The population asked to join Switzerland in 1918, but this country rejected it

Büsingen am Hochrhein: the curious case of a German town surrounded by Switzerland

The borders between countries give rise to many paradoxes, and some of the most curious are those found in a German town nestled in Switzerland.

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Büsingen am Hochrhein is a town in southern Germany with a census of 1,519 inhabitants. Although more than in southern Germany, it would be correct to say that it is in northern Switzerland, since this German town it is totally surrounded by Swiss territory. Like other similar cases, the origin of this German enclave in Switzerland must be sought hundreds of years ago, when Büsingen belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. In 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars, it passed into the hands of the Kingdom of Württemberg, which in 1815 became part of the German Confederation. And that is how Büsingen became part of Germany.

The flags of Switzerland, Büsingen and Germany, waving in this German location (Source:

The inhabitants of Büsingen do not seem to have historically been very satisfied with their nationality. In fact, in 1918, just after the First World War, a referendum was held in Büsingen in which 96% of the residents voted in favor of joining Switzerland. The Swiss Confederation is very scrupulous With these types of issues, and as he was not able to compensate Germany for the transfer of that town, he rejected the annexation request of the residents of Büsingen.

Büsingen's status implied certain complications in World War II, since the German town was surrounded by a neutral country. Some German soldiers resided in that enclave, and in order to gain access to their homes, the Swiss border guards required them to leave their weapons at the border and cover their uniforms with coats, in such a way as to go unnoticed.

The Büsingen am Hochrhein post office, indicating two postal codes: the German one, on the left, and the Swiss one (Source: Christophe Ravier).

At the end of the war, Büsingen was assigned to the French occupation zone of Germany. Its status was raised again, but Switzerland refused to enter into negotiations, as it would only agree to annex that town if it so agreed a sovereign German government, something that did not exist at the time. This refusal to integrate Büsingen into Switzerland was heightened by the transfer of eastern Germany to Poland in compensation for the annexed eastern Polish territories by the USSR, something that caused discomfort among the German-speaking Swiss population.

However, given the possibility that this enclave would become a refuge for Nazi war criminals, Switzerland allowed French soldiers access to it, so that they could take charge of its surveillance. In 1957, it The German and Swiss governments confirmed the current status of the town, which in 1961 changed its name from Büsingen to Büsingen am Hochrhein.

Two telephone booths in Büsingen am Hochrhein: the German one, on the right, and the Swiss one (Source: Christophe Ravier).

Although Büsingen am Hochrhein is part of Germany, there are certain peculiarities in that town. There the usual currency is the Swiss franc. The electricity supply comes from Switzerland. In addition, the Police of the Swiss Canton of Schaffhausen are allowed access to the town and even make arrests there. Services such as postal services, healthcare, telecommunications and education follow a mixed model: the inhabitants of Büsingen am Hochrhein can choose whether they prefer German or Swiss services (in the locality a postal code can be Swiss or a German). In tax matters, Swiss VAT is applied. In addition, the official website of the town is accessible through the domain (Swiss) and www. (German).

Below these lines, the map of Büsingen on Google Maps:

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