Grimm-Hoffmann affair

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Grimm-Hoffmann affair was a scandal caused by Robert Grimm and Arthur Hoffmann , which called the neutrality of Switzerland into question during the First World War . The social democratic politician Robert Grimm traveled to Russia to negotiate a separate peace between Russia and Germany in the interests of socialism. He was supported by the then Swiss Federal Councilor and Foreign Minister Arthur Hoffmann. As a pretext for this trip, he declared that he wanted to help Russian emigrants return to Russia, which was only a small part of the actual mission. The telegram communication between Grimm and Hoffmann was intercepted and published, whereby the Allied Powers learned about the negotiations. Both politicians had to resign from their professional activities.

Robert Grimm


In 1917 the First World War was still ongoing. German troops fought in the west against the powers France and Great Britain and in the east together with troops of the Danube Monarchy against Russia and Romania . These Entente alliances wanted to keep the war going on both fronts for as long as possible so that German troops would be busy and thereby weakened on two fronts at the same time. The Switzerland received its neutrality in World War upright and was not directly involved as a war party in it.

In the February Revolution on March 8, 1917, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown. Lenin , then leader of the Bolshevik Party of Russia, who was still living in exile in Zurich at the time , wanted to travel to Russia as quickly as possible to take advantage of this revolutionary situation. He was willing to start peace negotiations with Germany in order to strengthen his Bolshevik party.

Grimm's trip to Russia

When the news of the outbreak of the revolution in Russia reached Grimm, he was just as surprised as Lenin, since it contradicted the Marxist theory that a bourgeois revolution could break out in such a backward country (according to Marxist theory) , moreover suddenly and without any major organization - and planning time. Lenin himself, along with the other Russian socialists, began to think of a return to Russia. The “Central Committee for the Return of Political Refugees from Russia living in Switzerland” was then founded. However, Grimm was quickly removed from planning Lenin's return journey and replaced by Fritz Platten , as Lenin did not trust him.

The group decided to travel through Germany as traveling through France was deemed too dangerous. Robert Grimm was contacted to negotiate the feasibility of the trip with the Swiss government. Grimm sought out Federal Councilor and Foreign Minister Arthur Hoffmann . Although he was aware of the possible violation of Swiss neutrality through official negotiations between Russian emigrants and the Swiss government, he was also aware that it would be positive for Switzerland to bring these emigrants back to their own country. The Germans were also happy to let the revolutionaries back in their country, as they would increase the prevailing chaos there. After the permission of the German and Swiss governments, they set out.

While many of the Russian emigrants to entry permit from the Soviet of Petrograd waited traveled Grimm to Stockholm . The reason for this was that it was decided to move the bureau of the Zimmerwald movement there, as it would be a better base for revolutionary actions there. Grimm again turned to Hoffmann for a travel permit, who also helped him with this. Even the Freiherr von Romberg , the German ambassador had helped in Switzerland, the Grimm before, to obtain a travel permit for the Russian emigre, a good word for him put one here. Romberg explained that the purpose of Grimm's trip was to help the emigrants obtain permits to cross the Russian border. There is also a possibility for a separate peace and this must be exploited quickly. Grimm received his permit the very next day.

Before he left, Grimm informed the SP party president Emil Klöti and told him that the main reason for his trip was to help him obtain entry permits for the Russian emigrants. He also informed the Russian embassy in Bern. In reality, he was less concerned with bringing the emigrants back, but rather in the sense of the peace program, as decided by the Zimmerwald Conference in 1915 and 1916, to research what possibilities of a quick end to the war could result from the revolution in Russia .

After his arrival in Stockholm, Grimm was long unsuccessful in his own attempts to obtain an entry permit to Petrograd. But when the remaining Russian emigrants from Switzerland came to Stockholm and quickly continued their journey to Russia, he accompanied them. During this trip she received news of a reshuffle in the Provisional Government in Russia. The social democratic ministers of the new coalition government were asked to revoke the rejection of Grimm's entry request. This enabled the Zimmerwalders on May 22, 1917 to make a victorious entry into Petrograd.

In Russia, Grimm immediately campaigned for a peace treaty and contacted the socialists. He also gave many talks at congregations. Grimm feared a counter-revolution and was convinced that the surest way to prevent one would be to make peace.

