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Dag Hammarskjöld

In office
10 April 1953 – 18 September 1961
Preceded by Trygve Lie
Succeeded by U Thant

Born 29 July 1905(1905-07-29)
Jönköping, Sweden
Died 18 September 1961 (aged 56)
Ndola, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
Nationality Swedish
Religion Lutheran/Church of Sweden

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (About this sound Dag Hammarskjöld ) (29 July 1905 – 18 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat and author and was the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. He served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. He is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously.[1] Hammarskjöld remains the only U.N. Secretary-General to die in office.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld “the greatest statesman of our century.”[2]


Early life

Dag Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping, Sweden, but he lived most of his childhood in Uppsala. He was the fourth and youngest son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, prime minister of Sweden from 1914 to 1917, and Agnes Hammarskjöld (née Almquist). His ancestors had served the Swedish Crown since the 17th century. He studied first at Katedralskolan and then at Uppsala University where he graduated with a Master's degree in Political Economy and a Bachelor of Law degree. He then moved to Stockholm.

From 1930 to 1934, he was a secretary of a governmental committee on unemployment. He also wrote his economics thesis, Konjunkturspridningen (The Spread of the Business Cycle), and received his doctorate from Stockholm University in 1933. In 1936, Hammarskjöld became a secretary at the Bank of Sweden, and soon he was an undersecretary of finance. From 1941 to 1948, he served as chairman of the Bank of Sweden.

Hammarskjöld's birth house

Early in 1945, he was appointed as adviser to the cabinet on financial and economic problems, and he coordinated government plans to alleviate the economic problems of the post-war period.

In 1947, Hammarskjöld was appointed to Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and in 1949 he became the state secretary for foreign affairs. He was a delegate to the Paris conference that established the Marshall Plan. In 1948, he was again in Paris to attend a conference for the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. In 1950, he became head of the Swedish delegation to UNISCAN. In 1951, he became a cabinet minister without portfolio and in effect deputy foreign minister. Although Hammarskjöld served in a cabinet dominated by the Social Democrats, he never officially joined any political party. In 1951, Hammarskjöld became vice chairman of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. He became the chairman of the Swedish delegation to the General Assembly in New York in 1952. On 20 December 1954, he was elected to take his father's vacated seat in the Swedish Academy.

UN Secretary-General

Hammarskjöld outside the UN headquarters in New York City (Photo: UN/DPI)

When Trygve Lie resigned from his post as UN Secretary-General in 1953, the Security Council decided to recommend Hammarskjöld for the post. It came as a surprise to him.[3] He was selected on 31 March by a majority of 10 out of eleven states. The UN General Assembly elected him in the 7–10 April session, by 57 votes out of 60. In 1957, he was re-elected.

Hammarskjöld began his term by establishing his own secretariat of 4,000 administrators. He set up regulations that defined their responsibilities. He was also actively engaged in smaller projects relating to the UN working environment; for example, he planned and supervised in every detail the creation of a "meditation room" in the UN headquarters, a place dedicated to silence, where people could withdraw into themselves, regardless of their faith, creed or religion.[4]

During his term, Hammarskjöld tried to smooth relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1955, he went to China to negotiate the release of 15 US pilots who had served in the Korean War and had been captured by the Chinese. In 1956, following a proposal by future Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was established, which allowed the Secretary-General to take emergency action without the prior approval of either the Security Council or General Assembly.

In 1957, Hammarskjöld intervened in the Suez Crisis. He is given credit by some historians for allowing the participation of the Holy See within the United Nations that year.[5] He was nicknamed the secular pope by some authors.[6]

In 1960, the former Belgian colony and now newly independent Congo asked for UN aid in defusing escalating civil strife. Hammarskjöld made four trips to the Congo. His efforts towards the decolonisation of Africa were considered insufficient by the Soviet Union; in September 1960, they denounced his decision to send a UN emergency force to keep the peace. They demanded his resignation and the replacement of the office of Secretary-General by a three-man directorate with a built-in veto, the "troika". The objective was, citing the memoirs of the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, to “equally represent interests of three groups of countries: capitalist, socialist and recently independent.”[7] Hammarskjöld denied Patrice Lumumba's request to help force Katanga Province to rejoin the Congo, causing Lumumba to turn to the Soviets for help. He personally disliked Lumumba and felt that he should be removed from office.[8]


