Final Switzerland squad for World Cup
Senderos has barely played at club level after falling out of favour with Arsenal, joining Everton on loan in January and then suffering a series of injuries.
"This was an important decision for me," Hitzfeld told a news conference as he analysed his players one by one.
"It's always tricky deciding whether to pick someone who hasn't been playing so much. But he (Senderos) has always repaid us with good performances, such as the game against Luxemburg when he scored two goals, and he has a strong personality.
"He has always justified our trust in him." Senderos has played in just two Premier League games, for Everton, this season, once as an injury time substitute.
Hitzfeld, whose team face Chile, Spain and Honduras in Group H, said he had stood by the players who helped Switzerland qualify for the tournament in South Africa.
The only major surprise was the inclusion of 18-year-old Kosovo-born Xherdan Shaqiri, a midfielder who has played one international.
Shaqiri's family moved to Switzerland when he was a child. He progressed through FC Basel's youth divisions, making his professional debut for the club this season and impressing immediately.
He is one of three foreign-born players in the squad along with Blaise Nkufo (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Gelson Fernandes (Cape Verde).
"The deciding factor were the performances in qualifying," said the German who is coaching a national team for the first time after winning seven titles with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, and the Champions League with each team.
Switzerland are regarded as having a reasonable chance of qualifying from their group. But few give them much hope of bettering their performance four years ago, when they were knocked out by Ukraine in the second round.
Hitzfeld has moulded a disciplined if unspectacular outfit, who qualified as winners of European Group Two despite a home defeat by Luxemburg early in the campaign.
Key players include striker Alexander Frei, record scorer with 40 goals in 73 games, midfielders Tranquillo Barnetta and Gokhan Inler, and goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (VfL Wolfsburg), Johnny Leoni (FC Zurich), Marco Woelfli (Young Boys Berne).
Defenders: Mario Eggimann (Hanover 96), Stephane Grichting (Auxerre), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Lazio), Philippe Senderos (Arsenal), Christoph Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt), Steve Von Bergen (Hertha Berlin), Reto Ziegler (Sampdoria).
Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen), Valon Behrami (West Ham United), Gelson Fernandes (St Etienne), Benjamin Huggel (FC Basel), Marco Padalino (Sampdoria), Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Goklan Inler (Udinese).
Forwards: Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen), Alexander Frei (FC Basel), Blaise Nkufo (Twente Enschede), Hakan Yakin (FC Luzern), Xherdan Shaqiri (FC Basel), Marco Streller (FC Basel).