Letter from Romain Rolland to Frederik van Eeden, 12 January 1915
On 24 January 1915, the Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden published a letter written by his close friend, the French writer Romain Rolland, in the Dutch weekly De Amsterdammer. In his letter to van Eeden, Rolland encouraged like-minded intellectuals to stay true to the idea of 'world brotherhood' and transcend nationalist conflicts. He made a plea for democracy, the protection of oppressed smaller nations such as Belgium and Poland, and the right for people to be self-determinant. Rolland published this open letter to van Eeden in his famous book Au-dessus de la mêlée in 1915. To read the original letter, please click on the sources above.
In neutral countries rather unaffected by censorship, there was space for internationalist, anti-militarist, pacifist, and Europe-minded intellectuals to unite, publish, correspond, and lecture. In late 1914, the internationalist Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden invited writers, painters, and political activists from all belligerent and neutral nations to discuss the war in his ‘international column’ in the Dutch weekly De Amsterdammer. Through this column, van Eeden hoped to restore the shattered dialogue among European intellectuals. His close friend Rolland, a Swiss exile, was one of the first writers to contribute to the column. Van Eeden gave ample room to often censured, anti-war voices from Germany and Austria, such as the writer Walter von Molo, to English war critics, such as the writer Isräel Zangwill, and neutrals, such as the Swiss poet Carl Spitteler and the American novelist Upton Sinclair.