The broken rifle, long associated with WRL and War Resisters’ International predates both organizations. It first appeared in January 1909 on the cover of the Dutch publication De Wapens Neder (Down with Weapons), the periodical of the International Antimilitarist Union in the Netherlands.
In 1915 it was on the cover of a pamphlet, Under det brukne Gevær (Under the Broken Rifle), published by the Norwegian Social Democratic Youth Association. In 1917, the (German) League for War Victims used the broken rifle on a 1919 banner. On October 16, 1921, Belgian workers marching through La Louvrière carried flags showing a soldier breaking his rifle.
Ernst Friedrich, a German who had refused military service during the first world war, founded in 1923 the Anti-Kriegsmuseum in Berlin with a bas-relief broken rifle over the door. The Museum store distributed broken rifle badges, brooches, belt buckles, and tie pins.
It wasn’t until 1931 that War Resisters’ International started using the broken rifle. WRL, WRI’s U.S. affiliate, didn't start using the broken rifle logo until a few years later. Initially, WRL’s letterhead and other literature simply featured the phrase “Wars will cease when men refuse to fight” in place of a logo. Today, War Resisters’ International’s main publication is The Broken Rifle.
The logo — with its hundreds of variations, including broken assault rifles, bombs, missiles — has also been used on such items as T-shirts, baseball caps, car decals, posters, stained glass windows, and tattoos. The punk rock band, Anti-Flag, used five broken rifles for their “gunstar” symbol on the 2002 Mobilize album cover. Three years ago, a dairy farm held a contest seeking to create a logo with “a broken rifle and peace symbol with … poppy flowers and a cow.”
Finally, the WRL store features a 1-inch long broken rifle pin in antique-finished silver metal, as well as a broken rifle button, a broken rifle baseball cap, a Smash War with Peace poster, a broken rifle T-shirt, and a broken rifle with dove T-shirt, all of which provide a stark contrast to the new unbroken assault rifle pins sported by far right members of Congress among others.
sources: Based, in part, on longtime WRI staffer Howard Clark’s broken rifle addition to Wikipedia’s article on “Peace Symbols”; and Anti-Kriegs-Museum (reopened in 1982)
- Ed Hedemann
Above: 1st row (l to r): Detail from cover of the Jan. 1909 issue of De Wapens Neder showing the first appearance of a broken rifle; broken rifle emblem as it appeared Ernst Friedrich 1924 book Krieg dem Kriege! (War Against War!); WRI’s first logo from 1931; 2nd row: stylized logo introduced for WRL’s 50th anniversary in 1973; two recent WRL broken rifle redesigns
Below: Berlin’s Anti-Kriegsmuseum in the 1920s; then in 1933 after Nazis stormed the building, blotted out the “Anti” and the broken rifle over the entrance, and eventually converted it to a pro-war museum and notorious torture chamber