Flight path of Hammarskjöld's aircraft (pink line) and the decoy (black line), September 1961
Hammarskjöld's grave in Uppsala

In September 1961, Hammarskjöld found out about the fighting between non-combatant UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe. He was en route to negotiate a cease-fire on the night of 17–18 September when his DC-6B airliner (SE-BDY) crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The crew had filed no flight plan, for security reasons, and a decoy aircraft (OO-RIC) went via a different route ahead of Hammarskjöld's aircraft. Hammarskjöld and fifteen others perished in the crash. The chief of security on the flight, American Sgt. Harold Julian, was thrown clear of the burnt area, but died five days later. A memorial was created at the crash site, which is under consideration for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (see Dag Hammarskjöld Crash Site Memorial).

A special report issued by the United Nations following the crash stated that the United Nations base operations at the Ndjili Airport reported that an unidentified aircraft had been overflying the Ndola Airport late the previous night, but that no communication was made.[9] The message also indicated that a report had reached the police station to the effect of a bright flash in the sky at approximately 1 am the previous night.[9] According to the UN special report, it was this information that resulted in the initiation of search and rescue operations.

A press release issued by the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, attached to the UN report, stated that "... in order to pay a tribute to this great man [Hammarskjöld], now vanished from the scene, and to his colleagues, all of whom have fallen victim to the shameless intrigues of the great financial Powers of the West, and in order to demonstrate publicly our indignation at the scandalous interference in our affairs by certain foreign countries, the Government has decided to proclaim Tuesday, 19 September 1961, a day of national mourning."[9] These initial indications that the crash may have been deliberate led to multiple official inquiries and persistent speculation that the Secretary-General was assassinated.[10]


Official inquiry

Following the death of Hammarskjöld, there were three inquiries into the circumstances that led to the crash:[11] the Rhodesian Board of Investigation, the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and the United Nations Commission of Investigation.

The Rhodesian Board of Investigation looked into the matter between 19 September 1961 and 2 November 1961[11] under the command of British Lt. Colonel M.C.B. Barber. The Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry held hearings from 16–29 January 1962 without United Nations oversight. The subsequent United Nations Commission of Investigation held a series of hearings in 1962 and in part depended upon the testimony from the previous Rhodesian inquiries.[11] Five "eminent persons" were assigned by the new Secretary-General to the UN Commission. The members of the commission unanimously elected Nepalese diplomat Rishikesh Shaha to head up an inquiry.[11]

The three official inquiries failed to conclusively determine the cause of the crash that led to the death of Hammarskjöld. The Rhodesian Board of Investigation sent 180 men to search a six-square-kilometer area of the last sector of the aircraft's flight-path, looking for evidence as to the cause of the crash. No evidence of a bomb, surface-to-air missile, or hijacking was found. The official report stated that two of the dead Swedish bodyguards had suffered multiple bullet wounds. Medical examination, performed by the initial Rhodesian Board of Investigation and reported in the UN official report, indicated that the wounds were superficial, and that the bullets showed no signs of rifling. They concluded that the bullets exploded in the fire in close proximity to the bodyguards.[11] No other evidence of foul play was found in the wreckage of the aircraft.[12]

Previous accounts of a bright flash in the sky were dismissed as occurring too late in the evening to have caused the crash. The official UN report speculated that these flashes may have been caused by secondary explosions after the crash. The sole survivor, Sergeant Harold Julian, indicated that there was a series of explosions that preceded the crash.[11][13] The official inquiry found, however, that the statements of witnesses who talked with Julian were inconsistent. It was concluded that this testimony could not establish that the explosions did not occur after the crash.

