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Dag Hammarskj÷ld

[dahg hahm' ahr shuld] Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1953-1961

Dag Hammarskjold

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskj÷ld was born on July 29, 1905, in J÷nk÷ping, Sweden, the son of former Prime Minister Hjalmar Hammarskj÷ld and his wife Agnes. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Uppsala University in 1925, he went on to earn an economics degree (1928), a law degree (1930), and a doctorate in economics (1934). During this period of intense study he also spent a year teaching economics at the University of Stockholm (1933).

Early Career

Hammarskj÷ld's public career began in 1930, when he became secretary to a government commission on unemployment, a post he held until 1934.

In 1936, Hammarskj÷ld became an Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, a position he held until 1945. During his tenure he helped draft the legislation which opened the way to creation of Sweden's present-day welfare system. In 1941 he became the youngest Chairman in the history of the Bank of Sweden, in which position he served until 1948. While serving in these positions Hammarskj÷ld was a principal participant in the discussions with Great Britain and the United States concerning the economic reconstruction of Europe.

In 1947, Hammarskj÷ld was Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, responsible for all economic questions, and, in 1949, he was appointed Secretary-General of the Foreign Office. While serving in these positions he was a delegate to the 1947 Paris Conference at which the machinery of the Marshall Plan was established, as well as a delegate to the 1948 Paris Conference of the Organization for Economic Cooperation. In 1950 he became Chairman of the Swedish Delegation to UNISCAN, which was established to promote economic cooperation between Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries. In 1951 he became Deputy Foreign Minister, and held this position until 1953.

Secretary-General of the United Nations

Hammarskj÷ld was Sweden's delegate to the United Nations in 1949, and again from 1951 to 1953. He was elected to a five-year term as Secretary-General on April 10, 1953, and re-elected to a second term in 1957.

As Secretary-General, Hammarskj÷ld established the United Nations' role as the world's foremost peace-keeping and conflict-negotiating body. In 1955, he secured the release from China of American prisoners captured during the Korean War. During the Suez Crisis of 1956, he convinced the UN to nullify the use of force by Israel, France, and Great Britain against Egypt and commissioned the United Nations Emergency Force for the first time in history. In 1958, he directed the establishment of the UN Observation Group in Lebanon and the UN Office in Jordan, bringing about the withdrawl of American and British troops from the region. In 1959, he sent a personal representative to Southeast Asia when Cambodia and Thailand broke off diplomatic relations, and another to Laos when problems arose there.

After checking with UN observers in Lebanon, Hammarskjold visited Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Hammarskjold and David Ben-Gurion

In July 1960, Hammarskj÷ld personally led a UN peace-keeping force into the Republic of the Congo to help that nation's government deal with mutiny within its army, the secession of the province of Katanga, and intervention by Belgian troops. On September 18, 1961, Hammarskj÷ld was enroute to a personal conference with the president of Katanga when the plane carrying him and fifteen others crashed near the border between Katanga and North Rhodesia, killing all aboard.

Hammarskj÷ld being greeted by Moise Tshombe, provisional president of Katanga, on August 12, 1960. Hammarskj÷ld personally led U.N. troops into the area after Tshombe announced the intention of Katanga to secede from the central Congo government in protest against the policies of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
Hammarskjold in Katanga

In 1961, Hammarskj÷ld was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace to the Congo. Markings, a book of poetry, prayers, and prose sayings written by him, was published in 1964.


United Nations

See Also

David Ben-Gurion
Republic of the Congo
Nobel Peace Prize

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The Robinson Library >> Post-War History, 1945-

This page was last updated on 09/05/2018.