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On Location with a Prolific Writer on Peace Movements

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March 23, 2009



Etching of Albert Schweitzer

Etching of Albert Schweitzer by Arthur William Heintzelman.

Albert Schweitzer, as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and highly esteemed missionary, spoke out against nuclear weapons testing in 1957 and 1958. His worldwide broadcasts "stirred up an enormous furor," said Professor of History Larry Wittner, a national expert on peace and disarmament movements.

Wittner is part of a documentary being filmed this summer by Austrian film maker Georg Misch on the life of Schweitzer.
"My segment of the film will pertain to Schweitzer's role as a critic of nuclear weapons," Wittner said.

At the time, the U.S. government was thoroughly committed to nuclear testing and to winning its nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. The government “was horrified by Schweitzer's antinuclear activism,” said Wittner. “It immediately began to regard him as following 'the Communist line,' to spy upon him, and to try to destroy his influence."

Wittner documented this in an article "Blacklisting Schweitzer," in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May/June 1995), which was reprinted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on July 3, 1995. 

Professor of History Larry Wittner with the three-volume set , The Struggle Against the Bomb.

History professor Larry Wittner has condensed his award-winning trilogy on nuclear disarmament into a new book, Confronting the Bomb. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Since earning his doctorate at Columbia University in 1967, Wittner has been a prolific writer and meticulous researcher on peace and foreign policy issues.  Additionally, he has been active in the labor movement and in the peace movement, and currently serves on the national board of Peace Action, the largest peace organization in the United States.

His three-volume award-winning study, The Struggle Against the Bomb (Stanford University Press, 1993, 1997, 2003), has received widespread praise.

"But with almost 1,800 pages of text and massive documentation, this trilogy drew an audience that was limited largely to scholars and other specialists," Wittner said. "The editors at Stanford pressed me to write a much shorter version that could be adopted for college courses and would appeal to the general public." The result is a new, 255-page book, Confronting the Bomb, which will be published in July.

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