Here is very good news I got this morning from a friend, with thanks to all of the friends of Hammarskjold!
“On 30 December 2022, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution A/77/L.31, which authorises the renewal of the UN’s ‘Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him.’ It further authorises the reappointment of the Eminent Person, Judge Mohamed Chande Othman, to lead the investigation.
The Resolution was initiated by Sweden and co-sponsored by 141 Member States (out of 193). The US and the UK did not co-sponsor the resolution.
The Resolution follows Judge Othman’s latest report (A/76/892), which is readily available on the UNA Westminster webpages on developments relating to the Hammarskjöld plane crash (along with various other significant documents and updates).
In this latest report, Judge Othman writes:
‘…I respectfully submit that the burden of proof to conduct a full review of records and archives resulting in full disclosure has not been discharged at the present time. Indeed, information received from other sources under the present mandate underscores that it is almost certain that these Member States [that is to say, the USA, the UK, and South Africa] created, held or were otherwise aware of specific and important information regarding the cause of the tragic event. That information is yet to be disclosed.’
Many thanks to Madame Rime, and to Maurin Picard for this interview and supporting the Hammarskjold investigation, and to David Glaser for promoting this blog and the life of Vlado Fabry – merci beaucoup to all who have contributed to this site!
Interview with Monique Rime Cégel
3 May 2020
– Monique Cégel, 83, was Vladimir Fabry’s secretary in Leopoldville in 1961
– She worked at the Hotel Le Royal between December 1960 and January 1962
– She knew Alice Lalande and Harold Julien very well
– She was working extra hours on 17 September 1961
– She typed Dag Hammarskjöld’s last message to Paul Henri Spaak, requesting Belgium to stop « van Riessenghem »
– She remembers there were serious doubts about UN communications being intercepted
– Vladimir Fabry did most of the research regarding Katanga mercenaries during the summer of 1961
– She remembers Dag Hammarskjöld’s collaborators tried to deter him from flying unescorted
– She does not think Sture Linnér was intended to fly along, as he had to stay in Leopoldville to liaise and work proper transmissions
– She flew to Ndola with Mahmoud Khiary on 19 September 1961 to type the ceasefire agreement with Moise Tshombe
– She saw the crash site right above her plane window prior to landing and was horrified
– She recalls smoldering debris and the « long line » of burnt forest
– She found a very hostile atmosphere in Northern Rhodesia
– She met a very disdainful Lord Alport
– She was not allowed to join Mahmoud Khiary at the hospital to visit Harold Julien
* * *
I was Vladimir Fabry’s secretary, at the Hotel Le Royal, Leopoldville (Congo).
I worked there for the UN mission in Congo from December 1960 to January 1962, as secretary detached from the Atomic Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
I kept working for the UN in Geneva until 1976, mostly through freelancing contracts. Then my husband and I moved to the city of Bulle.
I met my husband in 1961 in Congo!
He was a representative for major Swiss companies of the time, including Schindler and Vega, and was selling chemical products to the university of Lovanium.
I became a Swiss citizen, after getting married with him.
I was French (and I still am), and was born in Paris.
* Sunday 17 September 1961
At the Hotel Le Royal, we had an office adjacent to the one occupied by Sture Linnér.
On the day Dag Hammarskjöld took off from Leopoldville, that Sunday, I was not supposed to work.
But, as Fabry’s secretary, and since he only worked with me, they sent some military staff in a Jeep to pick me up and bring me back to Le Royal.
They found me sitting at a cafe terrace, since I believe they always kept an eye on us for safety.
I went back to my office and worked all afternoon, until the plane departed.
* Vladimir Fabry
That day, when I arrived at my office, Vladimir Fabry immediately requested to dictate some telegrams. I spent the whole afternoon doing that: typing messages, then bringing them to the « Chiffre » for them to be coded accordingly with the recipient’s identity.
By the time I was finished, they were getting ready to leave for the airport.
Before leaving, Vladimir Fabry was so thrilled.
Happy as a kid who was just offered a new toy.
Albeit a very reserved character, he was practically jumping on his feet.
He came into my office and said excitingly:
« Monique, I am leaving with the Secretary-General! I am trusting you with my car keys! »
He had to be very happy, for he would never have done such a thing otherwise.
His car was an official UN vehicle.
He told me I could use all the time during his absence.
