There is a fantastic periodical called “Strategy & Tactics” that I recommend very highly. The magazine contains interesting articles about various military topics from ancient Rome to the present day. I realize that their home page is a bit sparse and I don’t even know if you can subscribe online but I sent them a check and have been receiving the issues ever since.
Within the magazine there is a unique section called “FYI”. This section is described by the magazine as “tight, pithy articles of no more than 2,000 words on interesting, obscure or otherwise little known aspects of military history”. In the recent issue #234 (I think they release them when they get enough content, not necessarily on a schedule) they had a fascinating article named “Switzerland in World War II”.
For those that aren’t aware – Switzerland stayed neutral through both WW I and WW II despite being adjacent to Germany and having strong pressure brought to bear to join the war effort from both the Allied and Axis sides. The Swiss generally stayed neutral by having a strong defensive army, forbidding terrain, and an active foreign policy. The Swiss lives saved by staying neutral were immense although impossible to estimate.
The Swiss mobilized a huge percentage of their population as soldiers in order to present a credible deterrent to Hitler’s Germany. Up to 20% of their total population (remember, only half were men to begin with and many children or too old to serve) were called up as soldiers. They also had a unique federal structure where the central government could not surrender “generally”, so the Germans would have to take each of the provinces one by one, fighting to the bitter end. The horrible fates of the Belgians and the Netherlands made standing and fighting a better plan than surrendering to the Nazis.
In the end, there were several times where the Germans seriously contemplated invading Switzerland, but it never occurred. The Swiss policy of armed neutrality saved their citizenry from occupation, murder and deportation.
The contrast between the effort that Switzerland put forth for their own defense and that of today’s Europe is staggering. France today has 170,000 in their military, Germany has 221,000 military personnel, Britain has 114,000 soldiers. Thus tiny Switzerland, which admittedly faced a dire threat, had twice the soldiers under arms in WW II than the combined states of Germany, France and Britain have today.