Odd Nansen

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Odd Nansen
Odd Nansen OB.F06294d.jpg
Born(1901-12-06)6 December 1901
Bærum, Norway
Died27 June 1973(1973-06-27) (aged 71)
Resting placeVestre gravlund
EducationNorwegian Institute of Technology

Odd Nansen (6 December 1901 – 27 June 1973) was a Norwegian architect, author, and humanitarian. He is credited with being a co-founder of UNICEF and for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of Jews in the early years of World War II.[1]


Odd Nansen was born in Bærum, Akershus, Norway. He was the second youngest of five children born to scientist and explorer Fridtjof Nansen. He was raised at Lysaker outside of Oslo. After his mother, Eva Nansen, died in 1907, he was raised in the home of his neighbor, Anton Klaveness. In 1920 he began studying architecture at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim. From 1927-30, he worked in New York City. During 1930, he returned to Oslo and apprenticed with Arnstein Arneberg.

In 1931 Nansen started his own architectural practice in Oslo. He also formed the humanitarian organization Nansenhjelpen in 1936 to provide relief for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in central Europe. The Jewish Children's Home in Oslo (jødiske barnehjemmet i Oslo) was established during 1939 under the auspices of Nansenhjelpen.[2]

Nansen focused his efforts on the situation in Czechoslovakia. Together with his wife Kari Nansen and journalist Tove Filseth, wife of publisher Max Tau, he established a field office in Prague and traveled extensively in Europe in 1939 to get attention and help for refugees facing imminent destruction.[3][4]

After returning to Norway, he joined the nascent Norwegian resistance and was himself arrested and detained by the Gestapo, and ultimately deported to the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen.[5] He was also a forced laborer at the Veidal Prison Camp.[6] Nansen maintained a diary during his imprisonment that he hid and preserved. These diaries were published after the war and provide an in-depth, first hand account of life and death in Nazi concentration camps.[7][8]

He survived captivity in the camps and returned to Norway where he resumed his architectural career, while also initiating several humanitarian efforts. He was the president of One World from 1947 to 1956 and is considered a co-founder of UNICEF. For his humanitarian efforts, Odd Nansen received many Norwegian and international decorations and honors. He was appointed commander of the Order of St. Olav in 1970.[9] He was decorated with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and received the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria.[10]

Among Nansen's architectural works are the main terminal building at the (now decommissioned) Fornebu Airport from 1963. He also led restoration work for his childhood home at Polhøgda. [11]

Nansen was married to Karen "Kari" Hirsch (1903 - 1985). They were the parents of architect and humanitarian, Eigil Nansen and jurist Marit Greve, wife of diplomat Tim Greve.[12]


  1. ^ Elisabeth Seip. "Odd Nansen". Norsk kunstnerleksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  2. ^ Tore Pryser. "Nansenhjelp". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  3. ^ Cohen, Maynard M. (1997). A Stand Against Tyranny: Norway's Physicians and the Nazis. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0814326039. 63-82.
  4. ^ Einhart Lorenz. "Max Tau". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  5. ^ "Buried Alive". Time. 1949-01-31. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  6. ^ Forty, George. 2002. Fortress Europe: Hitler's Atlantic Wall. Hersham, UK: Ian Allan, p. 33
  7. ^ "Nansen, Odd" (in Norwegian). NorgesLexi.com. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  8. ^ Timothy J. Boyce (May 2013). "Odd Nansen and His Secret Diary" (PDF). Sons of Norway ‘’Viking’’. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  9. ^ Gaute Baalsrud. "Odd Nansen". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  10. ^ Steenstrup, Bjørn, ed. (1973). "Nansen, Odd". Hvem er hvem? (in Norwegian). Oslo: Aschehoug. p. 404. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  11. ^ Liseter, Ivar (1949-01-31). "Polhøgda - from the home of Fridtjof Nansen to the Fridtjof Nansen Institute" (PDF). Lysaker: The Fridtjof Nansen Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  12. ^ Arne Bonde. "Tim Greve". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2017.


  • Nansen, Odd (1965) [1946]. Fra dag til dag (in Norwegian). Oslo: Dreyer.
  • Nansen, Odd (1949). From Day to Day. G. P. Putnam's Sons. ASIN B0007DQ3BU. the English translation of Fra dag til dag
  • Nansen, Odd (1970). Langs veien. Opplevelser, møter og samtaler (in Norwegian). Oslo: Gyldendal.
  • Nansen, Odd (1970). Tommy - en sannferdig fortelling (in Norwegian). Oslo: Gyldendal. ASIN B0007B4E40. - book about Thomas Buergenthal

Related reading[edit]

  • Odd Nansen, Timothy J. Boyce. editor (2016) From Day to Day: One Man's Diary of Survival in Nazi Concentration Camps (Vanderbilt University Press) ISBN 978-0826521002