The Swiss Affair
Number of pages
In 1943, a split in policies and alliances caused what was arguably the most serious crisis of the French Resistance. In The Swiss Affair, historian Robert Belot and cryptographer Gilbert Karpman use extraordinary archival material, previously unpublished, to expose the individuals and issues involved and to produce the first detailed investigation of the affaire suisse.
By 1943, the internal Resistance in France had gained in power and credibility but was seriously lacking in funding and divided by objectives and loyalties. General Charles de Gaulle, head of the Free French government based in London, sent Jean Moulin to try to unify the networks of the internal Resistance. Henri Frenay, an army captain who had escaped from a German prison camp, was at first a supporter of Marshall Philippe Pétain and the Vichy government. Breaking with Pétain, he started his own resistance group, Combat, based in neutral Switzerland. At first Moulin and Frenay agreed to work together, but Frenay’s plan to gain American funding in return for intelligence about the situation in Occupied France was not acceptable to Moulin. Moulin accused Frenay of shifting his support from General de Gaulle to Henri Giraud, a Pétain supporter, who was running his own intelligence group. Moulin saw this shift as a betrayal, a crime against the Resistance and the French people.
In The Swiss Affair, Belot, with the aid of Karpman, examines the true nature of the Resistance intrigues and, in particular, the motivation of Combat and of the Office of Strategic Services, the US wartime intelligence agency that was the forerunner of the CIA. The authors, basing their conclusions on a precise chronology and close study of rich archives, notably unpublished sources, explain who knew what and when, what the Americans truly intended, and how the money was eventually transferred to private banks. They disprove long-held beliefs and show that in fact, the Americans were not trying to get control of the French Resistance, that they did not wish to use the relationship with Combat to undermine de Gaulle’s position, and that Frenay was ever loyal to the Free French movement.
Robert Belot : Robert Belot is a historian and a professor at the Université de Technologie de Berlfort-Montbéliard, where his speciality is France during World War II. He is the author of Les Résistants (Larousse, 2005), La Résistance sans De Gaulle (Fayard, 2006) and Henri Frenay (Seuil, 2005).
Gilbert Karpman : Gilbert Karpman is a physician, a mathematician, and a former university professor. He is a specialist in the history of cryptology and has deciphered World War II French-Swiss telegrams.