Ursula Hirschmann

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Ursula Hirschmann (September 2, 1913 – 8 January 1991) was a German anti-fascist activist and an advocate of European federalism.

Life and career[edit]

Hirschmann was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Berlin. She studied economics at Humboldt University of Berlin together with her brother Albert O. Hirschman, later a candidate for the Nobel Prize. In 1932, she joined the youth organization of the Social Democratic Party to participate in the resistance against the advance of the Nazis.

In the summer of 1933, Ursula and her brother moved to Paris where they became reacquainted with Eugenio Colorni, a young Italian philosopher and Socialist whom they had already met in Berlin. She continued on to Trieste, the home town of Colorni, where she married him in 1935. They had three daughters: Silvia, Renata and Eva (who in 1973 married the Indian economist Amartya Sen).

The couple became engaged in the clandestine anti-fascist opposition. In 1939, Eugenio was arrested and sent to confinement on the island of Ventotene. Ursula followed her husband there, but as she was not herself held in confinement, she could travel back to the mainland.

Among the other prisoners and friends of Eugenio Colorni on Ventotene were Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli, who in 1941 co-authored the famous Ventotene Manifesto "for a free and united Europe", i.e. an early sketch of a postwar democratic European Union. Ursula managed to bring the text of the manifesto to the mainland and took part in its dissemination. On 27 and 28 August 1943, she participated in the foundation of the European Federalist Movement in Milan.

Having escaped from Ventotene in 1943, Ursula Hirschmann's husband Eugenio Colorni was murdered by fascists in Rome in May 1944. Thereafter, Altiero Spinelli became Ursula's second husband. The couple went to Switzerland, and from there to Rome, where they settled after the war. They had three daughters: Diana, Barbara and Sara Spinelli.

In 1975 Ursula Hirschmann founded the Association Femmes pour l'Europe in Brussels,[1] then in the first days of December of that year, suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage, followed by aphasia, from which she was never to recover completely.


  1. ^ European University Institute - The Ursula Hirschmann Annual Lecture Series on Gender and Europe