Proponent of Peace during both World Wars
On the eve of World War I, religious leaders gathered in Konstanz, Germany for the first “World Conference of Churches for Peace.” Germany had already declared war against Russia, and the conference had to be suspended. Conference participants were evacuated through the German and French lines as the European powers plunged into the war that would devastate their continent.
On a train platform German pastor Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze and British Quaker Dr. Henry Hodgkin pledged to each other: “Whatever happens, nothing is changed between us. We are one in Christ and can never be at war.” Their pledge was the foundation for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which later became the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Siegmund-Schultze had a history of peacemaking and ecumenical activities leading up to 1914. He was secretary for the Church Committee for Friendly Relations Between Great Britain and Germany. In 1911 he and his wife founded Soziale Arbeitergemeinschaft Berlin-Ost (Social Worker Community, Berlin East), an organization that was shut down by the Nazis once they came to power.
During World War I, Siegmund-Schultze sought various means to ameliorate the suffering during the war. He established an organization to care for the needs of British and German Prisoners of War. Working with Quakers he established the Reconciliation Alliance (Versöhnungsbund) to help feed needy school children.
Following the War in 1925, Siegmund-Schultze became a professor of social pedagogy and social ethics at the University of Berlin. As the Nazis rose in power he helped organize an international aid committee for German Jewish refugees. In 1933 the Nazis arrested him under 93 charges of “racial help.” He was exiled from Germany along with his wife and four children, finding refuge in Switzerland.
After World War II, he returned to academia, Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universitat in Münster, Germany where he continued his work in social ethics and pedagogy.