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Dag Hammarskjöld

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Dag Hammarskjöld

Dag Hammarskjöld
2nd Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
10 April 1953 – 18 September 1961
Preceded by Trygve Lie
Succeeded by U Thant
Personal details
Born Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld
(1905-07-29)29 July 1905
Jönköping, Sweden, United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway
Died 18 September 1961(1961-09-18) (aged 56)
Ndola, Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia)
Nationality Swedish
Alma mater Uppsala University
Stockholm University
Religion Lutheran/Church of Sweden

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (Swedish: ; 29 July 1905 – 18 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author. The second Secretary-General of the United Nations, he served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. At the age of 47 years, 255 days, Hammarskjöld is the youngest to have held the post. He is one of only four people to be awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize.[1] Hammarskjöld is the only UN Secretary-General to die in office; his death occurred en route to cease-fire negotiations. US President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century".[2]


  • Early life and education 1
  • UN Secretary-General 2
  • Death 3
  • Spirituality and Markings 4
  • Legacy 5
    • Honors 5.1
    • Quotes 5.2
    • People's views 5.3
    • Eponymous structures 5.4
    • Other commemorations 5.5
  • Bibliography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life and education

Hammarskjöld's birth house

Dag Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping, Sweden, but spent most of his childhood in Uppsala. The fourth and youngest son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden from 1914 to 1917,[3] and Agnes Hammarskjöld (née Almquist), Hammarskjöld's ancestors served the Monarchy of Sweden since the 17th century. He studied first at Katedralskolan and then at Uppsala University. By 1930, he had obtained Licentiate of Philosophy and Master of Laws degrees. Before he was finished his law degree he had already obtained a job as assistant secretary of the unemployment committee.[4]

From 1930 to 1934, Hammarskjöld was Secretary of a governmental committee on unemployment. During this time he wrote his economics thesis, "Konjunkturspridningen" ("The Spread of the Business Cycle"), and received a doctorate from Stockholm University.[4] In 1936, he became Secretary of the Sveriges Riksbank and was soon promoted. From 1941 to 1948, he served as Chairman of the bank.

Dag Hammarskjöld quickly developed a successful career as a Swedish public servant. He was Secretary of the Riksbank (the central bank of Sweden) 1935–1941, State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance 1936–1945, Governor of the Riksbank 1941–1948, Swedish delegate to the OEEC (Organization for European Economic Cooperation) 1947–1953, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1949–1951 and minister without portfolio in Tage Erlander's government 1951–1953.[4]

He helped coordinate government plans to alleviate the economic problems of the post-war period and was a delegate to the Paris conference that established the Marshall Plan. In 1950, he became head of the Swedish delegation to UNISCAN. Although Hammarskjöld served in a cabinet dominated by the Social Democrats, he never officially joined any political party. In 1951, Hammarskjöld was Vice Chairman of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. He became the Chairman of the Swedish delegation to the General Assembly in New York in 1952. On 20 December 1954, he was elected to take his father's vacated seat in the Swedish Academy.

Hammarskjöld is widely believed to have been homosexual, but there is no conclusive evidence.[5]

UN Secretary-General

Hammarskjöld outside the UN headquarters in New York City

When Trygve Lie resigned from his post as UN Secretary-General in 1953, the United Nations Security Council recommended Hammarskjöld for the post. It came as a surprise to him.[6] Seen as a competent technocrat without political views, he was selected on 31 March by a majority of 10 out of eleven Security Council members. The UN General Assembly elected him in the 7–10 April session by 57 votes out of 60. In 1957, he was re-elected.

Hammarskjöld began his term by establishing his own secretariat of 4,000 administrators and setting up regulations that defined their responsibilities. He was also actively engaged in smaller projects relating to the UN working environment. For example, he planned and supervised every detail in the creation of a "meditation room" at the UN headquarters. This is a place dedicated to silence where people can withdraw into themselves, regardless of their faith, creed, or religion.[7]

During his term, Hammarskjöld tried to smooth relations between Israel and the Arab states. Other highlights include a 1955 visit to China to negotiate release of 11 captured US pilots who had served in the Korean War,[3] the 1956 establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force, and his intervention in the 1956 Suez Crisis. He is given credit by some historians for allowing participation of the Holy See within the United Nations that year.[8]

