dr. Otmar Pirkmajer
The unusual life story of Dr Otmar Pirkmajer, the first rector of the UNRRA University “Free Europe”, which was founded in Munich in 1946 by the United Nations and where non-German refugees and other displaced persons taught and studied in the wake of the Second World War. The life of Dr Otmar Pirkmajer, lawyer, journalist, politician and a man who had survived the Dachau concentration camp twice, is the record of a remarkable and lesser-known personal story that unfolded during the ceaseless historical twists and turns of the 20th century
In the aftermath of the Second World War, which lasted 6 years, the world was left with 60 million dead, with cities destroyed and rural areas devastated, economies shattered into pieces, ‘disbanded’ troops, displaced persons, liberated camp inmates and refugees. To address this situation, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was established on 9 November 1943 as a humanitarian organisation, operating until 1947.
One of those participating in the UNRRA programme’s post-war education segment was Dr Otmar Pirkmajer, a lawyer, publicist and politician, first imprisoned in Ljubljana by the Gestapo in 1944 and then later interned in Dachau. He was convicted in absentia in the 1945 proceedings for economic collaboration with Nazi/fascism, then acquitted, and 6 months later again imprisoned in Dachau by the American authorities in Germany.
Otmar Pirkmajer distinguished himself early on as a legal expert. He devoted his entire life to law, achieving prominent positions already before the Second World War. His life story as a two-time prisoner in Dachau – first as a member of the resistance movement, and then as a person convicted of having collaborated with Nazi/fascism – is truly incredible. He held the position of full professor at the Faculty of Law of the UNRRA University and was its first rector.
He remained in Germany up until 1963, when he returned home ill. He described his experience after his second return from Dachau in the first letter after almost a year, sent to his wife Marija on 11 February 1945: »I look back at it as a miserable image of a tough past, trying hard to remain upright, even though they did all they could to bend or even break me”.
Despite political persecution both in his homeland and later abroad, Pirkmajer achieved – with his work, knowledge, commitment and personal humanism – the honour of being rightly considered part of the hardly known Slovenian elite of his time.
Dr OTMAR PIRKMAJER: The Forgotten Elites
Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana
Represented by: Blaž Peršin
Creator of the exhibition and author of the text: Irena Žmuc
Production and Coordination: Tamara Bregar, Ana Modic
English translation: Marjana Karer
Language editing (SLO): Alenka Klemenc
Language editing (ENG): Murray Bales
Graphic design: GIADesign
Promotion: Urša Karer, Nejc Kovačič
Photographs: Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv München, Deutsches Museum
Mondays, 1 January, 1 November and 25 December: Closed
4,00EUR / reduced 2,50EUR