Ernst Friedrich

  • Born February 25, 1894 in Breslau, Poland.
  • Friedrich is the youngest of thirteen children, from a large working-class family.
  • His mother is a washerwoman and his father a saddler.
  • At a young age, Friedrich engages in the Proletarian youth movement.
  • As a young man, he embarks on an apprenticeship as a printer, which he does not complete, following this, he becomes a factory labourer.
  • 1911 Friedrich joins the Social Democratic Party (SPD) – but leaves in protest of its approval of war loans.
  • 1914 Friedrich first appears on stage (a passion of his).
  • 1914 Friedrich refuses to serve and is subsequently sent for psychiatric assessment.
  • 1916 Friedrich organises an anti-militaristic, revolutionary youth movement and is subsequently sent to prison.
  • 1918 he is released by revolutionary troops.
  • 1919 Friedrich takes over the youth centre of the »Free Socialist Youth« (FSJ) in Berlin and turns it into a meeting place of anti-authoritarian youth and revolutionary artists.
  • 1919 Friedrich travels to Germany and gives public lectures reading anti-militaristic and liberal authors like Erich Mühsam, Maxim Gorki, Fjodor Dostojewski and Leo Tolstoi.
  • 1924 Friedrich writes “War against War!” in four languages (German, French, English and Dutch), a shocking picture-book documenting the horrors of the First World War. By 1930, it has gone through ten editions in Germany and been translated into many languages. From the income, Friedrich is able to buy an old building in Berlin where he establishes the »First International Anti-War Museum«, which opens in 1925.
  • Friedrich displays disturbing photographs in the museum, of maimed and naked soldiers, hanged partisans, firing squad victims, raped women, mass graves, starved children, slaughtered animals, destroyed churches and disabled war veterans – in some cities the police raid bookstores and lawsuits are brought against the public display of the photographs — Friedrich’s declaration of War against War is acclaimed by left-wing writers.
  • March 1933 the museum is destroyed by the Nazis and Friedrich is arrested.
  • December 1933 Friedrich decides to leave the country, he is financially ruined. His exile takes him from Prague to Switzerland where he is evicted for libel of a “friendly statesman” (Hitler) in his 1935 book Vom Friedens-Museum zur Hitler-Kaserne, in which he documents the destruction of his museum by the SA.
  • 1936 he is granted asylum in Belgium.
  • March 1943, Friedrich finally donnes a uniform – side by side with the French Résistance, he fights the Germans, having been sentenced to death in absentia.
  • 1948 Friedrich becomes a French citizen and member of the Socialist Party. He establishes the Ile de la Paix centre for peace and international understanding and organises youth conventions,  with help from the German union ÖTV.
  • May 2 1967 Friedrich dies at Le Perreux sur Marne (France).
  • 1982, Friedrich’s grandson, Tommy Spree, re-opens the anti-war museum in Berlin.
  • Today’s Berliner Anti-War Museum recalls Ernst Friedrich and the story of his museum with charts, slides and films.

They lack the courage, these war-thinkers and war leaders, to go themselves into the battle, and themselves to die a sweet “heroic death”. That is why they invented such beautiful phrases as “Fatherland” and “Field of Honour” and spoke of “defence” and uttered other lies. I, therefore, always say to my brothers, the proletarians, I say to the class-war fighters:

Free yourselves from bourgeois prejudices!
Fight against capitalism within yourselves!
Fight against Capitalism – and you fight against every war!
The battle-field in the factories and the mines,
the hero’s death in the infirmaries, the mass graves in the barracks,
in short, the war, the apparently eternal war, of the exploited against the exploiters!

Refuse to serve!
Bring up your children so that they may later refuse to render military and war service!
How very many lightly overlook the fact that in one’s own home in the family, war is being spontaneously prepared!
Ye parents that do not wish that your sons should murder the dear sons of other parents, you should remember that the child whom you present with a helmet and sabre and gun, plays his tender soul to death out of his young body.
Those children, however, who are educated in love and solidarity, and are brought up to respect unconditionally the inviolable sanctity of human life, these children will most certainly be unfit for arms and war-service.

Stronger than all violence, than the sabre and the rifle, is our spirit, is our will!
Repeat these three words: “I will not!”
Give content to these words and all wars in future will be impossible.