Elsa Brändström

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Elsa Brändström (1929)

Elsa Brändström , also known and honored as Elsa Brandström , (born March 26, 1888 in Saint Petersburg , † March 4, 1948 in Cambridge, Massachusetts ) was a Swedish philanthropist . She became known as the "Angel of Siberia" because she stood up for German and Austrian prisoners of war in the Russian prison camps of the First World War .

Live and act

Elsa Brändström (1906)

Elsa Brändström was the daughter of the Swedish military attaché in Russia Per Henrik Edvard Brändström (1850–1921) and his wife Anna Wilhelmina Eschelsson (1855–1913). She attended the teachers' college in Stockholm and in 1908 returned to her parents in St. Petersburg . Her mother died in 1913.

First World War

Elsa Brändström experienced the beginning of the First World War in St. Petersburg and volunteered as a nurse in the Russian army . In 1915 she traveled to Siberia for the Swedish Red Cross in order to set up basic medical care for the German prisoners of war in Russian custody. During her first visit to a Siberian camp with her helper Ethel von Heidenstam , she encountered desolate conditions in completely overcrowded barracks. Typhus was rampant in the woodshed ; there was a lack of beds, blankets, water and laundry facilities. Typhoid , frostbite , starvation or diarrhea led to a death rate of up to 80%. Brändström and Heidenstam campaigned successfully with the Russian authorities for better care for prisoners of war and organized help through the German , Swedish and Austrian Red Cross . The measures were successful: in the Krasnoyarsk camp , mortality fell to 18% over time.

After returning to St. Petersburg, she helped set up a Swedish aid organization. Their work was severely hampered by the outbreak of the October Revolution of 1917. Her work permit was revoked in 1918, but she nevertheless traveled to Siberia several times between 1919 and 1920. After being arrested in Omsk , she returned to Sweden and from there organized money collections for the prisoners of war.

Peace time

In 1922 her book was published among prisoners of war in Russia and Siberia 1914–1920 . From then on, she looked after German returnees, the children of deceased prisoners of war and the children of traumatized prisoners of war in the work sanatorium for former German prisoners of war in Bad Marienborn ( Bautzen district ). She bought the Schreibermühle near Lychen ( Uckermark ) and founded a home for children there.

In 1923 she went on a six-month lecture tour to the USA at her own expense in order to collect 100,000 US dollars for a children's home, which she set up that same year in Mittweida in Neusorge Castle for 200 children and operated for seven years. In 1925 a lecture tour followed through Sweden. She was a co-founder of the German National Academic Foundation . 1927 it was approved by the University of Tubingen , the honorary doctorate awarded.

In 1929 she traveled to the Soviet Union , which was founded in 1922, to create settlement opportunities for former prisoners of war in Siberia, but had to give up the project because private initiatives were not wanted in the Soviet system. In the same year she married the Ministerialbeamten and Professor Robert Ulich in Schmeckwitz-Marienborn and moved with him to Dresden. In 1931 she sold the Schreibermühle and handed over the Neusorge home to the Leipzig Welfare Association. She founded the Elsa Brändström advertising community for women (fund for student money for former children from Neusorge). Their daughter was born on January 3, 1932 in Dresden .

In 1933 Robert Ulich accepted a professorship at Harvard University , and the family moved to the USA, where Elsa Brändström-Ulich took care of refugee aid for arriving Germans and Austrians. In 1939 she opened the "Window Shop", a restaurant as a job creation measure for refugees in Cambridge (Massachusetts) , a suburb of Boston . In 1948 this facility was renamed “Elsa Brandstrom Ulich Assistance Fund” in her honor.

Second World War

Gray granite tombstone.
Grave of the Brändström family in Sweden

Towards the end of the war , she began an aid campaign for needy children in Germany, which eventually resulted in the organizations CARE International (Cooperative for American Relief in Europe) and CRALOG (Council of Relief Agencies Licensed for Operation in Germany). In 1945 she made one last lecture tour through Europe for the Save the Children Fund .

Her last planned trip (to Germany) was due to her illness. Elsa Brändström died in Cambridge in 1948 of bone cancer at the age of 59. She found her final resting place in the north cemetery of Solna outside Stockholm .


"The war produced many heroines in the various nations, but in my opinion never again someone who would be more worthy of admiration than Elsa Brändström."

