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Ludwig Quidde: The Central Office for International Law (1916)

Ludwig Quidde (1858-1941), a historian by training, was one of the most active critics of Wilhelmine society. Well known for Caligula, his satirical portrait of the Kaiser, Quidde became active in the German peace movement in the years leading up to the war. He was interested in a rapprochement between Germany and France and supervised the organization of the World Peace Congress of 1907 in Munich. He became president of the German Friedensgesellschaft [Peace Society] in 1914, a position he held for fifteen years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1927. When World War I broke out, Quidde attempted to maintain ties with English and French peace groups. The attempt failed, and when Quidde returned to Germany he was charged with treason, though the charges were later dropped. This 1916 essay stresses one of the basic beliefs of the peace movement: the essential role of international law in conflict resolution.

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“After the German National Committee [Deutsche Nationalausschuss] and the Independent Committee for a German Peace [Unabhängige Ausschuß für einen deutschen Frieden] have decided that this is an appropriate time to go public with declarations of their war aims, German men and women who strive for a long-term peace on the basis of national self-determination and a new policy of reconciliation have joined together to form a central German organization, called the ‘Central Office for International Law,’ in order to promote long-term peace.

“In the view of the new Central Office, the peace that ends this war should of course secure the freedom of the German people, the independence of the German empire, the inviolability of German territory, the protection of German interests abroad, and the preservation of the German people’s potential for economic development. However, the peace should also contain every guarantee of its own durability. To this end, it is necessary that the peace be accepted by all signatories as a satisfactory system of international relations, that it not compel defeated nations to prepare wars of reprisal because of annexations obtained by force, by infringements of their right to self-determination, or by other intolerable stipulations. The peace should at the same time create effective institutions for peacefully settling international disputes in the future, by means of orderly mediation or juridical decisions, and in this way it should put an end to the arms race as a threat to peace. The real effectiveness of such a peace requires that a new spirit animate our national and international political life. The German Central Office for International Law is convinced that the necessary preconditions for this new policy are present in the German nation, as well as in all other civilized peoples, and that such a peace alone represents a ‘German peace’ in the best sense of the word.

Local branches of the German Central Office for International Law have been or are being formed in all parts of Germany. As soon as freedom is granted to discuss aims for war and peace, the Central Office will issue public declarations. In the meantime, statements of support should be sent to the branch office in Charlottenburg, Kantstrasse 159, Gartenhaus III.”

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