Letter by Swiss President Kaspar Villiger to Daniel L. Culler, 9 March 1995


Berne, 9th March 1995

Mr. Daniel L. Culler (Address omitted)

Concerning your internment as American soldier in Switzerland

Dear Mr. Culler,

I received your account of the experience you made during your interment in Switzerland as a member of the US Armed Forces from the Swiss Embassy in Washington. I read your portrayal with great interest and regret that the memory of your internment in 1944 and, in particular, that of your detention in Wauwilermoos is coloured by such traumatic experience.

I appreciate that it was difficult for you to understand why you were assigned to the Wauwilermoos detention camp. Together with innumerable other young Americans, you came to Europe to rescue the continent from fascist aggressors. For this, you and your comrades deserve the gratitude of the Swiss people as well. Your attempt to flee and rejoin you unit was not defamatory, although such behaviour was in fact contrary to Swiss orders. The reaction of the Swiss authorities must have appeared, all the more as a young person, incomprehensible to you.

From today’s point of view the Swiss military court punished you very severely. Furthermore, the military lawsuit entailed remand imprisonment of the accused internee at the Wauwilermoos detention camp until trial. On the basis of your record, you also were sent there. On 27 July 1944, Territorial Court 2A sentenced you to 90 days imprisonment. Your 52-day detention at Wauwilermoos was deducted and the remaining 36 days were suspended on probation.

This sentence reflects the important pressure exercised by other countries on Switzerland which was then surrounded by war. The Swiss authorities were afraid that a less severe attitude toward attempts of interned military personnel to escape would be interpreted as preferential treatment by the other warring party.

But I understand that, even after such a long time, it must be difficult for you to come to terms with this experience.

If you intend to visit Switzerland in the near future I would take the opportunity to welcome you personally. In this case I invite you to contact previously the Swiss Embassy in Washington.

Mr. Culler, I sincerely wish you and your family all the best for the future and remain.

      Yours sincerely

      Kaspar Villiger
      President of the Swiss Confederation