|THE MULTINATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR CARL VON OSSIETZKY
By Irwin Abrams
A paper presented at the International Conference on Peace Movements in National Societies, 1919-1939, held in Stadtschlaining, Austria, September 25-29, 1991
When Carl von Ossietzky, the anti-militarist journalist whom the Nazis had thrown into a concentration camp, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936, Heinrich Mann wrote, "in one moment the conscience of the world arose, and the name which it spoke was his."
Mann was referring to the international campaign in support of awarding him the prize in which some of the leading figures in the intellectual and political life of the time took part. The Ossietzky prize was one bright moment in the dark days preceding the outbreak of World War II, when the forces for peace and freedom in large sections of the world seemed about to be overwhelmed by ever more powerful forces of totalitarianism and reaction.
In 1936 Nazi Germany was rearming in violation of the Versailles Treaty and in March reoccupied the Rhineland. In the same year Hitler formed the Rome-Berlin axis with Mussolini, who was completing the conquest of Ethiopia, began to aid the rebel generals who were marching to overthrow the Spanish Republic, and entered an agreement with Japan. In the summer of 1936 the Olympic Games in Berlin provided Goebbels with the opportunity to mount a great propaganda show of the "New Germany." Many abroad were dismissing the grim reports of concentration camp atrocities as exaggerated, and statesmen treated them as domestic affairs of no concern to other states.
In the face of this situtation and despite all the efforts of the Nazi propaganda machine and the German Foreign Office, a little band of German emigrès in Paris managed to organize a multinational campaign in behalf of a concentration camp victim little known outside Germany which saved his life, got him released from camp, and won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How they did it has been told in a number of accounts listed in the Note on Sources. This paper will focus particularly upon how the campaign fared in various countries.
Carl von Ossietzky
Ossietzky had been briefed on the pages of the world press in 1931, when, as editor of the radical weekly, Die Weltbuehne, he had been convicted on a trumped up charge of treason for publishing an article on how the Reichswehr was secretly rearming. In this way Germany's military leaders silenced their most widely read critic.
Ossietzky served only about six months before being freed by the amnesty of December 1932 and resumed his attacks on the militarists and the Nazis. When Hitler came to power soon afterward Ossietzky was sent to concentration camp, where he was mercilessly mistreated. The International Red Cross representative allowed to visit him in November 1935 found "a trembling, deadly pale something, a creature that appeared to be without feeling, one eye swollen, teeth knocked out, dragging a broken, badly healed leg . . . a human being who had reached the uttermost limits of what could be borne."
Ossietzky's friends in exile had already heard of his pitiful condition from released prisoners and had been trying vainly to secure his release. In 1934 they began to get word to the press and to inspire individual letters to the German government from non-Germans asking for his freedom. They also generated official inquiries about the state of his health from Red Cross organizations and from foreign ambassadors in Berlin. All these efforts unavailing, in 1935 a small group of Ossietzky's Weltbuehne associates in Paris, calling themselves the Freundeskreis Carl von Ossietzky, set about organizing an international campaign to draw world attention to his plight by getting him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. They had little hope that he would win it, but they counted upon the wide publicity inducing the Nazi Government to give him better treatment and perhaps even to set him at liberty. In any case, the spotlight on a concentration camp victim would reveal the atrocities which the Nazi propaganda was attempting to conceal.
The architect of the campaign was Hellmut von Gerlach, the well known democrat and pacifist who had edited the Weltbuehne after Ossietzky's treason conviction, was the president of the German Liga fuer Menschenrechte, and now directed the refugee relief work of the French section of that international organization in Paris. He himself was qualified to nominate Ossietzky for the prize as a member of the Council of the International Peace Bureau and did this quietly, fearing that if the Nazis learned of the efforts of German political refugees in behalf of Ossietzky, they might take revenge upon their prisoner. Gerlach's strategy was to mobilize a multinational network of fellow exiles, who would elicit public support for Ossietzky from prominent figures in the countries where they were active, all the while remaining behind the scenes themselves. Most of them had written for the Weltbuehne and had been members of the German section of the League for Human Rights. A number were socialists, although Ossietzky himself was a free spirit and belonged to no party, which enabled the campaigners to make a non-partisan appeal to all those who believed in human freedom.
Associated with Gerlach in Paris was the journalist Hilde Walter, who took over the leadership when he died in August 1935; Konrad Reisner, a former law student who had been active in the German League and the Deutsche Friedens-gesellschaft and was now assisting Gerlach in the refugee work; and Gerlach's special friend and collaborator, the former editor Milly Zirker, a member of the board of the association of exiled German writers.
In London there were the distinguished pacifist author Ernst Toller; Rudolf Olden, one of Ossietzky's defense lawyers in 1931, a political journalist and historian and head of the London section of the League; and Otto Lehman-Russbüldt, a publicist who had been co-founder of the peace organization which became the German League for Human Rights.
