Monday 23 January 2023

Suttner, Bertha von "Lay Down Your Arms"

Suttner, Bertha von "Lay Down Your Arms" or "Down with Weapons!" (German: Die Waffen nieder!) - 1889
This is my eleventh Classic Spin and we were given #6.

A present from a dear friend who knows what I appreciate. On the German cover, the description says: "Der Roman für den Frieden" - "The Novel for Peace."

And that's what it is. Bertha von Suttner inspired Alfred Nobel to add the Nobel Peace Prize to the different categories in 1901. Four years later, she was the first woman to receive it. And well deserved.

The name of the protagonist is different from the author, yet the book is always described as an auto-biography. Bertha von Suttner grew up in a similar environment as her Martha Althaus. And at the same time. She lived during a time where war was something people not just accepted but rejoiced about, a lot of the men in her surroundings, nobility like herself, were soldiers, many of the women wives of soldiers. And it was clear in the society, that children should be raised to become soldiers and fight for their country, as well.

Bertha von Suttner lived from 1843 to 1914, so she died just a month before the outbreak of WWI. It was probably good that she didn't live to see this anymore though I am sure she knew what was coming. I have only just read a book about 1913 (illies) and most people didn't have a clue though I am sure she did.

In her book, she writes about the horrors of war, not just what the soldiers have to go through but mainly what their loved ones have to suffer. Her book was a huge success, she didn't seem to be the only one who thought this world would be better off without wars. I totally agree with her but we still haven't learned.

Bertha von Suttner was probably one of the first pacifists. Leo Tolstoy compared of her novel to that of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the same result to war than to slavery. I wish he had been right.

She also founded the German Peace Society.

From the back cover:

"Lay Down Your Arms! (novel), English title of the 1889 novel "Die Waffen Nieder!" by the Austrian pacifist activist Bertha von Suttner, who received the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize for it. 'We English-speaking people, whether in England, in the Colonies, or in the United States, being ourselves in no immediate danger of seeing our homes invaded, and our cities laid under contribution by hostile armies, are apt to forget how terribly the remembrance of such calamities, and the constant threat of their recurrence, haunt the lives of our Continental brethren.' - T. Holmes

Austrian novelist Bertha von Suttner was one of the first notable woman pacifists. She is credited with influencing Alfred Nobel in the establishment of the Nobel Prize for Peace, of which she was the recipient in 1905. Her major novel,
Die Waffen nieder! (1889; Lay Down Your Arms!), has been compared in popularity and influence with Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The daughter of an impoverished Austrian field marshal, she was a governess to the wealthy Suttner family from 1873. She became engaged to Baron Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner (1850-1902), an engineer and novelist, seven years her junior. The opposition of his family to this match caused her, in 1876, to answer Nobel's advertisement for a secretary-housekeeper at his Paris residence. After only a week she returned to Vienna and secretly married Suttner.

Bertha von Suttner received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 "for her audacity to oppose the horrors of war."

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Here are all the books on my original Classics Club list.
And here is a list of all the books I read with the Classics Spin.


  1. I wish my library had this one; it sounds like a powerful and important kind of book.

    1. It is powerful. No wonder she received the Nobel Prize. Maybe you'll find it some day, Lark.

  2. Well done on your spin! And I didn't know this author

    1. Thanks, Emma. She is better known for her Peace Prize than for her books but this is a great one.

  3. Thank you for this review, so inspiring. I am sure everyone should read a book like this. I think most of us in Europe did not expect to see another war here. But, alas ...

    1. You are right, Lisbeth. Having the Irish "troubles" at our door and then later the Yugoslavian wars was bad enough, but many didn't even notice or car. This one is different. It affects and threatens us all.
      And yes, there are certainly other books that will tell us not to go to war again, actually almost every book about the war should tell us that but some people won't listen, especially those who initiate them.