The Present's Past: Recent Perspectives on Peace and Protest in Germany, 1945-1973


  • Wilfried Mausbach



Peace Movement, Protest, Germany, 1945-1973, Emancipation Movement


Much of the recent literature on peace movements and protest activities in postwar Germany takes its lead either from social movement theory or from the concept of peace culture. Both approaches can indeed help to overcome the conventional fixation on the political effectiveness of protest movements as well as an all too often dry organizational sociology or a sometimes hagiographic preoccupation with important individuals. This essay enumerates some of the new and occasionally surprising perspectives that these approaches can bring to peace research. Thus, the history of German peace activism during the 1950s is becoming much more intertwined with the country's general social and cultural history of the time, whereas the 1960s seem to confront peace historians with exactly the opposite challenge, namely to extricate genuine peace movements from the general social and cultural upheaval of this tumultuous decade. This article stresses some commonalities between the two periods, including the theme of nationalism as an undercurrent of German peace activism, the latter's frequently bellicose rhetoric, and the importance of emotions both for peace and protest groups themselves and for their confrontations with authorities and the public at large.