Total Resistance (book)

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Total Resistance
Cover of Der totale Widerstand (3rd ed. 1966).jpg.png
Cover of the 3rd German language edition (1966)
Author Hans von Dach
Original title Der totale Widerstand: Eine Kleinkriegsanleitung für Jedermann
Country Switzerland
Language German
Subject Military
Genre Instruction manual
ISBN 3-9521096-1-4
ISBN 978-0-87364-021-3
ISBN 978-1607963042 (English edition)
OCLC 75856605

Total Resistance, originally published in German as Der totale Widerstand: Eine Kleinkriegsanleitung für Jedermann ("Total Resistance: A Guerrilla Warfare Manual for Everyone") is a guerilla warfare manual.

It was written in 1957 by the Swiss army officer Hans von Dach to prepare the Swiss population for an occupation of Switzerland by Warsaw Pact forces, an eventuality then considered possible in the context of the Cold War. The book has been republished as pirated translations in dozens of languages in numerous countries abroad, and notably found use by left-wing terror groups in the 1960s and 70s.[1]


Der totale Widerstand was first published in 1957 in seven volumes by the Swiss Non-Commissioned Officers' Association (Schweizer Unteroffiziersverband, SUOV) with an intent of broad dissemination to the Swiss population. The book was a commercial success, being reprinted five times and selling in the tens of thousands, notably in West Germany and Austria. It became by far the most well-known of von Dach's more than a hundred works on military tactics.[1][2]


The book is a manual for irregular warfare against an occupying force, intended to be used by civilians rather than by soldiers. It presumes a form of irregular resistance involving no arms heavier than light infantry arms: rifles, hand grenades and mines.

The topics covered in the first volume include:[1]

  • the operative, tactical, technical and psychological basics of guerrilla warfare, such as sabotage, assassination and conduct under torture,
  • the establishment, organization and command of guerrilla warfare units and civilian resistance movements,
  • enemy methods of suppressing and combating guerrilla warfare.

The other volumes describe the manufacture and use of basic weapons: chemical weapons (vol. 2), the Partisan 9mm submachine gun (vol. 3), the TARN pistol (vol. 4), improvised explosive devices (vol. 5), the TELL noise suppressor (vol. 6) and hand grenades (vol. 7).[2]


In Switzerland[edit]

While popular in the militia officer corps, the book was not well received by senior Army leaders, who favored a defence policy based on conventional combined-arms and mechanized warfare rather than irregular warfare. In 1974, the Chief of the General Staff vetoed the publication of Total Resistance as an army manual, partly because of concerns that it advocated conduct that violated the laws of war. When the Swiss Army did establish a secret stay-behind organization, P-26, in the 1970s, it was conceived as a top-down, cadre-led structure rather than the broad, decentralized civilian resistance movement envisioned by von Dach.[1]

Nonetheless, the book remains part of the curriculum of the Swiss Army Military Academy at the ETH Zurich as one of the "classics of the history of strategy and the theory of war."[3]


The book soon found unexpected success abroad. In 1965, U.S. special forces published an unauthorized translation entitled Total Resistance – Swiss Army Guide to Guerilla Warfare and Underground Operations. Other pirated translations continued to be published in dozens of languages in countries ranging from Angola to Vietnam. In the Soviet Union, the book was derided as "nonsense" in a 1984 newspaper article.[1]

Total Resistance became notably popular as an instruction manual for several left-wing terror groups active in the 1960s and 70s. According to Swiss and European police reports of the time, it was widely disseminated in left-wing extremist circles, and its tactics were used in bomb attacks in Southern Tyrol, New York and Frankfurt, as well as in unrests in Paris.[1]

In Germany, the book was often found in police searches, including with Red Army Faction members. Since 1988, Der totale Widerstand has been the only Swiss book whose distribution is restricted in Germany because it is indexed by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons as "conducive to confusing the social ethics of children and young people, and to promote their inclination to violence".[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Tribelhorn, Marc (26 July 2013). "Terror-Rezepte aus der Schweiz: Über die erstaunliche "Karriere" eines Guerilla-Handbuchs, das einiges über die Eidgenossenschaft im Kalten Krieg erzählt". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. p. 12. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Mantovani, Mauro (2012). "Der "Volksaufstand": Vorstellungen und Vorbereitungen der Schweiz im 19. und 20. Jh" (PDF). MILITARY POWER REVUE der Schweizer Armee. 1: 52–60. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Mantovani, Mauro (January 2012). "Klassiker der Strategiegeschichte und der Kriegstheorie: Quellensammlung" (PDF). Militärakademie an der ETH Zürich / Dozentur Strategische Studien. Retrieved 26 July 2013.