Willhelm Lamszus: Writing For Peace

Wilhelm Lamszus wrote a book predicting the horrors of World War I years before it started. Coming from a German, that was unacceptable for the Imperial authorities. He was repressed, hassled, bullied and finally promoted out of Germany. He was sent as an envoy to Africa to study the fate of German soldiers serving in the French Foreign Legion. It was also hoped that his report would supply a further casus belli against France.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Wilhelm Lamszus was well aware of the fact that he was being removed from Germany. He accepted the commission al the same and traveled to Africa. The result of his research into the French Foreign Legion was a remarkable book called “The Prodigal Son”, which appeared in 1914. Wilhelm Lamszus used criticism leveled at the Foreign Legion to give a sharp and pointed reckoning to the German Imperial government. The politics of the Imperial power had resulted in an excessive outgrowth of militaristic imperialism manifest in repressive schools and press censure. The book was published while Wilhelm Lamszus was safely employed as a foreign envoy in Africa.

Paradoxically enough, news of the mobilization in Germany took him by surprise. When he heard about it from Germany in August 1914, it hit Wilhelm Lamszus like a bolt out of the blue: "Because I was aware of the unspeakable horrors of this war in advance, I basically do not want to believe that it ever could come this far." At this point, his sequel to “The Human Slaughterhouse” entitled “The Lunatic Asylum” was ready for printing. However, he was not allowed to have it published. That had to wait until after the war. 

This third book - its horrid content now confirmed by the personal wartime experiences of many people – received a great response. In his introduction, Carl von Ossietzky justified the need to portray the reality of war as it is, because it brings terrible suffering and because the time for mellower images had not arrived yet. "The old enemy of all culture and all human happiness is not vanquished. Drunk to the brim with red hot human blood the dragon has withdrawn into its lair. For how long, though?"

Wilhelm Lamszus was captivated by that question and continued writing against war its obvious horrors. His collection of poetry “The Mound of Corpses” published in 1921 and his co-editorship of “A Curse on Weapons” revealed his consistent and continued commitment to pacifism in their titles. 

But it has to be seen in a general relation: After the Great War, there was an international "No More War" movement able to mobilize hundreds of thousands in England, Holland, Germany and the Scandinavian states. But how much of a force was it? In Germany about 70,000 people belonged to pacifist organizations. That was a lot compared to the 10,000 members before 1914, but negligible compared to the millions of members of nationalist associations (such as the Stahlhelm). Maybe 500 books were published describing the world as “All Is Quiet on The Western Front” did, showing war with all its hideous delusions. But there were uncounted thousands of books and pamphlets glorifying war and recounting misplaced heroism in adventure stories and heroic novels in the style of Werner Beumelburg and Ernst Jünger. Already then, Hollywood was wining over realism.

The government in Berlin was already set for the big rematch. In secret, the military was playing with new gigantic fleets and whole armies of tanks and uncounted air forces. At the same time, agitators were drumming the war drums throughout Germany; one of them was called Adolf Hitler.

Further reading

Awkward: Gestapo Burial in Berlin Jewish Cemetery
The Life of Irmingard Princess of Bavaria