Telegram exchange

Arthur Hoffmann

Arrived in Russia, Grimm tried to start negotiations for a separate peace between Russia and Germany in order to prevent the counter-revolution he feared. He wanted to negotiate a peace without annexations or reparations . On May 20, 1917, Grimm sent a telegram from Petrograd to Switzerland to Foreign Minister Hoffmann. Among other things, the telegram said:

There is a general need for peace. A peace treaty is an imperative from a political, economic and military point of view. This knowledge is available at the relevant point. Inhibitions were caused by France, obstacles by England. Negotiations are currently pending and the prospects are bright. New, increased pressure can be expected in the next few days. The only possible and most dangerous disruption of all negotiations could only come from a German offensive in the east. If this disruption does not occur, liquidation will be possible in a relatively short time. - An international conference convened by the workers' council is part of the new government's peace policy. The conclusion of this conference is considered certain, provided that the governments do not cause passport problems. All countries have agreed to participate. If possible, please inform me of the war aims of the governments of which you are aware, as this would facilitate the negotiations. I'm staying in Petrograd for about 10 days.

On June 3, Hoffmann replied to Grimm's telegram in which Grimm asked about Germany's war aims. In the telegram Hoffmann reports to Grimm that Germany will not undertake an offensive as long as an agreement can be reached with Russia on a separate peace. Germany and its allies are immediately ready to enter into peace negotiations with Russia and Germany does not want any territorial expansion for the purpose of enlarging the empire.

The encrypted telegrams were published barely two weeks later, on June 3, 1917, by the Swedish newspaper Social Democrats . Grimm was then asked to leave Russia immediately. Hoffmann's actions were perceived by the Allied powers as a favor of the opposing warring party and he was accused, especially by the British government, of breaching neutrality.

Domestically, too, there was horror at Hoffmann's behavior. Switzerland had split into two camps. Francophone Switzerland was outraged by the attitude of German-speaking Switzerland. They did not think it was good that a German-Swiss Federal Council dared to enter into negotiations in an international conflict on the side of the central powers. According to his own account, Hoffmann strived for a separate peace, as he saw this as the first step towards total peace. Switzerland suffered economically from the consequences of the war and Hoffmann wanted general peace as quickly as possible so that a recovery could take place. Paul Stauffer , who has examined the affair in more depth, admits Hoffmann to have had Swiss interests in mind. But: "That it should be ... a <Pax Germanica>, a European order under the sign of German supremacy - but not overwhelming superiority - was a constant in his political imagination", which Stauffer classifies as "germanocentric".


The Allied governments, which immediately took up the news from Stockholm, condemned Grimm's actions as a one-sided favoring of the opposing war party. Arthur Hoffmann, as Swiss Foreign Minister, was also accused of breaching neutrality. The affair had serious consequences for the two Swiss politicians. Arthur Hoffmann had to end his political career on June 19, 1917. Robert Grimm lost his credibility with the Swiss socialists and his high position with the Zimmerwald movement.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Failed world revolutionaries - how Robert Grimm stumbled upon secret diplomacy . In: az Aargauer Zeitung . April 9, 2017 ( [accessed May 7, 2017]).
  2. ^ Adolf McCarthy: Robert Grimm. The Swiss revolutionary . Bern 1989, p. 143 .
  3. ^ Adolf McCarthy: Robert Grimm. The Swiss revolutionary . Bern 1989, p. 144 .
  4. ^ Adolf McCarthy: Robert Grimm. The Swiss revolutionary . Bern 1989, p. 146-147 .
  5. ^ Adolf McCarthy: Robert Grimm. The Swiss revolutionary . Bern 1989, p. 148 .
  6. ^ Paul Stauffer: The Hoffmann / Grimm affair . Ed .: Swiss monthly books. Journal for politics, economy and culture. 1973, p. 1 .
  7. ^ Adolf McCarthy: Robert Grimm. The Swiss revolutionary . Bern 1989, p. 149 ff .
  8. ^ E. Odier: Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland 1848-1975: The Hoffmann / Grimm Affair, Telegram: Petrograd from 26./27. May 1917
  9. ^ Paul Stauffer: The Hoffmann / Grimm affair . Ed .: Swiss monthly books. Journal for politics, economy and culture. 1973, p. 13 .
  10. ^ Paul Stauffer: The Hoffmann / Grimm affair . Ed .: Swiss monthly books. Journal for politics, economy and culture. 1973, p. 2 .
  11. ^ Adolf McCarthy: Robert Grimm. The Swiss revolutionary . Bern 1998, p. 165 .
  12. ^ Paul Stauffer: The Hoffmann / Grimm affair . Ed .: Swiss monthly books. Journal for politics, economy and culture. 1973, p. 20 .
  13. NZZ article by Paul Stauffer
  14. Catherine Guanzini: Grimm-Hoffmann Affair. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . July 17, 2007 , accessed May 7, 2017 .