for his leading role in the repatriation of prisoners of war, in international relief work and as the League of Nations' High Commissioner for refugees
(1861 - 1930)
Polar Explorer and High Commissioner for Refugees
In 1922, the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen became the first High Commissioner for Refugees appointed by the League of Nations. After the First World War, he was in charge of the exchanges of 400,000 prisoners of war between Russia, Germany, and the former Austria-Hungary. Nansen also engaged in humanitarian relief work in 1921, during the severe famine in the Soviet Union. His work on behalf of prisoners of war and starving people earned him the Peace Prize.
Nansen was a scientist, polar hero, political activist and diplomat. He got a PhD in zoology in 1888. In the same year, he was the first to cross Greenland's inland ice. He subsequently failed to reach the North Pole, but became internationally famous nevertheless. Nansen was a nationalist activist when Norway broke out of its union with Sweden in 1905.
After 1922, the League of Nations provided “Nansen passports” to stateless refugees to enable them to cross national borders. Nansen was himself made responsible for separating Greeks and Turks after the war between the two countries. In the last years of his life, he took up the Armenian cause.