God knows Leopoldville is a very large town, with great distances between the various locations.
I used the car until, of course, I handed it back to the UN, since Fabry never returned.
I remember seeing their cars leaving Le Royal in convoy.
I went through these events with an innocent mind as I could only partially grasp what was going.
I would mostly type messages dictated by Fabry, messages that were generally meant for New York.
The last message I typed from them was dictated by M. Hammarskjöld himself. The recipient was Paul-Henri Spaak.
(nota: the Belgian Foreign Minister)
But I cannot remember its content (nota: requesting Belgian assistance to put an end to the criminal deeds of a mercenary pilot named « van Riessenghem »).
I was so intimidated that I must have skipped two or three words he dictated.
I had never met Hammarskjöld and I was so young then (nota : she was 24).
I saw Dag Hammarskjöld every day between 13 and 17 September 1961, since he occupied Sture Linnér’s office.
* Can you recall Hammarskjöld’s state of mind?
I remember he was not very agreeable. He seemed really sad, not at all in a communicative mood. « You do this, this has to be done ». We were in the midst of a serious crisis with Katanga, obviously.
* Were there long sleepless nights at Le Royal?
I did not spend those ones with them, but I had a similar experience during the previous months. When you are assigned to someone high ranking, you did not count your days and your nights. With all the crises we went through, there were many sleepless nights at Le Royal.
* Harold Julien
I knew Harold Julien very well, as he was the Chief Security Officer in Leopoldville. Being M. Fabry’s secretary, I was granted the use of a car.
This in turn created some serious trouble, because we were taken hostage with a Swiss colleague of mine by Mobutu’s troops for 24 hours. The time was around end January or early February 1961.
They had spotted my car, I believe, due to the UN flags on it, and surrounded our house with two small armoured cars. There were rumors that the UN was bent on disarming the Congolese National Army. And we had been poorly inspired to move in a house across the street from Mobutu’s barracks along the river – a magnificent location, it was indeed.
Then the witchhunt began against all UN staff.
This is the only time in my life I was really scared.
I called the French embassy asking for their help, as I was a French citizen. Their answer was very … kind: « you work for the UN, hence you are no longer considered as a French citizen for us. There is nothing we can do for you ».
Since my colleague was Swiss, she called the Swiss embassy and they immediately answered. « Yes of course, we will come and rescue you ».
They arranged for a motorized convoy of Swiss people, with friends and colleagues of my future husband, led by the Red Cross delegate M. Olivet, who was killed another day.
(nota: Georges Olivet, 34, was killed in an ambulance on 12 December 1961, amidst heavy fighting in Elisabethville, Katanga)
They parlayed with Mobutu’s soldiers, who pretty quickly removed their blockade and let us go free.
* Saturday 16 September, Lord Lansdowne meets Dag Hammarskjöld. Did you get word of a stormy exchange?
No, I do not remember that gentleman.
I did not hear anything, although I was there that day and was working in the nearby room. If there had been loud voices, a shouting match,
I would have heard something.
But it does not mean it did not take place, as my memory could be failing me.
There were indeed many high ranking visitors in Sture Linnér’s office, and I did not always necessarily get a look at them.
* Did Dag Hammarskjöld’s collaborators try to deter him from flying unescorted?
That is true, since I remember I heard about it.
They did try to deter him.
There were rumors that they were « waiting » for him in Katanga. There were Tshombe’s two Fougas.
(nota: in September 1961, the UN still believed two remaining Fouga were operational, as there was actually only one left, « 93 », the other one bing grounded awaiting spare parts)
When we heard about the crash, we immediately thought: « Tshombe’s Fougas did it ».
Personnally, I just could not imagine such a thing: who would want to shoot down the UN Secretary General?
I really thought this was just an accident, at least until after I left Congo early 1962.
If I had known … I was so scared in the air. I could never have boarded a plane.
But since I had no clue of what happened, I departed very easily when told to, without any further stress.
* Was Sture Linnér supposed to join the mission and fly along with Dag Hammarskjöld, as he later commented?
I was not at Ndjili airport but I would be surprised if he was intending to fly with them. It was logical for him to stay in Leo and liaise. That would be surprising if true.
Alice Lalande, she had to be part of the travelling party, since she was in charge of sensitive equipments, these Enigma machines. Besides, the Secretary-General needed an assistant like her. In her daily job, Alice was handing over paperwork to all the secretaries. She was a perfectly bilingual Canadian.