In 1960, the former Belgian Congo and then newly independent Congo asked for UN aid in defusing the Congo Crisis. Hammarskjöld made four trips to the Congo. His efforts toward the decolonisation of Africa were considered insufficient by the Soviet Union; in September 1960, the Soviet government denounced his decision to send a UN emergency force to keep the peace. They demanded his resignation and the replacement of the office of Secretary-General by a three-man directorate with a built-in veto, the "troika". The objective was, citing the memoirs of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, to "equally represent interests of three groups of countries: capitalist, socialist and recently independent."[9][10]


Flight path of Hammarskjöld's aircraft (pink line) and the decoy (black line), September 1961
Hammarskjöld's grave in Uppsala

In September 1961, Hammarskjöld learned about fighting between "non-combatant" UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe. He was en route to negotiate a cease-fire on 18 September when his Douglas DC-6 airliner SE-BDY crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Hammarskjöld and fifteen others perished in the crash. The circumstances of the incident are still not clear. There is some recent evidence that suggest the plane was shot down.[11][12][13] Göran Björkdahl (a Swedish aid worker) wrote in 2011 that he believed Dag Hammarskjöld's 1961 death was a murder committed in part to benefit mining companies like Union Minière, after Hammarskjöld had made the UN intervene in the Katanga crisis. Björkdahl based his assertion on interviews with witnesses of the plane crash near the border of the DRC with Zambia, and on archival documents.[14][15] Former U. S. President Harry Truman commented that Hammarskjöld “was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him’.”[16]

On 16 March 2015, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed members to an Independent Panel of Experts which would examine new information related to his death. The three-member panel was led by Mohamed Chande Othman, the Chief Justice of Tanzania. The other two members were Kerryn Macaulay (Australia's representative to ICAO) and Henrik Larsen (a ballistics expert from the Danish National Police).[17] The panel's 99-page report, released 6 July 2015, assigned "moderate" value to nine new eyewitness accounts and transcripts of radio transmissions. Those accounts suggested that Hammarskjold's plane was already on fire as it landed, that other jet aircraft and intelligence agents were nearby.[18]

Spirituality and Markings

In 1953, soon after his appointment as United Nations secretary general, Hammarskjöld was interviewed on radio by Edward R. Murrow. In this talk he declared: "But the explanation of how man should live a life of active social service in full harmony with himself as a member of the community of spirit, I found in the writings of those great medieval mystics [Meister Eckhart and Jan van Ruysbroek] for whom 'self-surrender' had been the way to self-realization, and who in 'singleness of mind' and 'inwardness' had found strength to say yes to every demand which the needs of their neighbours made them face, and to say yes also to every fate life had in store for them when they followed the call of duty as they understood it."[19]

His only book, Vägmärken (Markings), was published in 1963. A collection of his diary reflections, the book starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961.[20] This diary was found in his New York house, after his death, along with an undated letter addressed to then Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Leif Belfrage. In this letter, Dag writes, "These entries provide the only true 'profile' that can be drawn ... If you find them worth publishing, you have my permission to do so". The foreword is written by W.H. Auden, a friend of Dag's.[21] Markings was described by a theologian, the late Henry P. Van Dusen, as "the noblest self-disclosure of spiritual struggle and triumph, perhaps the greatest testament of personal faith written ... in the heat of professional life and amidst the most exacting responsibilities for world peace and order."[22] Hammarskjöld writes, for example, "We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He who wills adventure will experience it – according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed – according to the measure of his purity of heart."[23] Markings is characterised by Hammarskjöld's intermingling of prose and haiku poetry in a manner exemplified by the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho in his Narrow Roads to the Deep North.[24] In his foreword to Markings, the English poet W. H. Auden quotes Hammarskjöld as stating "In our age, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."[25]

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates the life of Hammarskjöld as a renewer of society on the anniversary of his death, 18 September.




