I was hesitant to share this here, because of the editorial choice of the word “suicide” to describe the death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, but it is important because this was saved in a collection of other international papers by Olinka and Olga Fabry. The political cartoon, showing Moïse Tshombe collecting his money from the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga mines with the murders of Patrice Lumumba and Hammarskjold, is gruesome but on point. From our personal coin collection, not from the Fabry archive, I have also included scans of two coins from Katanga from 1961.
Poem for Vlado
Looking through the family papers today, I found a poem by Olinka Fabry, written in tribute of her brother Vlado. I share it here with love to the both of them.
You died, as you lived –
not fearless, nor reckless,
but wisely bargaining
the single coin of life
for the one thing it is worth,
to bargain for
not for the siren song of gold
nor for the temptation of flesh
nor for the praise of men –
but to help life bloom and sing
and save it from withering away
For while we procrastinated
while we withdrew and barricaded ourselves in our insides
you stepped out –
with a pick and the rope, climbed to the top
into the streaming sunshine of bullets
and called to the man, behind the bush
to come out and talk over his grievance….
Now that it’s consummated,
we see it well, this hard won lesson:
not for the thrill
nor to subdue the mountain
but to steel the gaze
at the edge of the abyss
so when time comes
for the free man
he shall not flinch,
he shall not be found wanting.
Enter now in the hall of fame
of our small mountainfolk,
join the heroes standing around
the famous cliff – straight as candles –
you who wrote their courage in the sky
for all the world to see.
Of you I sing on this foreign shore
gentle as white wool of our lambs
hard as the granite of our cliffs.
You shall not walk again the mountain path
but your name shall be whispered
when the forest sings
From the family archive, here is the program from the United Nations memorial service for Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, and the 15 others who died with him, on 17 September 1961, while on a peace mission to Ndola. As the anniversary nears, I send kind thoughts to all who have been touched by this event. Included in the memorial program, held on 28 September 1961, is an address by the late Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold “on the occasion of the United Nations Day Concert, 24 October 1960” – it is one of Hammarskjold’s shorter speeches, but full of his warmth and optimism for humanity, so I have transcribed it here.
To further appreciate Hammarskjold’s sentiment towards music, to feel a little of what he felt when he listened to Beethoven, I have included the Christmas Day 1989 Berlin performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, in celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall – it is perfection, one of the most beautiful and moving concerts of all time.
IN MEMORIAM, 17 SEPTEMBER 1961
Nils Goran Wilhelmsson
Harold M. Julien
Karl Erik Rosen
Serge L. Barrau
28 SEPTEMBER 1961
“ADDRESS GIVEN BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE OCCASION OF THE UNITED NATIONS DAY CONCERT, 24 OCTOBER, 1960”
It is the tradition that the Organization marks United Nations Day with a concert including the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Today we shall, for the first time in this hall, listen to the symphony in its entirety.
It is difficult to say anything, knowing that the words spoken will be followed by this enormous confession of faith in the victorious human spirit and in human brotherhood, a confession valid for all times and with a depth and wealth of expression never surpassed.
When the Ninth Symphony opens we enter a drama full of harsh conflict and dark threats. But the composer leads us on, and in the beginning of the last movement we hear again the various themes repeated, now as a bridge toward a final synthesis. A moment of silence and a new theme is introduced, the theme of reconciliation and joy in reconciliation. A human voice is raised in rejection of all that has preceded and we enter the dreamt kingdom of peace. New voices join the first and mix in a jubilant assertion of life and all that it gives us when we meet it, joined in faith and human solidarity.
On his road from conflict and emotion to reconciliation in this final hymn of praise, Beethoven has given us a confession and a credo which we, who work within and for this Organization, may well make our own. We take part in the continuous fight between conflicting interests and ideologies which so far has marked the history of mankind, but we may never lose our faith that the first movements one day will be followed by the fourth movement. In that faith we strive to bring order and purity into chaos and anarchy. Inspired by that faith we try to impose the laws of the human mind and of the integrity of the human will on the dramatic evolution in which we are all engaged and in which we all carry our responsibility.
The road of Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony is also the road followed by the authors of the Preamble and of the Charter. It begins with the recognition of the threat under which we all live, speaking as it does of the need to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which has brought untold sorrow to mankind. It moves on to a reaffirmation of faith in the dignity and worth of the human person, and it ends with the promise to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours and to unite our strength to maintain peace.
This year, the fifteenth in the life of the Organization, is putting it to new tests. Experience has shown how far we are from the end which inspired the Charter. We are indeed still in the first movements. But no matter how deep the shadows may be, how sharp the conflicts, how tense the mistrust reflected in this hall and in this house, we are not permitted to forget that we have too much in common, too great a sharing of interests and too much that we might lose together, for ourselves and for succeeding generations, ever to weaken in our efforts to surmount the difficulties and not to turn the simple human values, which are our common heritage, into the firm foundation on which we may unite our strength and live together in peace.
