Pacifist opposition to Hitler

Based on some posts in other threads.

Would a pacifist organization have been able to offer any significant opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime? Either in Germany or from without?

I don’t want to debate whether this would have been the most effective form of resistance. Just assume, for the sake of this thread, that you’re the leader of a group of dedicated pacifists who will not use any violent methods. That includes supporting other people who will use violence.

Can you think of a non-violent campaign that would have had any reasonable effect against the Nazis?

How many people in this organisation? What is their budget? What are their connections? Are they active in 1932 or 1942?

It seems pretty obvious that a group of 10 million activists in the public services in 1932 would have stopped the Nazis cold. Just shut down all their finances, make false accusations and get them imprisoned, infiltrate meetings and sabotage everything they try to do and so forth.

Depends on the size of it, naturally. There’s no such thing as a victory by commando forces in nonviolent resistance: the success of any such endeavor depends very largely on the number of participants and their impact on public opinion.

Personally, I don’t believe that any realistically-sized pacifist movement in Nazi Germany during the war would have been able to accomplish anything more than increasing the death toll at concentration camps.

That’s not to say that no conceivable hypothetical pacifist movement could possibly have had any different effect. But I think that such a hypothetical movement would have had to sway a much larger proportion of hearts and minds than could be realistically expected in that particular historical context.

ETA: Or in other words, what Blake said.

I’d like to keep it within the bounds of reason. Let’s say a few hundred people. Maybe a couple of thousand tops. As for the time, let’s go with any point from 1932 on.

Also, what are their goals?

I think that the Rosenstrasse protest and the clerical opposition to the Nazi euthanasia program show that the Nazis were willing to (at least temporarily) accede to limited demands if made publicly by a small, determined group.

But if this hypothetical group were to demand an end to all aggressive expansionism or anti-Jewish measures (that the Nazis not be Nazis, in other words) then I think they would have been eliminately in as quiet a way as was possible.

Then I stand by my earlier opinion: No.

Hard to see how. Too many pacifists refuse to identify and punish evil. Such an organization would most likely be as much a hindrance to to the Allies as the Axis. I think of that Catholic fool who protested outside the White House every day during the war asking the US to go to the peace table with Hitler.

Both sides seemed to be equally evil to him.

Someone who would imprison others under false pretenses is not a pacifist in any meaningful sense of the word, even if they get someone else to do their dirty work.

That seems really small. I can’t imagine such a small organization accomplishing much in any country, let alone Nazi Germany.


Just for comparison purposes, Gandhi’s 1930 “Salt Satyagraha” alone (civilly disobeying the colonial government’s ban on independent domestic salt manufacture) over the course of a year resulted in some 80,000 imprisonments among millions of nonviolent protesters.

And mind you, this was when the satyagraha or nonviolent resistance approach had been officially adopted by the Indian National Congress as their chief strategy for seeking independence. And it still didn’t actually accomplish anything in the short run in terms of changing the imperial salt policy.

I believe that in theory and in time, nonviolent resistance in a good cause can accomplish any purpose and overcome any evil. But it isn’t quick, cheap, or painless, and there are no guarantees that it will be effective in any given situation in the short term. And if the violent attackers are effective enough in the short term, then there isn’t going to be any long term.

I guess the question I’m asking is if there are situations where pacifism is hopeless and surrender or violence are the only answers.

Personally, if I were in the situation I described, the best plan I would have would be to set up an underground railroad system to help Jews and other targetted people escape Germany. It wouldn’t be toppling the Nazi regime but it would be accomplishing something through non-violent means.

No. However, there are many situations where pacifism is realistically incapable of accomplishing a particular short-term objective, and surrender, violence, or principled acceptance of death while nonviolently resisting to the last are the only answers.

Yep, that’s basically what the folks of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon did:

Yes - but as has been pointed out, the commitment would have to be from millions of people, not your hypothetical hundreds. That’s not an organisation, that’s a supper club.

Pre-war or during?

ISTM that making false accusations is crossing or blurring some lines with pacifists. Wouldn’t that be making the government do your dirty work? Doesn’t the government kinda have the monopoly on legal force/violence?

Also, sabotage isn’t really pacifist either. Indirect violence is still violence. People die when you sabotage machinery.

It’s hard to see pacifism have much of an impact on a government whose entire political philosophy is based on a belief in constant, endless warfare. They wouldn’t have seen pacifists as brave or honorable, they would have seen them as weak.

Not this one. I mean, I don’t lie in general, but it’s got absolutely nothing to do with my pacifism. And I have no hesitation in lying to governments if I want to. Governments are not the same thing as real people. Common mistake, that.

If the government’s actors want violence on their conscience, that is up to them.

Yes, it is.

No, it isn’t. There’s no such thing as “indirect violence”

Correction - people might die if you sabotage machinery in a piss-poor fashion. If you do it right, the machinery is unusable from the get-go. We’re not talking tree-spiking here, or cutting brakelines.Those are hardly effective enough. Much better to blow up substations and trainlines…and no, before you quibble, you warn people that the trainlines are down before a train comes along.

Would ex lax or releasing some equivalent of the era laxative in the military water supply cross the pacifist line?

Something like that could really hinder the nazi troops, and leave them scared of their own rations, if repeated enough.