* Did Dag Hammarskjöld know that UN communications were intercepted?
I do not know, but it was a serious question for everyone in Leopoldville.
I had worked for weeks with Vladimir Fabry on the issue of the « frightfuls », these mercenaries.
I made dozens of photocopies from these documents that had been somehow collected and that had to do with these mercenaries. Vladimir Fabry worked a great deal on this issue. We did an extensive research on these documents. I am sorry that I did not have enough political awareness, to show an interest in the content of these documents.
* Monday 18 September 1961
Personnally, I did not get word of the crash when I arrived at the office on the next day. The other secretaries were doing a funny face, which was a bit intriguing. I made it late to the office due my long working hours on Sunday. I thought there was a dreadful atmosphere, but nobody told me anything. They did not dare tell me what had happened, probably because I was working so closely with M. Fabry. I only found out the same evening when I came home and my future husband told me: « did you hear what happened to Hammarskjöld ? »
* The crash site
When Mahmoud Khiary took off for Ndola, I came along.
(nota: on Tuesday 19 September 1961, in order to negotiate a ceasefire with Moïse Tshombé, as it was theoretically the case for Dag Hammarskjöld two days earlier)
I boarded the plane with him. If I had known the crash was foul play, I would never have come along with Khiary. This was so sudden, that I did not have the time to bring any equipment, not even a typing machine, as Alice Lalande had done.
We departed for Ndola. Prior to landing, while flying low over the forest, we managed to see the crash site from up close
(nota: the whole area was forested back then)
This memory will stay with me forever.
We spotted the wreckage, these scattered debris of an aircraft, what was left of it. This long line of burnt forest. It was terrible. I am still emotional about it, as I speak. I happened to realize the people I knew so well were only charred remains by now.
Alice Lalande, to begin with, who was basically my boss.
The security officers, such as Harold Julien.
I remember Alice’s dress with the flowery design. It sent cold shivers down my spine when I realized the plane had crashed and burnt that way. I though My God, she must have burnt so quickly. It was terrifying.
* Ndola, 19 September 1961
When we arrived in Ndola, there was this man, Lord Alport, welcoming us – so to say – at the airport. He was very cold. An extremely disagreeable character, very full of himself and every inch a British aristocrat. Still he invited our delegation for lunch in his home. I was just a secretary sitting at the end of the table with the security officers, but I found him disdainful towards us .
(nota : Khiary was not particularly welcome, since Tshombe had notified Linnér he agreed to negotiate a ceasefire with anyone but Khiary, whom he deemed responsible for launching Operation Morthor on 13 September 1961 – which is at least partially true)
Our mission was not very welcome.
Then we headed for the actual ceasefire negotiations with Moïse Tshombe, but I did not directly take part in the negotiations. The British mission there lent me a typing machine, whose keyboards had none of the French accents, which made my task very dfficult. I did however type all the ceasefire documents.
We stayed two or three days in Ndola.
Mahmoud Khiary and the delegation visited Harold Julien in the hospital. I was not allowed to join them.
1961 was a terrible year in my life. Annus horribilis, as the Queen Mother would say.
There was my being taken hostage, then Hammarskjöld’s crash, then the murder of 13 Italian air crew.
(nota: massacred by the crowd who mistook them with Belgian paratroopers in Kindu on 11 or 12 November 1961)
One of them was 25 and a very good friend of mine.
He had been at my wedding two weeks before, on 28 October 1961, along with Sture Linnér’s wife, whom I called Madame Linnér, of course, and also Jacques Poujoulat.
This day of September 1961, this Sunday the 17th. In my old age, I still cannot fathom what unfolded that day. It is still with me. It will stay with me until my last breath.
“My clock radio clicked on. The morning news bulletin announced that United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was missing.
It was Sept. 18, 1961. I was 16.
Over the next hours, my mother and sisters and I learned that Mr. Hammarskjöld, accompanied by Dad and 14 others, had flown from Leopoldville, in the Congo, to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia); that the plane, a DC-6, had not landed at Ndola, its destination; that an unexplained 15 hours went by after the airliner passed over the Ndola airport and before its wreckage was found lying not far from the runway; that all on board save one were dead.
