Israel’s forgotten hero: The assassination of Count Bernadotte - and the death of peace
He was charged by the UN with bringing peace to Palestine– but died at the hands of Jewish assassins. Now, 60 years after his death, the memory of the Swedish aristocrat Folke Bernadotte is dividing Israel.
Donald Macintyre | @indyvoices | Thursday 18 September 2008
Sitting in the back seat, the blue-blooded Swedish aristocrat and the decorated French hero of two world wars had begun to relax from the tension of the journey as the big Chrysler, the last of a three-car convoy, started its final ascent up the narrow road through the now Jewish-occupied district of Katamon, towards Rehavia and the house of the Jerusalem military governor. No one in the first car, a DeSoto, least of all the Israeli captain assigned to escort the VIPs, showed much concern when a new-looking Israeli army jeep slewed across the road to bring the convoy to a halt: just another temporary checkpoint. As three soldiers in standard Israel Defence Forces khaki shorts, fingers on triggers, approached the DeSoto; the three young Swedes and a Belgian in the passenger seats, groped for their papers. “It’s OK boys,” the Israeli officer explained. “Let us pass. It’s the UN mediator.”
At that moment, one of the three men ran to the Chrysler, pushed the barrel of his German-made Schmeisser MP40 sub-machine gun through the open rear window, and pumped six bullets into the chest, throat and left arm of the aristocrat and another 18 into the body of the French colonel sitting on his left. Rushing out of the first car, the Israeli captain, Moshe Hillman, ran back to the Chrysler. Aghast at the sight of the copiously bleeding bodies he kept repeating: “My God, oh my God,” before jumping in beside the driver, a UN security man recruited from the FBI, and telling him to head straight for the Hadassah hospital. But Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator officially charged with bringing peace to a Holy Land at war, and his chief UN observer Colonel Andre Serot, who had only swapped places with Hillman at the last minute so that he could personally thank the count for saving his wife from a Nazi concentration camp three years earlier, were dead on arrival.
The assassination of Bernadotte by Jewish militants disguised as regular soldiers on 17 September 1948, was commemorated in a series of Swedish and UN ceremonies in Jerusalem, Stockholm and New York yesterday. But no blue Israeli plaque marks the spot, as it does for so many military and Jewish underground exploits of the period. (...)