In Prague Kurt Grossmann, political journalist and former secretary of the League in Germany, was organizing assistance to German refugees in cooperation with the Czech section of the League. From his theater post in Zurich Werner Hartung, the internationally known dramatist and stage director wrote to other cultural leaders for support. From Geneva Lida Gustava Heymann, who was working with the International Woman's League for Peace and Freedom, of which she was one of the founders, solicited help from all the national branches.
In the United States Werner Hegemann, architect, writer, and teacher at the New School for Social Research, worked for the cause along with Albert Einstein and Einstein's confidant Otto Nathan, the prominent economist. It was Nathan who gave his friend Hilde Walter the financial support that enabled her to spend full time on the campaign. Kurt Rosenfeld, the socialist politician who had also been one of Ossietzky's defense lawyers, cooperated with Nathan and Hegemann in New York City.
Strategically situated in Oslo was the young Willy Brandt, whom Reisner had met at an international socialist gathering in Paris. Soon after arriving in Norway, Brandt had developed close connections with members of the governing Labor Party.
The Quest for Nominations
January 31 has always been the deadline for submission of nominations. At the end of December 1934 Gerlach wrote to his friend Christian Lange, a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, asking for advice. Lange told him not to base the nomination on the possibility that the prize could bring Ossietzky's freedom, but to submit a well substantiated proposal documenting Ossietzky's work for peace. This advice was to prove crucial in the final results.
Gerlach now included with his nomination a memorandum giving details of Ossietzky's life and peace efforts. But a proposal from a prominent non-German was needed to give appropriate publicity to Ossietzkyís nomination. Consequently, Albert Einstein, not qualified himself because his Nobel prize was in physics, approached American peace laureates and received an immediate response from Jane Addams (1931), who cabled her nomination to Oslo. In April 1935 the Paris circle gave this news to the world press and started the public campaign in earnest. When word reached them from Ossietzky that he disapproved of the campaign and just wanted to be left alone, they felt that it was too late to stop the momentum that was gathering.
There had only been time to round up five other nominators: Harold Laski, professor of political science at the London School of Economicsa and a leading Labour Party ideologists; V. Emil Scherer of Basel, a member of the Swiss Nationalrat; and two German exiles, Helene Stoecker, German feminist and peace activist who was on the Council of the Internaitonal Peace Bureau, and Ludwig Quidde, the veteran German peace leader who had won the prize in 1927. Quidde thought a campaign would be likely to bring harm to Ossietzky, and he felt that were he not in the concentration camp, Ossietzky would never be nominated for his record in the organized peace movement, but he went along haltingly. The Paris organizers had also counted on André Philip, professor of law at Lyons and used his name in their publicity, but his name is not on the Nobel Committee rolls.
Among the other candidates were Afranio de Mello Franco, the Brazilian foreign minister, for whom a campaign in Latin America produced an impressive number of nominations, and three who were to receive the prize later: Carlos Saveedra Lamas, Argentine foreign minister (1936), Lord Robert Cecil, (1937), and Albert Schweitzer (1952). The Committee adviser who was assigned Ossietzky wrote a positve report recommending him, but the Committee decided to postpone the 1935 award for decision the next year.
The news of this action only brought the Paris circle to redouble its efforts. The 1936 campaign, now under Hilde Walter's direction, produced an unprecedented 86 individual nominations, some of which represented groups, so that the total number of persons proposing Ossietzky by January 31 was well over 500. One hundred and twenty valid nominations arrived too late to be counted, and a flood of letters of support continued to reach Oslo.
The Campaign in England
From England, which Walter considered "the centerpiece of the campaign," a disappointing number of only seven nominations were submitted on time. The nominators included Laski again; two M.P.'s, D.N. Pritt (Labour) and the Scot, James Maxton (Independent Labour); three professors, Sir Arthur Salter, Sir Arthur Zimmern, and James Leslie Brierly; and a member of the Peace Bureau Council, Caroline E. Playne.
Eventually, however, the mail brought an impressive group proposal from both houses of Parliament, representing all parties and signed by seven peers and 86 members of the lower house. Fourteen of them had held office in former governments, including Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison. Two belated nominations from English members of the Peace Bureau Council also arrived, from Rev. Herbert Dunnico of the old International Peace Society and from Rev. Walter Long.
Previous prizewinners Sir Austin Chamberlain (1925) and Norman Angell (1933) were both asked for nominations. Chamberlain replied that he knew little about about Ossietzky and in any case, he did not feel that it was appropriate to use the Nobel Prize in such a case. Angell (1933), who was supporting Lord Cecil, replied that he was already helping Ossietzky with contributions and in other ways.
