Musing on the Wikipedia, I came across this page.
Carl von Ossietzky (1889 — 1938) was a German journalist and pacifist that exposed the clandestine German re-armament between WW1 and 2 and was convicted of espionage in 1931 for it.
He received the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize and died of tuberculosis while imprisoned.
I’m not going to paraphrase the wiki article here, you should read it. There’s a few things that I find eye-opening in the troubled era that we live in. If History does not repeat itself, at least modern corrupted powers find a lot of inspiration in their models from the past.
Was he the first whislteblower? Certainly not, but this is one more stone in the garden of those who said (or keep saying) “we didn’t know”.
Another fact is that he wasn’t an extremist. He wrote for a journal that rejected Communism, but found the Social Democrat too compromised. Are whislteblowers extremists? I don’t think so.
Being released after a first stay in prison, he didn’t back out and wrote: “…/…German and Jewish are not fixed categories established once and for all in some mystic prehistoric age, but rather flexible concepts which change their content with spiritual and economic changes dependent on the general dynamics of history.”
He finally added: “Today there is a strong smell of blood in the air. Literary anti-Semitism forges the moral weapon for murder. Sturdy and honest lads will take care of the rest”. A visionary description of how a general cultural/societal atmosphere helps set the tone for more radical actions.
After Hilter got to power, he continued to speak out against the nazis and ended up arrested under “protective custody”.
The “protective custody” has always been a convenient concept for abusing power. To protect them from a danger you helped created, you put your opponents in prison. It’s like jailing black people because they could be hurt by white nationalists. (Let’s not give ideas to the fake president.)
When Ossietzky was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935, Hermann Göring strongly suggested he declines the prize, saying that accepting it would mean excluding himself from the German people. Another early version of the ubiquitous but very tired: “if you’re against me, you’re anti-patriotic”.
At last, what is sad is that Germany’s Federal Court of Justice didn’t clear his conviction in 1992, applying the law as it stood in 1931. At least he got a memorial statue in Pankow. I’ll try to bring flowers there next time I’m in Berlin.