Staying Civil: Conscientious Objection and Civil Society in West Germany, 1956-1966
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In the years following WWII, the West German peace movement emerged from its dormancy, developed into a popular movement, rose to challenge the policy of the government, and changed the character of West German society. The development of peace activism in postwar West Germany was a process that required the efforts of people willing to push the boundaries of the normal spheres of political life. The training ground for many of these peace activists was the West German conscientious objection (CO) movement. By studying their learning process as they rediscovered pacifist traditions as well as the organizations and the transnational networks they cultivated, we can learn a great deal about the foundations of the protest movements of the late 1960s. This dissertation examines the origins and activities of the early West German CO protest groups and problematizes the role of these groups in the early West German peace movement. The groups were an integral part of the broader German peace movement and frequently participated in peace demonstrations both nationally and internationally. The organizational development of the CO groups in the 1950s and early 1960s laid the groundwork for the emergence of larger and more popular protest movements that played major roles in the turbulent late 1960s. The individual actors who were the catalysts of change and growth for the conscientious objection movement and the peace movement as a whole are an essential element of my dissertation. The contacts they made, the relationships they developed, the philosophical teachings they (re-)discovered, and the protest culture they cultivated are fundamental to understanding how the peace movement left its mark on West German society. Often dismissed as a ‘single issue’ campaign, I argue that although CO groups primarily focused on conscientious objection, they also promoted a complex set of issues regarding political legitimacy, the role of the postwar state, and challenged the right of an older generation over the use of their bodies. My work challenges the traditional understanding of the conscientious objection movement in West Germany and elucidates the early development of extra-parliamentary opposition.
Donnelly, Jared Ryan (2015). Staying Civil: Conscientious Objection and Civil Society in West Germany, 1956-1966. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from