There were those in England who wanted to help Ossietzky, but who felt that the campaign publicity would only anger the Nazi leaders, which could lessen Ossietzky's chance for release and reduce the possibility of Anglo-German understanding. Lord Clifford Allen, a staunch pacifist and member of the executive of the League of Nation's Union, was committed to working for reconciliation between his country and Germany. In the course of his private negotiations with Nazi officials in Germany for peaceful resolution of differences between the two countries, Allen pleaded with them to free Ossietzky and other prisoners. He felt that he was on the verge of success when the announcement of Ossietzky's prize so infuriated the Nazis that this became impossible. Eventually Allen came to realize that he could not continue to work for reconcilation with Germany while remaining silent in public about the suffering in the concentration camps.
For the Society of Friends there was a similar dilemma. The Quaker Centre in Berlin, staffed by British and American workers, was the major channel through which funds from abroad could reach non-Jewish concentration camp victims. The Walter network worked closely with the Germany Emergency Committee in Friends House in London in transmitting funds to Ossietzky as well as to his wife. The English Friend Corder Catchpool had more than once been summoned to Gestapo headquarters to explain his contacts with political "enemies of the state," but there was still a reservoir of goodwill resulting from the Quaker relief feeding after World War I, and the Friends Peace Committees were known to have opposed the punitive clauses of the Versailles Peace Treaty, so the Quaker Centre was allowed to continue its work.
Catchpool sought a meeting with Hitler to intercede for pacifist and other political prisoners. This was denied, but he was permitted to visit Ossietzky in camp in 1935, after telling the Gestapo that he "had no intention of publishing any report at all, and that I wished only to speak good of Germany so far as this was consistent with the truth." In the camp he was "haunted by a sense of evil," but he kept his report confidential.
Catchpool was convinced that in order to be able to continue helping the prisoners, the Quakers had to distance themselves from any actions like the Nobel campaign. Writing to London in July 1936, Catchpool reported how the German press was treating news of the campaign for the Ossietzky prize as evidence of anti-German agitation.
The development of the campaign can actually be followed in the dispatches of German diplomats to the Foreign Office from the earliest newspaper reports in 1934. From the Gestapo documents published after the war, it is clear that Goering's decision to remove Ossietzky from the camp to the police wing of Virchow Hospital in Berlin in 1936 was due to concern about the extraordinary interest in him abroad. Mention is also made there of the persistent inquiries about Ossietzky's condition, with specific reference to those of the Quaker Catchpool.
In July 1935 the Executive Committee of British Friends sent a letter "Through the Fuehrer to the German People," referring to the concentration camps and other means of oppression and going on to declare, "We do not presume to judge of the internal need for such measures, although our moral sense denies their validity in any and every case." To continue such measures "involves the laying up of an evil store of reactions, whilst to abandon them would awaken a response of goodwill in thousands of hearts and make for peace in the world at large." This was published in the press and read on the BBC.
Many Friends would have preferred an outright condemnation of evil and thought this staement was "diplomatic" and merely saying, "Behave well and nations will be your friends." The moderate tone was due to the influence of those Friends who felt that the work for the victims of the Nazis would be jeopardized by a different kind of public declaration. Because of such temporizing the Berlin Centre could be kept open, and when Ossietzky was released from Virchow, Catchpool's successor there was able to arrange for his admission to Westend Hospital and to secure for the patient proper medical treatment (a fact not published heretofore).
The most important publicity for Ossietzky in England came in September. With the help of Olden, Amabel Ellis-Williams, a journalist and author who was active in relief efforts for victims of Hitlerism edited a brochure, What Was His Crime?, "a study of Carl von Ossietzky, one of the bravest men in Germany, undertaken in the hope that its composition may be taken into consideration by the awarders of the Nobel Peace Prize." Readers were urged to write to the Nobel Committee in support.
Although this was hastily done and Olden did not catch all the errors, it was the first account in English, and it gave the newspapers something substantial to write about. Noteworthy was the moving letter to the London Times from Wickham Steed, its famous former editor and Central Europe correspondent, which was reprinted there. There was ample time to send the brochure and the press notices to Oslo before the Committee met to make its decision.
Signing as sponsors were some of the most illustrious members of the English intelligentsia; Norman Angell, G. P. Gooth, Gerald Heard, Aldous Huxley, C. Day Lewis, Gilbert Murray, J. B. Priestley, Bertrand Russell, H. G. Wells, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf. So that the list would not look too radical other possible signers, such as John Strachey, the brother of Ellis-Williams, were not invited.
All in all, despite the small number of nominations from England, the campaign there should be viewed as a success, a fact that was important because of the known pro-English proclivities of the Norwegians.
