In between the international district and popular neighbourhoods, we find early initiatives for peace education that included a peace museum. Today, the Bertha von Suttner Building houses a wide range of international peace and human rights NGOs.
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”
– Albert Einstein
The Laan van Meerdervoort demarcates a traditional social division line between aristocratic districts (‘the sand’) and popular neighbourhoods (‘the moor’). Here, the proximity of the Peace Palace inspired educational initiatives to reach out to a wider audience. After the First World War, peace movements made massive use of visual media to raise public consciousness of the atrocities of war, such as images of the use of poison gas and graphic schemes of the new peace order offered by the League of Nations.
In 1927 pacifist vicar Johannes Hugenholtz (1888-1973) set up a Peace Room (Vredeskamer) that, since 1930, was located at no. 89, with a permanent exhibition, library and bookshop. Supported by a national peace movement coalition, Hugenholtz devised a larger Peace House (Vredeshuis) at no. 19 as an international centre, including a peace museum. A prominent supporter was Albert Einstein, who worked in 1932 as extraordinary professor at Leiden University. Einstein demanded that the Peace House should become a joint project of organisations like War Resisters International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and International Fellowship of Reconciliation: “The worst thing we pacifists could do is to offer the militarists the spectacle of discord.”
In 1933, after Hitler’s taking over of power in Germany, this movement became divided over the principle of conscientious objection. Einstein, as Jewish-German refugee in the US, distanced himself from the antimilitarist demand. The Peace House opened in 1934 as a Dutch centre of peace education and debate. The wide range of lecturers included for instance Jacob ter Meulen, director of the Peace Palace Library and expert on peace movement history, and Otto Neurath, exiled philosopher of the Vienna Circle, the inventor of public information through pictograms. From the Peace House, also a mobile exhibition crossed the country as a War Alert Service (Oorlogswaarschuwingsdienst).
Today, the Bertha von Suttner Building at no. 70 serves as a new international peace house, bringing together a wide range of NGOs, including the International Network of Museums for Peace. The memory of Hugenholtz and his many imaginative initiatives still inspire new visual methods for promoting a peace culture.