Dag Hammarskjöld Biography

(Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961)

Birthday: July 29, 1905 (Leo)

Born In: Jönköping, Sweden

Dag Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat and economist who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 until his untimely death in a plane crash in 1961. He was the youngest person to have held the post and the only UN Secretary-General to die in office. Counted amongst the organization’s best Secretary-Generals so far, he was called "the greatest statesman of our century" by the US President John F. Kennedy. Born as the son of a prominent politician who later went on to become the Prime Minister of Sweden, Hammarskjöld was greatly influenced by his father’s ideals. He developed the belief that one should spend his life in selfless service to the country and humanity, a principle that would guide his entire career. He studied first at Katedralskolan and then at Uppsala University, before proceeding to complete his law degree. Hammarskjöld served as Secretary of a governmental committee on unemployment and before long established himself in a successful career as a Swedish public servant. He eventually became the Vice Chairman of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris and was soon appointed the UN Secretary-General in 1953. He posthumously received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, having been nominated before his death.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld

Died At Age: 56


father: Hjalmar Hammarskjöld

Diplomats Economists

Height: 1.79 m

Died on: September 18, 1961

place of death: Ndola, Zambia

Cause of Death: Airplane Crash

Notable Alumni: Stockholm University

More Facts

education: Uppsala University, Stockholm University

awards: Nobel Peace Prize

Childhood & Early Life
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was born on 29 July 1905 in Jönköping, Sweden, as the fourth and youngest son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld and Agnes Hammarskjöld (née Almquist). His father, a prominent politician later served as the Prime Minister of Sweden and was chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation.
Dag Hammarskjöld studied at Katedralskolan and then at Uppsala University from where he earned a degree in humanities in 1925. He then proceeded to complete a second degree in economics three years later.
He also studied law, completing his degree in 1930 and was appointed the Secretary of a governmental committee on unemployment, a post he served in until the completion of his doctorate in economics in 1934.
He also loved poetry, music and painting. In addition, he was an athletic young man and a competent performer in gymnastics, with interests in mountaineering and skiing as well.
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He embarked on a successful career as a Swedish public servant, becoming the Secretary of the Sveriges Riksbank in 1936. He rose up the ranks quickly and served as Chairman of the bank from 1941 and 1948.
His stance as a diplomat continued to rise and in 1946 he became the financial adviser of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1949, he was named Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in 1951 became the deputy foreign minister. Throughout this period, he stayed clear from affiliating himself with any political party.
He promoted a policy of international economic cooperation and collaborated on the political level in the Council of Europe and on the economic level in the Organization of European Economic Cooperation.
He played a major role in coordinating government plans to alleviate the economic problems in the period following the World War II. He represented Sweden as a delegate to the United Nations in 1949 and in 1951. Hammarskjöld was Vice Chairman of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris.
Dag Hammarskjöld was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1953 for a five-year term. Receiving 57 votes out of 60, he was the first to be elected unanimously to the position. He was re-elected in 1957.
In this position he established his own secretariat of 4,000 administrators and set up regulations that defined their responsibilities. He also planned and supervised every detail in the creation of a "meditation room" at the UN headquarters where people, regardless of their faith, creed, or religion could withdraw into themselves.
He was instrumental in attempting to ease relations between Israel and the Arab states. He visited China in 1955 to negotiate release of 11 captured US pilots who had served in the Korean War. He also played a vital role in defusing the Suez Canal crisis in 1956.
In the late 1950s, he directed the establishment of the UN Observation Group in Lebanon and the UN Office in Jordan, bringing about the withdrawal of the American and British troops which had been sent there to deal with the crises.
Major Works
Much praised and respected for his commitment to peace during the civil war in the Congo, he made four trips to the newly independent African country, to take up the various social and political problems stemming in the nation. Hammarskjöld was made in charge of operations of the UN peace-keeping force. The Soviet Union, however, criticized his efforts and demanded his resignation. But he remained steadfast in his efforts and refused to resign under pressure.
Awards & Achievements
Dag Hammarskjöld posthumously received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, having been nominated before his death. He was lauded by the Nobel committee for having built up an efficient and independent UN Secretariat, and for having taken an independent line towards the great powers.
Personal Life & Legacy
Dag Hammarskjöld was believed to be homosexual though there is no conclusive evidence to suggest the same.
In the midst of the Congo crisis, he learned that fighting had erupted between Katanga troops and the noncombatant forces of the UN. Hammarskjöld was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire on 18 September 1961, just after midnight, when his plane crashed down near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), killing him and 15 others. Some recent evidence suggests the plane was shot down.
In 1997, the U.N. Security Council established the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in recognition and commemoration of those who have lost their lives as a result of UN peacekeeping operations.

See the events in life of Dag Hammarskjöld in Chronological Order

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