The Campaign on the Continent
In France, where the campaign was headquartered, there were 21 individual nominators and three group nominations from 174 members of the legislature, bringing the grand total to 195, of whom 13 were professors and 182 were legislators. Among the professors were distinguished names such as Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Henri Sée, Léon Brunschvicg, Victor Basch, and this time, André Philip. The legislators included two who joined Léon Blumís Popular Front government when it was formed in June 1936: Pierre Cot, Air Minister, and Maurice Violette, Secretary of State.
These were the nominators named in the official list of the Nobel Committee, where group nominations are noted with only one name or none at all. The list of French nominators compiled later by the Walter group includes Léon Blum himself and 11 of his ministers, as well as former premier Edouard Herriot.
Milly Zirker had enlisted the deputy Henri Guernut to distribute copies of her French translation of Walter's well-documented memorandum and to circulate petitions in the Chamber and in university circles. From the signatures collected, it is clear that the Ossietzky nomination had solid support from the liberal and socialist establishment.
At least one communist deputy also submitted a proposal, but Walter did not court the communists, realizing that this could endanger the Ossietzky cause in Oslo. She had difficulty enough maneuvering around Willi Muenzenberg, the able and well financed Comintern agent, who was in Paris busily organizing communist-front organizations and would have liked to link the efforts in behalf of Ossietzky with the campaign to free the communist Ernst Thaelmann from concentration camp.
In Switzerland, already in 1934, 70 intellectual and cultural leaders had signed an appeal for Ossietzky. Ernst Rosenbusch of Zurich, head of the Swiss Freedom Committee, who had been one of them, together with the socialist deputy Dr. Hans Oprecht, organizer of the Swiss Ossietzky Committee and also a signer of the 1934 appeal, collected the signatures of 125 deputies of all parties in both houses of the federal legislature (out of 231 members in all). Included was the conservative Catholic president of the upper chamber. Moreover, the document was transmitted to Oslo by the parliamentary secretariat. Dr. Oprechtís own nomination included the substantiation provided him by Hilde Walter.
Rosenbusch also sent letters from his Swiss Freedom Committee to the eligible professorial nominators in the faculties of law, political science, history, and philosophy and generated 13 nominations which arrived in Oslo in time, including those from William Rappard and Edouard Claparède. Other professors, including Karl Barth, are on Walter's list. On the Oslo list, including one member of the Peace Bureau Council, Switzerland's total was 144.
Prague was a first port of call for many former prisoners leaving Germany, and their stories of atrocitries brought much sympathy for Hitler's victims. An Ossietzky Committee had been formed as early as 1934, and Grossmann had been one of the initiators of the campaign for the prize. In 1935 a rumor that Thomas Masaryk, the revered father of his country, had been nominated brought high interest in Czechoslovakia and disquiet in the Paris Ossietzky circle. Gerlach had even brought forth the suggestion that the Nobel prize might be shared between Masaryk and Ossietzky.
When in 1936 Masaryk was actually nominated, the Walter group took action to meet what appeared as almost insurmountable competition. They inspired individual letters to the Nobel Committee in support of Ossietzky from both Einstein and Thomas Mann, while Hegemann in New York orchestrated a group cable to Masaryk from fifteen distinguished American professors and publicists urging him to support Osseitzky's candidacy. Walter also asked Emil Ludwig, who had interviewed Masaryk, to write him suggesting that if he won the prize, in his Oslo speech he might speak out about Ossietzky.
Meanwhile in Czechoslovakia Grossmann worked hard to save the situation. According to his own account, he went to see his friend Frantisek Soukoup, president of the Senate and head of the Social Democratic faction, and explained to him how an Ossietzky prize would be the first moral defeat for Hitler. Soukoup agreed but said, "This will only be possible if Masaryk yields." They both carried the message to other Czechs, and Grossmann says he first won over Masaryk's secretary and then his biographer, Professor Zdenek Nejedly.
A few days before the January 31 deadline, Grossmann had a telephone call from Soukoup, asking him to come to the Senate that afternoon with a prepared petition. There he found 54 senators and members of the lower house, who signed a group nomination -- "Thomas G. Masaryk had yielded his candidacy in favor of Carl von Ossietzky."
This was the figure Grossmann triumphantly reported to Walter, but according to the Nobel Committee rolls, he and Soukoup did even better. The Committee actually received three petitions, one signed by 19 senators, one by another 16, and one by 30 members of the lower house. The documentation was submitted by the socialist deputy Walter Klein along with his own nomination. Nejedly's nomination is listed, as are those of three other Prague professors. Two other parliamentarians sent in individual nominations, bringing the total from Czechoslovakia to 173.
From the Netherlands, where an Ossietzky Committee had been active for several years, came 34 nominations: a group nomination from the national assembly with 22 signatures; including the socialist feminist senator, Mrs. C. Posthuis-Smit and the peace activist Professor D. van Embden of the leftist Liberal Democratic Union party; and nominations from the anti-militarist minister Johannes Bernardus Hugenholtz, a member of the Peace Bureau Council, and six professors.
