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First World War


When Switzerland opened its arms to POWs


By Julie Hunt , Château d'Oex


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One town has been marking the time 100 years ago when Switzerland welcomed tens of thousands of prisoners of war. Revisiting the place has been an emotional experience for some of their descendants.

Based on agreements with the belligerent nations, who paid the costs, 68000 sick and wounded British, French, German, Belgian, Canadian and Indian prisoners were interned for several months in sanatoria and hotels.

These were mainly located in Alpine tourist resorts, thus supporting an industry lying idle due to the great war. The programme underlined the usefulness of the Swiss neutrality policy.

 One of the main centres for interned British was Châteux d’Oex in south-western Switzerland. Seven hundred sick and wounded British POWs arrived there at the end of May 1916.

The town has been marking the centenary with events attended by relatives of the internees. swissinfo.ch spoke to them.