My father, Heinrich A. Wieschhoff, was one of Mr. Hammarskjöld’s political advisers. Their party was headed for talks with the head of the breakaway Congo province of Katanga in hopes of quieting the fighting that had broken out between UN peacekeeping troops and the largely mercenary-led forces backing Katanga’s secession. It was a dramatic moment in the history of this mineral-rich country — a year after it gained independence from Belgium and quickly became embroiled in a violent quagmire involving the interests of not only Belgium but also France, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Britain and the United States.
Days after the crash, we learned that the sole survivor had died. Now there was no one to shed light on what had occurred. My family’s experience was lived in one wrenching way or another by the families of the 15 other victims. The particulars were different; the pain was the same — and only worsened because no one could tell us why the plane had gone down.
From the outset, there were legitimate concerns about the possibility of foul play. Within months of the crash, three inquests were held in rapid succession. The report of a UN commission, relying to a large degree on groundwork done by the-then Rhodesian Federation, was inconclusive, as was a report by the federal civil aviation body. The report of a commission empaneled by the Federation arrived, by a curious turn of logic, at the convenient conclusion that the event was an accident.
At first we assumed the UN would be vigilant in looking for new clues and dogged in running them to ground, and for years that seemed to be the case. Dad’s UN associates fielded our questions about the results of the original investigations and new allegations of wrongdoing promptly and graciously.
Once those associates left the UN, however, I gradually began having doubts that anyone in a leadership position cared much, if at all. One exception was Jan Eliasson, the deputy secretary-general under Ban Ki-moon, who was seemingly alone in advocating a serious look at the death of his idol and fellow Swede, Mr. Hammarskjöld.
The UN’s public posture toward Mr. Hammarskjöld drips with veneration — naturally. Yet when it comes to actually unraveling the circumstances of his death, a certain callousness prevails, despite high-sounding pronouncements to the contrary. In my experience, concern about the other 15 victims is even lower.
One byproduct of this indifference has been a coming together of nearly all the families of the deceased. Partly as a result, I have sensed that the UN is paying more attention to their interests, at least in its public comments. Privately, I still encounter telltale signs that the organization views the search for answers as a housekeeping matter.
For instance, when a group of the relatives sent the UN Secretariat a copy of a letter thanking the UN members sponsoring a recent resolution bearing on the crash, the response was a form letter from the public inquiries team stating that “the matter you raise is one of domestic jurisdiction, and does not fall within the competence of the United Nations.”
In 2011, the inquiry hit a turning point. Susan Williams, who had no prior connection to the crash, published “Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa.” A sobering probe of information that the three post-crash inquests did not have, or had but failed to consider properly, it presented the UN with a chance to dig deep.
Dr. Williams, a historian and senior research fellow at the University of London, did not identify a likely cause of the disaster, but she did present a number of startling claims, including that US intelligence services allegedly eavesdropped as an unidentified plane attacked Mr. Hammarskjöld’s during its landing approach.
The book sparked hope that the UN would finally give the crash its due. First, however, a group of private citizens established a pro bono commission of four jurists to evaluate her findings. In 2013, they determined that significant new evidence could justify reopening the UN’s original investigation.
The stage was set, at long last, to bring this unhappy affair to a definitive close. Unfortunately, instead of insisting that further exploration be unlinked from the agendas of individual member states, and Secretary-General Ban be given a free hand to deal with the crash as he saw fit, the office of the secretary-general solicited the views of certain members of the Security Council. Predictably, influential members signaled their lack of enthusiasm for a full-fledged re-opening of the investigation.
In other words, the UN ducked — in my view, avoiding discomfiting questions about the roles of Belgium, France, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Britain and the US in events related to the crash, and possibly about the UN’s own handling of its original investigation and subsequent new evidence as well.
What followed was five years (and counting) of a piecemeal, woefully ineffective process fashioned to give the impression of rigor. Through resolutions organized by Sweden, the General Assembly first relegated the crash to a “panel of experts” for yet another assessment of new information (2014), then to an “eminent person,” the former chief justice of Tanzania, Mohamed Chande Othman, for follow-up (2016).
The resolutions asked member states to search their archives for relevant material and to declassify sensitive records, namely intelligence and military files. But genuine cooperation from the key players has been slow and halting. Russia and the US, as of a recent date, failed to comply fully with the General Assembly’s resolutions, and South Africa and Britain appeared bent on frustrating the process altogether. To my knowledge, the UN has rarely generated information on its own, so that leaves Chief Justice Othman to rely heavily on private sources.
