Dag Hammarskjold-Swedish diplomat, United Nations leader,
statesman-was in his lifetime a well-known and admired
public servant. And yet, as it was discovered after his
accidental death in 1961, he was also a remarkably private
man. Throughout his life he had kept a series of secret
diaries which revealed him to be a man concerned not only
with the outer events of the world around him but with
the inner workings of the spiritual side of human beings.
He was a man of action and a man of contemplation, and
his life was an integral blending of these two seemingly
opposite ways of being.
He was the youngest of four brothers, born on July 29,
1905. The Hammarskjold family was one of the oldest families
in Sweden. Traditionally, the family worked in public
service, and Dag's father and his two brothers all went
into some sort of government work. Dag's father had been
a professor of law and a scholar but, due to financial
difficulties, was forced to go into government work in
order to raise a family. He took this step with sacrifice
and yet perfected his work, eventually becoming Prime
Minister of Sweden. His main work was in the area of mediation.
Sweden has always been a neutral country and has a tradition
of interceding between countries that are in conflict
with one another. This time-the turn of the century-was
a time of great controversy throughout the world. World
War I was approaching, Norway split off from Sweden, and
conflict was brewing everywhere. In fact, Dag's father
became very unpopular in his country. There was a food
shortage in Sweden during the war, and the elder Hammarskjold
was blamed for it. He ended up being forced to resign
as prime minister and returned to a previous position
he had as governor of Uppland at Uppsala.
It is interesting to follow the career of the older Hammarskjold
because there is a significant parallel with his life
and that of his son. Dag went into public service, reached
a high position in Sweden, and went on to become Secretary
General of the United Nations. Dag had a great deal of
respect for his father; he admired the work that he had
done. But this respect was also tempered by a resentment
because his father tended to be very hard with his four
sons and pushed them into public service. Dag held this
resentment in his heart for a long time. Dag's father
was rather aloof, and Dag was a very sensitive person.
This sensitivity he inherited from his mother, and he
retained with her a long and fine friendship throughout
his adult years.
Dag did his undergraduate work at the University of Solna
and studied literature, philosophy, French, and economics.
At this time, he discovered the writing of the Christian
mystics from the Middle Ages. He developed a real love
for them and later accredited them for his inner development.
Dag went on to pursue graduate work in economics and had
a difficult time with it because of a conflict he had
with one of his professors. The professor would not accept
his thesis, and Dag was forced to switch to another department
because he found this conflict to be unresolvable in any
other way. He was very disappointed and upset about this
turn of events, and it caused him a great deal of inner
turmoil. He ended up getting a bachelor's degree in law
before transferring to another school of economics in