  • Refusal to resign: One of Hammarskjöld's greatest moments was refusing to give in to Soviet pressure to resign. Dag Hammarskjöld: "It is very easy to bow to the wish of a big power. It is another matter to resist it. If it is the wish of those nations who see the organization their best protection in the present world, I shall do so again."[28]
  • He is credited with saying, "I would rather live my life as though there is a God and die to find out that there isn't, than to live my life as though there is no God and die to find out there is."[29]

People's views

  • John F. Kennedy: After Hammarskjöld's death, U.S. president John F. Kennedy regretted that he opposed the UN policy in the Congo and said: "I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century."[2]
  • In 2011, The Financial Times wrote that Hammarskjöld has remained the benchmark against which later UN Secretaries-General have been judged.[30]
  • Historians' views:
    • Historian Paul Kennedy hailed Hammarskjöld in his book The Parliament of Man as perhaps the greatest UN Secretary-General because of his ability to shape events, in contrast with his successors.
    • In contrast, the conservative popular historian Paul Johnson in A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s (1983) was highly critical of his judgment.

Eponymous structures

The Dag Hammarskjöld Library in Uppsala
  • Libraries:
  • Buildings and rooms:
    • Columbia University: The School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York has a Dag Hammarskjöld Lounge. The graduate school is dedicated to the principles of international peace and cooperation that Hammarskjöld embodied.
    • Stanford University: Dag Hammarskjöld House on the Stanford University campus is a residence cooperative for undergraduate and graduate students with international backgrounds and interests at Stanford.[31]
    • The Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations in Geneva, Switzerland, has a room named after him.
    • Dag Hammarskjöld Stadium is the main football stadium of Ndola, Zambia. Hammarskjold's ill-fated flight in 1961 crashed in the outskirts of Ndola.
    • Dag Hammarskjold College: founded in Columbia, Maryland, in 1972, educating international students from 1972-1974. The concept that international relations are relationships between individuals, and that the better we understand each other, the better chance there is for world peace, was the centerpiece for this college. The College admitted students from both undergraduate and postgraduate levels while living in an international community.
    • Makerere University: Dag Hammarskjöld Hall of residence for graduate students.
  • Streets:
    • Dag Hammarskjöldsleden is a road in Göteborg, Sweden.
    • Dag Hammarskjölds Gade is a street in Aalborg, Denmark.
    • Dag Hammarskjölds Väg is a street in Lund, Sweden.
    • Dag Hammarskjölds Väg is one of the longest streets in Uppsala, Sweden. There are several other streets in Sweden sharing this name.
    • Dag Hammarskjöld's Allé is a street in Copenhagen, Denmark.
    • The headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) in Santiago, Chile lies on Avenida Dag Hammarskjöld.
    • The headquarters of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Society for International Cooperation, GIZ), is on Dag-Hammarskjöld-Weg in Eschborn, Germany.
    • Hammarskjöldplatz is the wide square to the north entrance of the Messe Berlin fairgrounds in Berlin, Germany.[32]
  • Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is a Manhattan public park near the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City,[33] and several of the surrounding office buildings are also named after him.
    • Dag Hammarskjöldlaan is a street in the town of Castricum, Netherlands.
    • Dag Hammarskjöldhof is a street in the town of Gouda, Netherlands.
    • Dag Hammarskjöldlaan is a street in the town of Hellevoetsluis, Netherlands.
    • Dag Hammarskjöldsvei street in Fyllingsdalen, Bergen, Norway
    • Hammarskjöld Road is a road in the town of Harlow, UK.
    • Hammarskjold Drive in Burnaby, BC, Canada.
  • Schools: A number of schools have been named after Hammarskjöld, including Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick Township, New Jersey; Dag Hammarskjold Middle School in Wallingford, Connecticut; Dag Hammarskjold Elementary School in Parma, Ohio; Dag Hammarskjold Elementary (PS 254) in Brooklyn, New York; Dag Hammarskjold School # 6 in Rochester, New York; Dag Hammarskjold Elementary School in Oakland (now an airport parking business) and Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
  • Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation:
    The Dag Hammarskjöld centre in Uppsala (housing the secretariat of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation)
    In 1962, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation was created as Sweden's national memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld.[34]

