The Danish Peace Academy
GANDHI AND NORDIC COUNTRIES
Edited by E. S. Reddy - EReddy@aol.com and Holger Terp
By Holger Terp
The Danish journalist Ellen Hørup (1871-1953) wrote more than 600 feature articles and editorials, and more than 300 shorter articles in newspapers, magazines and books about international politics, armament and disarmament, and imperialism. Her first work was about Gandhi and his non-violent struggle against British imperialism in India. Later she wrote against fascism and nazism, against totalitarian goverments as a whole, and militarism, including NATO. Most of her work was done in the thirties and forties, which made it natural for her to write about subjects such as the Spanish Civil War, The League of Nations and political as well as religious refugees (long before Amnesty International).
During the German occupation of Denmark, when she was unable to write about foreign political matters, she set her mind upon writing about another oppressed group, children. She became a strong critic of Danish public childcare, an effort for which she is not completely forgotten. In fact, some people still remember her with gratitude, and a new magazine about childrens conditions in Denmark is named after her, ELLEN.
Ellen Hørup was, in many ways, a person ahead of her time. She wrote not only about the subjects already mentioned, she also wrote about agriculture and pollution. Being one of the first female foreign policy journalists in Denmark and internationally, she also took great interest in womens liberation and wrote a great deal about it. Her main focus was, however, her peace work. She was a cosmospolite. Not only did Ellen Hørup speak and write in Danish, but she also spoke and wrote exellently in English, Italian, German, Russian and French.
Ellen Hørup was a member of Danish and international peace groups. However, she never was a member of any political party or religioius group, even though she had friends in unexpected places. Ellen Hørup was a grassroots 50 years before the word was invented. (1)
She was the daughter of the famous Danish anti-militarist, journalist and politican Viggo Hørup (1841-1902). (2) In October 1884 he founded the daily Politiken, which slowly grew to become one of the biggest newspapers in the country. The shares in Politiken, which she had inherited from her parents, made her economically independent.
After the death of her mother, in late 1923, Ellen Hørup divorced her husband and settled in Rome. After translating some of Hans Christian Anderseen's fairy tales into Italian in 1927; she made the acquaintance of Gandhis non-violent fight for freedom and decided to carry on the journalistic work of her father by describing the activities of The Congress Party as well as the activities of Mahatma (as he was called) Gandhi. She visited Gandhi and worked for him in the late 1920s together with other female friends: the world famous Danish painter, ceramist and designer Cathinca Olsen and the then equally famous Norwegian singer Bokken Lasson. Both worked in the Friends of India Society in Copenhagen and Oslo.
Despite the fact that her father had taken part in establishing Politiken, and she was a share holder and member of the board (from 1933 to 1949), as a part of the Danish establisment, the paper was not always happy to publish her controversial articles and analyses of international politics. But the paper did it in spite of a growing political disagreement. Throwing out the daughter of the founder and late leading journalist in Scandinavia would not look too good in the publics eyes.
In order to get her pacifist information out to a larger international public, as well as in order to be better informed herself, she moved to Geveva in 1933. Here, before moving, in October 1932, she established The International Committee for India and in 1935, the news agency Journal des Archives. (3) The International Committee for India held at least three international conferences in 1932 and 1933 in Geneva. Some of the organizations and individuals which were connected to the Committee were: The Friends of India Societies in London, Copenhagen and Oslo, The Indian Conciliation Group, London, The Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Alice Paul, Agathe Harrison, Edmond Privat, Dorothy Detzer, Edit Pye, Margerith Cousins, Sidney Strong, Magdalene Rolland - the sister of Romain Rolland - and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. (Some of the women mentioned here were supporters of the Suffragette movement and members of The Womens International League for Peace and Freedom. Others were Friends).
The International Committee for India published the magazine Indian Press, 1934-1935. The peace news agency published the now extremely rare, and to my knowledge, never since quoted magazines Letter from Geneva and Journal des Archives in English, French and German. In 1930, in Copenhagen, she had already formed the organization and magazine Indiens Venner / Friends of India Society. At the time there were similar pro-Gandhi organizations which supported the Indian nationalist struggle in Norway, Sveden, England, Belgium, France, Bulgaria, Japan and U.S.A., as well as other countries. These organizations and their magazines are mostly forgotten today.
The Danish Friends of India Society lasted from November 1930 to around 1938 and had some 250 members. (4) Among the members were Danish missionaries who had travelled and lived in India for a long time. Among them were Anne Marie Petersen, the headmaster of The Indian National School, Porto Novo; Gandhis dear child Ester Færing (Menon), Johan Bittermann and his wife - who lived in India for 42 year and the Swedish missionary Mrs. Karlmark from The Swedish Church Mission. Besides the stories of the Indian liberation movement, the magazine also carried cultural and religious articles, thus painting a broader picture of India than the ordinary magazines of the peace movements of the time.
