Bernadotte, Folke, Earl of Wisborg°

views updated


BERNADOTTE, FOLKE, EARL OF WISBORG° (1895–1948), Swedish statesman. Bernadotte was the youngest son of Prince Oscar August of Sweden, a brother of King Gustav V. During World War ii he organized an exchange of disabled prisoners of war between Germany and the Allies on behalf of the Swedish Red Cross. He became vice chairman in 1943, and president in 1946, of the Swedish Red Cross. Stimulated by Norwegian and Danish intervention on behalf of their civilian prisoners in German concentration camps, he negotiated on behalf of the Swedish Red Cross with *Himmler who was persuaded to release more than 7,000 Scandinavians during March and April 1945, including over 400 Danish Jews, from *Theresienstadt. Following negotiations with a representative of the *World Jewish Congress in Sweden, Norbert Masur, he also effected the release of several thousand Jewish women from various countries interned in the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Most of those released were transferred to Sweden. Subsequently, at a meeting in Luebeck on April 24, 1945, Himmler tried to use Bernadotte's good offices to forward peace proposals to the Allies. Bernadotte transmitted the Allies' rejection of these proposals to Himmler on April 27, in Flensburg.

On May 20, 1948, six days after the proclamation of the State of Israel and five days after the commencement of military action, the Security Council of the United Nations appointed Bernadotte mediator in the Arab-Israel conflict. He succeeded in bringing about the first four-week truce on June 11, but failed to achieve Arab consent for its prolongation. Overextending his assignment as mediator, Bernadotte worked out a peace plan that deviated substantially from the un partition resolution, suggesting, inter alia, the incorporation of Jerusalem and the whole Negev in Transjordan in exchange for the inclusion of Western Galilee in Israel. These proposals, which became public a few days after Bernadotte's death, met with stiff opposition by Israel and failed to achieve endorsement by the un General Assembly in November 1948. On Sept. 17, 1948, Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem. His assailants have not been identified but are believed to have been connected with *Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel. A forest named in his honor has been planted by the *Jewish National Fund in the Judean Hills. Among his books are The Curtain Falls: Last Days of the Third Reich (1945) and To Jerusalem (1951).


R. Hewins, Count Folke Bernadotte: His Life and Work (1950); Yachil, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 6 (1967), 181–220; B. Nadel, Reẓaḥ Bernadotte (1968); M. Sharett, Be-Sha'ar ha-Ummot 19461949 (1958), index.

[Leni Yahil]

About this article

Bernadotte, Folke, Earl of Wisborg°

Updated About content Print Article