Congratulatory message on the opening of the Erasmus exhibition
in the Anti-War Museum, Berlin, 5th February 2017
Dear Tommy, dear Christian, dear friends of the Anti-War Museum, dear friends of Erasmus,
It is wonderful that today we are witnessing the opening of a new exhibition which brings together two of the greatest opponents of war of modern times: Ernst Friedrich and Desiderius Erasmus.
In all the literature against war, it is hard to find a more shocking depiction of its sheer brutality and horror than War Against War!/Krieg dem Kriege! What Friedrich depicted with photographs and acerbic captions, Erasmus depicted, 400 years earlier, in words only, but words that have never been bettered. Friedrich’s and Erasmus’ books against war complement each other admirably; no reader of them will ever be able to forget what they have seen and read.
The well-chosen quotations from Erasmus in this exhibition are illustrated by striking images of war, made by a contemporary of Erasmus who deserves to be remembered too – Hans Burgkmair – and this is a bonus. But the illustrations could equally well have come from Friedrich’s book.
This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Friedrich’s passing (on 2nd May 1967); Erasmus died not quite 500 years ago (1536). This lapse of time has in no way diminished the power of their anti-war writings and the continuing need to take to heart their message: the imperative to avoid war and violence, and to do our utmost to preserve and strengthen peace.
I am delighted that this exhibition is being held in the year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first publication of Querela Pacis/Complaint of Peace (1517) by the great humanist who was born in Rotterdam and who is frequently called the first European. The many striking quotations from this work, as well as from Dulce Bellum Inexpertis/Against War (published two years earlier), show the unsurpassed craftsmanship of their author as well as the depth of his passion against war. These stirring extracts will no doubt inspire many visitors who are unfamiliar with Erasmus’s writings against war to want to read them.
I would like to thank and congratulate my good friend Christian Bartolf for having made another great exhibition which may well be the only one in the world celebrating the fact that the first book in western civilisation fully devoted to world peace was published exactly 500 years ago. I would also like to thank Dominique Miething and other members of the Gandhi Information Center who have supported Christian’s creative exhibition work during the past ten years.
My grateful thanks also go to Tommy Spree as well as friends and volunteers of the Anti-War Museum for hosting this exhibition and, beyond, for supporting the museum. The Anti-War Museum embodies Erasmus’s protest against war and violence and provides a much-needed abode for peace and lovers of peace. Erasmus was, above all, an educator, and educational innovator, who would have felt very much at home in this museum. I very much hope that as a result of this exhibition, the museum will attract many new visitors.
With peaceful regards – Peter van den Dungen