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Department of Public Information (DPI)
18 September 1948
Department of Public Information
Press and Publications Bureau
Lake Success, New York
Press Release PAL/298
18 September 1948
GENERAL LUNDSTROM GIVES EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF BERNADOTTE'S DEATH
The following eyewitness account of General Aage Lundstrom of the killing of Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot has been received today by the Secretary-General from Dr. Ralph Bunche, Chief of the UN Mission in Palestine. Colonel Lundstrom was seated in the rear of the Mediator's car at the time of the murder but escaped unhurt. This account was cabled to UN Headquarters at Lake Success from Paris.
"I met Count Bernadotte in Beirut Thursday morning, 16 September, and went with him to Damascus, where we spent the night. We left Damascus Friday morning, the 17th, at 9:30 a.m., Arab time. On our way to Kollundia field, we received a message from Haifa to the effect that all aircraft landing at Kollundia would be fired on. As we had sent advance notice of arrival and received clearance, we discounted the warning as false, and landed at Kollundia without incident.
"At the airfield, we were met by UN observers Colonel Bonnot and Colonel Serot of France, and Major A. F. Petersens of Sweden. With Major Messart, Belgian driver, the Count, Commander Cox, Lieutenant Colonel Flach of Sweden, Major De Jeer of Sweden, and myself, we left the airfield to visit Brigadier Lash of the Arab Legion at Ramallah. The rest of Count Bernadotte' s party were ordered to proceed to the American school to meet us there.
"Before we started, I was told that every other jeep or car was fired upon at Mandelbaum Gate. I then asked Count Bernadotte if it would not be wise to proceed from Ramallah or Latrun to Jerusalem. This route would take an hour longer but would be undoubtedly safer. Count Bernadotte answered: 'I would not do that. I have to take the same risks as my observers, and moreover, I think no one has the right to refuse us permission to pass through the lines. If I do not go, I will be admitting they have the right to prevent me from crossing the lines.' I agreed, and it was decided that after meeting with Brigadier Lash, we would return through the lines at Mandelbaum Gate.
"We then left to keep our appointment with Brigadier Lash. After the meeting, I asked Brigadier Lash for a guard to take us to the front lines, and received an armored car which met us on the way to the lines. En route, just past Kollundia, our car was fired on from a short distance (pistol shot). One bullet hit a disk of the rear wheel. We then arrived at the American school, where we collected the rest of the Count's staff, and proceeded to Mandelbaum Gate and on to the Y.M.C.A. without incident of any kind.
"During lunch, at the Y.M.C.A., the program for the afternoon was settled. Count Bernadotte was to see Dr. Joseph, Military Governor of the Jewish part of Jerusalem, at 6:30 p.m., and before that we were to visit the Government House and Agricultural School in the Red Cross area. Three cars were ordered, but I decided that only two would be permitted to pass the lines to the Red Cross area. One car was driven by Colonel Frank Begley, with Commander Cox (US) in the front seat, the Count, Colonel Serot and myself in the back seat. The other car was driven by Major Massart with the Jewish Liaison officer, Captain Hillman, Miss Wessel (Count Bernadotte's secretary), Lieutenant Colonel Flach and Major De Geer as passengers. We went first to the Government House. From the roof of the tower, Commander Cox pointed out different areas where there had been a lot of firing, front lines and neutral zone, etc.
"The question was raised about eighteen Jewish men who had been brought to the Agricultural School, while it was desired that still more should be brought in to clear up. Count Bernadotte would not allow that, of course, as it was against his decision. He asked Swiss Dr. Facel, representing the interest of the International Red Cross Committee of the Government House to come with us to the Agricultural School to speak with women in charge of the school. When we came to the Agricultural School, the woman in charge was away, and Commander Cox was notified about the terms of the agreement. He wanted to look at his papers in the Y.M.C.A. and the doctor was asked to come with us in order that we might get his opinion on how to deal with this situation. The doctor took his own Red Cross car and otherwise the order of the cars remained the same with the Count's car last in the convoy. We went from the neutral zone to the Jewish lines without incident across the check points and went on further into the New City.
"In the Katamon quarter, we were held up by a Jewish Army type jeep placed in a road block and filled with men in Jewish Army uniforms. At the same moment, I saw an armed man coming from this jeep. I took little notice of this because I merely thought it was another checkpoint. However, he put a Tommy gun through the open window on my side of the car, and fired point blank at Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot. I also heard shots fired from other points, and there was considerable confusion. The Jewish liaison officer came running to our car and told Mr. Begley, who was at that time outside the car, to drive away as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the man was still firing.
"Colonel Serot fell in the seat in back of me, and I saw at once that he was dead. Count Bernadotte bent forward, and I thought at the time he was trying to get cover. I asked him: 'Are you wounded? He nodded, and fell back. I helped him to lie down in the car. I now understood that he was severely wounded; there was a considerable amount of blood on his clothes, mainly around the heart. By this time, the Jewish liaison officer had got into the car, and was urging Begley to drive quickly to Hadassah Hospital, which was only a short distance away. I have the impression that the Jewish liaison officer did everything he possibly could to assist us to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. It could not have taken more than a couple of minutes to make the journey from the scene of the incident to the hospital.
"When we arrived, with the help of some other people, I carried the Count inside and laid him on the bed. We had sent for a medical officer, but while waiting for him to arrive, I took off the Count's jacket and tore away his shirt and undervest. I saw that he was wounded around the heart and that there was also a considerable quantity of blood on his clothes about it.
"When the doctor arrived, I asked if anything could be done, but he replied that it was too late. Major De Geer went in Dr. Facel's car to fetch the Count's personal physician, Dr. Ullmark. He stayed with the Count and was later joined by Major De Geer, Miss Wessel and Dr. Ullmark. I then left and went to see Colonel Serot, who had been placed in another room. The doctor confirmed that he had died instantly.
"After awhile, I went with a car to the Y.M.C.A. and tried to get in touch with Dr. Joseph and Colonel Dayan, military commander of Israel forces in Jerusalem. They arrived at the Y.M.C.A. after a very short time. I said that I would not do anything that would create an impression of panic, but that I had to decide before sunset whether observers should stay at their posts during the night without danger. If in their opinion, there would be considerable danger for observers, they would recall them. They assured me that in their opinion, although of course they could make no guarantee, thee was no added danger, and I decided that observers should remain at their posts. However, I asked Colonel Dayan for a guard to be placed around the Y.M.C.A., where it had been decided that the bodies of Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot would lie in state.
"Later on, General Riley and Mr. Bunche arrived from Kollundia airfield. By that time, it had already been decided that the bodies of Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot should be taken to the Y.M.C.A. and onwards on Saturday morning, 18 September, to Haifa. The bodies would be accompanied by Colonel Bonnot, Lt. Col. Flach and myself with members of the Count's personal staff. A room in the Y.M.C.A. was beautifully arranged by Mr. Miller, head of the Y.M.C.A., and the bodies of Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot were laid in state. A short simple service was conducted by two Catholic priests, and a guard of officer observers was mounted inside the room to watch through the night, with an enlisted observer on guard at the door. On reflection after the incident, I am convinced that this was a deliberate and carefully planned assassination. The spot where the cars were halted was carefully chosen, and the people who approached the cars quite obviously not only knew which car Count Bernadotte was in, but also the exact position in the car which he occupied."
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