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Les Neutres

Les Neutres

Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1981)
Les Neutres.
The Neutrals. A German aircraft violates Switzerland territory
Woodcut with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. February 1915.
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994

No. 45 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre .

Switzerland remained neutral throughout the war. The belligerent nations acknowledged Swiss neutrality, but since Germany’s advance towards Paris would require entering Belgium, Luxembourg or Switzerland (the so-called Schlieffen plan), the Swiss government mobilsed 250,000 men on 1 August 1914 and deployed them along the northern and southern frontiers as a precautionary measure.

The natural barriers of mountains, lakes and rivers in Switzerland made the country difficult to traverse, but Swiss airspace was being invaded. This print captures one of the moment when an aeroplane (in this case a German one) entered their territory. Both image and caption portray the Swiss as if they were on the side of France, Britain and Russia. In reality sympathies in the country were divided, with the proportionally greater German-speaking population demonstrably favouring the Central Powers.

The well-registered colour is employed strikingly in this woodcut, appearing as coloured bands. In doing so, it also accentuates the towering mountains and the distance of the plane from the Swiss armoured car.

The French caption with English translation:

LES NEUTRES. Un avion allemand viole le Territoire Suisse
Que ce soit terre, sur mer ou dans l’air, les Allemands ne craignent pas, contre tous droits, de violer la neutralité des nos belligérents. C’est ainsi que le 2 Février, un de leurs avions à survolé, à deux reprises, la localité de Bonfol (Suisse) Une auto blindée l’a acceuilli à coups de fusil, sans toutefois pouvoir l’atteindre, l’aviateur évoluant à une grande hauteur, mais les Suisses réussirent néanmoins, à la chasse de leur territoire.

The Neutrals. A German aircraft violates Switzerland territory
Whether by land, sea or air, and against all laws, the Germans do not fear violating the neutrality of our belligerents. Thus on the 2 February one of their aircraft flew twice over the town of Bonfol (Switzerland). An armoured car welcomed it with gunfire, but could not reach the aviator flying at a great height. Yet the Swiss succeeded nevertheless, in defending their territory.


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