Peace for the Soul

A common space for harmonic peacemakers

A Tribute to Max Daetwyler, the tireless, courageous Suisse Peace Activist

Max Daetwyler, born September 7, 1886 in Arbon in the canton of Thurgau and died January 26, 1976 in Zumikon in the canton of Zurich, was a radical pacifist in Switzerland.

He was considered one of the greatest “original” of Zurich in the 20th century.

He grew up near the Lake Constance as the eleventh of twelve children. His father was hotelier in Arbon.

Max Daetwyler made a commercial apprenticeship and then worked as sommelier  in Rome, Paris and London. After that he worked as manager in Bern.

During the mobilization of 1914 (he was 27), he protested against the war and refused to take an oath to the flag.

He was excluded from the army and locked up in a psychiatric hospital.

From that moment the authorities tried several times to incapacitate him with a pretext psychiatrique1, which could be avoided by the refusal of his home commune of origin Arbon.

After leaving the hospital, he created 1915 the association “Army of Peace” (Friedensarmee).

November 15, 1917, he organized an event with Max Rotter (1881-1964, Architekt), to end the war. They convinced the workers of two munition factories to go on strike for peace. —This was the outbreak of the political disturbances in Zurich, November 1917 (Zürcher Novemberunruhen).

Again Daetwyler was arrested and locked up in a psychiatric clinic.

After his release, he married Klara Brechbühl 1918 and moved to Zumikon on a farm, where they made a living with organically grown vegetables, flowers, bees (honey) and chicken-rearing; they also sold embroideries and brochures. — A daughter and a son were born there.

In 1932, Daetwyler started his peace-marches and new pacifist actions. At the end of a march to Geneva, he met Mahatma Gandhi. — He also went to Paris and participated in rallies in Zurich and Munich.

During the second World War hi adopted the white flag as a symbol—from then on he always had that accessory with him.


After the death of his wife 1959, he manifested in many places of decisions and conflict. Although hi wasn’t received by the heads of the governements, he went to East Berlin and West Berlin, Moscow, Washington, Havana, London, Cairo, Jerusalem and Switzerland in the Jura.

Thus was created his worldwide reputation as “Apostle with the white flag".                                                  

                        New York, 1963

Max Daetwyler’s pacifism was based on the Christian message of non-violence, charity, the sister/brotherly love and the necessary reconciliation of people after a war.

He called everyone to participate in the establishment of a global homeland by living in spiritual harmony.

His radical nonviolence led him in prison several times, both in Switzerland and abroad (for example in Russia).

There were people which made fun of him because of his obstinacy, and his positions were the subject of increasing criticism. Often he just wasn’t taken seriously.

Max Daetwyler: “Like all things, war does not begin when it becomes apparent, for the manufacture of weapons and the militarization of the people. But it has its origin in the mentality of the people, which can only be corrupted if it allows the preparation of war.”

Max Daetwyler: “Today the white flag waves over the Red Square—On the top of the Kremlin is the red flag of Lenin. What image for the Russian! We’ll see which flag is the strongest. I know it. The Kremlin lords guess it.” 

                       Geneva, Parc des Bastions, Monument of the Red Cross, 1968 

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