The report does state that there were numerous delays which violated the established search and rescue procedures. There were three separate delays: the first delayed the initial alarm of a possible plane in trouble; the second delayed the "distress" alarm, which indicates that communications with surrounding airports indicate that a missing plane has not landed elsewhere; the third delayed the eventual search and rescue operation and the discovery of the plane wreckage, just miles away. The medical examiners report was inconclusive; one report said that Hammarskjöld had died on impact; another stated that Hammarskjöld might have survived had rescue operations not been delayed.[11] The report also said that the chances of Sgt. Julian surviving the crash would have been "infinitely" better if the rescue operations were hastened.[11]

Alternative theories

Despite the multiple official inquiries that failed to find evidence of assassination, some continue to believe that the death of Hammarskjöld was not an accident.[10]

Harry Truman is reported to have said that "Dag Hammarskjöld was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said, 'when they killed him'." [14][15]

At the time of Hammarskjöld's death, western intelligence agencies were actively involved in the political situation in the Congo,[10] which culminated in Belgian support for the secession of Katanga and the assassination of former prime minister Patrice Lumumba. Belgium and the United Kingdom had a vested interest in maintaining their control over much of the country's copper industry during the Congolese transition to an independent state. Concerns about the nationalization of the copper industry could have provided a financial incentive to remove either Lumumba or Hammarskjöld.[10] Belgium has since publicly acknowledged and apologized for its negligence in the death of Lumumba.

The involvement of British officers in commanding the initial inquiries, which provided much of the information about the condition of the plane and the examination of the bodies, have led some to suggest a conflict of interest.[10][16] The official report dismissed a number of pieces of evidence that would have supported the view that Hammarskjöld was assassinated.[11] Some of these dismissals have been controversial, such as the conclusion that bullet wounds could have been caused by bullets exploding in a fire. Expert tests have questioned this conclusion, arguing that exploding bullets could not break the surface of the skin [10][11] Major C. F. Westell, a ballistics authority, said, "I can certainly describe as sheer nonsense the statement that cartridges of machine guns or pistols detonated in a fire can penetrate a human body."[17] He based his statement on a large scale experiment that had been done to determine if military fire brigades would be in danger working near munitions depots. Other Swedish experts conducted and filmed tests showing that bullets heated to the point of explosion nonetheless did not achieve sufficient velocity to penetrate their box container.[17]

Although there is some skepticism as to whether the official reports accurately assess the possibility of foul play, a number of alternative theories have been proposed.

On 19 August 1998, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), stated that recently uncovered letters had implicated the British MI5, the American CIA, and then South African intelligence services in the crash. One TRC letter said that a bomb in the airplane's wheel bay was set to detonate when the wheels came down for a landing. Tutu said that they were unable to investigate the truth of the letters or the allegations that South Africa or Western intelligence agencies played a role in the crash. The British Foreign Office suggested that they may have been created as Soviet misinformation or disinformation.[18]

On 29 July 2005, the Norwegian Major General, Bjørn Egge, gave an interview to the newspaper Aftenposten on the events surrounding Hammarskjöld's death. According to General Egge, who had been the first UN officer to see the body, Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead, and this hole was subsequently airbrushed from photos taken of the body. It appeared to Egge that Hammarskjöld had been thrown from the plane, and grass and leaves in his hands might indicate that he survived the crash – and that he had tried to scramble away from the wreckage. Egge does not claim directly that the wound was a gunshot wound.[19]

In an interview on 24 March 2007, on the Norwegian TV channel NRK, an anonymous retired mercenary claimed that he had shared a room with an unnamed South African mercenary who claimed to have shot Hammarskjöld. The alleged killer was claimed to have died in the late 1990s.[20]

Given the evidence for bullet wounds on some of the crash victims and that the plane underwent an explosive fire, a possible scenario is that it was shot down either from the ground or by the Fouga reported in the area at the time.

In his speech to the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 2009, Colonel Gaddafi called upon the Libyan president of UNGA, Ali Treki, to institute a UN investigation into the assassinations of Congolese prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, who was overthrown in 1960 and murdered the following year, and of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961.[21]


Hammarskjöld received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, having been nominated before his death.

After Hammarskjöld’s death, President John F. Kennedy regretted that he opposed the UN policy in the Congo and said: “I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”[2]

Historian Paul Kennedy hailed Hammarskjöld in his book The Parliament of Man as perhaps the greatest Secretary-General because of his ability to shape events, in contrast with his successors. In contrast, Paul Johnson in A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s (1983) was highly critical of his judgment.

