Photos (top to bottom): photos 1-4: primary source references to internment during WWI in Switzerland (sources: 1 2 3 4); photos 5-12: Leysin cemetery, monuments for soldiers interned during WWI and II; photos 13-16: details at Leysin cemetery; photo17: a little Americana: streaming the Colbert Report at Au BelAir Hotel, Leysin; photo18: full moon; photo 19: Hotel Au BelAir; photo20: cable car lift, adjacent to the B&B.
I visited the Leysin cemetery today, at the suggestion of Leysin American School founder, Dr. Stephen Ott. Where better to explore the history of a place than its cemetery? It is true of Leysin, where I discovered the history of the internment of soldiers with tuberculosis in neutral Switzerland during WWI and II:
The prominent monument in photo 5 (front) and 8 (rear) bears three plates, translated as follows (referring in part to the plots shown in photo10):
photo7: 1916 - 1919: This monument was erected in the memory of 2 officers, 5 junior officers, & 83 soldiers from France; 1 officer, 2 junior officers, and 14 soldiers from England; and 10 soldiers from Belgium, died in Leysin on the way back from captivity in Germany, where they rest in peace in this friendly land.
photo6: The Swiss hospitals received & treated 4240 prisoners with war injuries – French, English and Belgian, from January 1916 to May 1919.
photo9: The ossuary constructed below this monument contains 63 bodies of interned French who died in Leysin, inaugurated on June 26th, 1937.
Another prominent monument bears a plate (photo11) that translates from the Polish & French: In memory of the soldiers of the 2nd Division of Poland interned during the second world war in Switzerland and died in Leysin.
The history behind these monuments and grave sites refers to the agreement made between Switzerland and Germany to transfer prisoners-of-war with tuberculosis to Switzerland for treatment.
Note the following excerpts from The British Interned in Switzerland, written in 1919 by a Lieut.-Colonel H.P. Picot, with references to Leysin:
In giving the following pages to the public, I do so in the hope that a plain statement of the life and activities of British soldiers whilst interned in Switzerland may prove of interest to those at home who have shown in so many and diverse ways their concern for the welfare of their countrymen whilst Prisoners of War in Germany, and, later, during the period of their internment in Switzerland. I have specially dwelt upon the fruitful initiative taken by the Swiss Government in the negotiations which preceded the acceptance by the belligerent States of the principle of internment. I have also endeavoured to show — I fear very inadequately — with what whole-heartedness the Prisoners of War were welcomed in their midst by all classes of the population ; and with what devotion the Medical Department of the Swiss Army, to whose officers the organization of the camps and the care of the sick were delegated, set about its task.
* * *
With regard to the status of Prisoners of War in Switzerland, it should be borne in mind that the Interned were under the guardianship of the Swiss Government, who undertook all responsibility for their care, discipline, and medical treatment. A special officer, or diplomat, (as in the case of France and Germany), nominated by each of the belligerent States, was attached to his Embassy or Legation with a view to his collaboration with the Swiss political and military authorities in respect of all matters affecting the welfare of his interned countrymen, the more delicate international questions arising out of the internment being dealt with by the Chiefs of the Diplomatic Missions accredited to Switzerland.
I have said elsewhere, and perhaps I may be permitted a repetition, that the sense of a possible all-world-brotherhood had one of its happiest demonstrations in the attitude of the Swiss people towards the unfortunate sufferers of the war.
* * *
Immediately after breakfast, the men for Leysin, all of whom were supposed to be tuberculous, and amongst whom were some serious cases, were despatched to that destination in charge of Swiss doctors ; the rest, for Chateau d'Oex, were divided into groups, and sent up in a succession of trains by the mountain railway.
Many of the Leysin patients had been sent out of Germany by the Itinerant Commissions on the mere suspicion of tuberculosis, and these men failed to understand that their condition could be in any way dangerous. The restrictions imposed as regards smoking, drinking, and exercise, the lying out in the open in a recumbent attitude, exposed to sun and air for six to eight hours per diem, and the general want of freedom thereby involved, proved extremely trying to them, and they were, I am afraid, often a thorn in the side of the medical officers. On one occasion they persuaded the doctors to give them permission to play a friendly game of football with other enthusiasts of the camp, with results disastrous to certain of their number, who realized, perhaps for the first time, that unusual strain could only lead to hemorrhage or other evils of a cognate nature.