Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum

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The “Free Germany” movement in Zürich was founded in August of 1943 at the suggestion of German Communist émigrés from Gordola internment camp. Other groups soon arose in other areas of Switzerland.

Initially provisional in nature since the “Free Germany” movement was still illegal in Switzerland, the national leadership consisted of six Communists, two Social Democrats, one democrat and one representative of the Confessing Church in Germany – Charlotte von Kirschbaum. She had followed Barth to Switzerland in 1935 as his assistant.

Karl Barth enabled committee members to meet with representatives of Protestant émigrés at his house in February of 1945. He commented on the meeting in a letter: The Christian émigrés unfortunately did not exactly do well next to the much greater simplicity of good will of the others who called themselves atheists but actually responded much more Christian (Busch, 338).

The Swiss government recognized the movement in March of 1945 and allowed its journal “Free Germany”. Kirschbaum was elected to the executive board in May. According to Barth, she knew how to treat the red and reddish men extraordinarily well (Busch, 338).

In his brochure “How Can the Germans Be Cured?”, Barth called upon all free Germans in April of 1945 to join the “Free Germany” movement.

The Swiss National Committee for “Free Germany” advocated improving the situation of émigrés, informed the Swiss public about the political situation in Germany in publications and lectures, addressed reparations issues and advocated establishing a free, democratic Germany. At the instigation of the KPD, the “Free Germany” movement resolved on December 16, 1945 to disband.

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  • © Karl Barth-Archiv Basel

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