The Dag Hammarskjöld Library, a part of the United Nations headquarters, was dedicated on 16 November 1961 in honour of the late Secretary-General.

The Dag Hammarskjöld Library in Uppsala

There is also a Dag Hammarskjöld Library at his alma mater, Uppsala University.

The School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York has a Dag Hammarskjöld Lounge. The graduate school is dedicated to the principles of international peace and cooperation that Hammarskjöld embodied.

Dag Hammarskjöld House on the Stanford University campus is a residence cooperative for undergraduate and graduate students with international backgrounds and interests at Stanford.[22]

Dag Hammarskjöld's Allé is a street in both Copenhagen and Aalborg, Denmark.

A Manhattan park near the United Nations headquarters is called the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, as are several of the surrounding office buildings. He is also commemorated as a peacemaker in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 18 September of each year.

Dag Hammarskjöld Stadium is the main football stadium of Ndola, Zambia. Hammarskjold's ill-fated flight in 1961 crashed in the outskirts of Ndola.

A number of schools have been named after Hammarskjöld, including Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick Township, New Jersey; Dag Hammarskjold Middle School in Wallingford, Connecticut; Dag Hammarskjold Elementary School in Parma, Ohio; and Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The Dag Hammarskjöld centre in Uppsala (housing the secretariat of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation)

In 1962, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation was created as Sweden's national memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld.[23]

The Carleton University in Ottawa awarded its first-ever honorary degree to Hammarskjöld in 1954 when it presented him with a Legum Doctor, honoris causa. The University has continued this tradition by conferring an honorary doctorate upon every subsequent Secretary General of the United Nations. He also held honorary degrees from Oxford University, England; in the United States from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Amherst, John Hopkins, the University of California, Uppsala College, and Ohio University; and in Canada from Carleton College and McGill University.[24]

On 22 July 1997, the U.N. Security Council in resolution 1121(1997) established the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in recognition and commemoration of those who have lost their lives as a result of UN peacekeeping operations.[25]

Colgate University annually awards a student the Dag Hammarskjöld Prize in Peace and Conflict Studies based on outstanding work in the program.[26]

Spirituality and Markings

In 1953, soon after his appointment as United Nations secretary general, Hammarskjöld was interviewed on radio by Edward R. Murrow. In this talk he declared: "But the explanation of how man should live a life of active social service in full harmony with himself as a member of the community of spirit, I found in the writings of those great medieval mystics [ Meister Eckhart and Jan van Ruysbroek ] for whom 'self-surrender' had been the way to self-realization, and who in 'singleness of mind' and 'inwardness' had found strength to say yes to every demand which the needs of their neighbours made them face, and to say yes also to every fate life had in store for them when they followed the call of duty as they understood it."[27]

His only book, Vägmärken (Markings), was published in 1963. A collection of his diary reflections, the book starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961.[28] Markings was described by a theologist, the late Henry P. Van Dusen, as "the noblest self-disclosure of spiritual struggle and triumph, perhaps the greatest testament of personal faith written ... in the heat of professional life and amidst the most exacting responsibilities for world peace and order."[29] Hammarskjöld writes, for example, "We are not permitted to chose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He who wills adventure will experience it—according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed—according to the measure of his purity of heart." [30] Markings is characterised by Hammarskjöld's intermingling of prose and haiku poetry in a manner exemplified by the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho in his Narrow Roads to the Deep North.[31] In his foreword to Markings, the English poet W. H. Auden quotes Hammarskjöld as stating "In our age, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."[32]

