The Influence of Nazi Germany on the Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature is one of the most prestigious literary awards globally and has been awarded since 1901. However, few people know how the members of the Swedish Academy view German literature during World War I and World War II and the influence that Nazi Germany had on the Nobel Prize. Paulus Tiozzo, who studied the Nobel Prize and German literature for his thesis, sheds light on the topic, using previously inaccessible archival material.

The Criteria for Nominating an Author for the Nobel Prize

Alfred Nobel wrote that the Prize should go to a person who, during the previous year, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction. However, Tiozzo notes that this has been interpreted differently over the years. According to him, the members of the Swedish Academy determine the winner based on their personal opinions and factors such as whether they like or dislike the author for political reasons.

Looking at the Period Up to 1971

The decision-making process surrounding the Nobel Prize is subject to a strict non-disclosure rule for 50 years, after which the archives are released. The Nobel Library in Stockholm includes nomination letters, statements of opinion, minutes of meetings, and correspondence. Tiozzo chose to look at the period up to 1971 for practical reasons, and the fact that he looked at German-speaking literature means that a portion of the material deals with how Germany was viewed before and during Nazi rule.

The Nobel Committee's Chairperson's Influence

According to Tiozzo, those who sat on the Nobel Committee had an especially great influence on the Nobel Prize, particularly the chair of this Committee. Per Hallström had this role for 24 years, from 1922–1946, and compiled several hundred opinions on authors. Tiozzo reveals that Hallström had an ambivalent relationship with Nazism. He was fascinated by Hitler, and the national revolutionary aspects of Nazism appealed to him. But, on the other hand, he was very critical of its anti-Semitism.

The Nobel Committee's Cautious Approach

During this period, the Nobel Committee took a generally cautious approach and tried not to fall into any politically motivated traps. Tiozzo notes that if the Prize had been given to an author who had been forced to flee from Nazi Germany for political reasons, there would probably have been some kind of backlash from there. Therefore, the Swedish Academy wanted to avoid this. It also did not want to give the Prize to any author who appeared to be officially sanctioned by the Nazis. In general, the Academy gave much thought to how the choice of Nobel Laureates might affect its image.

New Insights into the Nobel Prize

Tiozzo's work reveals how German literature was viewed in Sweden during the 20th century, especially by the members of the Academy. He notes that Swedish authors and literary scholars were much more critical and nuanced than people might think and were not unreserved admirers of Goethe, Schiller, and other German 19th-century writers. English and French authors were admired more. This is one of the reasons why many German Nobel Prize candidates were rejected. Tiozzo hopes that his thesis will lead to new insights into the Nobel Prize as a phenomenon and also on the importance of German literature outside Germany. He also hopes that it stimulates interest in more research in both literary history and the Nobel Prize.

German-speaking Authors Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1901–1971

Finally, Tiozzo's work provides a list of German-speaking authors who received the Nobel Prize in Literature between 1901 and 1971. The list includes Theodor Mommsen (1902), Rudolf Eucken (1908), finally, Tiozzo's work provides a list of German-speaking authors who received the Nobel Prize in Literature between 1901 and 1971. The list includes Theodor Mommsen (1902), Rudolf Eucken (1908), Paul Heyse (1910), Gerhart Hauptmann (1912), Carl Spitteler (1919), Thomas Mann (1929), Hermann Hesse (1946), and Nelly Sachs (1966).

According to Tiozzo's research, these authors were chosen based on a variety of factors, including their literary achievements and the political climate of the time. Some, like Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse, were exiled from Germany during the Nazi regime, and their work often reflected themes of exile and alienation.

Nelly Sachs, a German-Jewish poet who fled to Sweden during World War II, was awarded the Prize in 1966. Sachs' work, which often explored themes of the Holocaust and the Jewish experience, was deeply influenced by her personal history and the trauma of her family's persecution by the Nazis.

Tiozzo's research sheds light on the complex history of the Nobel Prize in Literature and its relationship to the political and cultural climate of the times. Through his analysis of previously inaccessible archival material, Tiozzo provides new insights into the selection process for the Prize and the ways in which politics and ideology can influence literary recognition.

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