Carl von Ossietzky

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Carl von Ossietzky (3 October 1889 – 4 May 1938) was a radical German pacifist and the recipient of the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize. He was convicted of high treason and espionage in 1931 after publishing details of Germany's alleged violation of the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding an air force, the predecessor of the Luftwaffe, and training pilots in the Soviet Union. In 1990 his daughter, Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm, called for a resumption of proceedings, but the verdict was upheld by the Federal Court of Justice in 1992 in a decision that is final.



Ossietzky was born in Hamburg, the son of Carl Ignatius von Ossietzky (1848–1891), a Protestant from Upper Silesia, and Rosalie née Pratzka, a devout Catholic who wished for Carl to become a monk. His father worked as a stenographer in the office of a lawyer and senator, but died when Carl was two years old. Carl was baptized in the Catholic Church Kleine Michel in Hamburg on 10 November 1889, and confirmed in the Lutheran Hauptkirche St. Michaelis on 23 March 1904.

The "von" in Ossietzky's name, which would generally suggest noble ancestry, is of unknown origin. Ossietzky himself explained, perhaps half in jest, that it derived from an ancestor's service in a Polish lancer cavalry regiment; the Elector of Brandenburg was unable to pay his two regiments of lancers at one point due to an empty war chest so he instead conferred nobility upon the entirety of the two regiments.[1]

Despite his failure to finish the Realschule, a German secondary school, Ossietzky succeeded in embarking on a career in journalism, with the topics of his articles ranging from theatre criticism to feminism and the problems of early motorization. He later said that his opposition to German militarism during the final years of the German Empire under William II led him, as early as 1913, to become a pacifist. That year he married Maud Lichfield-Wood, a Mancunian suffragette, born as a British colonial officer's daughter and great grand-daughter of an Indian princess in Hyderabad. They had one daughter, Rosalinde. During the years of the Weimar Republic (1919 – 1933), his political commentaries gained him a reputation as a fervent supporter of democracy and a pluralistic society. Also, he became secretary of the German Peace Society (Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft). In 1927 he became the successor to Kurt Tucholsky as editor-in-chief of the periodical Die Weltbühne.[2] In 1932 he supported Ernst Thälmann's candidacy for the German presidency, though still a critic of the actual policy of the German Communist Party and the Soviet Union.

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