‘No’ to the War!
29 July 1914: Large pacifist meeting at the Cirque royal. The previous day, Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. It had all begun a month earlier, when the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke François-Ferdinand had been assassinated by Serbian nationalists in Sarajevo. In the context of diplomatic alliances, all Europe was threatened to go up in flame. While international tension was at its peak, pacifist currents were mobilized. On 29 July, a huge crowd gathered at the Cirque royal to say ‘no!’ to war.
The most powerful voice that evening was that of French socialist Jean Jaurès. He took the floor last, denouncing the horrors of the upcoming war. “When I see happy couples passing by in our cities,” shouted Jaurès to the gallery, “beside the man whose heart is beating, beside the woman animated with great maternal love, I seem to see Death marching, ready to become visible.” Refusing the war and hastening the reconciliation of the European nations was the only exit: “Humane men of all countries,” he concluded under a thunder of applause, “this is the task of peace and justice that we must accomplish!” This would also be Jaurès’ last meeting. Two days later, the pacifist leader was assassinated in Paris. The hope that peace would prevail disappeared with him. The European war would indeed take place!