Hans Paasche

„My name is Paasche, I was a naval officer and am now a revolutionary!” Berlin, November 9th, 1918

Chronology of Hans Paasche’s Life (by Werner Lange)

A sketch of Hans Paasche’s life, compiled by P. Werner Lange.

1881 Born at Rostock at the 3rd of April to a wealthy family. His father, Prof. Dr. Hermann Paasche, was an economics professor and a national-liberal delegate of the German Reichstag (vice-president of the Reichstag during 1903-09 and 1912-18); his mother, Elise Paasche, became a fairly well known author. Childhood at Rostock, Marburg, Berlin, and at his father’s country estate Waldfrieden (near the former Wiesental, now Przesieki, in Poland).

1899 Paasche joins the German Navy, serving as a midshipman. 1901 ensign, 1902 lieutenant.

1904 Promoted to first lieutenant, Paasche serves as a navigation officer on cruiser “Bussard” on the coast of German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania). Before arriving, he learned Kiswahili and borrowed a phonograph from the Ethnological Museum at Berlin. Many hunting trips and photo-safaris into the interior of the country. He photographed wild animals at closer distances than anyone did before.

1905 So-called Maji-maji-uprising in German East Africa. Paasche becomes commander in chief in the Rufiji-region (southern Tanzania).

He commands decisive combats, but also takes pains to reach a swift pacification. Refugees and defeated Africans find medical help and shelter at his headquarters at Mtanza. Decorated with the Order of the Crown with Swords, but taken from command, because of his independent peace negotiations. His experiences during the uprising and his guilt feelings over his actions changed his life forever.

1906 Serving on the “Bussard” again, Paasche fell sick with malaria and had a recovery-stay near Mount Kilimanjaro. First publications for newspapers of the colony (themes mostly hunting and game-protection), first recordings of African songs, story-tellers, and myths. Return to Germany. Paasche meets members of the military and criticizes German brutality during the uprising.

1907 Engagement to Gabriele (Ellen) Witting, daughter of Richard Witting, a banker and former Lord Mayor of Posen (Poznan). Paasche publishes his first book: “Im Morgenlicht” (impressions of war and of hunting in Africa, but also valuable ethnographical materials).

1908 Marriage to Ellen Witting. Navigation officer of the vessel of the line “Schlesien” at the Baltic port of Kiel. Member of several “Lebensreform-Bewegungen” (life reform movements), founder of the “Association of abstinent officers of the Imperial Navy”.

1909 Paasche resigned with the rank of captain-lieutenant and embarked with his wife on a journey to British East Africa (Kenya) and German East Africa: an eleven month voyage of exploration which took the couple from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, to the regions of Burundi, Rwanda, and to the borderland of the Congo. Later on, their impressions of this voyage inspired publications like “Lukanga Mukara”, or Ellen Paasche’s “Makotis Ehe”.

1910 Ellen Paasche is the first European woman at the source of the White Nile and on the summits of some of the Virunga volcanoes. The couple collects, records African songs and music, and takes photographs for the now probably lost manuscript “Wedding trip to the Sources of the Nile”. Return to Germany in August.

1911 For a short time, Paasche tries an existence as a manager of a German shipping-company, trading on Lake Victoria. But the prospects of his employers differ seriously from his own. He becomes an active member of the German peace-, youth-, life reform-, and environment-protection movements. Together with Hermann Popert, he founds a journal for life reform, called “Der Vortrupp” (The Vanguard).

1912 Paasche acquires the estate Waldfrieden (Forest peace) near Wiesental (now Przesieki) from his father and chooses it for permanent residence. His publications in “Der Vortrupp” range from vegetarianism, feminism, and nature protection to social reforms. In May, appears the first letter of “The Exploratory Expedition of the African Lukanga Mukara into Innermost Germany”: the only one of his books still in print today. This satirical view of German lifestyles and attitudes gained immediate popularity. Hans Paasche became one of the most charismatic public figures of the Wilhelmine era, well known for openly advocating his provocative ideas.

1913 Because of holding pacifistic lectures in uniform, Paasche is prosecuted by military courts of honour. Being an idol of the youth-movement, he takes part in the celebrated Hohe Meissner Meeting and warns of the growing danger of war in Europe.

