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War Fever and Pacifism

Conference on Jewish Intellectuals in World War I: December 4 to 6 at Freie Universität

№ 415/2014 from Dec 02, 2014

The attitude of German Jews to the outbreak of World War I is the topic of a conference to be held December 4 to 6, 2014, at Freie Universität Berlin. From historical, cultural, and literary critical perspectives, experts will address the widespread idea that in 1914 an overwhelming majority of German Jews joined in the “general war fever” in an attempt to prove themselves good German patriots to the many citizens with anti-Semitic sentiments. In the view of the participating scholars, this image of warmongering German Jews needs critical re-examination. Literary and autobiographical texts show that in particular the attitude of Jewish intellectuals to World War I was more differentiated than assumed so far. The conference, “Kriegstaumel und Pazifismus. Jüdische Intellektuelle im Ersten Weltkrieg,” is public. There is no charge for admission, and advance registration is not necessary. Journalists may schedule interviews devoted to the conference theme by contacting the organizers.

The organizers of the conference at the Institute of German and Dutch Languages and Literatures at Freie Universität see the need to differentiate the currently prevailing image of German Jews during World War I. They will discuss the issues that not only many of the assimilated Jews considered it unnecessary to demonstrate their patriotism, but also that many Jews did not want to be forced into war, and in particular, did not want to be forced to shoot on fellow Jews on the Eastern Front. The aim of the conference is to provide new descriptions of both the self-perception of Jewish intellectuals and the way they were perceived by others. Texts by non-Jewish authors that deal with the relationship of Jews to the war will also be newly assessed.

Time, Location, and Interview Opportunities

  • Thursday, December 4 through Saturday, December 6, 2014; beginning on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
  • Seminar Center, Freie Universität Berlin, Room L 115, Otto-von-Simson-Straße 26, 14195 Berlin; subway station: Dahlem Dorf or Thielplatz (U3)
  • The meeting is open to the public, and admission is free. Registration is not required.
  • Journalists who are interested in an interview on the conference theme are welcome to contact the professors of literature, Irmela of the Lühe ( or Hans Richard Britt Acher (

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Hans Richard Brittnacher, Institute of German and Dutch Languages and Literatures, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-54217, Email: