I Was There! - I Walked Out of the War into Liechtenstein
The only country in Europe which has not a single soldier or a single gun: such is the remarkable little principality recently visited by Frederick Gleaner, Daily Express representative. He gives here the intriguing story of his interview with its ruler, Prince Frans Joseph, on March 14, 1944.
At 11 o'clock this morning I crossed the River Rhine and walked right out of the war. By showing my passport to a Swiss guard at the frontier station of Buchs and crossing the ancient stone bridge, I stepped into the only country in Europe which has not a single soldier or a singe gun – Liechtenstein, the tiny neutral principality on the borders of Nazi-land.
I was there to call on its ruler, 38-year-old Prince Franz Joseph II, who, with his fair-haired 23-year-old consort, lives in his small domain, simply and inexpensively. A smart grey-blue bus drive me past snow-covered farms into the capital, Vaduz.
At the main gate of Liechtenstein Castle four old cannon pointed their muzzles across the wide Rhine valley towards Switzerland. "You will notice the birds' nests in the muzzles of these old relics", said my guide. Inside, the castle breathed an air of solid, Victorian comfort. The walls of the main hall, with its open fireplace, were hung with priceless Van Dyck and Brueghel canvases. Packets of English and American cigarettes were on a table.
The door opened, and Prince Franz Joseph came in. He is a tall, youthful-looking man, dressed in tweed jacket and golfing trousers. His eyes are dark, he has a trimmed black moustache and the heavy lower lip of the Hapsburgs. He speaks German with an Austrian accent, and uses his hands frequently when talking. (He succeeded his great-uncle, Prince Franz Joseph I, in 1938.)
The Prince offered me an English cigarette as we sat down in a window seat and talked informally. He began by saying: "So far the Germans have not interfered with either my country of myself. I am able to travel wherever I wish on a German visa, and frequently visit my estates in Vienna and Czechoslovakia."
He did not agree that life was either lonely of monotonous in Liechtenstein. "We receive quests frequently", he said. "Then there is mountain climbing, chamois hunting and trips to Zurich. We enjoy English movies like In Which We Serve and Mrs. Miniver, which the Swiss cinemas are now showing."
Prince Franz said his country had no outstanding international problems, except the possibility that the tiny principality (its total area is 60 square miles, population 10,000) may one day be swamped with hordes of refugees. "We have anticipated this", he said, "by increasing our regular police force from seven to 87. We believe this force will be sufficient to cope with the refugee problem should it arise."
But though Liechtenstein is neutral in practice, she is still technically at war with both Germany ant Italy. In 1866, together with her big ally Austria, she declared war on Prussia and Italy. She furnished one officer and 58 sharpshooters to the joint war effort; but when Austria made a peace treaty with her enemies, Liechtenstein was not included. And a separate official peace treaty was never made.
None of Liechtenstein's £100,000 budget has to be spent on war needs. Very little is required for the maintenance of law and order. The police force's last big job was in autumn 1939, when a score or more of Nazi thugs staged a "march on Vaduz", with the declared intention of liberating the population from the princely yoke. Sergeant Joseph Brunhart, chief of police, quickly handled the situation by clapping four ringleaders into gaol, sending the rest home to mother.
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