See also


  1. ^ "Common misconceptions about the Nobel Peace Prize". Associated Press. 2009-10-09.  
  2. ^ a b Linnér S (2007). "Dag Hammarskjöld and the Congo crisis, 1960-61" (PDF). Uppsala University. pp. Page 28.  
  3. ^ Sheldon, Richard (1987). Hammarskjöld. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. p. 28. ISBN 0-87754-529-4.  
  4. ^ The Meditation Room in the UN Headquarters
  5. ^ Holy See's Presence in the International Organizations
  6. ^ Books: Secular Pope
  7. ^ (in Russian)
  8. ^ Mahoney, R. D. 1980, The Kennedy Policy in the Congo 1961-1963. Ph.D dissertation, Johns Hopkins University.
  9. ^ a b c "Special Report on the Fatal Flight of the Secretary-General's Aircraft" (PDF). United Nations. 1961-11-19. Retrieved 2009-01-16.  
  10. ^ a b c d e f Hollington, Kris (August 2008). Wolves, Jackals and Foxes. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-0312378998.  
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j United Nations General Assembly session 17 Report of the Commission of investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Mr. Dag Hammarskjold and members of the party accompanying him. on 24 April 1962(direct link:
  12. ^ Macarthur Job, Air Disaster Volume 4, Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2001 ISBN 187567148X, p 142
  13. ^ "1961: UN Secretary General killed in air crash". BBC. 1961-11-18. Retrieved 2009-01-16.  
  14. ^
  15. ^ Platnick, Kenneth B.. Great Mysteries of History. Hippocrene Books. pp. 11. ISBN 978-0-88029-157-6.  
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b Arthur Gavshon (1962). The Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjold. New York: Walker and Company. p. 58.  
  18. ^ "UN assassination plot denied," BBC World, 19 August 1998. Retrieved 13 October 2007.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Gaddafi's address to UN General Assembly". 2009-09-23.  
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ United Nations Security Council Verbatim Report meeting 3802 on 22 July 1997 (retrieved 2007-08-21)
  26. ^
  27. ^ Henry P Van Dusen. Dag Hammarskjold. A Biographical Interpretation of Markings Faber and Faber London 1967 p 47.
  28. ^
  29. ^ Henry P Van Dusen. Dag Hammarskjold. A Biographical Interpretation of Markings Faber and Faber London 1967 p 5
  30. ^ Dag Hammarskjold. Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p 63.
  31. ^ Dag Hammarskjold. Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p149
  32. ^ WH Auden Foreword to Dag Hammarskjold. Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p 23.

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Hjalmar Hammarskjöld
Swedish Academy,
Seat No.17

Succeeded by
Erik Lindegren
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Trygve Lie
United Nations Secretary-General
Succeeded by
U Thant


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Destiny is something not be to desired and not to be avoided. A mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.

Dag Hammarskjöld (29 July 190518 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat, the second United Nations Secretary-General, and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.



