The Holocaust Biographies: Count Folke Bernadotte (1895-1948)


Figure 1.--This is Count Brnadotte with his wife and two of their boys. We think they are Folke (1931- ) and Bertil Oscar (1935- ). Te photogrph would have bee taken about 1939.

Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg, was a Swedish diplomat and nobleman. He was was born in Stockholm (1895). He was related to the Napoleonic Marshal Jean Bernadotte who was elected crown prince of Sweden (1810). Napoleon thought this would make Sweden an ally. Bernadotte succeeded to the throne as Charles XIV (1818). At the outbreak of World War II was threatened by a German invasion. The country with its iron ore resource was vital to the NAZI war effort. Seden did not have the military capability of fighting the Germans an reled on neutrality as it did in World war I. As the NAZIs ignored neutrality, the country did what it could to prepare for war. Berndotte at the time was head of the Sveriges Scoutforbund (Swedish Boy Scouts). He integrated the Scouts into Sweden's defense system, training the boys in anti-aircraft work and as medical assistants. He is best know for his work as vice chairman of the Swedish Red Cross. He worked on the exchange of disabled British and German war prisoners through Sweden. This work involved frequent trips to both London and Berlin and conferences with high-level officials of both the British and NAZI Government. This was not controversial or dangerous, what was dangerous was his effort to save Scandnavians in NAZI concentration camps. He managed to negotiate the release of about 31,000 mostly Scandivanian Jews from NAZI concentration camps in the final months of World War II. He negotiated with SS Chief Heinrich Himmler who still believed he might not be held responsible for the murder of millions of people because many were Jews. The operation is known as the White Busses. Included in those saved were 450 Danish Jews from the Theresienstadt Camp. They were released on (April 14, 1945) Getting them safely home was a challenge. Himmler offered to surrender to the Allies, but not the Soviets, but this was rejected by the Allies. After the war, Bernadotte was unanimously chosen to be the United Nations Security Council mediator in the Arab–Israeli conflict of 1947–1948. He was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948 by the militant Zionist group Lehi while pursuing his official duties. Upon his death, Ralph Bunche took up his work at the UN, but was removed from the post around six months after Bernadotte was assassinated, at the critical period of recognizing the fledgling Jewish state.

Family

He was related to the Napoleonic Marshal Jean Bernadotte who was elected crown prince of Sweden (1810). Napoleon thought this would make Sweden an ally. Bernadotte succeeded to the throne as Charles XIV (1818). His grandfather was King Oscar II of Sweden. His father was Count Oscar Bernadotte of Wisborg (formerly Prince Oscar of Sweden, Duke of Gotland). His mother was Ebba Munck af Fulkila.

Childhood

Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg, was born in Stockholm (1895).

Education

Bernadotte attended school in Stockholm.

Military Training

Bernadotte after school he trained to become a cavalry officer at the Royal Military Academy at Karlberg. He took the officer's exam during World War I (1915). Sweden was neutral at the time,although there was consierable sypathy for the Germans. He studied horsemanship at the Stromsholm military riding school and became cavalry office in the Royal Horse Guards. He was commissioned a lieutenant (1918). He gained promotion the rank of major.

Marriage

Bernadotte married Estelle Romaine Manville (1904–84) in Pleasantville, New York (1928). Her family had help found the Johns-Manville Corporation. She proved to be a wonderful addition to the yoyal family, making the trnsition from America to Sweden. They had four sons, two of whom tragically died as children. They were Gustaf Eduard Bernadotte of Wisborg (1930–36). Count Folke Bernadotte of Wisborg (born 1931), married Christine Glahns. Fredrik Oscar Bernadotte of Wisborg (1934–1934), and Count Bertil Oscar Bernadotte of Wisborg (born 1935) married Rose-Marie Heering (1942–1967) and Jill Georgina Rhodes-Maddox Many years after Count Nrndotte's death, it became publically known that before his marriage, Bernadotte had a daughter with actress Lillie Ericson-Udde (Lillie Christina Ericson, 1892–1981). Jeanne Birgitta Sofia Kristina Matthiessen, née Ericson (1921–91) had been adopted by Carl G. W. Matthiessen (1886–1951) when he married Lillie Ericson (1925).

