanted millions of people from Red China or Eastern Europe.
    There is a story according to which Jimmy Carter was lecturing a Chinese big shot on the lack of freedom to emigrate from China. The Chinese man looked Carter straight in the face and asked: “How many Chinese do you want, Mister President? 10 million? 20 million? 50 million?” Needless to say, Carter changed the subject, thereby revealing his hypocrisy. If Carter genuinely believed in freedom of international migration, he would have said: “Mr X, we will take as many as are willing to come because they have the right to settle in wahtever country they wish.”
    One of the best things that Castro ever did was to open the gates of Cuban prisons to let the inmates flee to the US at the time when all these balseros were leaving Cuba. His message to the US was: if you want to steal our best, you can also take our worst. Good for him. Rich countries that take the best from poor countries are lowering the quality of the population in poor countries. When Canada takes in the best-educated Africans, it is reducing human capital in Africa as much as if it were sending Canadian riffraff to Africa.
    To return to Germany, did you know that Angela Merkel was born in West Germany? Shortly after she was born in 1954, her parents moved to East Germany, where she grew up and stayed until the end of East Germany. Between 1945 and 1955, it wasn’t that uncommon for people to move from West Germany to East Germany. After that, the flow became much mor one-sided because of greater prosperity in the West than in the East. It goes to show again that economics, not ideology, is what drives most international migration. If East Germany had been much more prosperous than West Germany, only a handful of artists and intellectuals would have gone from the East to the West.
    Regards. James

  4. RL: If you saw the Orson Welles’ classic “The Third Man”, based on a Graham Greene thriller set in post-war Vienna, you should remember that Austria was also divided among the allies, including the USSR.

  5. American presidents started both world wars, because they would have remained european wars if we had stayed out. Wilson and FDR were responsible for carnage on an horrorific scale.

  6. As a matter of fact, if Woodrow Wilson had not led us into World War One, World War Two would not have ensued. Wilson was no doubt the worst president in history, for America and the world.

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