The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.
The day will come when men will see the UN and what it means clearly...
Everything will be all right... When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.
  • Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build for man a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just. And how can we fight for liberty if we are not free in our own minds? How can we ask others to sacrifice if we are not ready to do so?... Only in true surrender to the interest of all can we reach that strength and independence, that unity of purpose, that equity of judgment which are necessary if we are to measure up to our duty to the future, as men of a generation to whom the chance was given to build in time a world of peace.
    • UN Press Release SG/360 (22 December 1953)
  • The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.
    • United Nations Bulletin Vol. XVI, No. 4 (15 February 1954)
  • A man of firm convictions does not ask, and does not receive, understanding from those with whom he comes into conflict. ... A mature man is his own judge. In the end, his only firm support is being faithful to his own convictions. The advice of others may be welcome and valuable, but it does not free him from responsibility. Therefore, he may become very lonely.
    • Address to the Swedish Academy (20 December 1954)
  • The UN is not just a product of do-gooders. It is harshly real. The day will come when men will see the UN and what it means clearly. Everything will be all right — you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.
    • As quoted in The Times [London] (27 June 1955)
  • Constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon.
    • As quoted in news reports (18 March 1956) and Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (1988) by James Beasley Simpson
  • I never discuss discussions.
    • Statement after diplomatic talks, as quoted in Look (19 September 1956)
  • It is not the Soviet Union or indeed any other big Powers who need the United Nations for their protection. It is all the others. In this sense, the Organization is first of all their Organization and I deeply believe in the wisdom with which they will be able to use it and guide it. I shall remain in my post during the term of my office as a servant of the Organization in the interests of all those other nations, as long as they wish me to do so. In this context the representative of the Soviet Union spoke of courage. It is very easy to resign; it is not so easy to stay on. It is very easy to bow to the wish of a big power. It is another matter to resist. As is well known to all Members of this Assembly, I have done so before on many occasions and in many directions. If it is the wish of those nations who see in the Organization their best protection in the present world, I shall now do so again.
    • Statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations (3 October 1960)
The breaking wave and the muscle as it contracts obey the same law...
Shall my soul meet so severe a curve, journeying on its way to form?
  • Those who invoke history will certainly be heard by history. And they will have to accept its verdict.
  • The Assembly has witnessed over the last weeks how historical truth is established; once an allegation has been repeated a few times, it is no longer an allegation, it is an established fact, even if no evidence has been brought out in order to support it.
    • On accusations by Nikita Khrushchev, as quoted in The Times [London] (4 October 1960)
  • It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. It is when we all play safe that fatality will lead us to our doom. It is in the "dark shade of courage" alone that the spell can be broken.
    • Servant of Peace : A Selection of the Speeches and Statements of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations (1962). p. 107; this has sometimes been paraphrased: It is in playing safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.
  • The breaking wave and the muscle as it contracts obey the same law. Delicate line gathers the body's total strength in a bold balance. Shall my soul meet so severe a curve, journeying on its way to form?
    • Statement inspired by the work of British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor (18 Jun 1964)
  • It is a little bit humiliating when I have to say that Chou En-lai to me appears as the most superior brain I have so far met in the field of foreign politics... so much more dangerous than you imagine because he is so much better a man than you have ever admitted.
    • In a letter to a friend, as quoted in Hammarskjöld (1972) by Brian Urquhart
  • The big, shoe-thumping fellow continues as a dark thunderhead to threaten all unrepentant non-Communists with hail and thunder.
    • About Nikita Kruschev, in a letter to a friend, as quoted in Hammarskjöld (1972) by Brian Urquhart
  • Is life so wretched? Isn't it rather your hands which are too small, your vision which is muddled? You are the one who must grow up.
    • As quoted in Know Your Limits — Then Ignore Them (2000) by John Mason
  • If even dying is to be made a social function, then, grant me the favor of sneaking out on tiptoe without disturbing the party.
    • As quoted in As I Journey On : Meditations for Those Facing Death (2000) by Sharon Dardis and Cindy Rogers
  • It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.
    • As quoted in Living in Grace : The Shift to Spiritual Perception (2002) by Beca Lewis, p. 158
  • The more faithfully you listen to the voices within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside.
    • As quoted in Sacred Seasonings (2003) by Sherri Purdom

Markings (1964)

Journal entries by Hammarskjöld, published in 1964
For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.
God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
  • A task becomes a duty from the moment you suspect it to be an essential part of that integrity which alone entitles a man to assume responsibility.
  • Destiny is something not be to desired and not to be avoided. A mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.
  • Friendship needs no words — it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness.
    • Variant translation: Friendship needs no words — it is a loneliness relieved of the anguish of loneliness.
  • For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.
    • Variant translation: For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — yes.
  • Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean.
  • God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
  • He who has surrendered himself to it knows that the Way ends on the Cross — even when it is leading him through the jubilation of Gennesaret or the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.
  • I believe that we should die with decency so that at least decency will survive.
  • I don't know Who — or what — put the question, I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.
Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.
  • In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.
  • In the faith which is "God's marriage to the soul", you are one in God, and God is wholly in you, just as, for you, He is wholly in all you meet. With this faith, in prayer you descend into yourself to meet the other.
  • In the last analysis it is our conception of death which decides our answers to all the questions life puts to us ... Hence too the necessity of preparing for it.
  • Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible — not to have run away.
  • Life yields only to the conqueror. Never accept what can be gained by giving in. You will be living off stolen goods, and your muscles will atrophy.
  • The myths have always condemned those who "looked back." Condemned them, whatever the paradise may have been which they were leaving. Hence this shadow over each departure from your decision
  • Maturity: among other things, the unclouded happiness of the child at play, who takes it for granted that he is at one with his play-mates.
  • Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions.
  • Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.
  • Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.
We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.
  • Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.
  • Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity — intellectual, emotional, and moral.
    Respect for the word — to employ it with scrupulous care and in incorruptible heartfelt love of truth — is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race.