Other commemorations

  • Religious commemoration: He is also commemorated as a peacemaker in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 18 September of each year.
  • Memorial awards:
    • Medal: On 22 July 1997, the U.N. Security Council in resolution 1121(1997) established the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in recognition and commemoration of those who have lost their lives as a result of UN peacekeeping operations.[35]
    • Prize in Peace and Conflict Studies: Colgate University annually awards a student the Dag Hammarskjöld Prize in Peace and Conflict Studies based on outstanding work in the program.[36]
    • Medallion by the sculptor Harald Salomon issued in Denmark 1962 to help financing the Danish Foreign Aid Program.
      1962 Medal Dag Hammarskjöld by the Danish sculptor Harald Salomon
  • Postage Stamps: Many countries issued postage stamps commemorating Hammarskjöld.[37] The United Nations Postal Administration issued 5- and 15-cent stamps in 1962. They show the UN flag at half-mast and bear the simple inscription, "XVIII IX MCMLXI". The United States Hammarskjöld commemorative 4-cent postage stamp, issued on 23 October 1962, was actually released twice. Famous for its misprint, the second issue is often referred to as the Dag Hammarskjöld invert.
  • On 6 April 2011, the Bank of Sweden announced that Hammarskjöld's image will be used on the 1000-kronor banknote, the highest-denomination banknote in Sweden.[38] Copyright problems have delayed making the new currency design official.[39]


  • Durel, Bernard, op, (2002), «Au jardin secret d’un diplomate suédois: Jalons de Dag Hammarskjöld, un itinéraire spirituel», La Vie Spirituelle (Paris). T. 82, pp. 901–922.
  • Fröhlich, Manuel (2008) "Political ethics and the United Nations: Dag Hammarskjöld as Secretary-General". Routledge, London.
  • Lipsey, Roger Hammarskjöld: A Life (University of Michigan Press; 2013) 670 pages; scholarly biography
  • Urquhart, Brian, (1972), Hammarskjold. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
  • Velocci, Giovanni, cssr, (1998), «Hammarskjold Dag», in Luigi Borriello, ocd – Edmondo Caruana, ocarm – Maria Rosaria Del Genio – N. Suffi (dirs.), Dizionario di mistica. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, pp. 624–626.
  • Lichello, Robert (1972) "Dag Hammarskjold: A Giant in Diplomacy." Samhar Press, Charlotteville, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-87157-501-2.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1] Archived 22 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Susan Williams, Who Killed Hammarskjold? 2011, Hurst Publishers, 2014, Oxford University Press
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Jamie Doward, 'Spy messages could finally solve mystery of UN chief’s death crash,' The Guardian 13 December 2014.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Henry P Van Dusen. Dag Hammarskjold: A Biographical Interpretation of Markings Faber and Faber London 1967 p 47.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Auden, with Leif Sjoberg, translated the book into English.
  22. ^ Henry P Van Dusen. Dag Hammarskjold: A Biographical Interpretation of Markings Faber and Faber London 1967 p 5
  23. ^ Dag Hammarskjold: Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p 63.
  24. ^ Dag Hammarskjold: Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p149
  25. ^ WH Auden Foreword to Dag Hammarskjold: Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p 23.
  26. ^ Carleton Through the Years. Accessed 2011-03-31
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Time Magazine
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ United Nations Security Council Verbatim Report 3802. S/PV/3802 22 July 1997. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^

External links

  • Dag Hammarskjöld archives on UN Archives website.
  • Dag Hammarskjöld – biography, quotes, photos and videos
  • UNSG Dag Hammarskjold Conference on 9–10 November 2011 at Peace Palace
  • Video of Hammarskjöld's funeral in Pathe archive
  • UNSG Ban Ki-Moon Lays Wreath Honouring Dag Hammarskjold of 1 October 2009 and UNSG with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
  • , The Fourth Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture 6 September 2001, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Uppsala University (pdf)Dag Hammarskjöld and the 21st centuryUNSG Kofi Annan,
  • About Dag Hammarskjöld (Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation)
  • United Nations Secretaries-General
  • Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General at the official website of the UN
  • Biography
  • The Nobel Prize
  • Letters say Hammarskjöld's death Western plot
  • Media briefing by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • 18 September 1961 UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld is killed and BBC
  • Audio of Dag Hammarskjold's response to Russian pressure From UPI Audio Archives
  • Dag Hammarskjöld's FBI files hosted at the Internet Archive
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Hjalmar Hammarskjöld
Swedish Academy,
Seat No.17

Succeeded by
Erik Lindegren
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Trygve Lie
United Nations Secretary-General
Succeeded by
U Thant
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