Why are most of the pacifists murdered?

Peace Movement (From the Beginnings to World War II)

Order of the Obermilitary Commander von Stein to supervise the peace movement during the First World War. (from: Sabine Hering / Cornelia Wenzel [ed.], women shouted, but you couldn't hear them. The role of German women in the international women's peace movement between 1892 and 1933, Kassel 1986, 12)
Ludwig Quidde (from: Reichs Handbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft. Volume 2, Berlin 1931, p. 1459)

by Dieter Riesenberger

Since the "German Peace Society" was founded in 1892, there has been an organized peace movement in Germany, but it was not able to achieve any major successes either during the German Empire or during the Weimar Republic. In 1933 the National Socialists banned all pacifist organizations whose members they systematically persecuted. - Munich has twice hosted important international peace congresses (1907, 1932) and the residence of one of the most important German pacifists, the historian Ludwig Quidde (1858-1941).

Foreign body in the empire

The history of the organized peace movement in Germany begins with the establishment of the German Peace Society (DFG) in 1892, quite late compared to other countries. This advocated solidarity among peoples, disarmament and compulsory arbitration, which is why it was fiercely opposed by the powerful nationalist and militarist associations. The Social Democrats rejected them as "bourgeois". She attracted more attention with her campaign for the First Hague Peace Conference (1899).

With 10,000 members, the DFG was a foreign body in the German Empire. Pacifists were considered "un-German" because they were "internationalist" and "effeminate" because they denied the war. The founders of the DFG were the Austrian Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914), author of the novel "Put your arms down!" (1889) and founder of the Austrian "Gesellschaft der Friedensfreunde" (1891), as well as the Jewish journalist Alfred Hermann Fried (1864-1921), founder of modern international law. Both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1905 and 1911, respectively). From 1892 to 1898 Suttner published the magazine "Die Waffen Nieder!" which Fried continued under the name "Die Friedens-Warte" from 1899 until his death. The magazine, which still exists today, became the most important organ of the German-speaking peace movement.

From 1912 the historian Ludwig Quidde (1858-1941), who lives in Munich and author of the satire "Caligula" (1894) about Kaiser Wilhelm II. (1859-1941, ruled 1888-1918), was chairman of the DFG. It was thanks to him that the World Peace Congress took place in Munich in 1907.

Targeted by the military authorities 1914-1918

During the First World War, members of pacifist organizations were monitored; their publications were censored and banned, so that Fried and other pacifists, such as Annette Kolb (1870-1967) from Munich, emigrated to Switzerland. In Germany new organizations emerged such as the "Bund Neues Vaterland" (November 1914) or the "Zentralstelle Völkerrecht" (Central Office for International Law) (July 1916), which called for the democratization of the Reich and a peace of understanding. The pacifists welcomed US President Woodrow Wilson's (1856-1924) 17-point program. The military authorities reacted with intensified repression up to and including arrests for treason and high treason. The managing director of the Peace Society Elsbeth Bruck (1874-1970) and the pacifist Hans Paasche (1881-1920) were arrested, indicted and convicted of treason or for inciting high treason; the latter was murdered in July 1920.

Partial approval during the Weimar Republic

After the end of the war, the peace movement was allowed to hope to exert influence on politics for a short time. Quidde became Vice-President of the Provisional Bavarian National Council at the suggestion of Kurt Eisner (USPD, 1867-1919). As a founding member of the German Democratic Party (DDP), he became a member of the Weimar National Assembly.

The harsh conditions of the Versailles Treaty (June 28, 1919) shattered the hopes of the pacifists. It was also not possible to get participants in the "Never Again War Movement" (1921-1925) to actively participate.

In the Weimar Republic there were up to 22 pacifist organizations, including the German branch of the "International Women's League for Peace and Freedom" (IFFF), which held its congress in Munich in 1932. Most organizations had only a few hundred members; With 30,000 members, the DFG was the strongest group. The "German Peace Cartel" (1922-1930) was the platform for the pacifist organizations, which had a total of around 90,000 members.

