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Lukas Keller


Freie Universität Berlin

Human Rights Under Pressure - Ethics, Law and Politics

Departments of History

PhD Candidate

Field of Research: State of Exception and Human Rights in World War I. A Case Study of Germany

Boltzmannstraße 3
—14195 Berlin

Lukas Keller grew up near Zurich, Switzerland, and began his studies in Geneva, where he received a Bachelor in General History and Russian Studies. An interdisciplinary Master’s program at the Institute for East-European Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin brought him to Germany. His Master’s thesis concentrated on how the Russian political regime during the fist two terms of Vladimir Putin co-opted the national past to legitimise its own political agenda. In 2012, Lukas started working on a dissertation about “enemy aliens” and political dissidents in World War I Germany at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. 

Field of Research: State of Exception and Human Rights in World War I. A Case Study of Germany 

This case study deals with violations of rights towards civilians during the First World War in Germany. On July 31, 1914 Germany declared a “state of imminent war” effectively establishing a “state of exception”. With that, political power was ceded to military commanders and fundamental rights were weakened, and in some cases suspended. Certain groups, mainly “enemy aliens”, national minorities and regime critics, were seen as “suspect” in the eyes of the state authorities and also by society at large. As potential spies, terrorist or traitors they were targeted and subject to the power of the military, police and judicial authorities. In the first part the study describes the multiple forms of violations of rights that these groups experienced – for example violation through civilian internment, police custody or conscription into the military. It reconstructs the main actors, methods and goals of these confrontations. In the second part the study concentrates on the human rights discourse during and after the war. It shows to what extent the discourse blamed such violations of rights and which were its political objectives. While focusing on Germany, the dissertation sets out to show the full trans- and international implications of these issues.


Freie Universität Berlin
The Minerva Center for Human Rights
Menschenrechtszentrum Uni Potsdam
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Einstein Foundation Berlin
Dahlem Research School