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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/10/20

UN Secretaries General History from 1945 to 2020: Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, Second United Nations Secretary General

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[Dag's nephew Knut was an Honorary Advisor to the University of Peace Santa Fe, a project I developed early in the New Millennium, as were Otto Von Hapsburg, Evelyn Einstein, one of Gandhi's grandsons, and Stewart Udall, among others.]

The day after the airplane crash that killed Dag, former U.S. President Harry Truman commented that Hammarskjà ld "was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said 'when they killed him'."

This short biography has been compiled from a variety of sources.

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjà ld 9 July 1905 18 September 1961) was a Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Hammarskjà ld still remains the youngest person to have held the post, being only 47 years old when he was appointed in 1953. His second term was cut short when he died in the crash of his DC-6 airplane (whose cause is still disputed) in Northern Rhodesia while en route to cease-fire negotiations during the Congo Crisis. He is one of only four people to be awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize.

Hammarskjà ld has been referred to as one of the two best secretaries-general of the United Nations, and his appointment has been mentioned as the most notable success for the UN.

United States President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjà ld "the greatest statesman of our century".

[Personally, I think Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru was the best because of his lengthy book on diplomatic processes, and because he lived to be 100]

Và gmà rken (Markings, or more literally Waymarks), published in 1963, is the only book by former UN secretary general, Dag Hammarskjà ld. The journal was discovered after his death, with a covering letter to his literary executor, "a sort of White Book concerning my negotiations with myself - and with God".

After the original Swedish version was published in 1963, the English translation came out in 1964. The translation was done by noted Swedish scholar Leif Sjà berg. This brought the book immediate literary notice, and even a front-page rave in The New York Times Book Review. It is highly regarded as a classic of contemporary spiritual literature.


A collection of his diary reflections, the book starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961. The typewritten manuscript was found in the bedside table of his New York apartment after Hammarskjà ld's death in the Congo. As van Dusen writes: "His last night had been spent in the residency of Sture Linne, head of the United Nations mission to the Congo. He left there the copy of the German original of Ich und Du (I and Thou) presented to him by Martin Buber and the first dozen pages of his translation into Swedish... Beside the bed was the cherished copy of Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ which was always on the table of his New York City apartment next to his bed where the manuscript of Markings was found."

Many of the entries in Markings describe Hammarskjà ld's struggles to view his professional duty as a spiritual responsibility. The entry on June 11, 1961, for example, reads: "Summoned/To carry it,/Aloned/To assay it,/Chosen/To suffer it,/And free/To deny it,/I saw/For one moment/The sail/In the sun-storm,/Far off/On a wave-crest,/Alone,/Bearing from land./For one moment/I saw."

Hammarskjà ld died in a plane crash in Zambia, near midnight, on September 17-18, 1961.

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