From Belgium the deputy and ex-minister Camille Huysmanns sent a telegram together with eight other deputies and one senator, and Henri de Man, Minister of Labour, also telegraphed his nomination in support of the one he thought his colleague, Minister of State Emile Vandervelde had sent. This did not arrive in time, although Walter counted Vandervelde on her list of nominators. Professor Louis de Broukére sent in an individual nomination, bringing the number of Belgian registered nominations to 12.
In Sweden the Austrian journalist Kurt Deutsch (Singer) published articles and a brochure and oversaw the care of Ossietzky's young daughter, Rosalinde. Ossietzky's backers had to face a campaign for Prince Carl of Sweden, and the best they could produce were two group nomiations from socialist deputies amounting to 58 names. This was far better than Denmark, from which came only two nominations.
The Campaign in the United States
There was much activity in the United States, but only three nominators submitted in time: Alfons Goldschmidt, and emigrè radical socialist and former Weltbuehne contributor who was then teaching in New York; the Quaker historian Willian I. Hull: and the distinguished anthropologist Franz Boas. President Frank Aydelotte of Swarthmore, Professors Charles Beard and John Dewey, Alvin Johnson, Director of the New School for Social Research, and Oswald Garrison Villard of The Nation. Boas listed many of these in his own letter of nomination, but only his own name was accepted.
Emily Greene Balch, co-founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and now its honorary president, had first heard of the campaign from her friend Jane Addams. When in Prague in 1935 with a WILPF delegation, she had made an English translation of Grossmann's memorandum on Ossietzky. Back home in Wellesly, Massachusetts, she had kept in touch with the network, solicited nominations, and sent information to Dorothy Thompson, the journalist and wife of Sinclair Lewis, who was chair of the WILPF committee dealing with the matter.
The boat mail connection with Europe was slow, the effort to generate nominations began late, and too many of them arrived tardily in Oslo. The Ossietzky file in the Nobel Committee archives holds belated proposals from Harvard historians Arthur M. Schlesinger and Samuel Eliot Morison, Columbia University historian Salo Baron, Congressman Theodore L. Moritz, and Quaker philosopher Rufus M. Jones. Columbia philosophers Sidney Hook and Morris Cohen cabled their nominations on January 31, but this too late. Walter's list has several congressmen, but the major support in the United States came from academics who were already active in defense of intellectual liberty.
The Organized Peace Movement
The International Peace Bureau had provided coordination for the international work of the organized peace societies when the Norwegian Nobel Committee was first set up, and the members of its council were given eligibility to make nominations for the peace prize. In 1936 the Bureau could no longer claim such representativeness, but the five nominations sent by members of its council give some indication of the modest participation of peace society leaders in the campaign for Ossietzky.
Of the five, along with those already mentioned, from Playne, Hugenholtz, and Stoecker, proposals also came from Professor Guglielmo of Italy, then living in exile in Switzerland, and Augusta Rosenbert of Budapest. Three others arrived after the deadline: Dunnico, Long, and Marc Sangnier, former French deputy.
While Stoecker repeated her nomination of 1935, Ludwig Quidde had second thoughts and refrained. He sent a memorandum to the Nobel Committee, explaining that he had made his earlier nomination only in yielding to the pressure of friends against his better judgment. Now he was even more convinced that Ossietzky was being nominated only because he was in a concentration camp. Otherwise many other workers for peace would be considered before him.
Moreover, were Ossietzky to be given the prize, it would be a political demonstration against National Socialism, something Quidde said could not be expected of the Nobel Committee. But if this did come to pass, Quidde doubted whether Ossietzky would be set at liberty. Rather, the Nazi authorities would consider such a decision a "shameful intervention in Germany's internal affairs" and would certainly not release him.
Quidde was sure that it could only bring harm to Ossietzky when it became known that a campaign for his prize proceeded from "German emigrés, socialists, communists, pacifists, and Jews." Quidde said he was much put out that his request to keep his 1935 nomination confidential had not been honored.
A similar criticism of the Ossietzky campaign was sent to the Nobel Committee by Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, the internationally known scholar and pacifist. He sent along a memorandum from the writer Hubert Frank, which declared that Ossietzky was nothing more that a brilliant journalist, whose reputation did not extend beyond a small circle of writers and journalists in Berlin. Frank said that this was not enough to consider Ossietzky "the most qualified representative of the former German peace movement." Foerster wrote that he was in complete agreement with Frank. They both felt that a more qualified candidate would be Fritz Kuester, who had played a leading role in the organized peace movement in Weimar Germany and had been held in a concentration camp since 1933. Quidde had said the same thing when in 1935 he nominated Kuester along with Ossietzky.
