Nobel Nuggets, Part III

by Jay Nordlinger

This week, I have been doling out nuggets about the Nobel Peace Prize — subject of a book I now have on the market. For Parts I and II, go here and here.

Thought I’d begin today by telling you a little something about Nicholas Murray Butler, the president of Columbia University for almost the entire first half of the 20th century: 1901 to 1945. His friend Theodore Roosevelt dubbed him “Nicholas Miraculous.” Butler won the peace prize in 1931 (sharing it with Jane Addams).

An incredibly well traveled man, Butler: He went to Europe more than a hundred times. Think about that. More than a hundred trips, in an age of sailing, not flying.

Think of John R. Mott, too. He was a leader of the YMCA, and a co-laureate in 1946 (with Emily Greene Balch, a pacifist intellectual in the Addams mold). Mott, too, crossed the Atlantic more than a hundred times. He also crossed the Pacific 14 times. For 50 years, he averaged 34 days a year on the ocean.

Nineteen thirty-four’s laureate was Arthur Henderson, a British Labour politician and a former foreign secretary. He was a disarmament champion, and a warm friend of the Soviet Union. Lenin knew he was useful.

During the Genoa Conference of 1922, which had to do with economic relations between West and East, Lenin wrote to his foreign-affairs commissar, Chicherin. He said, “Henderson is as stupid as Kerensky, and for this reason he is helping us.” Lenin was looking for a way to wreck Genoa without being blamed for it. As Richard Pipes writes in The Unknown Lenin, the Soviet boss wanted to prevent a rapprochement between the Allies and Germany at all costs, the better for Communism to penetrate Europe.

Lenin said to Chicherin, “The fool Henderson and Co. will help us a lot if we cleverly prod them.”

Nineteen thirty-five’s laureate was an incredibly brave man: Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist and journalist. He was thrown into prison and concentration camps by the Nazis. They repeatedly asked him to sign a statement renouncing his principles. He refused. They tortured him. He still refused.

A Red Cross official found him in a pulverized state — the state of a person who had “reached the uttermost limits of what can be borne.”

When the prize for Ossietzky was announced, Goering tried to get his prisoner to reject it. The prisoner would not. Ossietzky died in a sanatorium in 1938. The effects of tuberculosis, torture, and hard labor did him in. He was 48.

Winning in 1938 was an agency of the League of Nations: the Nansen International Office for Refugees. Representing the agency was its president, Michael Hansson (a Norwegian, despite his Swedish name).

In his Nobel lecture, Hansson said, “Animosity toward the Jews is spreading like a plague over many countries, especially in southern and eastern Europe.” Jews would eventually need a homeland of their own, he said. Where it might be “does not really matter as long as they can be together on their own.” Hansson continued,

How the Jews have suffered! What persecution and humiliation they have been forced to endure for so many centuries, as the result of the most sinister religious fanaticism! If they have acquired some faults and if they often seem uncongenial, it is not surprising. But it is nothing less than revolting nowadays to hear people, and especially those whose own records would not bear close examination, assert that the Jews are now paying for their wrongdoings of the past. One is tempted to ask: When will the Christians have to pay for theirs?

There was no Nobel Peace Prize for 1939, because the prize is announced in October, and Germany invaded Poland on September 1. The prize went into suspension for the duration of the war.

But if there had been a prize for 1939, it probably would have gone to Neville Chamberlain, who was very heavily nominated — nominated for the Munich Agreement. The German signatory to that agreement was nominated too, by a Swedish parliamentarian. In due course, that nomination was withdrawn.

Churchill, sitting in his country’s parliament, nominated Edvard Beneš, the Czechoslovakian president-in-exile. I find this nomination so typical of Churchill. A Nobel to Beneš would have been a neat black eye to the Nazis and other enemies of the peace and freedom of Europe. It also might have served as a rebuke to misguided appeasers.

People often want to know why Gandhi didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize. I will explain, briefly.

He was nominated many times, and shortlisted three times: in 1937, 1947, and 1948. He was a great pacifist, yes, but did his campaigns and demonstrations not sometimes lead to violence? (This was the committee’s thinking.) How universal a man was he? In South Africa, he helped the Indians, but what about the blacks? Did he not have a streak of Hindu nationalism in him?

It would have been tough to give him the prize in 1947: India and the new state, Pakistan, were at war, slaughtering each other. A prize to Gandhi would have looked like a preference for India and the Hindus over Pakistan and the Muslims.

So, 1948 — but Gandhi was assassinated in January. The committee did not think, at that time, that they could give a posthumous prize. They would give one such prize later — in 1961, to Dag Hammarskjöld.

Oil became a very, very big deal in our lives, and it started earlier than I would have thought. I want to quote to you from the Nobel lecture by John Boyd Orr — a Scottish nutritionist, pacifist, world-government advocate, and U.N. man. He won the prize in 1949.

Lecturing in Oslo, he said that “the control of oil-bearing land” had become “an important factor in the foreign policy of some governments.”

I’ll be damned.

Nineteen fifty-three saw a Nobel ceremony for George C. Marshall. The chairman of the committee, Gunnar Jahn, handed Marshall the customary trinkets: the Nobel medal and the “diploma,” or certificate. As he was performing this act, something strange happened: Three young Communist journalists in the balcony shouted a protest and dropped leaflets on the audience below. They shouted about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and said that Marshall was no peacemaker.

Marshall was calm and courtly. He looked on matter-of-factly. Jahn said to him, “Communists.” Marshall smiled knowingly.

But heck, why I am telling you all this, when you can see it for yourself? YouTube is a miracle and godsend: Go here.

The story is told that, sometime after the ceremony, Marshall remarked to someone that he was used to being jeered at by anti-Communists, not Communists — because some on the right back at home were incensed at President Truman’s policy of containment (versus a policy of “rollback”). Marshall had served in that president’s cabinet.

I wish there were a film of this: Albert John Lutuli won the peace prize for 1960. He was a South African — a Zulu chief, the president of the African National Congress, a dedicated Christian, and a great man.

At the prize ceremony, he said one of the funniest and most graceful things ever uttered at such a ceremony. He noted that the interior minister in South Africa had said that he, Lutuli, did not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. “Such is the magic of a peace prize,” said Lutuli, “that it has even managed to produce an issue on which I agree with the government of South Africa.”

Let’s break for today, friends. Thanks for joining me. Join me tomorrow, for Nuggets Part IV?

You may order Jay Nordlinger’s new book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World direct from National Review. Go here. Ask for a signature and an inscription, if you like. If you are interested in having the author speak before your group, contact him at [email protected]

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