Asser was a Dutch lawyer and minister. He represented Holland at the peace and private international law conferences held in The Hague. Fried was an Austrian journalist who founded the peace journal “Die Waffen Nieder” (later renamed “Friedenswarte”).
Asser devoted his life primarily to teaching, research and politics. He was a professor of international and commercial law at the University of Amsterdam. He specialised in private international law. He believed that the best method of resolving conflicts of law was organising international conferences during which the participants could work out a common position allowing for specific solutions to be implemented in respective countries.
He initiated conferences dedicated to the codification of private international law. During the conferences held in 1893 and 1894, the participants agreed on a uniform civil procedure. Asser presided over the next conferences held in 1900 and 1904. They resulted in an agreement on international family law.
Asser was a legal adviser to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1893, he became a member of the Council of State. From 1904 until his death, he was a minister without portfolio. He was a delegate to the Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907, during which he advocated the introduction of the principle of compulsory arbitration in the economic area.
He was a renowned negotiator. Between 1875 and 1913, he was involved in negotiating almost all agreements concluded by the Dutch government. He was fluent in German, French and English. For his research, he was awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Bologna and Berlin. Fried was active primarily in Germany. Influenced by Bertha von Suttner, he became interested in the peace movement. He founded the German Peace Society. Between 1894 and 1899, he edited its major publication “Monatliche Friedenskorrespondenz” and then published the journal “Die Waffen Nieder!”. The journal, named after the title of the Baroness’ famous antiwar novel and addressed to an audience of intellectuals, is still being published at present.
In his pacifist appeals, Fried gave more emphasis to economic cooperation and political organisation as bases for peace, and less to the limitation of armaments and schemes for the international legal system. He contributed to the establishment of the Society for International Understanding (1911). His theory of internationalism did not preclude nationalism. He perceived a model for the preservation of national identity within an international organisation in the Pan-American movement.
Accused of treason by the Austrian government, Fried was not able to return to his home city of Vienna until the end of the war. After the war, he expressed his disappointment with the peace treaties and organised a journalistic campaign against the Treaty of Versailles. Having lost all his wealth following the collapse of Austria-Hungary, he died in poverty.