The Danish Peace Academy

Carl von Ossietzky : The peace hero in the consentration camp

By Kurt Singer -
Kurt Singer 1995

Addendum to 1935 Carl von Ossietzky biography, April 2001

It was a letter from the blue sky that arrived from England. Rosalinde von Ossietzky, 14 years old, asked me to send her a copy of her father's biography. She lived in a boarding school in England and had no money to pay for the book. I sent her a copy immediately also told her that my wife Hilde and I had formed a small Ossietzky Committee in the hope to help to free her father from the torture of the concentration camp in Esterwegen-Papenburg.

A correspondence began with Rosalinde who told us that the Quakers had brought her in december 1933 from Nazi Germany to England and her Quaker boarding school.

Ernst Toller the well known German dramatist had paid for her school. But he could not continue payments being a refugee without an income. She wondered what would happen to her. My wife Hilde and I, both 24 years old, asked her to come to Stockholm and we'll find ways and means to support her. I contacted Mrs. Mia Leche-Loefgren, the wife of the former Foreign and Justice minister, a member of our Ossietzky Committee. She was also a member of the Government's Refugee Aid Commiittee.

Rosalinde von Ossietzky as 16.

The Days Carl von Ossietzky's daughter Rosalinde Was Ignored

Children of famous people have often been ignored. Stalin's daughter felt ignored and overlooked. Margret Truman wrote in her memoirs that the many dignitaries who visited the White House to meet her father the President had ignored her, with Winston Churchill the exception.

No wonder that Rosalinde a daughter of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1936 Carl von Ossietzky felt a similar neglect and humiliation. People with "causes" pay often little attention to children.

This story is about a forgotten piece in history when Ernst Toller the famous dramatist and author of Hoppla wir Leben came to Sweden to visit his old friend Kurt Tucholsky one of Ossietzky soul mates, co-editor and sohisticated contributors to the Weltbühne. It happened in the summer of 1935. Tucholsky lived in greatest secrecy at Lake Mälarn near Schloss Gripsholm in beautiful surroundings. Ossietzky's old friend suffered from an abnormal amount of paranoia. He was obsessed by the idea that Hitler's assassins would kill him. He became a hermit and was taken care of by two admiring ladies. Not even his trusted friend Toller knew his whereabouts.

When I met Ernst Toller at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, he asked me how to locate the secretive Tucholsky I had no idea where to find him. All I knew was that both authors wanted to participate in the Nobel Campaign. Both men never saw Rosalinde in Sweden.

Though Toller had helped Ossietzky's daughter during her stay in England. Both men never sent her a Christmas card or a gift. Tragically both men committed suicide. The unsung and difficult life in exile was too difficult to endure.

Rosalinde the teenager felt humiliated to be ignored by her father's friends and even by Hilde Walter, Ossietyzky's old close friend and secretary who was very instrumental in influencing the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Even she ignored all human values and never wrote Rosalinde or sent her a present or visited her on her many trips to Sweden and Norway.

Rosalinde von Ossietzky arrived, a lonely teenager, far away from her mother in Berlin and her incarcerated father. She was scared, but smiling, hopeful and overwhelmed by the reception Swedish friends of Ossietzky had shown her. Rosalinde was registered at the (Oderwald inspired - German school led by Paul Geheeb and his whife - they too became refugees in Switzerland in 1933) quaker friendly Viggbyholmskolan. Rosalinde lived in Sweden untill January 2001 when she passed away.

In the meantime the Nobel Peace Prize Committee was bombarded with letters to grant Ossietzky the Nobel Peace Prize. Letters came from former prize laureates, from Einstein, Thomas Mann, Upton Sinclair Hermingway, leading statesmen the world over. There was also a German refugee named Karl Frahm, later known as Dr. Willy Brandt, the German Chancellor who had collected the signatures from 69 Norwegian Storting members suggesting the peace prize for the courageous editor who was felled by tuberculosis in the Esterwegen camp.

Ossietzky was forced to work there in a swamp awhich became famous through the MOHR SOLDATEN SONG. A week before the prize was anounced Hilde and I received a phone call from the Nobel Committee asking us for a half dozen or more copies of my Ossietzky biography to be sent via express to the Nobel Committee in Oslo.

We felt this could be a good omen that the hero in the concentration camp would receive the highest honors from the Nobel Committee in Oslo. Carl von Ossietzky received the 1935 Peace Prize on November 23, 1936.

