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The Nobel Peace Prize 1947

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"Silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless"

Sixty years ago the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Friends Service Council (Britain) and the American Friends Service Committee.  The Society of Friends as a group had first been nominated for the prize as early as 1912, just eleven years after the award was founded. It had been nominated again in 1923, 1924 and 1936; on each occasion the nominations had been influenced by Quaker relief work with the victims of war and famine.

In 1947 British and American Friends were again at work in a world traumatised by World War 2; providing assistance for the needy without discrimination in Germany, elsewhere in Europe and in Asia, just as they had in the aftermath of World War 1. On December 10th - the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, founder of the prize - the Nobel Peace Prize was formally presented in Oslo to Margaret Backhouse (for FSC) and Henry Cadbury (for AFSC).

In his presentation speech, Gunnar Jahn, the chairman of the Peace Prize Committee, spoke with appreciation of the work of Quakers in public campaigns for peace over the centuries, but went on to say:


Yet it is not this side of their activities - the active political side - which places the Quakers in a unique position. It is through silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless that they have worked to promote the fraternity between nations cited in the will of Alfred Nobel. …The Quakers have shown us that it is possible to translate into action what lies deep in the hearts of many: compassion for others and the desire to help them - that rich expression of the sympathy between all men, regardless of nationality or race, which, transformed into deeds, must form the basis for lasting peace. For this reason alone the Quakers deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize today. But they have given us something more: they have shown us the strength to be derived from faith in the victory of the spirit over force. And this brings to mind two verses from one of Arnulf Överland's poems which helped so many of us during the war. I know of no better salute:

"The unarmed only
can draw on sources eternal.
The spirit alone gives victory"


© The Nobel Foundation

The full speech is available on the Nobel Prize Website.



The face of the medal of the Peace Prize shows Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), the founder of the prizes. The other side of the medal represents a group of three men forming a fraternal bond. The inscription reads:

Pro pace et fraternitate gentium (For the peace and brotherhood of  nations)

The relevant year and the name of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is engraved on the edge of the medal.

The Peace Testimony and Promoting Peace