Diplomatic Career

Bernadotte was not a Swedush diplomat ean an official in the Foreign Ministry. His status as a member of the Royal amily, however, led him into public service activities that involved him in diplomacy. Bernadotte represented Sweden at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition (1933). He subsequently served as Swedish commissioner general at the New York World's Fair in (1939–40).

World War II (1939-45)

At the outbreak of World War II, Sweden was threatened by a German or Soviet invasion. All of its Nordic neigbors were invaded. The Soviets invaded Finland (1939). The Germans invaded Denmark and Norway (1940). Sweden provide a refuge for Finnish children and refufees fleeing BAZI occupation in Denmark and Norway. Sweden itself was largey cut ff from the world The country with its iron ore resource was vital to the NAZI war effort. This probably saved the country. If the Germans had invaded, the Swedes would have stouoyed the mining infrastructure. It would have taken some time to repair the damage. Sweden did not have the military capability of fighting the Germans and relied on neutrality as it did in World War I. The NAZIs, however, ignored neutrality. hus the country did what it could to prepare for war. Berndotte at the time was not involved in the military. He was involved in the Sveriges Scoutforbund (Swedish Boy Scouts), a movemt in which he took a special interest. He had been appointed diector (1937). He integrated the Scouts into Sweden's defense system, training the boys in anti-aircraft work and as medical assistants. Bernadotte is best know for his work as vice chairman of the Swedish Red Cross. He became involved during the War (1943). He worked on the exchange of disabled British and German war prisoners through Sweden. Sympathy for wounded soldiers was arare matter the warring powers could agree about. Thus it was something for which the Red Cross could achieve some success..

White Busses (April 1945)

Bernadotte's Red Cross work with POW exchanges involved frequent trips to both London and Berlin and conferences with high-level officials of both the British and NAZI Government. This was not controversial or dangerous, what was dangerous was his effort to save Scandnavians in NAZI concentration camps. He managed to negotiate the release 15,000-30,000 (accountry vary) mostly Scandivanian Jews from NAZI concentration camps in the final months of World War II. Conditions were terrible in the camps and although the War was almost over, people were dieing in large numbers. He negotiated with SS Chief Heinrich Himmler who still believed he might not be held responsible for the murder of millions of people because many were Jews. The operation is known as the White Busses. Included in those saved were 450 Danish Jews from the Theresienstadt Camp. They were released on (April 14, 1945). Getting them safely home was a challenge. Himmler's willingess to allow a few Jews to live show the end of Hitler's hold on him. He was willing to kill in the millions when it enhanced his position with Hitler. Now that the Thir Reich was collapsing nd Hitlr was isolated in Berlin he was willing to allow some Jews to survive. Hitler would have never agreed to this. Himmler also offered to surrender to the Allies, but not the Soviets, but this was rejected by the Allies.

Arab-Israeli Conflict

After the war, Bernadotte was unanimously chosen to be the United Nations Security Council mediator in the Arab–Israeli conflict of 1947–48). Hewas the first official United Nations negotitor. The United Nations was involved the British asked for assistance in ealing with the escalting violence in Palestine and the pending expiration of the League of Nations Mandate. The U.N. Partition Plan only escalated the violence as did the rab rection to Ideaels's declaration of indepenence. After the Arab invasion, Bernadotte uceeded in achiebing a truce. Healso began the process of asisting Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Bernadette helped prepare two proposal to end the conflict. The basic thrust was two seprate states, but with economic union. The second was, however, rejected by the United Nations as too favorable to Israel. In fact the actual conclusion of the Firt Arab-Iraeli War would be worse for the Palestinians. It inclued, howeer, elements to which the Arabs and Isrelis objected. While te United Nations with Many Arab countries voting thought Brnadotte's second prposal was to pro-Israeli, the Israeli govrnmet had serious reservations. Bernadotte was assassinated by members of the right-wing Jewish terror organization Lehi (Stern Gang) (September 17, 1948 or Stern Group). Afterwrds the Group ws fully disbnded. It has been charges that the sraeli Government wasi nvolved, but never proved. Ralph Bunche, Bernadotte's American deputy, succeeded him as U.N. mediator. Bunche managed to negotiate an Armistice (1949) and received the Nobel Peace Prize (1949). This of course only stoppe the fighting for a time and did not settle anything.

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Created: 6:57 PM 1/3/2018
Last updated: 9:25 PM 1/3/2018