1914 As most of his countrymen, Paasche believes Germany to be threatened by other powers. He briefly returns to active duty. Because of his pacifist past, he is ordered to do lower duties for example as an observer in a lighthouse, far away from the German coast.

1915 Out of his utter disregard for class distinctions, Paasche tries to improve the primitive living conditions of his inferiors by sports, cultural and life-reform lectures, and edits a journal for them. He organizes secret meetings, spreading the ideas of the anti-war movement.

1916 Because Paasche refused to take part in a court-martial, he is dismissed from duty in January. He lives at Waldfrieden again and plunges himself into the anti-war movement. He publishes a bestseller: “Fremdenlegionär Kirsch”. The novel is translated into half a dozen languages, though there is censorship in Germany, and the tendency of the book is anti-nationalistic and anti-militaristic. Paasche becomes a committee member of the illicit “Bund Neues Vaterland” and is founding member of the “Zentralstelle Völkerrecht” (pacifist organisations). Disappointed and deeply depressed over the death toll in the war and the nationalist illusions of his former comrades in the life reform-movement, he gives up his work for “Der Vortrupp”.

1917 Underground activity: Hans Paasche spreads pacifist literature smuggled into Germany by pacifist circles, who had escaped to Switzerland and his own leaflets. In his own leaflets he calls for a general strike in ammunition factories, or for desertion, to end the war by all possible means. He is supported by his wife, his secretary Max Koch, and French prisoners of war, working at the Waldfrieden estate. Arrest in September, detention at Schneidemühl (now Pila). Paasche is on trial for high treason and betrayal of the country.

1918 Detained at the “Irrenbeobachtungsanstalt des Zellengefäng-nisses Berlin-Moabit” (observation-station for insane prisoners) nobody seems to be interested in sentencing to death the son of the vice-president of the Reichstag and son-in-law of the director of the National Bank of Germany. Later confined to a Berlin sanatorium (“military security detention”). In the first days of November, Paasche is liberated by rebellious sailors in the German November Revolution. He serves a brief term in the Berlin Worker’s and Soldier’s Council and tries in vain to organize a national court. He is forced out by right-wing social democrats. Ellen Paasche dies suddenly at the age of twentynine, and Paasche has to return to Waldfrieden, to take care of his four children.

1919 Paasche’s most important political publications appear: “Meine Mitschuld am Weltkriege” (My Share of the Guilt for the World War) and “Das verlorene Afrika” (The Lost Africa). After the murder of Rosa Luxemburg (Paasche was one of the official wreath-bearers) and Karl Liebknecht, he has to hide for weeks, because his name is on the murder-lists of the Freikorps. Nevertheless, he still takes part in national and international campaigns for peace, understanding among nations, and a League of Nations. His estate Waldfrieden becomes a shelter for hunted revolutionaries.

1920 On the 21st of May sixty soldiers encircled the estate Waldfrieden. Paasche was anonymously denounced to the authorities as a “well known pacifist and antimilitarist, hiding weapons for a  revolt”. Coming from the lake after a swim, Hans Paasche was shot to death from an ambush. There was no warrant of arrest. Later on, the authorities announced that the murder was the consequence of “unfortunate circumstances”. The soldiers did not belong to the notorious Freikorps they were soldiers of the just founded German Republic! Hundreds of people came to Waldfrieden for the funeral. One of the orators was the famous writer Kurt Tucholsky.

1981 For the first time since 1921, a group of young historians publishes some of Paasche’s publications. In the meantime, he was largely forgotten. His daughter Helga Paasche created the Hans-Paasche-Archives later on the source for a detailed biography.

1985 With the approval of the Polish Ministry of Culture, Helga Paasche removes the tombstone of her father from Waldfrieden to the Archives of the German Youth Movement on Ludwigstein Castle, where it is part of a permanent Hans-Paasche-exhibition.

1987 Paasche’s biographer Werner Lange discovers the overgrown burial-place. He erects a cross with an epitaph.

1992 The publisher Helmut Donat and Helga Paasche publish a collection of Hans Paasche’s writings.

1995 The first detailed biography of Hans Paasche appears.

2003 Dr Jerzy Giergielewicz publishes a study on Hans Paasche‘s life and ideas, followed by articles in Polish newspapers.

