Document 10: "Report on the Work of the Committee Against Scientific Warfare of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom," 4 May 1925. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Collection, IV-7-13, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, WILPF Papers, 1915-1978 (Microfilm, Reel 103, frames 1741-44).
The Committee Against Scientific Warfare committed many hours to informing the national sections, the scientific community, and the general public about the dangers of chemical warfare. This report outlining their approach, including the efforts of different sections and individuals, was sent to all the national sections. As the report shows, the United States section did not yet play a significant role in the efforts to eliminate chemical warfare.
REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE
COMMITTEE AGAINST SCIENTIFIC WARFARE
OF THE WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM
Since the meeting in Berlin, October 1924, local Committees have been formed in many of the sections, which have in different ways, worked on the common basis of the resolution passed at Washington.
Dr Woker’s pamphlets were distributed in English, French, and German speaking countries, and a leaflet on the same subject in Swedish by Dr Sahlbom was used in Scandinavian countries and largely distributed especially in Norway.
An appeal to the scientists of the world, drafted at the Berlin meeting was sent to the sections for revision according to national needs. From several sections short reports as to the results were received.
The German group of the Czechoslovakian Section used a special appeal drafted by Dr Wiechovsky, emphasising also the possibility of bacteriological warfare. This was sent to scientific societies, and academies, faculties of medicine and of science at the universities, and to technical schools. Of these the following have signed the appeal:
- The faculty of medicine at the German University in Prague (signed by the Dean.)
- A German technical school in Brunn (Czechlosvakia) (signed by the Dean.)
- The German Polytechnicum in Prague (signed by more than 20 professors.)
- The German Society of Medicine and Science, "Lotos."
The faculty of science of the German University has refused to sign.
An attempt of the German and the Czech group in Czechoslovakia, to arrange a public meeting with two speakers on Chemical Warfare could not be carried out on account of local difficulties.
The German Group would find it a great help if the names of the prominent French scientists who have signed the appeal would be published, because German scientists find it impossible to sign as long as they are not sure of the co-operation of the Entente scientists.
In England it has been especially difficult to make use of the appeal. Dr. Williams has hoped to get the support of Professor Soddy, but although he was willing to fight against war, he would not fight against a special branch of war. She also hoped to persuade the British scientists to issue a special appeal of their own.
The French Section has arranged several public meetings dealing with Chemical Warfare. When Dr Woker passed through Paris a public meeting was arranged, to which scientists and technicians were invited to hear her address, which seems to have made a very good impression, and has resulted in cooperation with some prominent scientists. Professor Langevin has drafted an appeal of his own which he is trying to get his colleagues to sign. This proves that he considers our section to be very important and is a most encouraging result.
The German Committee continued its work directly after the Berlin meeting on an even wider basis. The members of the Committee spoke in public about the horrors of a future war and distributed printed matter on the same subject.
In many large public meetings speeches were delivered. Frida Perlen went to the Ruhr district where she spoke on this subject at large meetings in Duisberg, Dortmund, Bochum, etc. , and found great interest everywhere, especially amongst the working classes, together with the greatest ignorance of the scientific methods of a future warfare. With the help of Dr. Gertrud Woker’s excellent material they were able to deal with the arguments of the opposers.
A pamphlet, of which the first hundred thousand copies are already distributed, was used not only by local groups, but also by other sympathetic organisations. Its title is "A Hell of Poison and Fire." The famous German artist Kate Kollwitz, gave an impressive drawing for it.
Another book of Dr Gertrud Woker’s was published on behalf of the German Section under the title of "The coming war of Poison Gas," with four illustrations. The first chapter deals, as the title suggests, with the coming war of poison gas. In the second chapter Dr Woker gives a German translation of the report of the expert committee to the League of Nations. In the third chapter she deals with the composition and the effects of poison gas, its prohibition and control. Short articles, such as a quotation from Maxim Gorki, were also published.
An attempt has been made in all the local branches of the German Section to form sub-committees charged to report on all their work to the Secretary of the German committee.
The appeal to scientists, sent out from the Geneva office, was made known partly through the press. It was equally through the press that the Committee published notices about the future scientific warfare. Only a few signatures have so far been obtained. The reason was, however, that the appeal had not been signed by its authors, Dr Sahlbom and Dr Woker, as had been decided at the Berlin meeting. This would have been far more effective.
In Sweden several meetings have been held, concerning the question of a war of poison gas.
The appeal has been printed in Swedish with an amendment emphasizing the importance of an international co-operation of scientists for moral disarmament, as a basis for mechanical disarmament.
The appeal was sent to:--
- Faculties of Science and Medicine of the Universities.
- Scientific academies and societies.
- Technical high schools and institutes.
- A large number of teachers of science and many individual professors.
- About 100 physicians.
To many of the scientists the Report of the expert Committee of the League of Nations was enclosed.
Very few have answered, but one very well known professor of medicine, Dr Holmgren, sent a very sympathetic, although pessimistic letter.
The Swedish Red Cross sent an approving answer reminding that the Red Cross had always tried to prevent the use of poison gases and had tried to make the prohibition regulations effective.
In spite of the lack of answers the appeal has been a good means of propaganda.
It has been translated by the Danish Section, which sent it to Danish scientists.
The Norwegian Section tried to get Nansen to sign the original appeal, but he thought it impossible to protest against misuse of science in war, as long as war is a legal expedient. He said: "War must be declared illegal."
In Switzerland Dr Woker has given several addresses in different towns, and her pamphlets have been widely distributed by the central office in Geneva, as well as by the Swiss Section.