As far as I am aware, the Secretariat has not engaged at a high level with recalcitrant member states to get them to adhere to the General Assembly resolutions. It has done little to publicize the activities of the chief justice. It has been slow to fully declassify its own archives and still refuses to release some documents.
In their Dag Hammarskjöld Lectures, in Uppsala, Sweden (Mr. Hammarskjöld’s home base), Secretaries-General Ban and António Guterres each mentioned the search for the truth about the crash but at the tail end of their presentations, almost as an afterthought. Instead of taking a meaningful stand, they repeated the hollow refrain: the UN was doing all it could do to find answers and member states should comply with the call to declassify relevant records.
Equally revealingly is the fact that in 2017, Secretary-General Guterres’s office sought to end the Judge Othman probe. Thanks to Sweden’s insistence, the General Assembly renewed his appointment. Did the secretary-general tip his hand last year when, rather than appear in person before the General Assembly, he sent a subordinate to present Judge Othman’s interim report?
His findings were impressive, especially considering his meager support. For his current engagement of about 15 months, Judge Othman has only himself and an assistant, working part time and in different countries, on a budget so small that nearly a third will go toward translating his reports into the UN’s official languages.
The opportunity presented by Dr. Williams and the jurists’ commission still stands. And we may learn more from Judge Othman’s final report, due this summer. I worry, though, that unless that report or a new sense of purpose by the UN can pry the facts out of Britain, the US and other key states, what happened and why will once again fade unanswered into the past.”
“[…]Ban [Ki-moon] noted that the UK had stuck to its position last year that it had no further documentation to show the UN investigation. He appended a letter sent in June by the British permanent representative to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, saying “our position remains the same and we are not able to release the materials in question without any redactions”.
Rycroft added “the total amount of information withheld is very small and most of the redactions only consist of a few words”.
The wording of the letter echoed a similar letter, turning down the UN request for more information, the UK sent in June 2015, which said that “no pertinent material” had been found in a “search across all relevant UK departments”.
In reply the UN legal counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares, reminded Rycroft of the shared responsibility of the UN and its member states “to pursue the full truth” about Hammarskjold’s death, and asked him to confirm that the search of “all relevant UK departments” included security and intelligence agencies.
In reply, Rycroft simply quoted the former UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond telling parliament that the foreign office had “coordinated a search across all relevant UK departments”.
“I think the British response is extraordinary. It’s very brisk and curt and evasive,” said Susan Williams, a British historian at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, whose book Who Killed Hammarskjold: The UN, The Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, revealed new evidence that helped persuade the UN to open a new investigation into the crash near Ndola, in what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.
Part of that evidence was a report from a British intelligence officer, Neil Ritchie, who was in the area at the time of the crash and who was trying to organise a meeting between Hammarskjold and a rebel leader from neighbouring Congo, where the UN secretary general was trying to broker a truce.
“This was British territory and they had a man on the ground. It doesn’t make them responsible for the crash but it does indicate they knew a lot of what was going on,” Williams said, adding it was “highly unlikely” that Ritchie’s report which she found in an archive at Essex University, was the only British intelligence report coming the area at the time.”
On 28 August 2016, Dr Mandy Banton (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Henning Melber (Senior adviser/director emeritus, The Dag Hammarskjold Foundation), and David Wardrop (Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch) published letters together in the Guardian, “UK’s lack of transparency over plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjold”. From Melber:
“The US and British responses to the efforts by the United Nations to further explore the circumstances of the plane crash at Ndola should be an embarrassment to all citizens in these countries (and elsewhere), who have an interest in seeking clarification of what happened. The reports so far already present sufficient evidence that there is more to it than what the official government responses are willing to admit.
This form of denial through non-compliance with legitimate demands for access to information is tantamount to obstruction and sabotages the sincere efforts to bring closure to one of the unsolved cases involving western states and their security operations. Such an arrogant attitude further dents the image of those who claim to be among civilized nations then and now.”