2004 After a decision of the mayor of Krzyz, Hans Paasche’s grave is converted into a public place of memory.


– MAGNUS SCHWANTJE: Hans Paasche. Sein Leben und Wirken (= Flugschriften des Bundes Neues Vaterland, Nr. 26/27), Berlin 1921

– OTTO WANDERER (d.i. Otto Buchinger): Paasche-Buch, Hamburg 1921

– FRANZISKUS HÄHNEL: Erinnerungen an Hans Paasche. In: Junge Menschen, 3. Jg., Heft 11/12, Juni 1922

– HELMUT DONAT, WILFRIED KNAUER (Ê.): „Auf der Flucht“ erschossen. Schriften und Beiträge von und über Hans Paasche (= Schriftenreihe Das Andere Deutschland, Nr. 1), Bremen/Zeven 1981

– REINHOLD LÜTGEMEIER-DAVIN: Hans Paasche (1881-1920), Lebensreformer, Anti-Preuße, Revolutionär. In: Jahrbuch des Archivs der deutschen Jugendbewegung Bd. 13, Burg Ludwigstein 1981

– HELGA PAASCHE: Ein Leben für unsere Zukunft. Hans Paasche zum 65. Todestag. In: Jahrbuch des Archivs der deutschen Jugendbewegung Bd. 15, Burg Ludwigstein 1984-85

– PETER MORRIS-KEITEL: Umwertung aller Werte. Hans Paasches

„Lukanga Mukara“ neu gelesen. In: Jahrbuch des Archivs der deutschen Jugendbewegung 17, Burg Ludwigstein 1988-92

– HORST NAUMANN: Hans Paasche. Pazifist Revolutionär Kommunist. In: Die Novemberrevolution und die Gründung der KPD. Protokoll der wissenschaftlichen Konferenz …, Teil 1, Berlin 1989

– HANS PAASCHE (E. HELMUT DONAT, HELGA PAASCHE): Ändert Euren Sinn! Schriften eines Revolutionärs (= Schriftenreihe Geschichte und Frieden, Bd. 2), Bremen 1992

– KARL H. SOLBACH: Hans Paasche Offizier, Reformer, Revolutionär. In: CORNELIUS NEUTSCH, KARL H. SOLBACH (E.), Reise in die Kaiserzeit. Ein deutsches Kaleidoskop, Leipzig 1994

– P. WERNER LANGE: Hans Paasches Forschungsreise ins innerste Deutschland. Eine Biographie, Bremen 1995

– ALAN NOTHNAGLE: Metanoia! Hans Paasche ein lebensreformerischer Visionär. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 45. Jg., Nr. 9, Berlin 1997

– GOTTFRIED PAASCHE, JOAQUIN KUHN (E.): The Strange Story of the Shooting of Captain Hans Paasche. The Writings and Actions of a Peace Martyr, Toronto 2001

– JERZY GIERGIELEWICZ: Hans Paasche: fascynujaca postac Niemca, w Polsce prawie nie znana. In: Wedrowiec Zachodniopomorski, 10. Jg., Nr. 2, Szczecin 2003

– HANS PAASCHE, P. WERNER LANGE: Die Legende von der Vertreibung der Kaiserin oder Potsdamer Beiträge zum deutsch-polnischen Jahr. In: Schriftzüge. Brandenburgische Blätter für Kunst und Literatur, 7. Jg., Nr.1, Potsdam 2005

– P. WERNER LANGE: Die Toten im Maisfeld. Hans Paasches Erkenntnisse aus dem Maji-Maji-Krieg. In: FELICITAS BECKER, JIGAL BEEZ (E.), Der Maji-Maji-Krieg in Deutsch-Ostafrika, 1905-1907, Berlin 2005

– WERNER LANGE (Transl. David Koblick): Hans Paasche. Militant Pacifist in Imperial Germany, Victoria 2005

– P. WERNER LANGE: „Und ich zweifelte, ob ich ein Krieger sei …” Der Kolonialoffizier und Pazifist Hans Paasche. In: ULRICH VAN DER HEYDEN, JOACHIM ZELLER (E.), Macht und Anteil an der Weltherrschaft. Berlin und der deutsche Kolonialismus, Münster 2005

– P. WERNER LANGE: Die Treppe zum Himmel. Zur Eröffnung einer Gedenkstätte für Hans Paasche in der Wojewodschaft Wielkopolska. In: Inter Finitimos. Jahrbuch zur deutsch-polnischen Beziehungsgeschichte 3, Osnabrück 2006

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