Talk:Albert Schweitzer

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Schweitzer : German or French ?[edit]

The article shouldn’t mention Schweitzer as a German, since his passport was French. But the best is to make him an Alsatian. Like many people of this region in this time, Schweitzer tried in fact to find a way beetween France and Germany. Moreover this quite Alsatian position on nationality brought him to consider himself as a citizen of the world. So Alsace may be considered as his real fatherland.

To see how tangled the problem is :

Schweitzer was born a German in 1875. The Alsace region (French since Louis XIV) had just been taken by Bismarck in 1870 after German-French war. Schweitzer went to the German school, but he spoke French at home, and moved to Paris in 1893 to study philosophy and music. After that he came back to German Alsace, then to proper Germany. When Alsace re-became French in 1918, his nationality turned to French. He married a German person, but corresponded with her in French. Then Schweitzer established his hospital in a French colony, wrote books in German and receved Nobel price as a Frenchman. Apart from that, his cousin Anne-Marie Schweitzer was also the mother of Jean-Paul Sartre !

His biography made him one of this person beetween two worlds... but it seems he took advantage of it.

See this page from the Fondation Schweitzer in Lambaréné to consider the nationality problem

Both ... but officially German during 43 years (1875-1918) and French during 47 years (1918-1965).... so the best way to respect his origin and culture is to put "Alsacian"
Paris75000 19:27, 27 January 2007 (UTC)
There is a difference between citizenship and ethnic nationality. Someone may be a French citizen, but at the same time of German ethnicity. As his name proves (and his writings), he was an ethnic German (German people), so the article should mention him as a German. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:07, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
Of course the article must take account of Schweitzer's Alsace/Elsass identity, his German national birth, his French nationality later, and should also recognise his true character as above all a citizen of the world. Also that his wife was the daughter of a German Jewish pan-Germanist Germanistik scholar (Harry Bresslau whom the French drove out of his Strasbourg teaching post). In CATEGORIES the anti-nuclear activist label needs to be French, because Schweitzer had long become French by nationality (whatever his cultural origins) by the time nuclear bombs were invented and first used. When he was an anti-nuclear activist, he was already legally French. The real question is not about Schweitzer himself, but whether these category tags refer to ethnicity, cultural origin or legal nationality. I'll ask an admin. Eebahgum (talk) 21:50, 27 May 2008 (UTC)
I don't think there's any particular policy that's relevant here. It is certainly true that ethnic/national labelling is often a problem. I've seen this quite often at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion. Do categories refer to legal nationality, self-identity, cultural origin, or what exactly? I think examples can be found of all of these. Clearly self-identity is the most readily verified. If Schweizer said he was an Alsatian, that's what he was. If he said he was a citizen of the world, giving undue prominence to legal nationality would be odd. I looked at the French and German articles and they seem to avoid making clear-cut claims about Schweizer's identity in the text and are generous with their categorisations. This route has the advantage of being readily sourceable and least likely to provoke reasonable dissent. The issue of chronology is a thorny one, but the point about him being a French or Alsatian anti-nuclear activist rather than a German one seems reasonable to me. The category system is less than ideal and will presumably be replaced by something better in time to come. I would not be too concerned about getting the categorisation perfect as the system is really not good enough in its present state to achieve that in complex cases such as this. The text is really what matters to readers. Hope this helps, Angus McLellan (Talk) 18:39, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Please note that though Albert Schweitzer was born as a German citizen, his parents had French citizenship before 1871, and they had that former (pre-1871) French citizenship reinstated in 1918 when becoming again French citizens. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:53, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Many doubtful speculations here. Fact is, that Albert Schweizer was a born in Kayserberg, Germany as a german citizen and grew up in Gunsbach, Germany. His parents were of german ancestry, hence the name "Schweizer", a german word, not a french one. His first language was the Alsatian dialect, a local variety of Alemannic, which is a german dialect. In school he spoke standard German (High German), but within his family and privately he also spoke french. In 1912 he married the german Helene Bresslau, daughter of Harry Breslau, a german historian and diplomat. In 1913 they went to Lambaréné in west central Africa to build a hospital in the jungle. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I., Albert and Helene Schweizer were put in house detention by the french army because they were germans. In 1917 the couple was arrested and displaced to France, where they were interned until July 1918. After the war, his homeland in Alsace fell to the French Republic and he was forced to take the french citizenship. But even in his later life there isn't a single hint that Albert Schweizer ever considered himself as beeing french. In 1924 he had gathered enough financial resources that allowed him to go back to Lambaréné again. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:16, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

Note also that the article says that Anne-Marie was the grand-neice of Albert Schweitzer. According to the Wikipedia article on Jean-Paul Sartre, she was his first cousin. This is repeated on another web page (, however this is not sufficient authority for me to edit this article. I invite someone with appropriate scholarly credentials to rectify this anomaly within Wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:07, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

This article is ridiculously oriented towards a "Schweitzer = German" prejudice that has absolutely no sense. Schweitzer was not German, even his name is not German, it is Alsacian. Schweitzer's parents were French, and he was only born in Germany by accident, as Kaysersberg is a French town in Alsace, that was occupied by Germany between 1871 and 1918. Schweitzer spoke French at home, he lived in France before leaving for Lambaréné (at the time a French colony), and perhaps more importantly he wrote in French. As he and his family were victims of German occupation before 1st World War, saying he is "German—and later French" is kind of an insult to his memory, his life and identity. And kind of a ridiculous claim that does not help Wikipedia to appear serious. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:32, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Nationality 2017[edit]

Gabriel HM (talk · contribs) removed several inline citation requests I had recently added to the nationality section of this article. WP:Verifiability states that "any material whose verifiability has been challenged or is likely to be challenged, must include an inline citation that directly supports the material." Given the frequent editor disagreements on this topic evident in the editor history and the complexity of the topic, I assert that all claims regarding Schweitzer's nationality fit this description.

I would also note that Gabriel HM's contribution history indicates they have a special interest in editing French and German nationality issues on Wikipedia.

Regarding the particular claim that Schweitzer considers himself French: My sole knowledge of Olga is from the New York Times Review of her memoir. From that, it is not obvious to me that she is an important source on Schweitzer, nor necessarily a reliable one. Frankly, without a direct quote from Schweitzer, the claim that he considered himself French is a challenging one, for without a specific statement to that effect, even close friends might not be able to state this with certainty, and most people's identities are less clear-cut than this. Sondra.kinsey (talk) 15:08, 20 August 2017 (UTC)


What source is there for the Unitarian categories? Nothing in the article actually says that. There's some emanationist language that could be personally interpreted into certain forms of Unitarianism, but nothing actually claiming unitarianism. Ian.thomson (talk) 16:00, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

Looking into it, most of the sources labeling Schweitzer are by and for Unitarian Universalists, and mostly just discuss friendship with Unitarians. However, The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (not by and for UUs but atheists) says that he did join a Unitarian Universalist organization. Ian.thomson (talk) 22:58, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

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Theology vs. Medicine[edit]

It seems to me that his work in medicine was more important than his books on theology, and should be emphasized ahead of his books, both in the lead and the main article. After all, he did not win the Nobel Prize for literature, but for Peace.Browntable (talk) 00:00, 27 December 2017 (UTC)