The nomination of Neville Chamberlain
On January 24 1939,
twelve Swedish members of parliament nominated the British Prime
Minister Neville Chamberlain to the Nobel Peace Prize. The argument
for this was that Chamberlain had saved world peace by the Munich
Agreement with Hitler in September 1938. By this agreement the
Czechoslovakian area Sudetenland was handed over to Germany.
Chamberlain was the man who "through this dangerous time saved our
part of the world from a terrible catastrophe." (1)
The Nobel Committee had already in autumn 1938 received letters concerning Chamberlain and the Peace Prize. Early in October a letter arrived form the Conservative member of the Norwegian Parliament Jakob Ørbæk who strongly opposed a Peace Prize to Chamberlain because he was "..the front runner for handing over a small country to destruction, possibly annihilation.."(2) Shortly thereafter a letter with the opposite reaction arrived. 18 Swedish-Americans from "Officers of the Svenska Krigareforbund (Association of Warriors) of Chicago,"(!) wished the Peace Prize to Chamberlain as "the most outstanding statesman of this day by keeping all out of war." (3)
The partition of Czechoslovakia 1938-1939: 1 and 5 to Germany, 2 to Poland, 3 and 4 to Hungary. Slovakia became a German satellite. Map: Wikimedia Commons.
Hitler nominated to the Peace Prize
Three days after the nomination of Chamberlain the Swedish Parliamentarian and Social Democrat, Erik Brandt, sent a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to the Peace Prize:
To the Norwegian Nobel Committee
I hereby humbly suggest that the Peace Prize for 1939 is awarded the German Chancellor and Führer Adolf Hitler, a man, who in the opinion of millions of people, is a man who more than anyone in the world has deserved this highly respected reward.
Authentic documents reveal that in September 1938 world peace was in great danger; it was only a matter of hours before a new European war could break out. The man who during this dangerous time saved our part of the world from this terrible catastrophe was without no doubt the great leader of the German people. In the critical moment he voluntarily did not let weapons speak although he had the power to start a world war.
By his glowing love for peace, earlier documented in his famous book Mein Kampf - next to the Bible perhaps the best and most popular piece of literature in the world - together with his peaceful achievement - the annexation of Austria - Adolf Hitler has avoided the use of force by freeing his countrymen in Sudetenland and making his fatherland big and powerful. Probably Hitler will, if unmolested and left in peace by war mongers, pacify Europe and possibly the whole world.
still are a great number of people who fail to see the greatness in
Adolf Hitler´s struggle for peace. Based on this fact I would not
have found the time right to nominate Hitler as a candidate to the
Nobel Peace Prize had it not been for a number of Swedish
parliamentarians who have nominated another candidate, namely the
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. This nomination seems
to be poorly
thought. Although it is true that Chamberlain through his generous
understanding of Hitler´s struggle for pacification has contributed
to the saving of world peace, the last decision was Hitler´s and
not Chamberlains! Hitler and no one else is first and foremost to
be thanked for the peace which still prevails in the greater part
of Europe; and this man is also the hope for peace in the
obviously can claim his share of the peace making, he could
possibly have a smaller part of the Peace Prize. But the most correct thing to
do is not to put another name beside the name of Adolf Hitler and
thereby throwing a shadow on him. Adolf Hitler is by all means the
authentic God-given fighter for peace, and millions of people all
over the world put their hopes in him as the Prince of Peace on
Stockholm, January 27 1939
The nomination created a wave of protests from Swedish communists, social-democrats and liberal anti-fascists. Erik Brandt was claimed to be insane, clumsy and a traitor to the values of the working class. All his lectures in different associations and clubs were cancelled. Brandt was surprised by the violent reactions. Then how did he explain the nomination of Hitler?
Erik Brandt was interviewed by the Swedish newspaper Svenska Morgonposten. Here he explained that the nomination of Hitler was meant to be ironical. The nomination of Chamberlain provoked him to nominate Hitler as a provocation against Hitler and Nazism. The result of the Munich Agreement was that the western powers stabbed Czechoslovakia in the back by handing over Sudetenland to achieve peace. Nor Chamberlain or Hitler deserved a Peace Prize. In a letter to the editor of the anti-Nazi newspaper Trots Allt after the outbreak of WWII in the autumn of 1939, Brandt wrote that by nominating Hitler he wanted to: "by the use of irony suggest a Peace Prize to Hitler and by that nail him to the wall of shame as enemy number one of peace in the world.." (4)
But when the reactions to the nomination were so violent and the majority in Sweden obviously not had understood the irony behind the nomination of Hitler, Brant withdrew the nomination in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee a few days later - on February the first - the last date for nominations for 1939.
Is Brandt´s explanation to be trusted?
Erik Brandt´s explanation that the nomination was meant to be an ironical protest against Hitler is most probably correct. But he failed to foresee the reaction from the public when it came to how he formed his message. Brandt proved to be an anti-fascist already shortly after the signing of the Munich Agreement in September 1938 when he signed a petition which lead to the founding of an anti-fascist association in Sweden. In April 1939 he scolded his own party which refused to receive more Jewish refugees from Germany and during WWII Brandt was among the first to investigate and speak about the rumors of German extermination camps in Poland. As a whole he appeared as a patent anti-Nazi during the entire WWII. (5)
The history of Erik Brandt´s nomination of Adolf Hitler fully shows how dangerous it may be to use irony in a heated political setting.
1 The Nobel Institute Archive. Nomination letter dated January 24 1939
2 Ibid. Letter October 14 1938, from Jakob Ørbæk, Risør
3 Ibid. Letter October 20 1938, from Chicago, Illinois
4 Ibid Copy of letter from Erik Brandt to Ture Nerman, November 11 1939. The nomination of Hitler was also published in Swedish newspapers.
5 The following link has more about this (sadly only in Swedish):