Paul Distelbarth

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Paul Heinrich Distelbarth (born December 23, 1879 in Wiesenthal ; † January 17, 1963 in Löwenstein ) was a pacifist , entrepreneur, journalist, editor and travel writer . Above all, he campaigned for Franco-German understanding between all sections of the population.


Distelbarth's family came from the Swabian region and owned a glassware export company. Paul completed an apprenticeship as a banker, after which he lived in Paris for a few years . In 1911 he married Hildegard, b. Erhardt. Her son Wolfgang was born in 1912, her daughter Gerda was born in 1914, her other children were Hagen in 1918 (killed in World War II), Kurd in 1919 (killed), Freia in 1923 and the later publisher Frank Distelbarth in 1928. Paul, who was influenced by Germany, was born through the First World War a decided opponent, which he remained until the end of his life. Paul Distelbarth sold the glassware export company in 1921 and acquired a fruit and wine estate in Löwenstein-Rittelhof. After the Locarno Treaty in 1925, Distelbarth was committed to German-French friendship. With this interest in mind, he met the industrialist Robert Bosch on the German side, and on the French side with the veterans' associations that were very active there and who had also been predominantly pacifist since the mid-1920s.

After the transfer of power to Hitler in 1933, an arrest warrant was issued against Distelbarth on suspicion of treason . Distelbarth went to Paris. There he became a correspondent for German newspapers. In 1935 his successful book Lebendiges Frankreich was published for the first time , which was largely based on these reports. In doing so, he gave the readers a completely new, positive and understanding image of France, especially the province. Distelbarth was continuously committed to promoting understanding between the two countries.

From 1939 to 1945 Distelbarth led a quiet life on the Rittelhof, an inner emigration . The sons Hagen and Kurd died as soldiers.

Paul Distelbarth's grave in the Löwenstein forest cemetery with a stele by Hermann Koziol

In 1946, at the age of 66, Paul Distelbarth, together with Hermann Schwerdtfeger, received a license for the Heilbronn voice from the French administration . He made pointed statements in his editorials. He campaigned for a new democratic beginning and international understanding , mistrusted ideologies and held up a mirror to the many yesterday's people , which showed the ugly image they gave up until 1945.

In 1955 Distelbarth withdrew from the management of the newspaper. He made several trips, including to the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China , of which he told in further books. What is particularly striking about these books are the numerous large photos, mostly in black and white, which demonstrate a trained photographer's eye. He spent his twilight years in the south of France.

Paul Distelbarth's grave is in Löwenstein.


His son and publishing heir Frank Distelbarth wrote about him

“My father Paul Distelbarth, who experienced the First World War 1914-1918 from the first to the last day as an officer, came back from this war as a pacifist and absolute opponent of the war. Since he worked as a merchant in Paris from a young age, spoke perfect French and was particularly attracted to France and the French way of life, as he had also realized that peace in Europe can only happen if there is a lasting reconciliation comes between Germany and France, as the nucleus for a common Europe, he committed his whole life to this Franco-German understanding. "

- Frank Distelbarth, 2013

Much later, not exactly enthusiastically, the newspaper he founded called Distelbarth a free spirit :

“The editorial writer (sc. PD) fought against the rearmament of the Federal Republic, feared the division of Germany in the Cold War, campaigned for a neutral Europe between the USA and the USSR. Until the end, Distelbarth remained a political free spirit. And he was curious about other countries, other cultures. As one of the first West German journalists, he traveled through Russia and Mao Tsetung's China in the 1950s . After that he was convinced that communism in both countries did not pose a threat of aggression. "

- Heilbronn voice, October 29, 2005

Distelbarth himself felt the headwind against his desire for international understanding after 1945 very clearly:

"The book was judged very ungraciously by the bourgeois press in West Germany, but was consistently welcomed by the readership."

- Flower of the middle, page 7

Shortly before the ultimate outbreak of enthusiasm among Germans for Nazi Germany , he tried to save something from the Franco-German relations of the Locarno period, as Le Figaro reported in 1932:

"M. Paul Distelbarth, délégué de la section allemande de la Confédération internationale de l'association des anciens combattants, publie, dans le Stuttgarter Neues Tagblatt , an article où il s'attache à démontrer que le gouvernement du Reich aurait tort de rejeter le plan français concernant l'universalité, en Europe, du service militaire à court terme. M. Distelbarth, considère que, du point de. vue purement-intérieur, l'Allemagne gagnerait au système d'une milice qui, en, 'assemblant, pour une tâche commune les jeunes gens d'opinion politique plus ou moins opposée, contribuerait beaucoup, à son avis, à supprimer la haine politique qui divise actuellement la jeunesse allemande. M. Distelbarth exprime l'espoir que le gouvernement du Reich ne se laissera pas influencer par l'argumentation de ceux qui voudraient que l'Allemagne rejetât le lan français. Le président du conseil français, déclare-t-il, nous a donné une chance qu'il serait impardonnable de ne pas saisir. "