* Carl von Ossietzky
* The Campaigners
* The Quest for Nominations
* The Campaign in England
* The Campaign on the Continent
* The Campaign in the United States
* The Organized Peace Movement
* A Note on Sources
When Willy Brandt heard of the campaign from Konrad Reisner in 1935, he reported that Ossietzky was little known in Oslo and there was no prospect for his candidacy. The Nobel Committee announcement on November 19 that the 1935 prize was to be postponed seemed to confirm Brandt's gloomy prognosis. On the very next day, however, an event occurred that changed everything.
On November 20 there appeared in two conservative newspapers an article bitterly attacking Ossietzky by the great Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, in his old age a strong supporter of the Third Reich. What kind of a peace advocate was this, he asked, a man who opposed his country's re-armament and would have left Germany at the mercy of France and England? Hamsun charged that Ossietzky could have left Germany, but had stayed so that there could be great agitation abroad when he was locked up.
Hamsun's polemic had the very opposite effect of what he intended. Brandt reported to Paris that it had been like a bomb. Now the newspapers were full of declarations of support for the prisoner who could not defend himself. Fellow writers, students, liberal and labor groups, all declared their solidarity with Ossietzky. Sigrid Undset, Nobel literature winner, herself a conservative, signed the anti-Hamsun manifesto of 33 members of the Union of Norwegian Writers. One influential writer called for the Nobel Committee to reconvene and give the prize to Ossietzky after all. Dr. Sahm, German Minister to Norway, sadly reported to Berlin that with the best of intentions, Hamsun had not done a service for Germany.
Brandt urged the Paris circle to move quickly to have Ossietzky proposed for the 1936 prize, which of course they were already doing. For his part he would try to use his socialist contacts to influence Labor Party deputies to make nominations and continue to place articles in the press.
Brandt was joined in these efforts by the able Mimi Sverdrup Lunden, who took over the coordination of the lobbying in Oslo and became the major link with the Paris group. She was a teacher and translator who had managed to support the family after the death of her husband and still to find time to take leadership in the movements for peace and women's rights in Norway.
Sverdrup Lunden was already active in work helping German refugees when she happened to meet Hilde Walter in the summer of 1935 at the world congress of the Soroptomist Clubs, a non-political women's association, and first heard about the campaign for Ossietzky. She was soon putting to good use all the materials Walter sent her, making translations, writing newspaper articles, and spreading the word in Oslo.
Both Sverdrup Lunden and Brandt contributed to the most important success of the campaign in Norway, the decision of the Labor Party faction in the parliament to propose Ossietzky for the prize. The Nobel Committee registered only the names of the two who transmitted the proposal, but this represented 69 members of the Storting. The third nominator was Professor Harald Schjelderup, recruited by Sverdrup Lunden.
The public debate opened by Hamsun's article was intense and revealed a deep division of opinion. Minister Sahm was instructed to pass along information about Ossietzky's conviction for treason. The conservative Oslo Aftenposten declared, "It would be an insult to the real concept of peace to award this prize to Ossietzky -- to a lawbreaker."
Hamsun had the support of the conservative students and wide backing in the conservative press. When the Union of Norwegian Writers met to consider the anti-Hamsun declaration, the vote to approve it won by only 74 to 44.
The other leading candidates in 1936 were Saveedra Lamas, whom Latin American statesmen and Secretary of State Cordell Hull were backing; Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, for whom German diplomats were instructed to propagandize, but who failed to make the Committee's short list; Prince Carl of Sweden, the Red Cross candidate; President Masaryki; and Carl Lindhagen, the long-time mayor of Sweden and internationalist.
Committee adviser Professor Frede Castberg submitted a report strongly recommending Ossietzky. It contained solid evidence that Ossietzky had neither been a communist nor a traitor and included many citations from his journalist campaigns for peace. Much of this had been given him by Hilde Walter, whom he had summoned to a private meeting in Geneva.
The Committee finally decided to give the 1935 prize to Ossietzky, despite Germany's warnings, and the 1936 prize was awarded to Saveedra Lamas. The American charge d'affaires, Jefferson Patterson, was peeved that the newspapers were full of the Ossietzky award, while Cordell Hull's candidate was barely noticed.
The division in Norwegian public opinion was even sharper after the Committee's announcement. King Haakon, who traditionally attended the award ceremony, was absent on this occasion (as was Ossietzky, who was not allowed to learve Germany). Patterson reported that the majority of newspapers had opposed the decision, only the Labor Party's Arbeiderbladet and the "leftist" Dagbladet approving. The Labor party had called Ossietzky "not merely a symbol of the peace mentality, but also of the anti-Fascist movement." Patterson said that the remainder of the Oslo press "rather bitterly attacked the Ossietzky award as a serious mistake, while some, although not all, claimed that the Committee . . . did so chiefly in order to show its dislike of Nazism."
