Tag Archives: history

First United Nations Staff Day 1953

First United Nations Staff Day 8 Sept 1953
Dag Hammarskjold with Danny Kaye, Marion Anderson and Ezio Pinza
First United Nations Staff Day, 8 September 1953, UN photo

Invitation for First UN Staff Day 8 September 1953
Vlado’s invitation, from the personal collection

If anyone deserved a special day of recognition, it was the UN staff of 1953, who had been slandered by the U.S. federal grand jury on 2 December 1952, saying that there was “infiltration into the U.N. of an overwhelmingly large group of disloyal U.S. citizens”. Secretary-General Trygve Lie gave the FBI carte blanche of New York Headquarters “for the convenience” – and this was after he gave his resignation, on 10 November 1952; which he gave under pressure of McCarthyism, and the Soviet Union’s refusal (for years) to recognize him as Secretary-General because of his involvement in Korea. Hammarskjold was sworn in on 10 April 1953, and he did all he could to defend and support his UN staff, and managed to get the FBI removed from UN Headquarters by November 1953.

With appreciation to the author, here are excerpts from chapter 3 of Brian Urquhart’s biography of Hammarskjold:

“On January 9 [1953], President Truman, by Executive Order 10422, introduced a procedure by which the U.S. government would provide the Secretary-General with information on U.S. candidates for employment and would empower the U.S. Civil Service Commission to investigate the loyalty of Americans already employed by the UN. In the same month, the Eisenhower administration’s new representative to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., as one of his first official acts asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate all members of the U.S. mission to the UN as well as U.S. members of the Secretariat itself. For the latter purpose Lie permitted the FBI to operate in the UN Building, for the convenience, as he explained it, of the large number of Secretariat officials who would have to be interrogated and fingerprinted. To the Secretariat, the presence of the FBI in the “extraterritorial” Headquarters Building symbolized yet another capitulation to the witch-hunters.”

[…]

“Another problem inherited from Lie was the presence of the FBI in the UN Building. The extent of that agency’s activities was revealed on June 20 during an incident in the public gallery of the Security Council, when an American agent in plain clothes attempted to take a demonstrator away from the UN guards. Hammarskjold demanded a full investigation of this incident and protested vigorously to the U.S. mission. He had also learned of the case of a senior official who had been given a detailed questionnaire on his relations with various people and his views on Communism. The fact that the official had felt obliged to reply raised in Hammarskjold’s mind a serious question of principle. Did a government have the right to question a respected official of the UN with a long and good record of service on the basis solely of suspicion and rumor? Surely the proper course was for the government concerned to tell the Secretary-General of its suspicions, leaving it to him alone to decide what action, if any, should be taken and what questions should be put to the official concerned. He therefore instructed the members of the Secretariat that until he could get the FBI off the premises their reaction to inquiries about their colleagues could in no circumstances go beyond the duty of everyone to help the law. A member of the Secretariat must make it clear that there were questions that, as an international civil servant, he had no right to answer and these included questions relating to his UN work and to the activities of the UN itself, as well as the political or religious views or past relationships of himself or of his colleagues. This meant, in fact, that only nonpolitical criminal activities were a legitimate subject for investigation by the FBI. In November 1953, making use of the opportunity provided by a remark to the McCarran Subcommittee by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that the extraterritorial status of international organizations in the United States made it impossible for the FBI to operate on their premises, Hammarskjold asked for the immediate removal of the FBI from UN Headquarters.”

But there was still the matter of the American staff members that had been dismissed or terminated by Trygve Lie because they plead the Fifth Amendment when investigated. Hammarskjold wasn’t able to make everyone happy with his decisions, but I feel he was trying to avoid giving the McCarthy crowd any kind of foothold for future harassment.

“During the summer a U.S. federal grand jury, the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board, and two U.S. Senate Subcommittees continued to investigate present and former American Secretariat members. On August 21 the Administration Tribunal, the Secretariat’s highest court of appeal, rendered judgments in twenty-one cases of American staff members who had appealed against their dismissal or termination by Lie for having invoked the Fifth Amendment during investigations by the U.S. authorities. The Tribunal found in favor of eleven of the applicants, awarding compensation to seven of them and ordering the reinstatement of four. Hammarskjold declined to reinstate the four on the grounds that it was “inadvisable from the points of view which it is my duty to take into consideration,” whereupon they too were awarded compensation. His decision simultaneously dismayed a large part of the UN staff, who believed that their colleagues should have been reinstated, and enraged the anti-UN faction in the United States led by Senators Joseph McCarthy and William E. Jenner, who saw it as a recommendation for the payment of some $189,000 in compensation to traitors. The attitude of the senators was later reflected in the U.S. opposition in the General Assembly to Hammarskjold’s request for an appropriation to pay the compensation awards.”

For further context, you can read the speeches Hammarskjold gave to the staff in New York and Geneva in May of 1953 on the Dag Hammarskjold Library website.

