Bernadotte, Folke 1895-1948

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BERNADOTTE, Folke 1895-1948

PERSONAL: Born January 2, 1895, in Stockholm, Sweden; assassinated September 17, 1948, in Jerusalem, Israel; son of Prince Oscar Carl August (duke af Gotland and count of Wisborg), and Ebba Henrietta (Munck) Bernadotte; married Estelle Romaine Manville, December 1, 1928; children: Gustaf Edward, Folke, Fredrik Oscar, Bertil Oscar. Education: Royal Swedish Military Academy, 1915.

CAREER: Commissioned in Swedish Army, 1918; served in Swedish Royal Life Guards Dragoons; worked as a bank clerk, New York, NY, c. 1928; official of Swedish Boy Scout movement; headed Swedish Red Cross during World War II; Swedish and United Nations diplomat; appointed mediator between Israel and Arab states by U.N. Security Council, 1948.

MEMBER: Swedish Red Cross (vice chairman, beginning 1943; president, beginning 1946), Sveriges Scout-forbund (Swedish Boy Scouts; president, beginning 1939).

AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary Knight of the British Empire, 1947; honorary M.D., universities of Copenhagen, Oslo, and Uppsala; awarded Grand Cross for the Orders of the North Star (Sweden), Dannebrog (Denmark), the Crown of Belgium, Léopold II (Belgium), Orange-Nassau (Netherlands), White Rose (Finland), St. Olav (Norway), and Polonia Restituta; Grand Officer, Legion d'Honneur (France).


Slutet: Mina Humanitära, Förhandlinger; TysklandVaren 1945 och deras Politiska Följder, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1945, translation published as The Curtain Falls: Last Days of the Third Reich, Knopf (New York, NY), 1945, published as The Fall of the Curtain: Last Days of the Third Reich, Cassell (London, England), 1945.

I Stället för Vapen, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1948, translation published as Instead of Arms: Autobiographical Notes, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1945.

Manniskor Jag Mott (title means "People I've Met"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1947.

Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator onPalestine: Rhodes, 16th September 1948, HMSO (London, England), 1948.

Till Jerusalem, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1950, translation published as To Jerusalem, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1951.

SIDELIGHTS: Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish soldier, humanitarian, and diplomat who was assassinated while serving the United Nations as a mediator between the Arabs and the Israelis. Born into the Swedish royal family—his uncle was King Gustav V—Bernadotte was commissioned into the Swedish Army in 1918, but after he married an American heiress in 1928 he moved to New York and worked for a time in his father-in-law's bank. Banking did not suit Bernadotte, however, so he and his wife soon returned to Sweden. He became an official of the Boy Scout movement in Sweden, and worked at a variety of business and diplomatic ventures.

Bernadotte is best remembered for his service during World War II and afterward. As head of the Swedish Red Cross, he secured the exchange of many prisonersof-war in Europe, and is credited with saving the lives of some 30,000 inmates of German concentration camps through his efforts. He had an excellent reputation among all the combatant nations in Europe, and was even pressed into service by high-ranking Nazi Heinrich Himmler, who in April of 1945 employed Bernadotte to tender a fruitless offer that Germany surrender unconditionally to the United States and Great Britain, but not to the Soviet Union.

Partially because of his diplomatic service during World War II, Bernadotte was appointed by the United Nations as a mediator between the Arab states and the newly created country of Israel on May 20, 1948. He obtained the grudging acceptance of the two parties to a thirty-day cease-fire on June 11 of that year, but both sides rejected Bernadotte's final peace plan and fighting resumed on July 8. Since the Israelis were winning the war and controlled more territory than they would have been allowed to keep under Bernadotte's peace plan, certain extremist Jewish groups saw the United Nation's efforts to end the war as an effort to deny them their victory. Bernadotte and Andre-Pierre Serot, a French Air Force colonel and United Nations observer, were both murdered by members of one such group, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel (LEHI), on September 17, 1948, in Jerusalem.

At his death Bernadotte left behind several books, as well as various historical treatises documenting his official duties for his government and for the United Nations. The Curtain Falls outlines his experiences during World War II, in particular his humanitarian efforts to save prisoners of war by diverting them to his homeland, and his desperate attempt to broker a peace settlement between Germany and the western allies in the closing days of the conflict. In Instead of Arms Bernadotte sets forth his personal philosophical beliefs and goals, and in To Jerusalem he documents his final days as a diplomat working against expectations amidst the grim reality the Mideast.



Hewins, Ralph, Count Folke Bernadotte: His Life and Work, T. S. Denison (Minneapolis, MN), 1950.

The Holocaust and World War II Almanac, three volumes, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

The Lincoln Library of Social Studies, eighth edition, three volumes, Frontier Press (Columbus, OH), 1978.

Marton, Kati, A Death in Jerusalem, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1994.

People of the Holocaust, U*X*L (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Schwarz, Ted, Walking with the Damned: The Shocking Murder of the Man Who Freed 30,000 Prisoners from the Nazis, Paragon House (New York, NY), 1992.

Zentner, Christian, and Friedmann Bedurftig, TheEncyclopedia of the Third Reich, two volumes, translation edited by Amy Hackett, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.


Booklist, December 15, 1945, p. 125.

Book Review Digest, 1945; 1952, p. 70.

Book Week, October 21, 1945, p. 10.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, September 28, 1952, p. 4.

Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 1945, p. 12; September 28, 1952, p. 4.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1945, p. 410.

Los Angeles Times, November 5, 1995, "Blood on the Road to Peace," p. A8.

Middle East Journal, spring, 1988, Cary David Stanger, "A Haunting Legacy: The Assassination of Count Bernadotte," pp. 260-272.

Nation, November 17, 1945, p. 530.

New Republic, November 24, 1952, p. 20.

New Yorker, October 27, 1945, p. 98.

New York Times, October 14, 1945, p. 3; October 5, 1952, p. 16.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 1952, p. 28.

Saturday Review of Literature, October 20, 1945, p. 10.

Springfield Republican, October 21, 1945, p. D4.

Times Literary Supplement, January 5, 1946, p. 4.

Weekly Book Review, October 14, 1945, p. 5.


Jewish Virtual Library, (March 7, 2003), "Count Folke Bernadotte;" Shira Schoenberg, "The Assassination of Count Bernadotte.", (March 7, 2003), "Folke Bernadotte."*

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Bernadotte, Folke 1895-1948

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