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Swords into Ploughshares Proposal 1989 (East Germany)

Schwerter zu Pflugscharen

Last modified: 2012-12-29 by pete loeser
Keywords: east germany | german democratic republic | schwerter zu pflugscharen | text: german |
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['Schwerter zu Pflugscharen' proposal 1989 (East Germany)] 3:5 Image by Jaume Ollé, 31 May 1998

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Description: Swords into Ploughshares Proposal 1989
Schwerter zu Pflugscharen

Schwerter zu Pflugscharen means "swords into plowshares". Source: Flaggenforum.
Jaume Ollé, 31 May 1998

The symbol Schwerter zu Pflugscharen (see Jesaja 2.4) was the most important emblem of the German Democratic Republic's opposition movement in the 1980s which finally lead to the "revolution" of 1989 and the German unification. There was no unitary organisation or party, but a large number of local groups (most of them protected - but not ruled - by the Church) with different political orientations unified in their opposition to the Communist regime and mostly inspired by pacifism, democracy and ecological ideas. I cannot remember seeing the flag you are presenting. Under the pressure of the German Democratic Republic police and security service it would not have been possible to use a flag like this in the public. The symbol was mostly shown on scarfs, buttons and so on; but not (or very rarely) combined with the colors of the national flag.
Thomas Binder, 4 August 1998

The SZP was a somewhat informal (not completely legal) pacifist group, largely church connected, although like everything in the DDR, it was also infiltrated by the Stasi [Staatssicherheit or State Security]. I would not call it as a political party, legal or not.
Norman Martin, 20 June 2000

The "swords into plowshares" flag may not have been physically present during the demonstrations in 1989, but it was widely discussed. One of the leading opposition groups Neues Forum (New Forum or New Panel) published a "Proposal for a new Constitution for the German Democratic Republic". The article concerning the National Flag described exactly the flag shown above.
Volker Moerbitz Keith, 26 June 2000

Originally founded as 'Peace Weeks" in the Netherlands in the 1970s. In 1980, the West German and East German Lutheran Churches both started having "Peace Decades", using the Bible quote "beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks". The quote soon became a unifying motto for a lot of small illegal civil rights groups. In 1986, the Initiative für Frieden und Menschenrechte actually organized a symbolic act in which a blacksmith really turned a sword into a ploughshare. Symbol and quote were used (legally) in churches and stickers were put (illegally) at other places to demonstrate the existence of opposition groups throughout East Germany. More (in German) at this website (logo here).
Volker Moerbitz Keith, 1 February 2001

The idea most likely came originally from Isaiah 2:4: "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."
Jonathan Dixon, 8 October 2001


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