The peace movement fought against the secret armaments of the Reichswehr as well as against the introduction of general conscription and considered the political general strike as a means of preventing war. She campaigned for the preservation of the republic, for the League of Nations and international law, as well as for reconciliation with France and Poland. Quidde received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1927 together with the French pacifist Ferdinand Buisson (1841-1932).

Success and pursuit

The organized peace movement only met with a greater response from the democratic parties at times. The impact of pacifist positions and ideas went far beyond the realm of pacifist organizations; they found expression above all in literature (Arnold Zweig [1887-1968], Heinrich Mann [1871-1950]), in painting (Käthe Kollwitz, [1867-1945], Otto Dix [1891-1969]) and among scientists (Albert Einstein [1879-1955]).

On March 9, 1933, the office of the German Peace Society was forcibly closed by the National Socialists; the official dissolution did not take place until September 5, 1935 according to the ordinance "For the protection of people and state" (February 28, 1933). Members of the pacifist organizations were systematically persecuted by the National Socialists. They were murdered, like Berthold Jakob (1898-1944), or taken to concentration camps, like the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Carl von Ossietzky (1889-1938).

Well-known pacifists such as Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster (1869-1966), Ernst Julius Gumbel (1891-1966) and Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) were on the first expatriation list from August 23, 1933. Many members fled abroad and from there fought against National Socialism, such as Ernst Friedrich (1894-1967).

Head of the German Peace Society

1892-1899 "Berlin Board of Directors": Managing Director Richard Grelling (1853-1929); published the font "J'accuse" (1915) in Switzerland, which was banned in Germany.
1900-1914 Adolf Richter (1839-1914), co-founder of the International Peace Office in Bern (1892) and the Peace Society; was mainly active on a supranational level. - Vice President: Otto Umfrid (1857-1920), Protestant pastor in Stuttgart; wrote writings against German militarism.
1914-1929 Ludwig Quidde (1858-1941), historian, author and others. from "Militarism in today's German Reich" (1893) and "Caligula" (1894); German representative in the International Peace Office in Bern. Is considered a representative of moderate pacifism under international law.
1929-1933 Friedrich Küster (1889-1966), journalist, representative of radical anti-militarist pacifism, editor of the monthly "Der Pazifist", founded in 1921, and the successor "Das Andere Deutschland" (since April 1925); warned early on of fascism and war. From 1947 to 1969 he published "The Other Germany" again, advocated rearmament and neutralization of Germany and the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line.


  • Helmut Donat / Karl Holl (ed.), The Peace Movement. Organized pacifism in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Hermes Handlexikon), Düsseldorf 1983.
  • Dieter Riesenberger, History of the Peace Movement in Germany. From the beginning until 1933, Göttingen 1985.
  • Hiltrud Häntzschel, "Only if you are cowardly, take the weapon in your hand": Munich - Center of the women's peace movement 1899-1933, in: Sybille Krafft (ed.), Between the Fronts. Munich Women in War and Peace 1900-1950, Munich 1995, 18-40.
  • Karl Holl, Ludwig Quidde and the German peace movement in the Weimar Republic, in: Jost Dülffer / Gerd Krumeich (eds.), The lost peace. Politics and war culture after 1918 (Writings of the Library for Contemporary History N.F. 15), Essen 2002, 273-285.
  • Karl Holl, Ludwig Quidde (1858-1941). A biography, Düsseldorf 2007.


  • Wolfgang Benz, Pacifism in Germany. Documents on the peace movement 1890-1939, Frankfurt am Main 1988.
  • Ludwig Quidde, German Pacifism during the World War 1914-1918. From the estate of Ludwig Quiddes ed. v. Karl Holl with the participation of Helmut Donat (writings of the Federal Archives 23), Boppard am Rhein 1979.

Further research

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Recommended citation style

Dieter Riesenberger, Peace Movement (From the Beginnings to the Second World War), published on June 12, 2006; in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, URL: (May 21, 2021)