The archives of the Short Wave Service
During the Second World War, short wave radio was Switzerland’s preferred means for communicating with its expatriated citizens and to present its positions to the rest of the world. swissinfo.ch, the successor to Swiss Radio International (SRI), now has access to the manuscripts of programmes broadcast by the Short Wave Service (SWS) between 1939 and 1945.
These archives have been digitalised and are now accessible to researchers and the public via an online database.
6 SEP 1939:
«Hallo Switzerland Calling. Ladies and Gentlemen. Twenty-five years have passed since the outbreak of the last world war and now a new one has begun. Two of Switzerland’s big neighbors are again engaged in destruction, France and Germany.»
18 MAY 1940:
«The tendentious news, which have been spread by the British Press and the British Broadcasting today give an opportunity to the High Commandment to contradict the declaration expressed on the English side and to make the following declarations: 1) that the announcement that a great quantity of war material is accumulated in western Cantons of Switzerland is absolutely incorrect. 2) The High Commandment has neither ordered nor advised to evacuate.»
3 JUN 1940:
«Our authorities have shown confidence in the newspapers and in the journalists to assure this discipline and order. They are allowed to be their own censors. The responsibility of deciding what can be printed that will not be detrimental to the country as a whole, nor compromise its superior interests, rests with the newspaper men. This is to say, we have no preliminary censorship, exercised previous to printing. This is why we do not have, as the belligerents do, those large vacant white spots in the columns of our newspapers.»
30 OCT 1940:
«The very provisorical arrangements made with France at the time of the Armistice and in view of a rapid settlement with Britain, cannot be prolonged indefinitely. The Axis is profiting by the growing estrangement between the Vichy-Government and Great-Britain, France is profiting by Germany's failure to beat England as quickly as she expected, and both are profiting by the fear of internal complications on the threshold of winter. In order to have her hands free in Western Europe, Germany seems ready to treat France leniently and Marshal Pétain thus hopes to help his country. The whole business is clothed in the garb of European-Reconstruction.»
12 DEC 1941:
«Japan’s surprise attack last Sunday followed the modern methods inaugurated by her partners of the Three Powers Pact. Austria, Bohemia, Albania, Poland were the first victims of these methods, which in due course, were employed almost all over Europe, and which now have reached the Pacific. In the midst of diplomatic negotiations and whilst diplomats politely confer, bombs begin to fall and war with all its horrors is begun. Emperors of several thousand years lineage follow in the footsteps of modern dictators. Every sin of which Bolshevism is accused, becomes a national virtue.»
8 JUN 1944:
«The first week of June has produced events of capital importance, events which rank together with Germany's attack on Western Europe in 1940, with her onslaught on Russia in 1941, with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour in the same year, and with the Allied landing in North Africa in 1942; whether the repercussions of last week's events will be of the same magnitude as those mentioned, remains to be seen.»
How to use the database?
The database contains all the manuscripts of programmes broadcast by the SWS during the Second World War. There are two methods for finding the documents you are looking for.
The upper part of the screen has a blue bar for searching by keyword. This search function can be extended or limited to a particular time period using the “Period” function.
It is also possible to look at all the documents available for a particular time span. In this case, simply use the grey chronological bar.
For both methods, it is possible to limit the number of documents found by using the “Programme” and “Language” filters.
Any requests for commercial use (reproduction) of original material should be addressed to the swissinfo archive service.
The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) started broadcasting special programmes destined for an international audience in 1935 through its Short Wave Service (SWS).
Renamed Swiss Radio International (SRI) in 1978, the golden age of the service came during the Cold War. With programmes in eight languages, the service reached an estimated five to ten million listeners.
The decline of short wave began at the end of the 1980s. Political changes, such as the end of the Cold War, and technological advancements including satellite transmissions and the emergence of the internet, called into question the need to continue short wave broadcasts.
SRI broadcast its last radio programmes in 2004. From that point, the mandate to provide news about Switzerland to a foreign audience was the sole responsibility of its online service, swissinfo.ch.
Switzerland’s global voice turns 75
During the Second World War, the SWS broadcast information bulletins it called “Topic of the Day”. These bulletins principally discussed Swiss and international news events in a factual manner, avoiding commentary.
The journalists of the SWS also broadcast “Political updates” several times a week, which included a Swiss analysis of political, social and economic events both at home and abroad.
It is worth noting that the “Topics of the Day” produced by the SWS were the first news bulletins produced by dedicated radio journalists in Switzerland. At the time, news bulletins were written and read by journalists from the Swiss News Agency, an organisation controlled by the press.
Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland: dodis.ch