Three years ago, Norwegian lawyer and activist Fredrik Heffermehl’s book titled Nobels vilje (Nobel’s Will) has initiated a heated debate on the nature of the Nobel Peace prize. In the book providing a critical assessment of the prize from a historical perspective, Heffermehl claims that intention behind Nobel’s Peace Prize has been forgotten and argues how it was turned into a political tool in the hands of politicians since the end of WWII.
These sensational comments coincided in the days when the media had focused on the speculation of the prospective winners and the bet companies were looking for the results. Though Swedish newspapers accidentally skipped his arguments those days, many newspapers and news agencies in Scandinavia were quite interested. The Nordic Page also got chance to have an insightful meeting with Mr. Heffermehl in the same day in which his book was in bookstores. In the meeting with a sincere atmosphere, he made important explanations about many diverse questions related to his book and Nobel Prize. Nobel Prizes have substantially political and diplomatic significance. When the list of the Nobel winners skimmed, this statement somehow is verified.
A supporting proof of this claim is the nomination of Adolf Hitler for peace prize in 1939 with the hope of his potential to stop the expansion of Bolshevism. Such striking incidents in Nobel Prize history lead some to judge the interpretation of “peace”. That is the reason why recently Nobel Peace award system,which was founded based on Alfred Nobel’s underestimated will, has started to be questioned accusing it deviated from his will’ s direction.
The talk with Fredrik Heffermehl starts with the discussion of the essence of this will. He asserts that the points in the intention of will are quite precise and they tell that peace prize should be given to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for holding and promotion of peace congresses.
Then he adds, the committee members have a very strange interpretation and understanding of these clearly stated principles. He notes how Alfred Nobel looked upon the situation of Europe that timewar etc. and came up with this idea wishing people should stop wars and fighting, he believed that is the reason why he focused on brotherhood of nations. There are very precise words about the criteria. It is impossible to interpret it in other way.
He also blames the Nobel Peace Committee not having a conformity with laws and a legal document- Nobel’s Intention of Will. In terms of conformity to his will, he divides the Nobel Prize history in three periods. The first period covers from the time after Nobel’s Death to 1946 and Heffermehl thinks the committee respected the will to a great extent. Despite his positive evaluation of this period, some decisions like Hitler’s nomination and USA president, Roswell’s winning the prize just two years later than the independence of Norway(interpreted as a political move to draw close to US as ally ) remain as the black stains of that period.
He describes the second period between 1946 to 2000 as the time initializing the politicization of Noble Prizes structurally. In 1948, the Norwegian Parliament introduces a new procedure which is illegal, Heffermehl says, according to this system, the seats in Nobel Committee has started to be allocated to the parties and this led misuse of the organization in the hands of politicians. The last ten years is the development of the organization into an international event according to Fredrik Heffermehl.
In this era, the Prize organization has been internationally publicized through public concerts and various activities with the support of private and public sponsors. In our talk with Heffermehl, he expressed his concern about this sponsorship system. He points out that the committee somehow feel responsible to satisfy the will of these sponsors by choosing popular figures. Because, he says, the organization has started to be perceived as a good promotion platform for Norwegian business. We finalize our meeting with Heffermehl with last statement about the changing of the mind sets of the committee. He says that to understand Nobel´s intention with the three criteria for the peace prize, one must consider the words Nobel used in 1895 in the light of Swedish usage at the time. Even more important, with Nobel´s personal usage and “begrepsverden”