2.31 Karl Schmid, Die Schweiz vor der europäischen Wirklichkeit, Referat gehalten am schweizerischen Gewerbekongress vom 8./9. Mai 1968 in Zürich, in Die Schweiz zwischen Tradition und Zukunft, Ansprachen und Aufsätze aus 25 Jahren, Schaffhausen/Stäfa 1991, p. 55-72
[Switzerland facing the European reality]
The text at hand is a published manuscript of one of the many speeches given by Schmid throughout his career as a public individual in a variety of fora and institutions. The presentation “Die Schweiz vor der europäischen Wirklichkeit” (Switzerland facing the European reality) was given at the “Schweizerischer Gewerbekongress” on May, 8./9. 1968.
Schmid has constantly looked outward and observed European developments through the lenses of a Swiss observer and interpreter. Beyond the texts of public speeches, he expanded his academic thoughts in books such as Europa zwischen Ideologie und Verwirklichung – Psychologische Aspekte der europäischen Integration (Europe between Ideology and Realization – Psychological Aspects of European Integration and Hermann Hesse und Thomas Mann – Zwei Möglichkeiten europäischer Humanität (Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann – Two Possibilities of European Humanity, 1950).
The text at hand is one of those non-footnoted texts first spoken then written in a language to be understood easily, squarely addressing the emerging European reality in times of post-World War II. In view of the purpose to address the general public in this Anthology, we consciously chose texts of Swiss public individuals which have raised their voice – such as Herbert Lüthy (see text 2.32) and Fritz Ernst– in the early years after World War II. Schmid is a master to integrate literature, history, psychology and the political process. He was not shy to turn knowledge into convictions to be presented to the public. According to him, the influences of the new European reality had to be compared to the reality of Switzerland’s earlier accession to the League of Nations. This issue did not allow simple attitudes and black and white opinions to come to the foreground.
Karl Schmid, until his untimely death in 1974, was a towering figure of the post-World War II militia system in Switzerland.
Schmid was born in Zurich on the 31st January 1907 and was a Swiss philologist and a scholar in German literature and in history. He studied German and history at the University of Zurich and at the Humbolt University of Berlin from 1926 to 1934. In 1934 he received his doctoral degree with the University of Zurich. Schmid was a paramount example of the system reigning after World War II in which individuals at the same time were active – and excelled – in the professional, military and academic parts of Swiss society. In 1944 he was appointed as a Professor of German Language and Literature at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and from 1953 to 1957 he was its President (Rektor) and became an emerite in 1974. Schmid was a member of the Swiss militia army from 1927 to 1970, finally as a Colonel of the General Staff and Chief of Staff of the 3rd Army Corps. From 1967 to 1970, he was the governant appointed head of the Commission for Strategic Issues (Studienkommission für strategische Fragen). In 1940 he married the popular actress and comedian Elsie Attenhofer, a prominent member of the legendary “Caberet Cornichon.”
As an academic, he was a member of the remarkable department of the Federal Institute of Technology highly regarded in social sciences, history, languages and philosophy with no right to have PhD candidates, contrary to the respective departments of the University of Zurich just fifty yards away. Most members were historians like Jean Rudolphe de Salis and Herbert Lüthy, economists such as Eugen Büchler, psychologists and psychiatrists such as Carl Gustav Jung, who exerted a great influence on his colleagues while at the same time not being welcomed to teach at the University.
Schmid was an eminent representative of literary science and wrote texts on Swiss literature such as the book “Unbehagen im Kleinstaat” (uneasiness in a small nation) with analysis of writers such as Konrad Ferdinand Meyer, Henry- Frédéric Amiel, Jakob Schaffner, Max Frisch and Jakob Burckhardt, all eminent representatives of Swiss literature and history. Karl Schmid was an early proponent of interdisciplinarity and wrote a book “Europa zwischen Ideologie und Verwirklichung – Psychologische Aspekte der europäischen Integration” (Europe between Ideology and Realization – Psychological Aspects of European Integration) evidencing a strong Jungian influence. Zurich, after World War II, was a world centre of various schools of psychoanalysis such as the Freudien School, the School of Daseinsanalyse (Boss, Binswanger Condrau), the Schicksalsanalyse (Szondi) and Jung’s psychoanalysis of; Zurich being the designated world centre of the education and training of psychoanalysists following the Jungian School.
As a public figure, Schmid was President of the Schweizerischer Wissenschaftsrat (the Swiss Council of Sciences) from 1969 to 1972, in addition to being President of the Federal Institute of Technology, and other organisations with public purposes.
Schmid was an active and practicing officer holding important functions in the army and being the president of the influential “Kommission für strategische Fragen” from 1967 to 1970. He has extensively written on the essence of the soldier. He was a generous and esteemed speaker in front of many public fora within Switzerland, and gave lectures, which have been published later as key texts of Swiss post-World War II thinking.
For Schmid, Switzerland has been at the centre of his attention as an historic and cultural entity. At the same time he was a keen observer and interpreter of the emerging new world order after World War II.
He has been widely honoured; there is a Karl Schmid Street and there is a Karl Schmid Prize awarded.
His numerous works has been reedited in a critical edition of six volumes bringing it back to the attention of interested readers, scholars and students.
The text can be summarized as follows: According to Schmid, the influences of the new reality had to be compared to the reality of Switzerlands accession to the League of Nations after World War I (?). The issue of the rising Europe after the war, according to Schmid, did not allow simple attitudes and black and white opinions.
He argued that the provoking complex of “modern European reality” required tendencies of a growing unification of what is functionally similar (1), the role of the planning and the organization of the future (2) and the tendency to easily neglect the historical past to be frankly and squarely addressed by a larger public (3).
The problem of facing integration, according to Karl Schmid, is more than the sum of factual problems. It includes ingrained sentiments and powerful instincts. In view of the fact that the development in Switzerland since 100 years has been fairly straight,tthe “old” of the Swiss world has been retained and is visible until recently, the Swiss, according to Schmid, knew no crisis of identiy and had doubts of themselves. This is where Schmid raises his warning finger in the text by arguing that self-assuredness based on this new situation should be approached soberly and in a constructive manner. Schmid, among others, heavily focuses on the attitude that political reality can be shaped and can be formed to a certain extent. He uses his examples from literature and political education of reality of the past 100 years and points to a series of developments of new issues and problems, which all surrounding nations are faced with in post-World War II times. He advocates an openness towards the emerging European reality, ”it would be dangerous, if we would think, that we could sit like wise Buddhists at the border of Europe and observe how the attempts of interstate cooperations treaties and go awry. He advises and distinguishes that, in this process, changes can not be “directly effected” but the only thing that can be done is that something can be done that changes are happening. He militates for mitigating the use of “European” in the title, since the European development is only a part of the international development. The solution of the question of the reality of our times and to what extent we have the courage to participate in the creation of the future – The world – but I – I see you (Rémy Zaugg), the Leitmotiv of the part on Globalization in this Anthology.
You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: