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Harald Edelstam

"Ich kann Ungerechtigkeit nicht tolerieren."

Harald Edelstam

 

"Er bleibt ein Beispiel für uns, wenn es um die Achtung der Wahrheit und Werte der Solidarität sowie um die Verteidigung und den Schutz der Verfolgten geht."

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile

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Einleitung

Diplomat im Dienst der Menschenrechte

Gustav Harald Edelstam (17. März 1913 - 16. April 1989) war schwedischer Diplomat. Während des Zweiten Weltkriegs erhielt er den Spitznamen Svarta nejlikan ("Der schwarze Pimpernel", eine Anspielung auf den scharlachroten Pimpernel), weil er Hunderten von norwegischen Juden, SOE-Agenten und Saboteuren bei der Flucht vor den Deutschen im von den Nazis besetzten Norwegen half. In den frühen 1970er Jahren war er in Santiago de Chile als Botschafter und wurde als "Raoul Wallenberg der 1970er Jahre" bekannt, als er über 1.200 Chilenen, Hunderten von kubanischen Diplomaten und Zivilisten sowie 67 uruguayischen und bolivianischen Flüchtlingen half, der Verfolgung durch den Diktator Augusto Pinochet nach dem Putsch vom 11. September 1973 zu entkommen.

Die Geschichte

Harald Edelstam

The Black Pimpernel


Harald Edelstam (1913-1989) was a Swedish diplomat and Ambassador, who distinguished himself as diplomat by his professional competence, his bravery and his civic courage in the fight for human rights. He was an early proponent and symbol of what is today known as the "Responsibility to Protect" and his memorable acts contributed to save more than a thousand lives. 

His first mission as a young diplomat was in Rome in 1939 during the Mussolini era, and already then Edelstam got to learn what dictatorships and wars do to people. However, it was not until he was sent to Berlin in 1941 he got truly to learn about the brutality's terror and the extent of the pogrom.

Through family relations Edelstam quickly was accepted in the high society and got to know many high military chiefs, which would come in handy later on when he was sent to the Nazi-occupied Norway in 1942.

Edelstam worked at the Swedish consulate, and came to function as a link between the Germans and the Norwegian resistance movement ”Hjemmefronten." Edelstam was also active in the smuggling of threatened Norwegian resistance fighters and Jews to Sweden; people whom Edelstam protected in his own private home. Edelstam's greatest achievements were, however, within the secret information operation, through the illegal press. As a diplomat, Edelstam had access to a radio, which he used to listen to broadcasts from London and had access to information through his good relations with the high militaries. By secret means, he managed to acquire printing presses, ink and printing paper and wrote newsletters based on British radio broadcasts that became an important counterweight to the German controlled Nazi propaganda in Norway. The Norwegians came to call Edelstam the ”Black Pimpernel."

After two murder attempts, he was forced to flee to Sweden, however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unhappy with his activities and consequently, Edelstam was forced to sit in the Ministry of Foreign Affair's attic and correct travel expense reports, as punishment because of his actions in Norway, during 1944 to 1945. However, restitution finally came when a new Minister of Foreign Affairs was appointed and Edelstam was appointed as the Minister's Secretary, after a fax arrived to the Minister with the information that Edelstam was considered a hero in Norway, and was awarded with the St. Olav medal for his courage.

Undramatic years followed and he held positions in Holland, Poland, Austria, Turkey and in Indonesia before being positioned in Central America in 1969. Very fast he came into contact with those people fighting against the military regimes and assisted them in various ways.

In 1972 Edelstam was appointed the Swedish Ambassador to Chile  first and foremost to transmit Swedish assistance to the government coalition Unidad Popular in Chile. However, the assistance ceased at the time of General Augusto Pinochet's military coup d Ìtat on the 11th of September 1973. Edelstam had from the start in Chile openly expressed his sympathy for the socialist President Salvador Allende, elected by popular vote. Subsequent to Allende's overthrowing, Edelstam became famous for
his bravery, saving many lives of people seeking protection from the dictatorship. By opening up the Swedish Embassy and conducting major confrontations and negotiations with the Chilean military, and he managed to obtain the release of many doomed people from the notorious concentration camp at the National Stadium and elsewhere in Chile, who were then brought safely to Sweden. In these ways, Ambassador Edelstam challenged those who extended their power by curtailing democracy and persecuting others. 

The military regime did not appreciate Edelstam's engagement and in December 1973 he was expelled from Chile by the coup generals and declared ”persona non grata." Nevertheless, before leaving Chile, Edelstam managed to save more than a thousand lives, protecting them from death, prison, and torture.

Being courageous often comes with a high price to pay. Harald Edelstam died as a quite lonely man; many friends and colleagues turned their back against him. However, Edelstam decided to act, whatever the price. In every situation in which he was confronted, he had the option of using his diplomatic immunity for saving him self, or the choice of acting to protect others in imminent danger. His generosity left us a legacy of coherence and responsibility, a reference for our collectiveduty to act in protection of defenseless people who are the victims of serious abuses.

"Simply, I cannot tolerate injustice." - Harald Edelstam

Caroline Edelstam, Präsidentin der Edelstam Stiftung und Enkelin von Harald Edelstam.

Caroline Edelstam

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