An elegant gait, a graceful carriage. If one needed a figure on which to model such expressions, one surefire right choice would be Freda Meissner-Blau. The way she conquers a hiking trail is the same manner by which she reels in her successes: goal-orientated, courageous, uncompromising, brassbound. The characterization of Freda by our jury member Christine von Weizäcker contains in sketch-format all the ingredients a convincing, lengthy portrait requires: “How easily the gift of beauty degrades into public pose, originality ebbs into peculiarity, eloquence and social grace become weapons of manipulation, sophistication descends into cynicism, cleverness becomes witless conceit, and a love for nature embitters one’s connections with other people, even spawns human contempt. How rich it is that with your rich gifts you have side-stepped each such peril.”
Freda Meissner-Blau was born in Dresden on 11 March 1927 as the youngest of four children. She grew up in a liberal, sophisticated household and took great pleasure in nature, culture, art. It must have been devestating for the teenager when, because of his publications, her father’s name appeared on a Gestapo list and he was forced to flee to England. Freda would lose a great many friends and relatives to the war. She personally witnessed the terrible night of the Dresden inferno. Freda’s life has been shaped by many powerful forces. During the fifties in the Belgium Congo she observed and sided with the indigenous resistance to the colonial power. Her dedication to work for a peaceful and just world is highly steeled.
“Money is not the currency of nature. Money can never measure the worth of a life.”
Freda Meissner-Blau’s mistrust of the nuclear industry began already during the fifties. Despite her opposition, when the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant was 98% completed in 1978, she redoubled her energies to stopping the reactor’s finalization, forming a front together with such people as Stefan Micko, Wolfgang Pekny, Peter Weish, and her living partner Paul Blau. Chancellor Bruno Kreisky reacted to the civic unrest by sanctioning a people’s referendum; on November 5th the nuclear power plant opponents won a slender victory, garnering 50.5 percent of the total votes cast. Shortly thereafter the parliament enacted a law prohibiting the use of nuclear fission in Austria to supply energy. Freda later tapped into this change of current to barnstorm across the land as the energetic presidential candidate of the Greens.
For Freda Meissner-Blau the struggle against the nuclear industry is an expression of a conflict more profound: “Governments, bureaucrats and national economists still chase after the chimera of an infinitely expanding economy in this, a finite world. Their logic is the logic of money… But money is not the currency of nature. Money can never measure the worth of a life. Our civilization will only survive if authentic moral responsibility returns as a vital component of our economic and political discourse.”
Freda Meissner-Blau was one of the moving spirits at the World Uranium Hearing in 1992 – perhaps its most graceful! And so we meet again in Salzburg – and this time in her honor, this time to tell her, “thank you”.
English translation: Craig Reishus