Immediately after the prize had been awarded I visited the editor of the Socialdemokraten, newspaper and asked if Rosalinde could not phone her father in Berlin and we would tape the discussion. Zeth Höglund liked the idea and made immediate arrangements. I was to handle the phone call and tape the recording. It worked. Rosalinde spoke with her father the first time since 1933. Ossietzky was overjoyed and told Rosalinde that he was feeling okeh but was weak. Three times he told her that the Peace Prize money MUST not be sent to Germany. At that moment the Gestapo cut off the phone call.

The traditional very festive ceremonies for the winning laureate on December 10, were however overclouded. Rosalinde von Ossietzky, the daughter was not invited and King Haakon VIII did not attend to avoid further protests from the Nazi German Government, Goering outlawed the Nobel Peace Prize in Germany, no German was allowed to receive the Nobel Prize. Maud Ossietzky, the wife was not allowed to attend the ceremonies either.

The Prize money was sent to Germany where a Nazi attorney stole the money and the Ossietzky family never received a penny, but Ossietzky was moved from Esterwegen to the hospital Nordend in Berlin. Ossietzky had given an barrister from Berlin power of attorney on January 12, 1937 to collect the prize money. The attorney had contacted Maud Ossietzky for that purpose. Then Carl and Rosalinde had a second phone conversation. This also was recorded by Socialdemokraten and mailed to the Norwegian Nobel Institute on January 21, 1937.

The lifespan had run out and Ossietzky died soon after on May 4, 1938 in Berlin, his wife Maud was not allowed to attend the grave site at the Weissensee cemetery. There was no name plate on the grave which was much later installed after Berlin was freed from the Nazi tyranny.

After the end of World War II it took a long time until the new Germany honoured its great son. It's almost a joke in history that the Communist East German DDR honoured Rosalinde von Ossietzky with the PEACE PRIZE while West Germany's Government had ignored Rosalinde. It was up to the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg to restore a very delicate balance.

I visited the Esterwegen camp a first time at a re-union of Ossietzky's old friends at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg. We all went to the old campsite now a memorial park and Chancellor Willy Brandt spoke to us and former inmates. Many came from the Netherlands since Dutchmen were imprisoned. Esterwegen and Oldenburg are close to the Dutch border. We learned then that Esterwegen had no gas chambers because the stench and smoke would have disturbed the Oldenburg citizens. On my second visit to Esterwegen in 1990 I found a small memorial museum on the old camp grounds and the curator told me that most inmates were German and Dutch socialists, communists and intellectuals. But the camp had also housed 30.000 deserters from the German armed forces.These Anti-Nazis were executed by a firing squad. The shots were not heard in Oldenburg. Most Oldenburgers did not even know that there existed a concentration camp nearby.

Maud who had survived the Nazi regime by moving from place to place to hide wanted to get her husband's Weltbuehne republished in West Germany but found nobody willing to finance it. She finally found an asylum for the publication in East Germany the DDR. where it appeaared until the downfall of the Berlin Wall.

Then the owner of the old Weltbuehne the Jacobson family refused to give permission to the East German editors to publish the magazine. Even new editors were refused publication out of fear they would be too radical left wing. Finally the old Weltbuehne was replaced with a left wing magazine called OSSIETZKY which is fighting for human rights and against neo nazism and injustice.

Rosalinde von Ossietzky endorsed the new magazine and wrote for it. Until her untimely death Rosalinde helped to keep her father's name alive and did so with great success. Germany is today proud of a Carl von Ossietzky University, a dozen Ossietzky public schools, a Ossietzky postal stamp, Ossietzky Streets, an express Ossietzky train between Berlin and his birth town Hamburg.

Prussia and Germany had finally honored an anti militarist and pacifist who believed in democracy without compromise and was willing to suffer and die for it.

By making Carl von Ossietzky the winning laureate, it was the first great victory the Nazi resistance had scored.

Albert Einstein on Carl von Ossietzky

Only one who spent the years following the First World War in Germany can fully understand how hard a battle it was that a man like Ossietzky had to fight. He knew that the tradition of his countrymen,bent on violence and war, had not lost its power.He knew how difficult, thankless and dangerous a task it was. to preach sanity and justice to his contrymen who had been hardened by a rough fate and demoralizing influence of a long war. In their blindness they repaid him in hatred, persecution and slow destruction; to heed him and to act accordingly would have meant their salvation and would have been a true relief for the whole world.
It will be to the eternal fame of the Nobel Foundation that it bestowed its high honor to this humble martyr and that it is resolved to keep alive the memory of his work.It is also wholesome for mankind today, since the fatal illusion against which he fought has not been removed by the outcome of the last war.The abstention from the solution of human problems by brute force - is the task today as it was then.
From the book Albert Einstein Out of My Later Years. Published by Wings Books, New York. Copyright 1956, Estate of Albert Einstein. The last sentence remains immortal.


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