- Alfred Knox , British military attaché in Russia

“It is a precious gift to meet someone in whom love - and that is to say God - reveals itself so overwhelmingly. Theological arrogance and pious isolation lose ground to such love. [...] Your life was irrefutable proof of the truth that love is the most perfect power of being, even in a century that is one of the darkest, most destructive and cruelest of all centuries since the beginning of human history. "


  • 1921 Bland Krigsfångar i Ryssland och Siberia 1914–1920 . 1922 in German by Margarete Klante: Among prisoners of war in Russia and Siberia - 1914–1920
  • Hanna Lieker-Wentzlau (eds.), Elsa Brändström, Margarete Klante and others: Elsa Brändström - thanks. The book of honor by Nordic and German nurses' aid for prisoners of war in Siberia , Heliand (seven editions from 1932 to 1942)



Postage stamp (1951) from the series Helpers to Mankind
Life-size figure made of sandstone.  Emblem of the Red Cross as a relief on the base.
Sculpture with memorial plaque in Krems an der Donau
Bronze sculpture with patina (verdigris).
Memorial for the fallen of the First World War in Wurzen (1930) with Elsa Brändström as a medic
Memorial plaque in Wurzen
Bronze-colored metal sculpture on an ocher-colored sandstone base.
Swedish ambassador at the inauguration of the Brändström memorial in front of Neusorge Castle
  • Silver plaque of the German Empire , 1920
  • United Friedrichs University Halle-Wittenberg (from 1933 Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg ), honorary member, February 7, 1921
  • University of Tübingen, Honorary Doctor of Laws, 1926: The German diplomat Harry Graf Kessler (1868–1937) referred to her as "The Nordic Joan of Arc".
  • University of Upsala in Sweden, honorary doctorate
  • University of Königsberg , honorary doctorate
  • Numerous honors from various corporations
  • Officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times : 1922, 1923 (twice), 1928 and 1929
  • Golden Seraphin Medal for the Royal Order of Seraphins , Order of Merit of the Kingdom of Sweden

Remembrance day

March 4th is the day of remembrance for Elsa Brändström in the Evangelical Name Calendar .


  • Sculpture commemorating Elsa Brändström in Krems on the Danube , including a plaque honoring her as the “Angel of the Austrian prisoners of war in Siberia 1914–1920”
  • The memorial for the fallen in World War I in Wurzen , completed by Georg Wrba and inaugurated on May 11, 1930, shows Elsa Brändström as a paramedic. A memorial plaque that was unveiled on March 8, 2016 in Wurzen reads: "Elsa Brändström was the artist Arthur Lange and Georg Wrba model for the sculpture of the monument."
  • Brändström memorial in front of Neusorge Castle , inaugurated on September 19, 2014

Elsa Brändström as the namesake


  • Elsa Brändström: Stages of an Unusual Life , TV film (D), 1970/1971, first broadcast: March 26, 1971, ZDF . Director: Fritz Umgelter, screenplay: Hans Wiese. Actors: Renate Zillessen (as Elsa Brandström), Hans Epskamp (as General Brandström), Heidi Leupolt-Kröll (as Ethel von Heidenstam), Alexis von Hagemeister (as Carl Gerhard von Heidenstam), Günter Mack (as Alfred Knox), Volkert Kraeft (as Jan Lundberg), Sigfrit Steiner, Alf Marholm (as Professor Ulrich), Gisela Hoeter, Berta Drews.
  • Elsa Brändström - The Angel of Siberia , part of the History of Central Germany series , first broadcast: August 17, 2014.


An exhibition is dedicated to Elsa Brändström, which in 2017 and 2018 stopped at the Frauenmuseum Bonn , the Tapetenwerk Leipzig and the monastery church Grimma . They created 40 female artists from GEDOK Bonn and Leipzig, the female artists' association founded in 1926.


