Louise Weiss: a committed European

Campaigner for peace

L. Weiss at the headquarters of L’Europe nouvelle

In 1930, Louise Weiss founded the Nouvelle École de la Paix in Paris. This ‘School of Peace’ was a private higher-education institution which organised conferences and debates at renowned French university the Sorbonne on international current affairs and the major political, economic, social and cultural issues of the day. Weiss sought to develop the teaching of peace and foster new expertise in conflict prevention.

While L’Europe nouvelle was primarily addressed at the ruling elites, she was also seeking to reach the general public with her message of peace: students, business leaders, teachers, civil servants.

Conferences would be held every week, with politicians, diplomats, journalists, university professors, economists and writers presenting lectures on subjects such as the global economic crisis, the borders in Europe, the rise of totalitarian regimes and European unity. Weiss ensured that the facility maintained a strong connection with the League of Nations, notably through traineeships, research grants and study trips to Geneva.

However, rising tensions in the 1930s made it increasingly difficult for the Nouvelle École de la Paix to continue its work. Weiss was quick to gauge the dangers of Nazism. Her hopes and efforts were effectively sabotaged by a speech given at the League of Nations by Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich’s Minister of Propaganda, who described Hitlerism as the foundation of order in Europe. He argued that a national-socialist Germany wanted to promote peace among nations.

For Weiss, this dangerous fanaticism was too much to bear, and she would soon feel compelled to abandon her educational efforts and move on to tackle other issues. The death of the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand in 1932 signaled the final blow to L'Europe nouvelle's last hopes for peace and Franco-German reconciliation. The unity of Europe would have to wait.