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Jörn Schütrumpf

A Few Good Germans

From the »Bund Neues Vaterland« to the »Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte«
Published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

176 Seiten | 2023 | EUR 14.80
ISBN 978-3-96488-207-3


Short text: On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the »Universal Declaration of Human Rights«, the author remembers the »Germans with decency« – including Lilli Jannasch, Albert Einstein, Emil Julius Gumbel, Kurt Tucholsky and Carl von Ossietzky – who had already been involved in the German League for Human Rights.

On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the »Universal Declaration of Human Rights« in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Unsurprisingly, the then still completely totalitarian USSR under Yossif Stalin, as well as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Saudi Arabia and racist South Africa abstained from voting. The reason for this was the German and Japanese crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War.

In German history, the fight for human rights, which began immediately after the start of the First World War in November 1914 with the »Bund Neues Vaterland«, is a largely forgotten chapter. Pre-war pacifists such as Kurt von Tepper-Laski and Otto Lehmann-Rußbüldt from the circle of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bertha von Suttner – who had died shortly before the start of the war – had joined forces with Albert Einstein (already a contender for the Nobel Prize in Physics at the time) and younger Social Democrats such as Ernst Reuter and Ernst Meyer (the former was temporary General Secretary and later Governing Mayor of West Berlin in 1921, the latter became Chairman of the KPD in 1921/22). They were also joined by peace-loving bankers and the former anarchist Eduard Fuchs, the »moral fox« who had become wealthy with the sexual history of Europe. Lilli Jannasch, the daughter of a French woman and a German bank director – she shared a role in the general secretariat with Reuter – is one of the few women whose name has survived.

The »Bund Neues Vaterland«, which at times financed the Spartacus group, was by no means less dangerous in the eyes of the imperial terror regime and was therefore banned in 1916 – despite or perhaps because of its roots in the educated middle classes. In September 1918, he emerged from the underground again and developed broad-based activities. In 1922, he came to an understanding with the French League for Human Rights – across the still unfilled trenches of the First World War – adopted its name and founded the »International League for Human Rights« together with Belgian and Austrian human rights activists. Together they took prisoners out of the torture cells in Eastern Europe and political prisoners from the USSR, but also took up arms against the German Social Democrats in 1929, who had won the Reichstag elections by rejecting an armoured cruiser, but had this very armoured cruiser built by the government.

The author presents the history of the two German organisations and their involvement in the »International League for Human Rights«, prepares various documents of their activities and provides brief biographies of the most important players.

The author:

Jörn Schütrumpf, Dr., was Head of the Rosa Luxemburg Focus Unit at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's Historical Centre in Berlin until 2022. Among other things, he edited the writings of Paul Levi. Together with Michael Brie, he recently published the volume »Rosa Luxemburg. Eine revolutionäre Marxistin an den Grenzen des Marxismus«, and as editor »Rosa Luxemburg | Paul Levi: Die Russische Revolution. Neuausgabe einer viel zitierten, aber selten gelesenen Schrift«.