Yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I had the pleasure of speaking about Odd Nansen and his secret World War II diary to a crowd of 300 at the Life Long Learning program at Sun City Carolina Lakes .
I pointed out that it was quite fitting that I should be speaking about Nansen on a day dedicated to MLK, Jr. Not only were their ideals and their humanity very similar, but the Nobel Peace Prize figured prominently in each of their lives. King was awarded the Prize in 1964, four years before his death. Nansen’s father, Fridtjof, received the Prize in 1922. Odd Nansen also lived for a time as a boy with the family of Christian Lous Lange, whom he considered a second father; Lange received the Nobel Prize in 1921. Finally, the rescue of Norwegian prisoners (including Nansen) by the Swedish Red Cross in the closing days of the war was facilitated in part through the efforts of Hiltgunt Zassenhaus, a German girl who secretly maintained a card file on the location of all Scandinavian prisoners–all as told in her memoir Walls. For her efforts Zassenhaus was nominated by members of the Norwegian Parliament for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.
Here’s part of a letter I just received from the President of the Life Long Learning program regarding my presentation:
January 19, 2016
Dear Mr. Boyce,
The members of “Life Long Learning” — (an organization of Sun City Carolina Lakes residents who are committed to intellectual advancement) — very much appreciated your presentation regarding your soon to be re-published diary of Odd Nansen: From Day To Day: One Man’s Diary of Survival in Nazi Concentration Camps.
Your presentation was outstanding, and the audience was captivated by your deep and touching involvement in this amazing web of World War history, intrigue, and tragedy. Your deep understanding of the Nansen/Buergenthal connection really helped to bring history alive for our members.
The visual slide show greatly enhanced your verbal presentation. We were able to connect with Odd Nansen through viewing family pictures, as well as concentration camp photos.
Thank you for coming to inform us on the bitterly cold evening of January 18th. The comparison you made of dealing with freezing temperatures during concentration camp conditions vs. modern day conveniences made poignant the cruelty of Nazi imprisonment. Through your anecdotal asides, you were able to convey the strength of human spirit. For this we are very grateful, and wish you only the greatest success with the publication of your diary.
Best regards and many thanks for making the trip to Indian Land, South Carolina.
For all the 300 attendees,