Patterson declared that the view voiced by the conservative newspapers was shared by "the more responsible citizenry of Oslo, including officers of the Court, of the Foreign Office, and of businessmen, with whom I have talked." Some businessmen feared that the irritation in Germany about the award would jeopardize business relations. Patterson appeared to agree with the opinion that however courageous Ossietzky had been personally, he had not performed any outstanding work for peace. Had he done so, the award could properly have been given him "irrespective of possible political repercussions."
From Berlin, Ambassador William E. Dodd passed on a similar opinion, reporting that many foreign observers " consider that the Norwegian decision was in many respects unwise from the point of view of the purpose of the prize, and that Ossietzky, while a brave man, hardly measures up to the stature of a Nobel Prize Winner."
Such judgments were quite at odds with Romain Rolland's personal letter telling the Nobel Committee that it had an unprecedented opportunity "to crown an apostle of peace who has been steadfast unto martyrdom." But Committee Chairman Fredrik Stang, in declaring in his presentation speech that the prize was for "Ossietzky's valuable contribution to the cause of peace," based this entirely on his anti-militarist journalism and said nothing about his martyrdom.
What of the impact of the campaign? In a 1936 file in the Committee archives there is an undated unsigned draft of a statement which expresses what has always been the Committee's position and must refer to the Ossietzky campaign: "Never have we ever had such an imposing list of nominators --- the number was very great and it included very well known names from the political and cultural world. But it must also be said that it is not easy to influence the Committee in this way. The Committee makes its own basic investigations and lays great worth on preserving its independence --- independence with regard to campaigns and also to all political authorities."
In his speech Stang did refer to "the full force of the testimony of those who followed him in his fight and who were inspired by it. The sources of such testimony are so varied and their number so great that I cannot enumerate them here" Stang went on to declare, mistakenly, that six previous peace laureates had supported Ossietzky --- there had only been two, Addams and Quidde, and Quidde had changed his mind -- but clearly the more than 500 persons from 13 countries who had signed nominations for Ossietzky had to have influenced the decision
Yet the purposes of the campaigners were not the purposes of the Nobel Committee. Willi Brandt has said that the campaigners' purpose was "to save a victim of the Brown Terror, to condemn Nazism, and to honor the other Germany." These purposes were achieved, although while Ossietzky was released from camp and his life prolonged, when he received the prize he was already marked for death as a result of the brutal mistreatment, and he coughed away his life some months later.
The other purposes were more clearly achieved. The prize meant a moral defeat for Hitler, and in the person of Ossietzky the world was given a striking reminder that there was indeed another kind of German, who was willing to struggle and sacrifice for ideals of peace, justice, and human dignity. But we know that Stang, whose position was decisive in the Committee, had misgivings and reservations and certainly did not intend the award as simply an anti-Nazi political demonstration. He said in his speech that Ossietzky was not just a symbol --- "He is a deed, and he is a man." And a man with "a burning love for freedom of thought and expression."
To be sure, there were mixed motives among all those nominators. To the more political, it was a blow against Hitler and fascism, to many liberals, it was a demonstration for intellectual liberty. To the peace activists who participated, support for their peace principles. But perhaps what made the campaign so successful was that while Ossietzky did indeed symbolize all these causes, the focus of all the effort was upon a human being in torment, not just a symbol, but a man who had fought the good fight and was suffering for his peace beliefs. What if he was not a towering figure in the peace movement? Through the campaign for his prize, his fate did indeed touch the conscience of the world.
A Note on Sources
The basic source for the story of the campaign is the Walter collection at the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam (*Freundeskreis Carl von Ossietzky*). A selection of these materials was published by the Hamburger Arbeitstelle fur deutsche Exilliteratur of the University of Hamburg for its Ossietzky exhibit in 1988: Carl von Ossietzky und das politische Exil, edited by Frithjof Trapp, Knut Bergmann, and Bettina Herre. In 1990 Charmian Brinson and Marian Malet edited Rettet Ossietzky! Dokumente aus dem Nachlass von Rudolf Olden in the Schriftenreihe des Fritz Kuenster-Archivs (Oldenburg: Bibliotheks-und Informations-system der Universitaet Oldenbur)g, providing a clear picture of the campaign in Britain from Olden's papers at University College, London.
I did not see the Hilde Walter Nachlass in the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte in Munich and was told by the Zentrales Staatsarchiv in Potsdam that the "Memorandum-Briefwechsel des Freundeskreises Carl von Ossietzky in der Emigration: 1934-1936" was not accessible.
The archives of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo have the Committee's confidential annual reports for 1935 and 1936, which contain lists of nominations received and the advisers' reports on candidates on the short list (Det Norske Stortings Nobelkomite, Redegjoreise for Nobels Fredspris, Volumes 35 and 36, 1935-36); copies of the Gestapo documents; and newsclippings.
