Fridtjof Nansen (d. May 13, 1930)

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Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen, father of Odd Nansen, polar explorer, statesman, humanitarian, died eighty-eight years ago today, age 68.  I have written previously about Fridtjof Nansen (here).  I also recently wrote about my forthcoming lecture at the 23rd annual Raoul Wallenberg memorial dinner at the Nordic Museum in Seattle on June 7 (here).

In preparing for my talk, I have been studying up on Wallenberg’s life.  Recently, while reading Alex Kershaw’s account of Wallenberg’s actions, The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II, I came across this passage:

“According to [Wallenberg’s half-sister] Nina, he had two main heroes as a young man: Elsa Brandstrom and Fridtjof Nansen, whose acts of courage during World War I had left a lasting impression.  Brandstrom had been a courageous, self-taught nurse who had helped save thousands of lives in Siberia in 1915.  Nansen was a polar explorer, but he also worked for the League of Nations, returning half a million refugees from Germany and Austria-Hungary to their countries after the conflict.”

In my Introduction to Odd Nansen’s diary I mention that Fridtjof Nansen often quoted Henrik Ibsen (one of his favorite writers) to the effect that “man is strongest who stands most alone.”

Certainly Odd Nansen and Raoul Wallenberg took that advice to heart.  Following in Fridtjof’s footsteps, and following his advice, they both stood very much alone, against Nazi injustice, and showed how even one person can make a positive difference, and change the world for the better.

Quite a legacy, don’t you think?

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Book Signings

  • October 26, 2021: The Adult School, Madison, NJ (Virtual)
  • November 9, 2021: Israel Congregation of Manchester, VT (Virtual)
  • December 9, 2021: The Adult School, Madison, NJ (Virtual)
  • January 13, 2022: Our World Lecture Series, Kiawah Island, SC
  • January 25, 2022: Temple Akiba of Culver City, CA (Virtual)
  • May 19, 2022: Bat Shalom Hadassah, Jackson, NJ
  • October 18, 2022: Shalom Club, Great Notch, NJ

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“Thank you so much for making the visit to Guilford [College] and presenting the honorable life of Odd Nansen. . . . Without your effort, we would never have been able to know Odd Nansen. With it, we have a history to rely upon as a moral compass for acting with integrity in the face of human rights violations. May we live up to it!”

– Jane K. Fernandes
President, Guilford College
Greensboro, NC

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