Follow Countercurrents on Twitter 

Why Subscribe ?

Popularise CC

Join News Letter

Editor's Picks

Press Releases

Action Alert

Feed Burner

Read CC In Your
Own Language

Bradley Manning

India Burning

Mumbai Terror

Financial Crisis


AfPak War

Peak Oil



Alternative Energy

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America









Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom

Kandhamal Violence



India Elections



Submission Policy

About CC


Fair Use Notice

Contact Us

Search Our Archive

Subscribe To Our
News Letter

Our Site


Name: E-mail:


Printer Friendly Version

History Repeating Itself...

By Ken Bilsky Billings

28 January, 2011
The Creative Village

What does Nobel prize recipient 'Carl von Ossietzky' , 'Mordechai Vanunu' and 'Julian Ossange' have in common?

A recent essay discussing the Nobel Peace Prize and who deserves it, included a picture of Carl von Ossietzky. Researching his heroic actions gave me the immediate connection to todays journalists and whistle-blowers 'Mordechai Vanunu' and 'Julian Ossange'. Despite the danger, all these men have published what governments and corporate institutions are deliberately keeping from the public eye. Poor health and mistreatment killed Ossietzky prematurely. Will Vanunu and Ossange succumb to a similar fate? Will alleged Wikileaks provider Bradley Manning be another?

Carl von Ossietzky (October 3, 1889 – May 4, 1938 ) was born in Hamburg, Germany and influenced by his step father, Gustav Walther, a Social Democrat in shaping his later political views.

Ossietzky left school at the age of seventeen to become an administrative civil servant. He soon turned to journalism, the profession in which he was to make his career. Although Ossietzky was called up for military service in June, 1916, with the Bavarian Pioneer Regiment, after the war he was a confirmed pacifist.

He had various jobs in journalism until his big break in 1926, when Siegfried Jacobsohn, founder and editor of Die Weltbühne [The World Stage], offered Ossietzky a position on his editorial staff. Jacobsohn had already become involved in efforts to uncover and publicize the secret rearmament of Germany, and Carl von Ossietzky was to continue this unpopular editorial policy, for Jacobsohn died unexpectedly in December, 1926, and shortly thereafter his widow named Ossietzky editor-in-chief.
In March, 1927, Die Weltbühne published an article by Berthold Jacob which criticized the Reichswehr for condoning paramilitary organizations. Ossietzky, as the editor responsible, was tried for libel, found guilty, and sentenced to one month in prison.

Refusing to be intimidated, he published in March, 1929, an article by Walter Kreiser which was, in effect, part of a campaign by Ossietzky of opposition to secret German rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. At a hearing in August, 1929, Ossietzky was charged with betrayal of military secrets, was tried in November, 1931, found guilty, sentenced to eighteen months in Spandau Prison, and released after seven months in the Christmas amnesty of 1932.

On February 28, 1933, the morning after the Reichstag fire, Ossietzky was apprehended at home by the secret police, sent to a Berlin prison, then to concentration camps, first at Sonnenburg and later at Esterwegen-Papenburg.

In 1934, a friend and compatriot, Berthold Jacob, got a movement going to secure the nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize for Ossietzky.. The nomination for 1934 arrived too late; the prize for 1935 was reserved in that year but in 1936 was voted to Ossietzky.

At this point, Ossietzky, ill with tuberculosis, and knowing this the German Propaganda Ministry declared publicly that Ossietzky was free to go to Norway to accept the prize, but secret police documents indicate that Ossietzky was refused a passport, and, although allowed to enter a civilian hospital, was kept under constant surveillance until his death in May, 1938.

In 1990 his daughter, Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm, called for a resumption of proceedings but in a 1992 court of appeal ruling upheld the verdict. (2)

So despite the illegalities of the German governments original actions revealed by Ossietzky, even today's court system side with might is right instead of justice and truth. A warning by those in power to whistleblowers everywhere.

On December 12th, 2010, Mordechai Vanunu was to be awarded the Karl von Ossietzky Prize for his work promoting disarmament but the Israeli government officials refused to allow him to travel to Berlin to accept it. Instead the ceremony was replaced with a protest event.

In 1986, Vanunu disclosed the inner workings of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, for which he served an 18-year sentence for treason and espionage. After his release in 2004, he was forbidden to contact foreign embassies or journalists. In May this year, he was sentenced to three months in jail for giving an interview. (3)

Julian Assange is the director of Wikileaks, an internet web site that has gained notoriety world wide in 2010 for the explosive leaks provided to them by protected whistleblowers, that they have published on-line. Wiklleaks has included government documents on hundreds of thousands of daily war reports by Nato soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as embassy communications. Assange is now under siege by G20 governments and their compatriots and reinstated charges in Sweden that were originally dropped has ensued, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Julian is confined to, in practical terms house arrest in Britain until a final decision is made on his bail hearing and extradition proceedings.

Julian Assange's Wikileaks team's actions of publishing for all to see the behind the scene collusion of governments and corporations activities is unprecedented. The information revealed to date, are, in their very nature counter productive to it's citizens and in many cases immoral and criminal.

In all three cases, with Ossietzky, Vanunu and Assange, there is a desire to expose public inequities in the system that are hiding the truth. Government policy at odds with the public, casts misinformation so that the public will not be able to judge or object. No matter what government attempts, this disseat is still oppression with criminal intent. These attempts to crush whistle blowers and freedom of the press are alarm bells to all citizens that our governments have ulterior motives that are not being shared with its citizens for fear of opposition to their goals.

We need to make sure that Julian Assange is not alone. That he is accepted, protected and supported by all those who value freedom, justice and the common law. If we want a real democracy then we need to break the silence, the back room deals and the lies. We need a civilization based on the common good, taking responsibility for all our actions and having respect for all life. Without a move towards generosity, compassion and wisdom we will fall prey to the powers of greed, hate and ignorance. This is not our destiny but our fate if we don’t act to protect the freedom of the press.

Ken Bilsky Billings is an Activist, humanist, and student of social issues and social justice...ActCity Ottawa.

1. Nobel Peace Prize, 1935 biography

2. 1992 court appeal - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Ossietzky

3. DW-WORLD.DE – Deutsche Welle – Human rights Dec. 10, 2010 Israel prevents whistleblower from accepting human rights award



Comments are not moderated. Please be responsible and civil in your postings and stay within the topic discussed in the article too. If you find inappropriate comments, just Flag (Report) them and they will move into moderation que.