The 1939 exhibition appealed to the hearts and minds of the Swiss people, arming them for the “mental defence of the nation”, as it became known, and bringing them in their millions to the Höhenstrasse. Hans Brandenberger’s sculpture: “Die Wehrbereitschaft” (Call to arms) was almost prophetic, extolling the heroic and masculine and assigning women to work at the stove. Switzerland, too, was influenced by the fascist view of the world. Above the Höhenstrasse, visitors read in the golden book that the body of work on display was enfolded in the central feelings of noble, genuine Swissness. Alongside these moments of solemnity and dignity, however, visitors to the Landi, as the national exhibition was known, found it a place of celebration. The Schifflibach, which carried people through the exhibition park in small boats, was just as great an attraction as the cable car which transported people between the two sides of the lake at a height of 75 metres. The architecture of this national exhibition was modern and functional.
The Landi attracted prominent visitors from many countries, including the kings of Belgium and Spain, countless heads of state and ministers, and other holders of senior office, such as the Lord Mayor of London.
The people thank Providence
Anyone who wanted to look around the exhibition without their children could leave them at the Kinderparadies childcare centre. Here they would find a certain Trudy Gerster, who was just embarking on a career that would make her one of Switzerland’s most popular ever children’s storytellers. Visitors also had the opportunity to take the weight off their aching feet on one of many aluminium chairs, which became famous because of their distinctive holed design as “Landi” chairs and are now being sold again today. The most popular part of the exhibition was the Landi-Dörfli village, which attracted 160,000 visitors alone for the Eidgenössische Trachtenfest – the Swiss festival of regional costume.
Entertainment at the “Palais des attractions” was provided by Teddy Stauffer and the legendary “Cornichon” cabaret. On 1 September – general mobilization day – the Landi suffered a disastrous drop in visitor numbers, but just 14 days later, things were back to normal. From then on, a visit to the Landi, on either side of Lake Zurich, became a source of strength and confidence for the Swiss people. Gottlieb Duttweiler, founder of the major Swiss supermarket chain Migros remarked: “The entire nation thanks Providence for the enormous boost that the national exhibition has given the national consciousness at such a difficult time.”