State terror

"When the heavy military boots are rattling on the pavement, one no longer hears the heart beating. When the helmet is pressing down on the head, there is no room left for big thoughts”

In 1924, ten years after throngs of mortals eagerly drew to battle in the war that was to end all wars, the thirty year old anarchist and pacifist Ernst Friedrich (1894-1967) declared war on war: Krieg dem Kriege! This was not his first exploit. When, in 1914, he refused to enter into military service, he was promptly locked up in a mental institution. Once freed, he committed military sabotage and urged soldiers to disobey orders.

War on war! contains about 180 photos, gruesome images from the Great War, accompanied by caustic comments in four languages: German, English, French and Dutch. (There were also editions with Norwegian, Russian or Chinese as the fourth language). Friedrich, who called himself "not German, but man”, wrote the book for "people of all countries" dedicated it “affably to all war-enthusiasts, planners and leaders of massacres”.

Krieg dem Kriege! shows the true face of the war, beyond bravery and heroic death. Not the pacifists but the warmongers, kings, generals, presidents and ministers should be locked up. Or they should fight amongst themselves, wage war for their own account and risk, and die many times the death of heroes!

To Friedrich, who never adhered to any political party, the cause of war is clear: capitalism and power. They suppress and control the proletariat. Friedrich calls upon them to liberate themselves from the bourgeois prejudices that have been pressed upon them: "fight against capitalism, against the bourgeois and the soldier inside you!" Friedrich did not care for bourgeois pacifism, which he called "sweet cakes and pious talk". To fight war one should fight capitalism.


War on war : a warlike message, but by peaceful means - refuse military service, do not teach children soldiers songs, do not give them war toys. He said: “the game first, then hell “. If war does break out, refuse to kill, paralyze the country through strikes. If the men cannot handle it, the women should undertake action: adorn the guns with flowers, do not let go of your husband, break up the railway tracks, go lie down in front of the locomotives!

Friedrich wanted to polarize: on one page he printed a patriotic or militaristic image, on the other a picture of the gruesome reality. Cheerful soldiers astride on a cannon versus piles of corpses on the battlefield. A state funeral of a general next to a cart full of dead soldiers. Many “still lives” of war: lynched conscientious objectors and enemies, forests filled with corpses.

The 'face of war "is hard to look at. Twenty close-ups of badly mutilated faces: noses blown away, eyes, cheeks, chins … gone. Many thousands of gueules cassées (broken faces) had until then led a shadowy existence in hospitals. The photographs came from military and medical records and were made to demonstrate the groundbreaking potential of transplantation and facial reconstruction. Some victims had already undergone dozens of operations. During and after the Second World War the military doctors continued to practice on maimed war victims. The first official recognition came in 1941, with the founding of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

The gueules cassées were a closely guarded secret, the pictures were not intended for publication. Friedrich broke the taboo and used them as shock therapy. In the same period Otto Dix painted his Gueules cassées.


The book contains many exclamation marks, short sentences, for everyone understandable; sometimes simplistic, always straightforward. Barracks are schools for killers, soldiers “pimps of death”, the Church the "ally of militarism”. Krieg dem Kriege! made a great impression and had many reprints. But the Weimar Republic was not amused. Friedrich went to prison for treason. He was a master of propaganda. He was not affected by the fact that his anti-militarist magazines and pamphlets were seized over and over again, and that he was constantly summoned to court. On the contrary, the acoustics in the courtroom were very good, the audience paid attention, his defense speech was an indictment. He always read aloud the article for which he was brought to court, to clarify his position and to spread his message, now an official court document, through handbills and his magazine Schwarze Fahne (Black Flag).

The photos were also exhibited in the International Anti-War Krieg Museum Friedrich had founded in Berlin, in 1923. On the facade he waved the white peace flag and had attached two military helmets filled with flowers, bearing in German and French the slogans “Nie wieder” and “Plus jamais” (both meaning “Never again”). A sign next to the door said "Entrée : Entrance: For people 20 Pfennig (Cents). For soldiers free admission.” Above the door Friedrich had put up the anti-militarist sign he himself had invented: a rifle broken in half by two hands. This symbol was distributed as an "anti-murder-clip” in the form of a brooch, a tie pin or a buckle. The museum showed a collection of war toys, lots of weapons and all sorts of objects with patriotic slogans, including a roll of black, white and red toilet paper from the 'Invincible' brand.

Friedrich was ahead of his time. His museum had a special space for children, a fairy tale room. He founded a pacifist child group; wrote a peace book for young people and designed pacifist - pedagogically sound - toys. As soon as Hitler had seized power, Friedrich issued loud and clear warnings about his war fury.

In March 1933 the Nazis destroyed the museum; they turned it into a place of war and torture. Friedrich was put into prison and tortured. He could have fled, but as he writes, escape is more something for military men. After another hunger strike and under pressure from American Quakers, he was released at the end of 1933 and turned his back on Germany.

In 1936 he ended up with his wife and children in Belgium. He held lectures, participated in the peace weeks (the Spanish Civil War was raging fully) and started a new museum. In the beginning of 1937, he organized an anti-militarist exhibition, in the Ghent socialist cultural center, the Vooruit (Forward), close to the current faculty of Letters and Philosophy, which attracted more than six thousand people in a single week. In 1940 he reached France, where he committed himself wholeheartedly to the armed resistance. His Jewish wife could not escape, she was murdered in Auschwitz.

After the war, in France, Friedrich organized reconciliation activities between French and German youngsters. With the Wiedergutmachungsgeld (war compensation money) he received from West Germany, he bought an island in the Seine, l’Île de la Paix, the Island of Peace, a meeting place for young people. He died in 1967, worn out by the many battles he had fought during his life. Fifteen years later one of his grandsons reopened the Anti-Kriegsmuseum in Berlin.

Further Reading

On the Internet the website The Memory Hole ( \ war \ thisiswar) makes clear with photos from Krieg dem Kriege! and with images of the horror of contemporary war, that even now we are not shown the gruesome reality of war.

Ernst Friedrich - Krieg dem Kriege! - Guerre à la Guerre! - War against War! - Oorlog aan den Oorlog!, Berlijn, Friedrich, 1924

Ernst Friedrich - Een pacifist in Hitler-Duitschland, Gent, Vrede, 1937.( A pacifist in Hitler's Germany)

Gepubliceerd in Praet, Danny (ed.) - Philosophy of War and Peace, Ghent, Ghent University, 2016 - p. 141-147