The Danish Peace Academy

Holger Terp: Danish Peace History

Working paper 1

Pacifism during World War One


In 1906 Bertha von Suttner visited Copenhagen on her way back from Kristiania [Oslo]. She meet the important personalities in the women's movement, thus creating a growing interest among women for working with peace matters. After her visit Mathilde Bajer and Sophie Alberti created the shortlived Peace Union of Danish Women.

The first world war introduced women and workers into the Danish peace movement. After the inter-national women’s congress in the Hague April - May 1915, the Danish chapter of the later Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was created; much to the dislike and heated debate of the men in the Danish Peace Society93. Several Danish women attended the founding congress in the Hague. The rare printed record of the congress at the Hague was located in the Royal Library in Copenhagen by the key word women’s movement, not under peace movement94.

The growth of a culture of peace

Some of the world’s first anti war movie was produced in Denmark during WW 1 by Ole Olsen (1863-1943) the pacifist owner of Nordisk Films Kompagni / the Great Northeren Film Company. The first anti war movie might be the Belgian “Maudite soit la guerre”, which, according to Erich-Maria-Remarque-Friedenszentrum’s online data base “Modern war on screen”, had its first performance on May 22, 1914, shortly before the war. The first of several Danish anti war movies Lay Down Your Arms or Surrender Arms or Down With Weapons was based upon the novel by Bertha von Suttner: „Die Waffen Nieder“, directed by Holger Madsen and screenplay by Carl Theodor Dreyer starring Olaf Fonns and Augusta Martha Blad. It had its first performance on August 14, 1914 in New York. From 1914 three more anti war movies were produced in Denmark95. Lay Down Your Arms is under restoration by the Danish Film Institute for a comming publication on DVD. The novel „Lay Down Your Arms : The Authobiography of Martha von Trilling“ had early been translated into Danish in 1892 and was published severel times up to the second world war.

During the World War One the first of many recordings of peace songs on grammopohne records took place in Denmark shortly after the first peace songs were recorded in the US. One of the first Danish recordings was „Klokke ring Fred / Bell ring peace“, recorded in November 1915. The recordings of Bell ring peace is documented in the Peace Academy's song book and is translated into English by Holger Terp.

The World War One also saw some of the first Danish produced newspaper satire against war. One of the first artist against war was Anton Hansen (1891-1960) whose illustrations first appeared in the daily Ekstra Bladet96.

Also during the World War One the Danish missionary teacher Karen Jeppe in Armenia was a eye witness to the second genocide on the Christian Armenians during 191597. Another Danish eye witness to the Armenian genoside was the nurse missionary Maria Jacobsen98. Later in the 1920s Karen Jeppe were aided in her work by the League of Nations supported by Scandinavian members to the League of Nations, among them Henni Forchhammer.

Political conscientious objectors during WW 1 created the first conscientious objectors union on September 17, 191599. The unions members of worker’s pacifists and anti-militarist’s were total objectors. Also there were abstention and deserter cases from “simple people” during the war100. The debate over the imprisonment of the conscientious objectors led to the conscientious objectors law of December 1917 giving the right to object based on religious conviction, but it was a beginning of a new movement of pacifism in Denmark.

At the end or soon after WW1 the German aid organisation: Deutscher Sonderausschuss für Kriegsgefangenenhilfe · Kopenhagen Deutsche Wohlfahrtstelle - Auslandstelle · Kopenhagen, / German Special Board for Support of War Prisoners, Copenhagen · German Welfare Board, Foreign Office, Copenhagen, was established. This organization had connections to the Christian Peace Society and aided German prisoners of war and German children who came on holiday in Denmark. The last mentioned country wide relif work for the starving German children lasted from August 1919 to April 1925, when the justice departemnt closed down this aid work.

Also Danes aided starving children from Vienna after World War One.


94 Bericht : Internationaler Frauenkongress, Haag – von 28. April-1. Maj 1915. /
Rapport : Congres international des femmes la Haye 28 avril 1 mai 1915 /
Report : International Congress of Women the Hague April 28th to May 1st 1915.
- Amsterdam : Internationaler Frauenkomite für Dauernde Frieden ; Comite international de femmes pour une paix permanente ; International Women's Committee for Permanent Peace. 1915. – 323 pp.

95 Ned med Vaabnene 1914, Verdens Undergang 1916, Pax Aeterna; Den evige Fred / Peace on Earth 1917 and Himmelskibet / A Trip to Mars (one of the worlds first science fiction movies) 1917. See:

Kelly, Andrew: Films as Antiwar Propaganda : Lay Down Your Arms (1914). In Peace & Change, 1991:1 pp. 97-112.

Nørgaard, Erik: Levende billeder i Danmark : Fra Den gamle Biograf til moderne tider… 1971. - ISBN 87-15-08035-8

Olsen, Ole: Filmenes Eventyr og mit eget. Jespersen og Pio, 1940. - 226 s.

The Danish Film Institute:

Danmarks Nationalfilmografi / Danish Film Bibiography: Ned med vaabene: has it listed as "Ned Med Vaabnene" and says it's also known as "Down with Weapons" (USA) and "Lay Down Your Arms." There's a little more information there about cast and plot as well.
Nancy Slator,
Ware (Mass.) High School

Danmarks Nationalfilmografi / Danish Film Bibiography:

Danmarks Nationalfilmografi / Danish Film Bibiography: Verdens Undergang ; Flammesværdet / The End of the World ; The Flaming Sword:

Danmarks Nationalfilmografi / Danish Film Bibiography : Pax æterna; Den evige Fred / Peace on Earth:
Review: Vore Damer, 1918:22.
In the 1920s the Danish chapter of the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom used Pax æterna in their meetings. Around February 1928 the League were given a copy of the film by Nordisk Films Kompagni under the condition, that the Women did not charge money when showing the film at their meetings. Source: Pax æterna. Fred og Frihed, 1928 nr. 3 p. 8.

Danmarks Nationalfilmografi / Danish Film Bibiography: Himmelskibet or Excelsior / A Trip to Mars / Der Himmelschiff:

96 Abilgaard, Hanne: Anton Hansen : Mellemkrigstidens sorte satiriker. Arbejdermuseet, 2001. - 484 p. - ISBN 87-88626-24-5

97 Lous, Eva: Karen Jeppe - Denmark's First Peace Philosopher.

Sick, Ingeborg Maria: Pigen fra Danmark : Et Rids af Karen Jeppes Liv og Gerning, 1945.

Witt, Rainer: Jeppe, Karen. In: Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons, Vol. III, 1992. columns 36-39.

99 Foreningen for Konsekvente Antimilitarister.

100 Klüwer, H.: Lejre Herred og Ledreborg Birk Herning Købstad og Hammerum Herred. In: De gamle Byfoed-Birke og Herredfuldmægtige, p. 133.


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