It was a beautiful week in New York City for my visit to the UN Archives. Every morning, I took the 7 to Grand Central Station, walked down 42nd Street, crossing 2nd Avenue – also known as Yitzak Rabin Way, and then on towards 1st Avenue, where the Headquarters of the United Nations rise up along the edge of the East River. I slowed my pace through Ralph Bunche Park, which is mostly concrete, but the small fenced-in area of plants and flowers attracted a couple of American Robins, who were busy hunting for breakfast. I spent my time between 42nd and 47th Avenue – the location of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza – walking past security guards outside the US Department of State and Foreign Missions, and the House of Uganda, feeling very much at the center of the universe with all the languages being spoken around me. I’m sure I was noticed with amusement by a few, I was the only lady with UN blue hair!
After my morning walk, I made my way to the UN archives, where the staff were waiting to help me get started. The archives are open to everyone, it’s a free service, and I had a really positive experience there – I even met someone who worked with Vlado’s sister, Olga – who was a librarian at the Dag Hammarskjold Library – that made me very happy. Here was my desk the first day:
Of course, since it was my first visit to an archive, I requested too much, and had to narrow down and prioritize quickly what I wanted to look at after the first day. To me, it was all very interesting, but I would have needed to spend a month in there, 8 hours a day, just to see everything I requested, and I had only three days!
The hard work was a pleasure, but it gave me an appetite. Fortunately, there were plenty of great choices for lunch in the neighborhood. One day, I had a Maine lobster roll from a food truck across the street from UN Headquarters, and if I hadn’t been so eager to get back to the work, I would have tried out the Nigerian food truck on the next block, too.
By the end of my visit, I came to appreciate that it is the personal letters of these people that interest me the most, and how lucky I am to have so much of Vlado’s correspondence. I went to the archives out of curiosity, with no expectations, but with hope that I would find something special, something that other eyes had missed.
And I was rewarded for my efforts – with a love letter written to Dag.
When I found it, I immediately thought of Susan Williams’ discovery in the Royal Library of Sweden in Stockholm, the intriguing newspaper clipping she found inside Dag’s wallet that said ‘and when Nefertiti murmurs, “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool,” the Bible seems a long way off.’
The writer is very forward in her intentions, and though it embarrasses me to admit it, I couldn’t help but see a bit of myself in her admiration for his character, her wish to do something good because of him. I can’t deny the romantic tone of my writing, that I fell in love with both Vlado and Dag in the course of my research, and that love for them gave me the courage to write some of the things I did, so I feel this letter was meant to be found by me. The last page, with her signature, will be transcribed, to protect her identity. From the same file, I’m also including transcriptions of a letter of introduction from the Ambassador to Spain Jose Felix de Lequerica, and a small note from the Secretary-General’s private secretary, Miss Aase Alm, which came before he received her letter.
From the United Nations Archives in New York, S-0846-0004-08, Operational Records of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, 1953-1961.
“Mision permanente de Espana
en las Nacions Unidas
New York, September 14, 1959
Miss Aase Alm
Private Secretary to the
Secretary General of the
New York, N.Y.
Dear Miss Alm:
I have received today a letter from His Eminence Cardinal Spellman, introducing Miss ——, from Houston, Texas, and asking me to receive her. During the course of the conversation Miss —— told me that she wishes to present her compliments to Mr. Hammarskjold and speak to him about a personal matter. I have called her attention about the difficulty of such an interview, as I personally cannot arrange for this meeting not knowing myself the nature of same.
But in the view of the interest shown by Cardinal Spellman, I am giving this letter of introduction to Miss —— in the event that during your conversation with her you may be able to find something of interest to the Secretary-General and, at the same time, comply with the wishes of Miss ——.
Thanking you in advance for your kind attention, I remain
Very truly yours,
Jose Felix de Lequerica
Permanent Representative of Spain
to the United Nations.”
On this note from Miss Alm, two big exclamation points in red pencil were added to hers–in red pencil at the top of the love letter is written “Oh!”:
“I asked Miss —— to write to you, as you were too busy at the moment to receive her; explained at the same time that an appointment would be difficult unless she could give you some information what it would be about. I think you would want to see this because of the introductions from Spellman and de Lequerica!”
Written on stationary from The Drake Hotel, Park Avenue at 56th Street, New York 22, N.Y.:
TELEPHONE: PLAZA 5-0600
[Ext. 421 written beneath]
Dear Mr. Hammarskjold;
I chose to meet you through the Spanish Ambassador because I thought that Spain’s more or less neutral position would eliminate any political implications. Even though I did not relate my specific reason for desiring to see you, His Eminence Cardinal Spellman very graciously assisted me by sending a letter of recommendation to H.E. Jose Felix de Lequerica.
Since meeting you through conventional channels is highly improbable, I shall proceed with all frankness and sincerity to reveal my reason for wanting to see you.
These reasons are unknown to my friends, relatives, or even to my mother who has accompanied me to this city. People travel all over the world to see the many wonders and the beauty of nature, but God’s greatest creation is mankind, and a man of your goodness and wisdom is the most beautiful sight of all.
You know Dag, that although Cassanova was supposed to have been the greatest rogue lover of all time, none of his numerous lady loves ever followed him. Of course his base type of love can be compared to your love for humanity only in that yours is so much more superior on both counts.
