German Peace Society

(Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft)
   founded in 1892 by the journalist Alfred Fried and the renowned pedagogue Wilhelm Foerster and sustained by members of the left-liberal Progressive Party (Deutsche Freisinnige Partei). In 1914 Ludwig Quidde,* chairman of the society's Bavarian branch, became national president; he retained the position until 1929. Many of the society's chapters dissolved during World War I; the typical member suc-cumbed to the rationalization, common on the Left, that Russia's reactionary bar-barism had caused the war. Early in the conflict the society issued a leaflet supporting Germany's efforts. Thereafter it equivocated in its attitude toward the war and issued a vaguely annexationist statement in October 1917 calling for a peace "securing the vital requirements and the freedom of development of the German people." Only a few members were prepared, in relative isolation, to "betray the Fatherland."
   Defeat fortified the movement. But while Quidde continued to lead the society and the new Friedenskartell (Peace Cartel), the movement assumed two per-sonalities: the prewar pacifists trusted in international arbitration and the League of Nations; the young pacifists, often from the USPD, believed that war must be prevented by conscientious objection and revolution. Portrayed by Carl von Ossietzky,* who joined the society in 1912, as unrealistic and dogmatic, Ger-many's young pacifists never proved as popular as their Western European coun-terparts. Yet the authorities feared and respected them. Although members were terrorized and murdered, the society consistently worked to combat militarism. Through its Bund Neues Vaterland—renamed the Deutsche Liga fur Menschen-rechte (German League for Human Rights) in January 1922—it aided unjustly accused or imprisoned leftists, exposed the assassinations* that claimed such victims as Matthias Erzberger* and Walther Rathenau,* and published infor-mation on Germany's illegal rearmament.
   The pacifists seemed to lose their raison d'etre after the 1925 Locarno Trea-ties.* Exhibitions and protests were abandoned for lack of public support, and as belief in the reality of peace grew among the old pacifists, many resigned from a crusade deemed unnecessary. The younger radicals encroached upon Quidde's authority in 1927 when they forced a triumvirate upon the society in which the president shared power with Paul von Schoenaich, a retired general, and Friedrich Küster, editor of Das andere Deutschland. At an extraordinary congress in the spring of 1929, Küster's triumph over Quidde was complete: faced with the radicalization of the organization, Quidde and his friends Hellmut von Gerlach* and Harry Kessler* resigned. The new leaders were so extreme that even Kurt Hiller,* an erstwhile radical, was expelled in 1930 for attacking various members as "agents" of French and Russian imperialism. When the society began supporting radical socialist organizations, it forfeited its traditional support with the SPD and the DStP (formerly the DDP) and lost the backing of the liberal press. By January 1933 it retained fewer than five thousand members.
   REFERENCES:Chickering, Imperial Germany;Deak, Weimar Germany's Left-Wing In-tellectuals; Shand, "Doves among the Eagles"; Wank, Doves and Diplomats.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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