- Le Figaro November 1st, 1932

Distelbarth wanted friendship among ordinary people, of all social levels, not just between the elites, as Ernst Robert Curtius aggressively advocated:

“Distelbarth ... a person who remained true to his ideal of Franco-German understanding throughout his life and who never gave up on campaigning for a peaceful and united Europe based on Franco-German friendship even in difficult times. He justified Paul Distelbarth's demands for a Franco-German friendship not only on the political level, but rather he wished for a rapprochement among the citizens. He did not want a friendship dictated and prescribed from above, but a voluntary and lively friendship between the ... peoples on both sides of the Rhine. "

- Bernard Diry, President de la Société archéologique, 2013


  • Paul Distelbarth memorial plaque in Vendôme 2003; Designation of a place in the school grounds of the Lycée Ronsard in this city; Conference on him there on May 18, 2013
  • Namesake for: Evangelisches Paul-Distelbarth-Gymnasium, Obersulm , private school


  • Germany - France. The psychological problem, in the Stuttgarter Neues Tagblatt , June 9, 1932
  • Living France. Foreword by Henri Pichot. 4th edition. Rowohlt, Berlin 1938 (first 1935).
    • Excerpt: Un touriste allemand en Vendômois dans les années 30. (A German tourist visited Vendôme in the 1930s.) Translated by Bernard Diry; Illustr. Charles Portel. Ed. du Cherche l'une, Vendôme 1998, ISBN 2904736115 . Bilingual version
    • La France vue par un Allemand. Ed. Henry Asselin. Stemerding, Rotterdam [1939]
    • France vivante. Alsatia publishing house
  1. La Personne France. Preface by Henri Pichot. Translated by Paul Distelbarth. Alsatia, Colmar and Paris 1937
  2. Images de la France.
  • Deutsch-Französische Rundschau, permanent contributor, with numerous articles since 1932
  • New becoming in France. Testimonies from leading French. Ernst Klett, Stuttgart 1938
  • The other France. Essays on society, culture and politics in France and on Franco-German relations 1932-1953. Series: Convergences. Introduction and Ed. Hans Manfred Bock; with comments. Peter Lang, Bern 1997 ISBN 3906754936 Bibliography, pp. 507-526
  • French and Germans - peasants and warriors. Rowohlt, Stuttgart 1946; again Hatje, Calw 1947
  • France yesterday, today, always. Heilbronn printing and publishing house , 1953
  • Russia today. Report of a trip. Rowohlt, 1954
  • Flower of the center. A trip to the largest land of old culture and a new will to live. Berlin 1958 (with picture part)
  • Watch in the east. Volume 4. With photographs by the author 1914 - 1918. Heilbronner Voice, Heilbronn 1989
  1. Front officer in the First World War
  2. The district chief of Borissow
  • France: Provincia romana, in Werner Benndorf Ed .: The Mediterranean Book. Albert Henry Payne- Verlag, Leipzig-Reudnitz 1940
  • L '"Union" vue par un écrivain allemand, in "Bulletin des la Union pour la vérite", vol. 46, no. 3-4, 1936/1937, pp. 133-137


  • Hans Manfred Bock : Chapter Conservative loner and pacifist border crosser between Germany and France. The France publicist Paul H. Distelbarth , in dsb., Cultural trailblazers for political conflict resolution. Mediator between Germany and France in the first half of the 20th century. Series: Édition lendemains. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3823361821 , pp. 145ff.
    • also in Francia 21, 1994, pp. 99-133
  • dsb .: Topography of German cultural representation in Paris in the 20th century. Row: Éd. lendesains. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2010 ISBN 3823365517 , pp. 209–249 and passim (available in online bookshops)
  • dsb .: Reconciliation or Subversion? Franco-German understanding organizations and networks in the interwar period. Ed. lendesains. Narr Francke Attempto , Tübingen 2014 ISBN 3823367285
  • dsb .: Paul H. Distelbarth or the interrupted revision of the German image of France after 1945, in: Lendemains. Vol. 18. 1993, H. 71-72, pp. 60-96.
  • ders .: A "Patriarch of Franco-German Understanding". Paul H. Distelbarth (1879–1963) . In: Christhard Schrenk , Heilbronn City Archives (ed.): Heilbronner Köpfe. Life pictures from four centuries. Volume 4, Heilbronn 2007 (Small series of publications from the Heilbronn Archives, 52), ISBN 9783928990998 , pp. 9–34.
  • Christhard Schrenk , City Archives Heilbronn Ed .: Heilbronner Köpfe. Life pictures from four centuries. Volume 4. Small series of publications from the archive of the city of Heilbronn, 52nd Heilbronn 2007 ISBN 9783928990998 (therein Bock via PD)
  • Frank Distelbarth: Paul Distelbarth. A publicist for international understanding, in: 700 years of the city of Löwenstein. Löwenstein, 1987. pp. [495] - 502
  • German Literature Lexicon , 1971
  • Claire Moreau Trichet: Paul Distelbarth's Francophilia in the thirties. Master's thesis in German, Saarbrücken 1994
    • this: Henri Pichot et l'Allemagne de 1930 à 1945. Vol. 1, Diss. phil. (thésis) University of Metz 2000 (Distelbarth passim; available in Google books )