“[…]it is highly likely that some member states of the UN, especially but not only the US, hold records or transcripts of cockpit transmissions in the minutes before the plane came down. If so, these may well put the cause of the crash, whatever it was, beyond doubt. But neither the US National Security Agency, which has gradually resiled from its admission to our commission that it held two relevant records, nor, as Dr Banton’s letter (29 August) suggests, the UK government, has so far responded with any vigour to the secretary-general’s plea for cooperation.”
“There was also evidence that the N.S.A. was monitoring the airwaves in the Ndola region, almost certainly from one of two American aircraft parked on the tarmac. Our inquiry therefore asked the agency for any relevant records it held of local radio traffic before the crash. The agency replied that it had three records “responsive” to our request but that two of those were classified top secret and would not be disclosed.
At its close, my commission recommended that the United Nations follow up this lead. The General Assembly appointed a three-person panel, which repeated our request to the N.S.A. This time, the agency replied that the two documents were not transcripts of radio messages as Southall had described and offered to let one of the panel members, the Australian aviation expert Kerryn Macaulay, see them. This she did, reporting that the documents contained nothing relevant to the cause of the crash.
This makes it difficult to understand how those two documents were initially described as “responsive” to a request explicitly for records of radio intercepts, or why they were classified top secret. It raises doubts about whether the documents shown to Ms. Macaulay were, in fact, the documents originally identified by the N.S.A. The recent denial that there is any record of United States Air Force planes’ being present at Ndola increases the impression of evasiveness.”
**** From the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) website, “What You Should Know About Obstruction of Justice”:
“Q: Does obstruction of justice always involve bribery or physical force?
A: No. One particularly murky category of obstruction is the use of “misleading conduct” toward another person for the purpose of obstructing justice. “Misleading conduct” may consist of deliberate lies or “material omissions” (leaving out facts which are crucial to a case). It may also include knowingly submitting or inviting a judge or jury to rely on false or misleading physical evidence, such as documents, maps, photographs or other objects. Any other “trick, scheme, or device with intent to mislead” may constitute a “misleading conduct” form of obstruction.”
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!
Dashing diplomats, at the entrance of the UN.
Taking a rest in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.
There was a farmer’s market my first day at DH Plaza.
Fun public art – the giant Hello Kitty Time After Time Capsule, designed by Japanese artist Sebastian Masuda.
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.
Also had a nice lunch here – a “Dag Burger with Cheese” at Dag’s Patio Cafe in DH Plaza.
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.
“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!”
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.
Here is another brief article about Alice Lalande, who died with Dag Hammarskjold, which was sent on to me by Susan Williams. Because there is so little information about the 15 others who died with the Secretary General, I would like to use this blog as a place to share their stories, too. I encourage people to please contact me, if you have news clippings or anything else you are willing to share about these brave people. I would be glad to honor them here.
City Woman Served UN 15 Years
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 19–
Alice Lalande, a bilingual Montrealer who served the UN for 15 years, died in a Northern Rhodesia plane crash with UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold yesterday because he placed such high value on her services.
The 48-year-old Montrealer was a favorite of the late Mr. Hammarskjold. Every time he went abroad and was able to borrow Miss Lalande from his own overseas officers Mr. Hammarskjold did so.
For a brief period Miss Lalande was secretary to Canadian General E. L. M. Burns, now Canadian disarmament adviser here, then commander of United Nations emergency forces on the Gaza strip. She went directly from the Gaza strip to Leopoldville in the former Belgian Congo when the UN first became involved late in the summer of 1960.
Miss Lalande, whom Mr. Hammarskjold seconded for his personal staff shortly before the fatal flight from Leopoldville, was personal secretary to the chief of the UN’s Congo operations, Sture Linner.
Miss Lalande joined the UN secretariat on June 24, 1946.
Born in Joliette, Que., Feb. 6, 1913, Miss Lalande worked at the University of Montreal after graduating as a secretary from a Montreal business school. She was a stenographer in French and English in the languages division of the UN department of conference and general services from June 24, 1946 to May 21, 1948, when she became a bilingual secretary in the office of the assistant secretary general in that department.
In June 1948 she was transferred to the UN Palestine secretariat as a secretary, and in January 1951 she became a secretary with the UN conciliation commission for Palestine in Jerusalem. In 1954 she returned to UN Headquarters as a secretary in the office of the assistant secretary general for social affairs.
In 1956 she served as a bilingual secretary with the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization, in Paris, for three months. Later in 1956 she returned to UN Headquarters and served with the department of economic and social affairs.