Letters from Sumitro

From 1949 to 1951, Vlado was working for the United Nations in Indonesia, during the time of independence from the Dutch. Due to the complications of being a political exile from Czechoslovakia, Vlado had only a temporary passport – until October 1952, when he finally received his UN Laissez-Passer. Here is one alternative ID, a ‘Tourist Introduction Card’ from the Government of India:
India Tourist Card
India Tourist Card II
Sumitro Djojohadikusumo (not to be confused with General Sumitro)was the only Indonesian with a doctorate in economics after independence in 1949, and had been Deputy Head of the Indonesian delegation to the UN Security Council, so he and Vlado were colleagues. While going through the 1951 box of papers again, I found two letters – one for Vlado’s sister and one for his mother, with Indonesian letterhead, handwritten and signed by Sumitro. It shouldn’t surprise me that Sumitro came to be friends with Vlado and his family, and that their example of kindness moved him to open his heart to others, but I had no idea how fond he was of Vlado’s sister!
Sumitro letter Olinka

Stockholm, June 15, 1951

Merea Guerida,

Enfant-terrible? Non, – enfant cherie with eyes as lovely as ever to remember and a voice as sweet as ever can be: sweet, soft and gentle –

You asked me (“a penny?”), when I wrote those words in my brochure what I referred to: a general truth, people in Indonesia or personal reflections? I think it was a combination of all three. You see, I have long learned to see situations of Indonesia always as an integral part of a general trend, the strive for betterment, the urge of mankind for improvement and progress, although many times specimens of mankind itself seem to turn the clock back more or less deliberately. Nonetheless, all of us individually have our responsibility as to the fate of others —

Sumitro letter Olinka II

Then, general truth has particular significance only if one can attach to it, personal reflections. I told you that evening (la ultima noche) alongside the lake looking towards Geneva, against the background of mountains and twinkling stars, the lesson I learned from you and your parents. I do not exaggerate – your brother I think can tell you how much under control, reserved and reticent I usually am when meeting people – but how strikingly touched I was, when I met with such generous welcome and kindheartedness from all of you. And I compared my own attitude in the recent past, shying away from gatherings and from people (- though many of them were out for quick profits and complaints, maybe you remember I told you.) My time in Geneve taught me that only through kindness and understanding can you make people understand. Needless to say that my time in Geneva is inextricably connected with the shining, lovely personality of Olga Irene. (remember again, I do not exaggerate, wherever you are concerned.) Now, Carisima[sp?], till next time, for I hope you will continue writing me from time to time, for never shall I forget….

Ever Yours,
Sumitro

Here is the letter he wrote to Mrs. Fabry, with an apology regarding Vlado’s sister:
Sumitro letter Mrs Fabry

Dear Mrs Fabry,

Having arrived in Stockholm yesterday I hasten to send you and the other members of your family, my greetings and best wishes. By this time Dr Vladimir, your son must already be with you and I do hope that all of you will have a lovely time together. I think back of my sojourn in Geneva with more than a great deal of pleasure and gratitude towards you all.

Sumitro letter Mrs Fabry II

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to extend to you my profound apologies for the fact that Olga came home so late that Monday-evening. I have no justifiable excuse really and should have been wiser at my age — With kindest personal regards and all my best wishes for you, Dr Pavel Fabry, Vladimir and Olga,

Sincerely yours,
Sumitro

I wonder if Sumitro got a scolding at the door from Maminka? He didn’t sound very sorry about coming home late in his letter to Olga!

More Photos from UNEF Gaza and the Suez Canal Clearance Project

From the personal collection, here are just a few more photos from two of Vlado’s most important missions: UNEF and the Suez Canal Clearance Project. I am not able to identify the people Vlado is with, but I am hoping that will change when I make my first visit to the United Nations Archive in New York in a few months, to do further research. I have a lot of hard work to do before I even get there, but I am happy for the challenge. Thanks to all the good friends who encouraged me to take this step, I’m looking forward to sharing some of my discoveries here.
Vlado in Egypt II

Vlado in Egypt

Vlado in Egypt III

Vlado UNEF

Vlado UNEF IV

Vlado UNEF III

Vlado UNEF II

Vlado UNEF V

Vlado UNEF VI

Suez Canal Clearance 1957 III

Suez Canal Clearance 1957 II

Suez Canal Clearance 1957 IV

Suez Canal Clearance 1957

More Photos from the U.N. Plebiscite to British Togoland, 1956

Here are some more photos that Vlado took, while acting as Observer to the United Nations Plebiscite to British Togoland in 1956; which includes some of the fantastic architecture he saw there.

