Interned or Imprisoned?: The Successes and Failures of International Law in the Treatment of American Internees in Switzerland, 1943-45 Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Mears, Dwight S.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • During World War II, over 100,000 soldiers of various nationalities sought refuge in neutral Switzerland, including over 1,500 American airmen from damaged U.S. bombers. As a result of the U.S. violations of Swiss neutrality and other external factors, the Swiss government was unwilling to apply the 1929 Geneva Convention prisoner of war protections to the interned U.S. airmen when they were punished for attempting escape. The politicization of internment procedures resulted in a diplomatic stalemate in which the ambivalence of Swiss officials prolonged mistreatment of U.S. airmen in apparent repudiation of emerging customary international law. The stalemate produced a range of responses, revealing that some Swiss officials and citizens disagreed with their government's internment policies and sought to apply prisoner of war protections to internees. Answering the question of how international law functioned in the scenario of Swiss internment demonstrates the cultural importance of Swiss adherence to humanitarian traditions, the process by which governments and individuals seek to influence aberrant state practice, and how many hidden influences combine to enforce customary rules.
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  • In Copyright
  • Lee, Wayne
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2012

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