How well you use your intellect and readily become a tool to God’s manipulations by carrying out your mission, the burden of your high office with dedication and inspiration.
If you should perhaps have a few human imperfections, I’m sure they are heavily overshadowed by your better qualities. You undoubtedly derive much satisfaction by working and administrating for humanity and peace, yet high places are sometimes very lonely, demanding the impression of aloofness in order to appear impartial. To complete this impression, some of your close friends might do well to remain obscure. I would like to be a silent friend now and in your riper years after your work is done and you retire to ‘pasture’. And if I might someday in some small way be of any help to you, I would be very happy to make an effort to comply.
I plan to leave New York on Tuesday September 22nd and return to my home in Houston, Texas. I have been here since September 11th and trust that I will not have to wait much longer to meet you.
Please do not be embarrassed by my directness. My manner of writing is usually to the point as you can tell by a letter that I am enclosing here in reference to food surplus.
I realize that in polite society revelations such as I have made here are out of order and are kept more demurely, but time and circumstances do not permit this subtle cultivation of friendship. However, you may rest assured that at our meeting I shall conduct myself in the quiet, controlled dignity that becomes a respectable woman. Personally, I am much meeker and much more at loss for words.
With sincere esteem
Here are a few videos of Dr. Hendrick Verwoerd, who has been called the “Architect of apartheid” for the policies he put into practice during his time as Minister of Native Affairs and as Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa.
Recently, in a speech to the Democratic Alliance’s Federal Congress, Allister Sparks listed Verwoerd as one of the “really smart politicians” he had met in his 64 years as journalist in South Africa – but he also included his friend and colleague Helen Zille – an anti-apartheid activist and journalist, who put her life in danger to expose the cover-up of Steve Biko‘s death, calling her “the smartest political tactician of all.” I think the assumption by those upset with his inclusion of Verwoerd, is that they think he admires him personally, when he only called him “smart”. Verwoerd was smart, in that he knew how to manipulate public opinion for personal gain and to turn human rights backwards – when Dag Hammarskjold met with Verwoerd in January of 1961, Brian Urquhart wrote in his biography of him “He had felt that he had been speaking to Verwoerd across a gulf of three hundred years”. But to better understand why people are upset to even hear his name, you must hear Verwoerd in his own words.
“Our policy is one, which is called by an Afrikanns word “Apartheid”. And I’m afraid that has been misunderstood so often. It could just as easily, and, perhaps, much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness. Accepting that there are differences between people, and that while these differences exist, and you have to acknowledge them, at the same time you can live together, aide one another, but that can best be done when you act as good neighbors always do.”
“The Republic is the only sure and stable friend that the western nations have in Africa. We are here to stay, and we are here to aide all others in whatever they may need and can get from us. We have, for a very long time, developed in South Africa a nation of our own – friendly, prosperous, progressive. We hope that the rest of Africa will become likewise.[…] Of course there has been sensational journalism and conditioned reporting, which created the impression that there would be great difficulties ahead of us. We have no doubt at all this will pass. Certain restrictive measures had to be taken recently, mainly to insure to protection of the masses – of all races who seek peace and order. Therefore, a stable government will continue in South Africa.[…] Here the solution is sought by openly retaining the white man’s guiding hand; which elsewhere is the hidden guarantee of industrial development, and even good administration.”
In 1966, Hendrick Verwoerd was assassinated, stabbed in the chest and neck while at his desk in Parliament, but it wasn’t the first attempt made on his life. Six years earlier, at the Johannesburg agricultural show, he was shot in the head twice. This video shows that earlier attempt.
*Update found here.
Earlier this month, I was on my way to the library with a stack of UN Archives request forms, to take the final step of entering the data into the computer and sending it to the archivists in New York. I stopped to pick up coffee and chocolate at the little grocery and met a friend there, a poet, who has been following the news of the investigation about Dag Hammarskjold, so I showed him what I was doing. Then he asked me – What is the story to you? What are the lessons you have learned in all this? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, since I am at a crossroads with where I am going next, but I will try to answer.
What I have learned from Vlado is that love gives us the courage to take risks, and that we must take risks to make peace in this world. Vlado lost everything – his home, his country, his nationality, and he was separated from his friends and family for long periods of time. From the age of 25 until his death at age 40, his home, his family, his tribe was the United Nations, and he gave all his heart and mind to it. He worked hard, not only because of his personal integrity and strong ethic, but because he needed to belong to a tribe who encouraged him to take risks for peace. He was just so joyful in everything he did – even in his letters of complaints he seems to be enjoying himself – his pluck has inspired me to be happy in everything I do.
Hammarskjold wrote “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” It was out of gratitude for what was given to me, and a need for friends to share this story with, that made me start writing here, back in March 2013. Above all, this blog has been a goodwill effort towards the family members of all those who died in Ndola for peace, to the ideals of the United Nations, to the people of Africa and the world, and every single person that has contributed in some part in holding up the memory of Hammarskjold with their research, everything I’ve learned has come from their devotion to his memory. And to all the kind friends who have reached out to me in generosity – thank you for all that you’ve taught me, for inspiring me to keep writing and learning, and for this time when I’ve felt part of something bigger than myself.