Ellen Hørup admired Gandhi whom she visited and worked for in the winter of 1929/30 and again in the winter of 1930/31 when she followed him and worked for him during his journey from India to the Round Table Conference in London. She also corresponded with Gandhi through the years. In one of the first letters she wrote to him from Rome, dated May 2, 1929, she writes:
In Denmark we have a Socialist-Radical ministry. Two of my friends have been ministers, one of foreign affairs, another of justice (Minister of Foreign Affairs P. Munch and former Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Carl Th. Zahle), so I hope that there shall be no difficulties with my passport for India in a year and a half. My first article about India has been published. I send you the number of the paper although it is in Danish, because I remember your expression when you asked me what I was doing in Rome. My second article is called Mahatma Gandhi and his Ashram. It is already mailed and will be published this month. The Danish ministry is a disarmament ministry in accordence with my fathers ideas. (5)
On June 6th 1931 Ellen Hørup wrote to Bapuji, Gandhis nickname among friends:
Yes it would have been nice, if we could have met each other oftener. But I dont complain. I went to most of your meetings, and I attended more than twenty times to the evening prayer. But I always felt, that I had no right to take your time…
I am on my way back to Denmark, where I shall let my friends make me a member of the board of my paper Politiken. During this year I shall stay in Copenhagen and try to make the paper a little less yellow and a little more truthful. If I can do nothing, I must make The Friends of India larger and broader and leave the others alone. (6)
In December 1931 she published the book Gandhis Indien, on Gandhi and the political situation in India which shows how passionately she felt for the cause of India. It gives witness to the degree to which she could penetrate into, and familiarize herself with, Indian ways of life and mind. Yet the curious thing is, that however deeply she may be seized by the sentiment of the induvidial festive moment, she remained the cool and sceptical observer with the sharp eye for the paltriness and ridiculness of her fellow human beings.
In a totally natural way, Ellen Hørup describes the conditions and ways of life which were enormously remote from the life of contemporary Europeans. The reason why she was able to do this is that she did not travel as a typical tourist - satisfied with the stereotyped sightseeing usually presented to the curious European - she visited the ordinary Indian quarters, dined at the native resturants, listened to all kinds of people. She also went to the villages where she observed the poverty in which the people lived.
When Ellen Hørup, unlike so many of the followers of Gandhi, drifted somewhat away from him, it was not because of the policy of non-violence, which she agreed with. But because, in her view, the fight for the liberation of India should be still further developed. The workers and the women of India should be included more, but Gandhi would support neither the Indian workers unions nor the womens liberation groups.
[In fact, Gandhi supported the trade union of textile workers in Ahmedabad and advised them on their strike in 1919. That union followed his principles - and later many union followed him. He did not believe in class struggle, like Communist trade union leaders. He did not set up a womens organisation, but supported womens equality. The All India Womens Conference was set up in the 1930s by women leaders, many of whom were his followers. Ellens statement is, therefore, controversial.]
ELLEN HØRUPS RELATIONSHIP WITH GANDHI
In an address held in Copenhagen, for the Danish Friends of India Society on November 23, 1936 (7), My relationship with Gandhi Ellen Hørup among other things said,
And he still does.
But as the years have passed and after I have beeen to London attending the Round Table Conference (8) India now means more than Gandhi to me.
And I have become wiser from reading and from meeting many people from Gandhis country, and I have learned that there are different movements in India just as there are in any country. And I have drifted from Gandhi in many ways. I follow him on his journeys among the peasants and in the cities among the workers. I read what he says about the women, and what he says to them when they ask for advice. Gandhi admires them highly. He has called them out from their isolation, freed them from the purdahs. But Gandhi still has the mind of a man, and besides that, the mind of a Hindu. (5)
Many more selected citations can be read here.
When Gandhi was nominated for the 1937 Nobel Peace Price by the Norwegian chapter of the Friends of India Society, Ellen Hørup wrote to a number of influential persons to make them support the nomination. She got positive replies from Romain Rolland, C. F. Andrews, The Danish Nobel Laureate Henrik Pontoppidan, and the German Nobel Peace Price Laureate Professor Ludvig Quidde, the Danish MPs Hassing Jørgensen and Edv. Larsen, Bart de Ligt, Maria Montessori, The Danish chapter of "The Womens International League for Peace and Freedom", as well as support from numerous other Danish organizations and individuals. But Gandhi, in spite of the popular Scandinavian and international demand, never was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (9)
Ellen Hørup continued in the late 1930s to write and publish articles about Gandhi and the Indian struggle for freedom, and later, in 1948, she became a member of the board of the Danish Indian Friendship Union. (10)
At the age of 81 years Ellen Hørup died from a combination of lung cancer and a cold, which she contracted doing research among the poor farmers in Italy in the spring of 1953. Ellen Hørup died dictating her last articles protesting against the Korean War. She was not able to hold a pen in her hand nor to sit at the typewriter. (11)
Magazines published and edited by Ellen Hørup
Books and booklets by Ellen Hørup
Newspapers with many articles by Ellen Hørup