The great honour bestowed on me by the awarding of this prize can only, I believe, be understood as an encouragement to my political endeavours, not as a final judgement upon them. I accept this honour with a sense of the common ties linking me to all those, wherever they may be, who are doing their utmost to build a peaceful Europe and to make European solidarity serve the cause of world peace.
It will not be easy for me tomorrow to make my speech about a peace which can be made in Europe, while in other parts of the world war is being waged and danger exists of further military confrontations.
No man can accomplish alone the task spoken of today in my connection. It is, therefore, with profound thanks that I accept the 1971 Nobel Prize for Peace on behalf also of those who are helping and have helped me.
I also feel that at this hour we are conscious of our close links with those who, acting on their beliefs, make sacrifices and still continue the struggle for peace and justice.
You will, I trust, understand when I say how glad I was in these past days and weeks to know that many – and not only in my country – believe this to be a matter which concerns them all; and, if I may say further, how much it means to me that it is my work «on behalf of the German people» which has been acknowledged; that it was granted me, after the unforgettable horrors of the past, to see the name of my country brought together with the will for peace.
In the past few weeks I have received many letters from every part of the world: from heads of state and school children, from happy and tormented people, from a relative of Anne Frank,1 from prisoners. Among the first letters was one from a lady whose life had not been easy and who reminded me of the story of the Red Indian boy asking his father, as they came out of the cinema: «Do we never win?»
Indeed, it’s no wonder that many today are still asking that. I am under no illusion that I have won for them. I say only: The young man who in his time was persecuted, driven into exile in Norway and deprived of his rights as a citizen speaks here today not only in general for the cause of peace in Europe but also most particularly for those from whom the past has exacted a harsh toll.
Alfred Nobel, on the anniversary of whose death we are gathered here, said once that there is nothing in the world which cannot be misunderstood or abused. Nor should his legacy be subject to abuses or misunderstanding. But the brotherhood of peoples is a formula which grimly reminds us that Cain and Abel also were brothers: however confident our hopes, we should never forget this.
But relaxation of tensions, cooperation between peoples, reduction of forces and arms control, partnership with those who have hitherto been the losers, mutual protection against the danger of mutual destruction – this must be possible, and for this we must work.
We are here in Fridtjof Nansen’s country.2 His help to prisoners of war, refugees and those suffering from hunger and starvation will always be a magnificent example. And in this wider sense, too, his warning holds good: make haste, lest it be too late to rue. When making his will, Alfred Nobel is supposed to have said he would leave nothing to a man of action, for this would tempt him into giving up his work. He would «rather help dreamers, who find it hard to succeed in life». Well, it’s not for me to judge whether the Nobel Committee has made the right choice; but this much should be known: I can hardly now afford political dreams, and I have no wish to give up my work yet.
The Nobel Prize for Peace is the highest honour, but at the same time the one that imposes the greatest obligations that can be bestowed on any man bearing political responsibility. I thank you sincerely and will do everything I can in my future work to bring nearer to realisation what many expect of me.