Web links


  1. only handed down by PD's own information
  2. After the accusation of treason was given up as unfounded, he was free to go back to Germany.
  3. City-Anzeiger, Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis: 40 years / years Jumelage / partnership Gevelsberg - Vendôme 1973 - 2013; Foreword to "Un touriste allemand en Vendômois dans les années 30"
  4. Distelbarth expressed himself even more clearly in 1957 about a correspondent: Dear Fraulein Schampel, I received your letter of October 7th through Rowohlt, and thank you for it. He made me happy. Of course, I have been challenged a lot because of my book on Russia, and I have been given bad marks in the bourgeois press.
  5. Actual name: "Confédération internationale des associations de mutilés et d'anciens combattants", CIAMAC, President Henri Pichot 1927-1928 of the French "Union fédérale ..." etc., abbreviated UF; Since about 1930 the countries Germany, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Romania, Poland and Austria have been working in the international CIAMAC. The CIAMAC supported the League of Nations , also called "Geneva League" (Institution de Genève), mostly abbreviated SDN for "Société des Nations"
  6. German National Library and HM Bock give 1936 as the year of the first publication. Frequent new editions, also in Switzerland. The versions vary not only in the prefaces. Most recently in the GDR in Union Verlag Berlin , 1957, in 2 editions, supplemented with a number of b / w photographs by PD, taken from France yesterday, today, always from 1953
  7. 63 pages
  8. The book shows significant changes compared to the German version. In French, Distelbarth repeatedly and unequivocally promotes the “new Germany”, the “national revolution” of 1933 and the National Socialist regime, whose “reign of terror” he justifies by comparing it to the French revolution by saying that the French he met claims: "Ils disent: Nous aussi, nous avons connu la Terreur." Distelbarth sees a hierarchy of peoples in which the French are clearly below the Germans: Les Français, somme toute, vivaient heureux dans leur enclos. Ils étaient tout naïvement persuadés que Paris était le nombril de la planète; ce qui se passait au delà des murs du clos ne les intéressait guère. Tout cela était 'là-bas': dans cette désignation un peu dédaigneuse ils confondaient tous les peuples européens sans égard au rang qu'ils occupaient dans la hiérarchie des peuples; car il ya une hiérarchie, et quiconque ne veut pas la voir se trompe. See online by Wolfgang Geiger
  9. ↑ one each for German or French readers, so marked by Pichot
  10. Revised new edition. both parts in 1 volume: La personne France. Alsatia, Paris 1942
  11. Contains partly original articles, trans. PD, by Teilhard de Chardin , Hubert Lyautey , Charles Péguy , Alain , Georges Duhamel , Jules Romains , Jean Cardinal Verdier , Gustave Thibon, Jacques Maritain , Auguste Detoeuf, René Dupuis, Emmanuel Mounier , Marcel Déat and Maurice Barrès , as well as Paul Desjardins , who was one of the most important contact persons of PD's in France. Another part consists of statements by PD himself, these are very positive about the NS, especially in the introduction to his Déat translation Distelbarth agrees with the fascist MD: ... which seem remarkable to us (sc. PD) because they Opinions represented therein approach the ideas of National Socialism , such as the principle of "social benefit" and "fair price", which ... signify a sharp departure from economic liberalism, p. 193. At any rate, Distelbarth supported Gottfried's theories at this time Feders close
  12. ^ Publishing house of the Heilbronn voice
  13. Several publishers wanted to publish the travelogue for the GDR. But first 11, then 26 positions, including terms such as piecework wages , secret service and drunkenness, were deleted by the censorship. The censor Carola Gärtner-Scholle finally identified 117 "negative and dubious" (sic) passages in the book and added a "Ugh!" on the request of the publisher. The book appeared anyway, but in a modified form. See Siegfried Lokatis , Censorship Games. Secret literary stories from the GDR. Mitteldeutscher Verlag , Halle 2008
  14. Available in Google books and online bookshops. Above all, Bock was also able to evaluate the private correspondence between the couple Distelbarth and the family archive, which gave him an insight into D's way of thinking
  15. 2015 not yet online; possibly later via