They had one daughter Rosalinde. He later said that his opposition to German militarism during the final years of the German Empire under William II led him as early as 1913 to become a pacifist. In an act of civil disobedience after Hermann Göring prompted him to decline the prize Ossietzky issued a note from the hospital saying that he disagreed with the authorities who had stated that by accepting the prize he would cast himself outside the deutsche Volksgemeinschaft (community of German people):
After much consideration I have made the decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize which has fallen to me.
In 1990 his daughter Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm called for a resumption of proceedings but the verdict was upheld by the Federal Court of Justice in 1992. . He was convicted of high treason and espionage in 1931 after publishing details of Germany's alleged violation of the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding an air force the predecessor of the Luftwaffe and training pilots in the Soviet Union.