Carl von Ossietzky (1889-1938)

The drop-out student Carl von Ossietzky, born October 3rd 1889 in Hamburg and raised under poor conditions, began his jounalistic career as an out-side job, when he was auxiliary writer at the administration of justice in Hamburg. In 1911, he began to write for the republican-oriented (more meant in its original meaning, in favor of a republic, against monarchy) weekly paper Das freie Volk (The free people) - with an antimilitaristic tendency.

In 1914, this engagement led to his first penal sentence for offence of the court-martial. After World-War I, for which he was drafted in 1916, he became secretary of the pacifistic Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft (German Peace Society) in 1919 in Berlin. He also worked as a journalist for the Berliner Volkszeitung, the Weltbühne and Das Tage-Buch.

In 1927 Ossietzky became, as successor of Siegfried Jacobsohn and Kurt Tucholsky, head of the Weltbühne. This left-intellectual weekly magazine has never had high circulation (15,000), but was very much noticed in political quarters of the Weimarer Republic (the political term for Germany of 1919-1933) , because as an independent paper, it turned against the conditions of restauration with radical criticism - with Carl von Ossietzky at the head. Many intellectuals used it as a forum - among them Heinrich Mann, Egon Erwin Kisch, Erich Kästner, Erich Mühsam, Stefan und Arnold Zweig, Ernst Bloch.

In the night of the burning of the Reichstag on February 27th 1933, the Republican (see remark in the beginning), who had refused to flee from the Nazis, was arrested by the Gestapo (Secret Police). He spent more than three years in the concentration-camps Sonnenburg and . In 1936 he was released by order of Hitler, when his nomination for the Peace Nobel Prize, which was pursued by many politicians, artists and intellectuals, could not be hindered by the German government any more.

The Nobel Prize was granted to him in December 1936. However, the publicist was never able to recover from his more than three-year imprisonment. As a conseqence of the tortures he suffered in the KZ Esterwegen, he died on May 4th, 1938 in Berlin. He left his English wife Maud, who died in Berlin in 1974, and his daughter Rosalinde who now lives in Sweden.

(taken from the Veranstaltungsverzeichnis 1992/93 of the Uni Oldenburg)
translated by
Heinrich Stamerjohanns (
January 1994