The Sammlung Ossietzky at the Library of the University of Oldenburg is the most important Ossietzky archive. Catalogues of exhibitions there indicate its rich holdings: Carl von Ossietzky 1889-1938, organized by Volker Segers in 1982; and Carl von Ossietzky. Eine biografische Ausstellung, organized by Elke Suhr in 1988. The University of Oldenburg, which has finally added Ossietzky to its name, is a center of research and writing on Ossietzky and is in close touch with Ossietzky's daughter, Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm.
The microfilmed records of the German Foreign Office at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., include the diplomatic correspondence concerning Ossietzky: Inland II, Carl von Ossietzky, 1934-37, Roll 2824. The reports about the prize from Dodd in Berlin and Patterson in Oslo are in the records of the Department of State also at the National Archives (093.57: N66/295 and N66/290).
The correspondence of the Quaker representatives in Berlin are in the archives of the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia and the Library of Friends House in London. The letter from the British Quakers to the German people was printed in The Friend (London), July 12, 1935. See also William R. Hughes, Indomitable Friend. Corder Catchpool 1883-1952 (London: Housmans, 1956, reprinted, 1964).
Willy Brandt's account is in Mein Weg nach Berlin, Munich: 1960, pp. 7-9, and "Eine Kampagne fur den Friedenspreis gegen Hilter," in H. Donat & A. Wild, eds., Carl von Ossietzky, Republikaner ohne Republik, (Bremen: Donat & Temmen, 1986), papers are with his papers at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bonn. My interview with Brandt added little to what he has written. Several extended interviews with Konrad Reisner, the only survivor of the Paris group, were of great help.
The most detailed account is by Hilde Walter, "Aus der Chronik der Nobelpreises for Carl von Ossietzky," Das Parlament, Beilage, 9 October 1969. Kurt Grossmann emphasizes his own role in "Carl von Ossietzky Receives the Peace Nobel Prize." In Erich Fromm and Hans Herzfeld, eds., Der Friede. Idee und Verwiklichung. The Search for Peace. Festgabe fur Adolf Leschnitzer, (Heidelberg, 1961), pp. 177-98. See also Lothar Wieland, "Der Friedens-Nobelpreis 1935," in Donat & Wild, pp. 71-83. In Carl von Ossietzky und die Frieden-sbewegung (Warsaw: University of Warsaw, 1985), Carol Fiedor covers the campaign and the Polish press.
The most extensively researched biography of Ossietzky is by Elke Suhr of the Olsenburg group: Carl von Ossietzky. Eine Biografie, Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1988). Richard von Soldenhoff has edited Carl von Ossietzky 1889-1938. Ein Lebensbild (Berlin: Quadriga, 1988), a collection of documents and illustrations drawn from the best sources, with extensive footnotes and commentary.
Grossmann's Ossietzky. Ein deutscher Partriot (Munich: Kindler, 1963), was reprinted in paperback by Suhrkamp in 1973, with its extensive Ossietzky bibliography and documents. Bruno Frei's biography represents the interpretation then current in the German Democratic Republic: Carl von Ossietzky. Eine politische Biographie, (E. Berlin: 1978 (rev. ed. of Ritter ohne Furcht und Tadel, E. Berlin 1966) leave much to be desired. See also the journalistic Carl von Ossietzky by Hermann Vinke, 3rd ed. (Hamburg: Dressler, 1980). The pamphlet, What Was His Crime?, edited by Amabel Williams-Ellis, was published in London and Southampton by Camelot Press in 1936.
The correspondence of Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch concerning Ossietzky are in their papers at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.
The English translation of Chairman Stang's presentation speech is in Frederick W. Haberman, ed., Nobel Lectures. Peace (3 vols., Amsterdam and New York: 1972), II. 207-9.
For Norwegian developments see the thesis of Geir Hestne; "Ossietzky-Saken," University of Bergen, 1973; the valuable account by Oscar J. Faines: Norway and the Nobel Peace Prize, New York, 1938; Arne Stai, "Carl von Ossietzky og Nobels Fredspris," in Norsk Kultur-og Moral Debatt I 1930-Arene (Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1954), pp. 75-91; and Jens A Christophersen: "Mot Dag" and the Nowegian Left," in The Left Wing Intellectuals between the Wars 1919-1939, ed. by Walter Laqueur & George L. Mosse (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966) pp. 135-148.
The Red Cross representative who saw Ossietzky in camp, Carl J. Burckhardt, describes his visit in Meine Danziger Mission, 1937-1939, Munich, 1960. pp. 60-62. For Gerlach, see Franz G. Schulte, Der Publizist Hellmut von Gerlach (1866-1935). (Munich: Sauer, 1988). For Allen, see Arthur Marwick, Clifford Allen. The Open Conspirator (Edinburgh & London: Oliver & Boys, 1964.
Copyright 1991 by Irwin Abrams. All rights reserved.