The first Swiss envoy in Berlin was Joachim Heer from Glarus. The Federal Council had instructed him to secure accreditation not only to the Prussian court but also to the courts of the King of Bavaria, the King of Wurttemberg and the Grand Duke of Baden. It was the first time a Swiss representative obtained multiple accreditations.
Three days after his arrival in Berlin on 15 May 1867, Heer presented his credentials to William I, the King of Prussia. William I was gratified, as he had for some time wanted a Swiss diplomatic envoy to be accredited to the Prussian court. Prussia had established an official legation in Switzerland as early as 1805, although Prussian diplomats generally did not have a residence in Switzerland. In the first half of the 19th century, Prussian relations with Switzerland were conducted via the Canton of Neuchâtel, which joined the Swiss Confederation in 1815 and remained the property of the Prussian King until 1848.
The history of Switzerland’s representations in Germany is eventful owing to Europe’s turbulent history. Switzerland maintained a legation in Berlin until the end of the Second World War in 1945. After the war, the Swiss Repatriation Delegation was responsible for Swiss nationals living in Berlin and those wishing to return to Switzerland. Switzerland’s diplomatic representation to the Federal Republic of Germany was established in Bonn in 1949, based in Cologne from 1957 to 1977, and again in Bonn until 1999. In 1973, Switzerland also opened an embassy in the German Democratic Republic.
Since 1999 the Swiss embassy in Berlin has been located in the Spreebogen district. Switzerland bought the building in 1919, almost 100 years ago. The Spreebogen district was left almost entirely destroyed at the end of the war but remarkably the building survived almost unscathed. The building became an isolated monolith in the no man’s land after the Berlin Wall was built in 1961. For many years, Switzerland tried to sell the building because of its undesirable location. After the fall of the wall, the government of reunited Germany decided that Berlin would once again become the nation’s capital, bringing life back to the area where the building – and the relocated Swiss embassy – was situated.
Before 1867, Switzerland had already opened consular representations in Bremen, Hamburg and Leipzig. When Switzerland became a modern federal state in 1848, it had two diplomatic representations, in Paris and Vienna, which were followed by representations in Turin and Florence a few years later. The Swiss embassy to Germany has published a brochure to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Swiss representation in Berlin.
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