    To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes Man to regress down the long path of his evolution.
    "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men speak..."
  • The longest journey
    Is the journey inwards.
    Of him who has chosen his destiny,
    Who has started upon his quest
    For the source of his being.
    • Variant translation: The longest journey is the journey inward, for he who has chosen his destiny has started upon his quest for the source of his being.
  • The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.
  • There is a point at which everything becomes simple and there is no longer any question of choice, because all you have staked will be lost if you look back. Life's point of no return.
  • Time goes by, reputation increases, ability declines.
  • "To forgive oneself"—? No, that doesn't work: we have to be forgiven. But we can only believe this is possible if we ourselves can forgive.
You are merely the lens in the beam. You can only receive, give, and possess the light as the lens does.
  • To love life and men as God loves them —
    for the sake of
    their infinite possibilities,
    to wait like Him,
    to judge like Him,
    without passing judgment,
    to obey the order when it is given
    and never look back.
  • We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.
  • What makes loneliness an anguish
    Is not that I have no one to share my burden,
    But this:
I have only my own burden to bear.
Your cravings as a human animal do not become a prayer just because it is God whom you ask to attend to them.
  • You are not the oil, you are not the air — merely the point of combustion, the flash-point where the light is born. You are merely the lens in the beam. You can only receive, give, and possess the light as the lens does. If you seek yourself, you rob the lens of its transparency. You will know life and be acknowledged by it according to your degree of transparency — your capacity, that is, to vanish as an end and remain purely as a means.
  • Your body must become familiar with its death — in all its possible forms and degrees — as a self-evident, imminent, and emotionally neutral step on the way towards the goal you have found worthy of your life.
  • Your cravings as a human animal do not become a prayer just because it is God whom you ask to attend to them.
  • It is easy to be nice, even to an enemy — from lack of character.


  • The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are, the more leisure we have.

Quotes about Hammarskjöld

He was the greatest statesman of our century. ~ John F. Kennedy
  • It will not surprise you to hear that Dag Hammarskjöld is a figure of great importance for me — as he must be for any Secretary-General. His life and his death, his words and his action, have done more to shape public expectations of the office, and indeed of the Organisation, than those of any other man or woman in its history.
    His wisdom and his modesty, his unimpeachable integrity and single-minded devotion to duty, have set a standard for all servants of the international community — and especially, of course for his successors — which is simply impossible to live up to. There can be no better rule of thumb for a Secretary-General, as he approaches each new challenge or crisis, than to ask himself, “how would Hammarskjöld have handled this?”
  • He would remind us how man once organized himself in families, how families joined together in tribes and villages, and how tribes and villages developed into peoples and nations. But the nation could not be the end of such development. In the Charter of the United Nations he saw a guide to what he called an organized international community.
    With an intensity that grew stronger each year, he stressed in his annual reports to the General Assembly that the United Nations had to be shaped into a dynamic instrument in the service of development. In his last report, in a tone of voice penetrating because of its very restraint, he confronted those member states which were clinging to "the time-honored philosophy of sovereign national states in armed competition, of which the most that may be expected is that they achieve a peaceful coexistence". This philosophy did not meet the needs of a world of ever increasing interdependence, where nations have at their disposal armaments of hitherto unknown destructive strength. The United Nations must open up ways to more developed forms of international cooperation.
  • He has a physical stamina unique in the world, a man who night after night has gone with one or two hours of sleep and worked all day intelligently and devotedly.
  • We meet in an hour of grief and challenge. Dag Hammarskjold is dead. But the United Nations lives. His tragedy is deep in our hearts, but the task for which he died is at the top of our agenda. A noble servant of peace is gone. But the quest for peace lies before us.
    The problem is not the death of one man — the problem is the life of this organization. It will either grow to meet the challenges of our age, or it will be gone with the wind, without influence, without force, without respect. Were we to let it die, to enfeeble its vigor, to cripple its powers, we would condemn our future. For in the development of this organization rests the only true alternative to war — and war appeals no longer as a rational alternative. Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer concern the great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by wind and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.
    So let us here resolve that Dag Hammarskjold did not live, or die, in vain. Let us call a truce to terror. Let us invoke the blessings of peace. And as we build an international capacity to keep peace, let us join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.

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