Eugen Bircher
Eugen Bircher

(1882-02-17)17 February 1882
Died20 October 1956(1956-10-20) (aged 74)
Known forArmy officer, politician
Political partyParty of Farmers, Traders and Independents, Schweizerischer Vaterländischer Verband

Eugen Bircher (17 February 1882 in Aarau – 20 October 1956) was a Swiss politician (member of parliament 1942 – 1955) and military leader who became associated with a pro-German position in the inter-war years.

Military and political career

Bircher came to prominence in the army where he rose to the rank of colonel, the highest used in Switzerland in peacetime. In 1934 he was promoted to Major General (Commander of 4., later 5. Division). Together with Federal Counselor Rudolf Minger he was a leading promoter of Swiss armament and preparedness between 1934 and 1939. Bircher published a lot of medical, political and military books and articles.

An opponent of immigration he formed during "Landesgeneralstreik" the Schweizerischer Vaterländischer Verband, SVV in 1919 as a militia and semi-secret society to support his viewpoint. The group became influential amongst army officers in the years following the First World War. The position as leader of SVV was boosted by Bircher's spells as president of the Swiss Officers Society (1931-7) and editor of the official Swiss Army newspaper (1934–42).[1] An influential figure in society, Bircher numbered the federal councillors Marcel Pilet-Golaz, Giuseppe Motta, Eduard von Steiger, Philipp Etter, Walther Stampfli and Ernst Wetter amongst his close political associates.[2]

Bircher sought a close relationship between Switzerland and Nazi Germany and it has even been alleged that he funded Adolf Hitler in his early years (although no conclusive evidence has as yet been provided),[3] and his biographer rejects this claim outright. He also organized medical corps for the Eastern Front on the pretext of anti-communism.[4]

Medical career

Bircher was a physician (Chief Surgeon 1917 - 1932, Director 1932/34 of "Kantonsspital Aarau") by trade and in the 1920s published several ground-breaking papers detailing arthroscopy procedures on the knee. Bircher is often considered the inventor of arthroscopy of the knee,[5] although the Japanese surgeon Masaki Watanabe receives primary credit for using arthroscopy for interventional surgery. After diagnosing torn tissue through arthroscopy, Bircher used open surgery to remove or repair the damaged tissue. Initially, he used an electric Jacobaeus thoracolaparoscope for his diagnostic procedures, but later developed a double-contrast approach to improve visibility.[6] Bircher gave up endoscopy in 1930, and his work was largely neglected for several decades.


Daniel Heller, Eugen Bircher, Arzt, Militär, Politiker, NZZ Zürich 1988.


  1. ^ Alan Morris Schom, 'A Survey of Nazi and Pro-Nazi Groups in Switzerland: 1930-1945' Archived 2012-05-10 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Schom, op cit
  3. ^ Scheck, Raffael (1999). "Swiss Funding for the Early Nazi Movement: Motivation, Context, and Continuities". The Journal of Modern History. University of Chicago Press. 71 (4): 799. doi:10.1086/235359. ISSN 1537-5358. JSTOR 10.1086/235359.
  4. ^ Swiss Doctors with the Yugoslavian Resistance Archived 2007-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Böni T (1996). "[Knee problems from a medical history viewpoint]". Ther Umsch (in German). 53 (10): 716–23. PMID 8966679.
  6. ^ Kieser CW, Jackson RW (2003). "Eugen Bircher (1882-1956) the first knee surgeon to use diagnostic arthroscopy". Arthroscopy. 19 (7): 771–6. doi:10.1016/S0749-8063(03)00693-5. PMID 12966386.