The naming of the University of Oldenburg

How the University of Oldenburg came to be named after Carl von Ossietzky (1889 – 1938)


  • 6 June 1972 
    Prior to the adoption of the university statutes, a student member of the structural commission of the university's founding committee submits a presentation containing a proposal to name the university after the German pacifist and 1935 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate  Carl von Ossietzky, supported by the argument that the university’s name should reflect its social responsibility to promote peace and democracy  ̶  a responsibility which is clearly defined in the draft statutes.
  • 25 October 1972   
    The structural committee presents its draft for the statutes to the founding committee. The draft is entitled ‘Satzung der Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universität-Oldenburg’ (Statutes of the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg).


  • 21 April 1973 
    The newspaper Nordwest-Zeitung conducts a reader survey about the naming of the university, inviting readers to vote on four additional names of prominent figures in addition to von Ossietzky (Graf Anton Günther, Wilhelm Heinrich Schüßler, Gustav Stresemann and Karl Jaspers), as well as the name
    University of Oldenburg (Universität Oldenburg). The result of the survey is that more than
    half of the 3111 participants vote for the name ‘University of


  • 1 February 1974 
    The founding committee approves the statutes unanimously (with three abstentions), in which § 1 provides for the university to be named after Carl von Ossietzky.
  • 7 February 1974  
    The Ministry of Education and the Arts approves the statutes with the exception of § 1, arguing that the choice of a name cannot be part of the process of implementing statutes.
  • 6 June 1974   
    Talks take place between the council board and Minister of Education and the Arts, Peter von Oertzen, a member of the SPD party. His negative position is formally supported by the Ministry, which maintains that naming the university in this way is no longer appropriate for the times.
  • 28 August 1974
    The new Minister of Science, Joist Grolle, also a member of the SPD party, adheres to von Oertzen’s position with regard to the naming issue.
  • 16 October 1974 
    One day after the beginning of term, students apply large letters, which are visible from a large distance, to the tower of the university's AVZ building. The letters spell the name ‘Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universität’. The rectorate regards this initiative as a demonstrative act which expresses the unanimous will of the university.


  • 14 May 1975 
    To avoid an electoral defeat for the SPD/FDP coalition government, Joist Grolle  ̶  following a petition by the Oldenburg citizens' association and a vote on the name demanded by the CDU  ̶  announces that he will have the letters removed from the university building, in opposition to this arbitrary act by the university.
  • 27 June 1975
    Protected by 200 police, painters remove the writing on the orders of the state building authority.
  • 2 July 1975  
    During the night, students again affix the name ‘Carl von Ossietzky University’ to the building, in the same position, and this time using weatherproof plastic letters. The Ministry declares that it will not have the letters removed again
  • August / September 1975
    An attempt is made to effect a compromise  ̶  put forward by the university and accepted by the Minister of Science  ̶  in the state government and parliament, but it fails due to rejection by the FDP party, which is part of the government. The compromise proposes the name ‘Universität Oldenburg - Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universität’.


  • 18 December 1976  
    An initial information event is held by the ‘Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg’ citizens' committee, which was formed on 5 August. Letters are written on the matter by a number of prominent figures including Alfred Andersch, Heinrich Albertz, Willy Brandt, Axel Eggebrecht, Ossip K. Flechtheim, Helmut Gollwitzer, Günter Grass, Robert Kempner, Siegfried Lenz and Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm.


  • 4 and 5 May 1978 
    Together with the International League for Human Rights, the DGB (Federation of German trade unions) for Lower Saxony and the German Federal Youth Council, the University of Oldenburg organises ‘Ossietzky Days’ to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. During this event, union member Willi Bleicher and Federal Constitutional Court judge Helmut Simon are awarded the Carl von Ossietzky medal by the International League for Human Rights. Also, a memorial is unveiled, which was largely financed by donations from members of the university. The memorial bears a quote from Ossietzky, which he wrote in the shadow of the First World War:
    ‘Science and technology were not there to help.
    They have created instruments of destruction, instruments of the most horrific murder.
    We must make science humane again.’ 
  • 14 June 1978 
    With only one dissenting vote, the 88-member strong university council decides to name the university after Carl von Ossietzky, thereby exercising the same right as the University of Göttingen, which named itself after its founder, Carola Wilhelmina, without a legal foundation.
  • 16 June 1978
    The Ministry of Science, headed by Eduard Pestel of the CDU party, objects to the council's decision on the grounds that it is unlawful.
  • 14 July 1978
    The University of Oldenburg institutes legal proceedings at the administrative court of
    Oldenburg against the prohibition on using the name.


  • 5 April 1979
    Inge Wettig-Danielmeier, spokesperson for higher education policy of the SPD regional parliamentary group, argues in an opinion piece in the university magazine UNI-INFO that the name desired by the university should be permitted.


  • February 1980
    The administrative court of Oldenburg decides that only the state parliament is authorised to decide on names of universities, and thus rejects the decisions of the council and senate. By way of justification, the administrative court refers to the Lower Saxony University regulations (NHG), which have since been modified, and which, for the first time, provide a legal basis for the naming of Lower Saxony universities.
  • 7 May 1980
    The state parliament rejects a motion for a resolution by the SPD to allow the university to be named after Carl von Ossietzky. 


  • 4 ̶ 10 May 1981
    On 2 May, the university organises ‘Ossietzky Days’, which will take place six times during the 1980s. As from 1982, the focus is not only on Carl von Ossietzky and his times, but also on current sociopolitical topics which require specific discussion in a democratic state, such as ‘Controlling information technology – the responsibility of science’ (1984), ‘1945 – The zero hour?’ (1986), ‘Perspectives – societal development and responsibilities of science from the perspective of the GDR and the FRG’ (1987), ‘Republicans without a republic’ (1988), ‘Carl von Ossietzky and the political culture of the Weimar Republic’ (1989).
  • 12 April 1981
    Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm, Carl von Ossietzky's daughter, entrusts her father's estate to the University of Oldenburg. The estate forms the basis for the Ossietzky archives in the University library


  • 4 – 8 May 1988
    Participants in the Ossietzky Days with the topic ‘Republicans without a republic’ include the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Federal Chairman of the SPD Willy Brandt, the futurologist Robert Jungk and the poet Erich Fried.
  • Summer of 1988
    The interdisciplinary Ossietzky research team begins work on an annotated complete edition of the works of Carl von Ossietzky, a project which is financially supported by the German Research foundation (DFG). Three years later, another team from the university, with support from the VW Foundation, undertakes the publication of an annotated complete edition of the works of Kurt Tucholsky, Carl von Ossietzky's predecessor as ‘leader on a global stage’.


  • 28 April 1991
    The Lower Saxony parliament decides, with the consensus of all the political groups, to amend the Lower Saxony Act governing higher education, allowing the university to name itself as it wishes.
  • 29 May 1991
    The council decides that the university should be named ‘Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg’.
  • 3 October 1991
    An official ceremony takes place to name the university after Carl von Ossietzky, attended by Prime Minister Gerhard Schröder of the SPD party, who apologises on behalf of the state government to Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm for the way her father's name has been treated by the state of Lower Saxony


  • 8 October 1994
    The eight-volume critical edition of the complete works of Ossietzky is presented in Frankfurt (published by Rowohlt).
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