Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Hitler and Michael Jackson for peace prize?

‘It’s pretty easy to be nominated,’ says former Nobel Committee secretary

OSLO, AFP

US pop star Michael Jackson opens a car window to greet fans as he arrives at the venue for the “Premium VIP Party with Michael Jackson” in Tokyo in 2007.

Photo: REUTERS

Eighty years ago on the brink of the bloodiest conflict in history, Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, illustrating that literally anyone can be nominated.

From the Fuhrer to the “King of Pop,” in the nearly 120 years the prize has been awarded nominations have included some choices that — to say the least — have seemed unlikely and outright bizarre.

In January 1939, about eight months before the invasion of Poland, Swedish Social Democratic MP Erik Brandt wrote to the Norwegian Nobel Committee to suggest the Peace Prize should be given to Hitler.

In the letter, written only months after the annexation of Austria and the Sudeten Crisis, Brandt praised the leader of the Third Reich’s “glowing love for peace,” dubbing him “the Prince of Peace on Earth.”

Brandt later explained the nomination was meant to be satirical — although the irony was lost on many — and was in protest against British prime minister Neville Chamberlain being nominated for the 1938 Munich Agreement in which part of Czechoslovakia was ceded to Germany.

The logic was that if Chamberlain were to be celebrated for appeasing Hitler, the Fuhrer might as well be too.

Brandt eventually withdrew the nomination, but Hitler still appears as a candidate in the archives.

“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,” Nobel historian Asle Sveen said.

STALIN AND MUSSOLINI TOO

The Nobel Committee accepts all proposals as long as they are sent before the Jan. 31 deadline.

But while anyone alive can be nominated, not just anyone can submit a nomination.

Those eligible to do so include parliamentarians and ministers from all countries, former laureates, some university professors and current and former members of the committee itself. All together they number in the thousands.

“There are so many people who have the right to nominate a candidate that it’s not very complicated to be nominated,” the influential committee secretary, Olav Njolstad, said.

In 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was proposed, ironically, by German and French academics mere months before his country invaded Ethiopia.

As one of the victors of World War II, Russian leader Joseph Stalin was nominated twice, in 1945 and 1948.

Once the deadline has passed and the nominations are in, only a handful are kept on a shortlist to be reviewed by the committee and its advisors.

“Neither Hitler, Stalin nor Mussolini were seriously considered for the Peace Prize,” historian Geir Lundestad, former secretary of the Committee, said. “What surprises me most is that many dictators around the world have refrained from getting themselves nominated.”

Over the last two decades the number of candidates has skyrocketed and today generally exceed 300, so it isn’t too surprising that a few odd names show up.

“One or two” nominations distinguished by their peculiarity show up “at regular intervals,” according to Njolstad.

FROM POP TO PEACE

The list of candidates is kept confidential for at least 50 years, but a sponsor can publicly announce their pick.

Whether a nomination is odd or not is of course a matter of perspective, but some proposals would certainly make most people do a double-take.

In 2001 the sport of football represented by the international football federation FIFA was nominated.

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