  • Elsa Björkman-Goldschmidt: Elsa Brändström . 1933 (Swedish).
  • Elsa Björkman-Goldschmidt: Elsa Brändström. En biografi . 1969 (Swedish).
Elsa Björkman-Goldschmidt was a childhood and school friend of Elsa Brändström who had a lifelong friendship. She was also active in looking after prisoners of war. The first book was to appear in German, which was no longer possible for political reasons.
Press releases
Newspaper articles
  • Kai-Uwe Brand: The angel of Siberia was the model (above Wurzens war memorial, where, according to new knowledge, the modeled woman is Elsa Brändström). In: Leipziger Volkszeitung , Muldental edition, March 9, 2016, p. 29
  • Haig Latchinian : The Angel of Siberia (on the Brändström exhibition in the Grimma Abbey Church ), March 2018. Published in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, Muldental edition, full-page article ("Topic of the day"), March 24, 2018, p. 35

Web links

Commons : Elsa Brändström  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gunnar Carlquist (red.): Svensk uppslagsbok, Förlagshuset Norden AB, Malmö, 1955, volume 5, p. 163.
  2. ^ Timo Gantert: German and Austrian prisoners of war of the First World War in Russian-Soviet custody. Physical and psychological trauma as reflected in memory literature, 1917–1937, dissertation Institute for the History of Medicine at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg , academic advisor Wolfgang U. Eckart , 2008, Elsa Brändström pp. 16–17, pp. 45–49, P. 95-103, P. 155. Gantert: Traumatisationen prisoners of war
  3. The "Angel of Siberia" gave Hitler a basket . The world. March 25, 2013. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  4. The motto of their German foundation "Work sanatorium for former prisoners of war Germans" established in 1922 was "You should believe in Germany's future" and followed a poem by Albert Matthai . It later greeted each building in the foundation. ( Eduard Juhl / Margarete Klante / Herta Epstein: Elsa Brändström. The way and work of a great woman in Sweden, Siberia, Germany, America , Stuttgart: Quell 1962, p. 214)
  5. Elsa Brändström on her 125th birthday (PDF; 186 kB) Health Saxony. 2013. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  6. ^ Eleanor Roosevelt : My Day, Aug. 7, 1959 ( English ) The George Washington University. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  7. ^ Window Shop (Cambridge, Mass.) Records, 1939–1992: A Finding Aid ( English ) Radcliffe College. October 1994. Archived from the original on February 9, 2012. Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved February 19, 2015. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / oasis.lib.harvard.edu
  8. The "Angel of Siberia" would have turned 120 today Mittelbayerische.de, March 27, 2008.
  9. Paul Tillich: The new being . Evangelisches Verlagswerk Stuttgart, 2nd edition 1959, p. 34 ff.
  10. In Halle's newspapers it was emphasized that this honor was an “expression of gratitude for the unforgettable care shown to the German prisoners of war in Russia over the years and for the helping work carried out by them under the greatest troubles and dangers with the fearless establishment of life Services especially for the German academic youth ”has been completed.
  11. In: Das Tagebuch 1880–1937, Volume 8 , p. 735
  12. ^ Historical precursors of modern organizations
  13. ^ The Nomination Database for the Nobel Prize in Peace, 1901–1956
  14. The Royal Order of Seraphines (sv. Kungliga Serafimerorden), also called The Blue Ribbon (Det blå bandet), has been the house order and the highest order of merit in the Kingdom of Sweden since 1748. The order also includes the extremely rare golden seraphine medal. It shows the bust of Frederick I, hangs on a crown and golden chains and was awarded to people who had made extraordinary contributions to the poor and sick. It was awarded twice throughout the 20th century. a. to Elsa Brändström.
  15. Elsa Brandström . Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints. November 12, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  16. Wurzener Denkmal turns 80 Leipziger Volkszeitung, April 28, 2010.
  17. Kai-Uwe Brandt: “The Angel of Siberia” - Wurzen wants to pay tribute to Elsa Brändström - memorial of the famous nurse Subject in the culture committee / consul: “A huge treasure for Wurzen”. In: Leipziger Volkszeitung, Muldental edition, May 30, 2015, p. 29.
  18. ^ Elsa Brändström (1971) ( English ) Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  19. Elsa Brändström - The Angel of Siberia mdr.de
  20. Detlef Rohde: Exhibition about Elsa Brändström opens in the Grimma monastery church. Leipziger Volkszeitung , online portal. Retrieved March 25, 2018 .
  21. ^ Renate Faerber-Husemann: Exhibition on Elsa Brändström: The "Angel of Siberia". Vorwärts (Germany) , online portal. Retrieved March 25, 2018 .
  22. Magdalene Philippine Caroline Auguste Erika Wilhelmine Freifrau von Steinaecker (born von Walsleben; 1880–?)