Was Adolf Hitler really nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939?

While the answer to that question is “yes”, he wasn’t nominated for reasons most people get nominated for.

A quick search for “Hitler” in the Nobel Nomination Database reveals that he was indeed nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939 by a member of the Swedish Parliament; an E.G.C. Brandt. His official motivation for nominating Hitler was that “Hitler was the leader of the German Nationalist Socialist Party”, which seems rather vague.

Luckily, the official Nobel website offers further insight on the matter. Apparently, E.G.C Brandt never intended his nomination to be taken seriously. Brandt, a devoted antifascist, wanted to use Hitler’s nomination to ridicule those who nominated Neville Chamberlain for the Nobel Peace Prize after he had signed the Munich Agreement. The Munich Agreement (signed in 1938 by Hitler, Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier) infamously allowed Nazi Germany to annex portions of Czechoslovakia in order to prevent a war.

In his nomination letter, Brandt praised Hitler as a “divinely gifted freedom fighter” and the “Prince of Peace on earth”. He pointed out that the Führer’s “glowing love of peace” should be evident from his great book Mein Kampf, a book “perhaps second only to the bible”. Brandt also mentioned those Swedish Members of Parliament who failed to see that it was Hitler, not Chamberlain, who played the leading role in achieving peace in Europe and the rest of the world.

Brandt’s letter was published by multiple newspapers and created great controversy, as lots of people misinterpreted his words. Various Nazi sympathizers congratulated Brandt for echoing their sentiments, while others were outraged that he’d praise Hitler so openly. In the end, Brandt decided to withdraw his nomination in February 1939.

This, of course, mattered very little by then. World War 2 already broke out, and the Nobel Peace Prize wasn’t given out again until 1944.

What about Gertrude Stein’s nomination?

In relation to the ethos of Hitler’s Nobel Peace Prize, there is another story that pops up frequently. A Jewish American writer, Gertrude Stein, had been said to be lobbying for the Führer’s Nobel Peace Prize. This story is popular in certain circles; after all, if a well-educated Jew thinks that Hitler should have gotten a Peace Prize, there must be something to it – goes these people’s reasoning.

Stein’s political affiliations and world views (especially her attitudes toward Vichy France during World War 2) are debated to this day. I don’t intend explore these for now, but focus on her alleged lobbying for Hitler’s Nobel Peace Prize instead.

In an article published by the New York Times in 1934, Stein demands a Peace Prize for Hitler because by “driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left elements, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace”. However, as certain historians point out; in light of the rest of the article, this statement is probably ironic.

In the late 90’s, however, the story of Gertrude Stein lobbying for Hitler’s Nobel Peace Prize gained new strength when the Swedish Gustav Hendrikksen claimed Stein (and other intellectuals) wrote a letter to the Nobel Committee asking to nominate Hitler for the Peace Prize. Hendrikksen said he knew of this letter because he was part of the committee that rejected this request.

There are many reasons to be skeptical of this story, as the historian Edward Burns points out. Firstly, the Nobel Committee denies the existence of such a letter. Secondly, it seems Gustav Hendrikksen was not a member of this Committee. Other biographers of Gertrude Stein think that even if she did write such a letter, it was probably as serious as E.G.C. Brandt’s. Some even say that Hendrikksen, annoyed after Yasser Arafat received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, invented this story to illustrate Jewish self-deprecation.

For the record, it would have been pointless to lobby for Hitler in 1938 because the Führer (angered by the winner of the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize) forbade all German citizens from accepting Nobel Prizes. This lead to 3 German scientists missing out on the award.

In passing, it must be mentioned that another slaughtering contemporary of Hitler’s, Joseph Stalin, also missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize despite two non-withdrawn nominations.

Photo: Bundesarchiv/Wikipedia

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