(For greater detail, please click on photos to enlarge)

British Togoland Plebiscite 21

British Togoland Plebiscite 20

British Togoland Plebiscite 19

British Togoland Plebiscite 18

British Togoland Plebiscite 17

British Togoland Plebiscite 22

British Togoland Plebiscite 27

British Togoland Plebiscite 26

British Togoland Plebiscite 24

British Togoland Plebiscite 23

British Togoland Plebiscite 25

British Togoland Plebiscite 31

British Togoland Plebiscite 30

British Togoland Plebiscite 29

British Togoland Plebiscite 28

Before It Was Ghana: Photos from the U.N. Plebiscite in British Togoland, 1956

In 1956, Vladimir Fabry was assigned as Observer to the United Nations Plebiscite in British Togoland; which would vote to join the Gold Coast in May of that year, and on 6 March 1957, would become part of Ghana – the first African nation independent from colonial rule. Exciting, hopeful times for Africa, and Vlado was lucky to be there, to be a part of it.

The first three photos are from the UN photo collection, showing Vlado at work. The other photos are of the people Vlado met while he was there – the future independent people of Ghana. In two of the photos, you can see a man making Kente cloth on a loom – amazing!

(click on photos to enlarge)

Vlado and R West Skinn British Togoland May 56

Vlado British Togoland April 56

Vlado and Jan Van Wyck British Togoland April 56

British Togoland Plebiscite 1
British Togoland Plebiscite 2
British Togoland Plebiscite 3
British Togoland Plebiscite 4
British Togoland Plebiscite 5
British Togoland Plebiscite 6
British Togoland Plebiscite 7
British Togoland Plebiscite 8
British Togoland Plebiscite 9
British Togoland Plebiscite 10
British Togoland Plebiscite 11
British Togoland Plebiscite 12
British Togoland Plebiscite 13
British Togoland Plebiscite 14
British Togoland Plebiscite 15
British Togoland Plebiscite 16

In Memory of Vlado: 28 September 1961

With deep respect for Dag Hammarskjold, and all those who died with him, here are the photos from Vladimir Fabry’s funeral in Geneva, 28 September 1961. I’ve also included a postcard photo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Geneva, the location of Vlado’s memorial service.

John A. Olver, who had been Chief Administrative Officer for the UNOC, and was asked to accompany his fallen friends on the the Pan-Am flight around the world (The first stop was Leopoldville, then Geneva, Malmo, Stockholm, Dublin, Montreal, and last, New York), gives his reflections of this day in his memoir “Under Fire With Dag Hammarskjold”; which is part of “Dag Hammarskjold Remembered: A Collection of Personal Memories”, edited by Mary-Lynn Hanley and Henning Melber:

“As morning light started to appear we arrived at the Mediterranean, and then flashed across that same sea I had crossed in the other direction so recently. By early morning the high mountains began to appear, and suddenly, or so it seemed, the great white tower of Mont Blanc speared upward below us. The view was unusually sharp and clear, and it occurred to me that Dag Hammarskjold, passionate mountain lover, would have enjoyed this moment. I glanced over at Knut [Hammarskjold].

“Yes,” he nodded, “Dag would have liked this.”

Now began the descent for Geneva, down the length of the long, blue lake with the tidy Swiss city waiting for us at the far end. The familiar bump of landing was felt again, and my watch confirmed that the leap from the heart of Africa to the heart of Europe had been accomplished with split-second timing: it was precisely eleven in the morning.

The plane was towed to a large hangar at one end of the airport, and we disembarked into a glorious Geneva day, to join the silent ranks of thousands of mourners. We were home again, yet somehow we felt lost and far away.

In the hangar, the authorities of the city and canton, long accustomed to important ceremonies yet personally affected by the loss of a world leader whom they had come to know well, had set up a small chapel where last respects could be paid to the Secretary-General and his companions. There was a catafalque upon which the Hammarskjold casket would rest, accompanied by a book in which mourners could inscribe their names. In a few minutes, the casket was in place, and a long procession, stretching far out along the side of the airfield, began to form and move slowly into the hangar and out again. We saw in the endless line the faces of family members, friends, and persons from all walks of life and from offices of the United Nations, and the many other international organizations, plus the diplomatic corps and representatives of the Swiss Government.”

Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva2
Pan-Am Geneva Sept.1961
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva1
Pan-Am funeral procession Geneva Sept. 1961
Funeral procession Geneva Sept. 1961
Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva postcard
Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva Sept. 1961
Vlado's funeral Geneva Lutheran Church
Vlado's casket Geneva Lutheran Church
2 Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva Sept. 1961
Cimetiere Petit-Saconnex Sept. 1961

One of the most touching tokens of respect to the memory of Vlado, is a large, two-volume book set, embossed with the UN emblem, containing the collected signatures from every UN staff member around the world. Among the signatures of the European Office of the United Nations in Geneva, is this brief homage from John A. Olver:

“He perhaps came as close as humanly possible to being the ideal international civil servant. Certainly his example will endure lastingly in the Secretariat as an inspiration to us all.”

And from another Geneva staff member, whose signature I cannot decipher, there is this:

“I knew him to be a man of courage and of tenderness. It was a fine combination born of a fine mind and of an instinctive respect for his fellow man. When you see a young man growing in stature with the years and being consistently true to the things in which he believes, it leaves an impression that stays with you. Vladimir was just such a man. I shall remember him and be thankful in that memory.”