TDISH: Death of a Diplomat

On September 17, 1948, Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte was in Palestine during the fight for Jewish statehood serving as a representative of the United Nations.  Bernadotte had been a hero during World War II when he used his position as a neutral diplomat to negotiate with Heinrich Himler to save many Jews from Nazi gas chambers.  However, by 1948, his reputation among many Jews had taken a hit.  He had put forth a proposal for a peaceful solution to the conflicts surrounding Jewish statehood – it was, however, unacceptable to Jews since it forced them to give up control of Jerusalem to an international committee.  One group of Israelis that was particularly vehement against Bernadotte’s policy was the Lohamei Herut Yisrael (LEHI).  LEHI was a group of militant Zionists willing to use violence against anyone not actively supporting Jewish statehood.  On the evening of September 17, LEHI set up a roadblock in Bernadotte’s path and as his UN vehicle came to a stop, opened fire on the diplomat, killing him almost instantly.  LEHI announced that while Bernadotte’s death was tragic, it was necessary for the birth of the state of Israel.

Featured Image: “Folke Bernadotte.” Public Domain.
Source: “Modern History of Israel: The Assassination of Count Bernadotte.” Jewish Virtual Library.

TDISH: Why’d He Do It?

On September 10, 2003, Anna Lindh, the foreign minister of Sweden, was stabbed multiple times as she was shopping in a Stockholm department store.  Lindh, who was 46, was one of Sweden’s most promising politicians and was considered likely to become the next Prime Minister (a first for women).  At first, her assailant escaped the busy store, but he was captured several days later.  The assassin was Mijailo Mijailovic, a Swede of Serbian descent.  Upon his arrest and after his subsequent trail, Mijailovic was silent about his motive for the crime.  It has come to light since then that he was possibly on a hypnotic drug, Flunitrazepam, at the time of the attack and that he was just attacking the first person he recognized as a politician.  Other theories involve Lindh’s support for Sweden’s adoption of the Euro, for which she was scheduled to give a speech the day following the attack.  Unless the killer comes fully clean, we may never know why he killed Anna Lindh.

Featured Image: “Anna Lindh.” By Vesa Lindqvist/Matti Hurme –, CC BY 2.5 dk.
Sources: “Swedish minister dies after stabbing.” BBC News. 11 September 2003.
Anna Lindh killer breaks silence over murder.” The Local. 28 August 2011.

TDISH: Stockholm Syndrome

On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik Olsson of Stockholm Sweden entered the Kreditbanken in the Norrmalmstorg Square in the center of the city.  Brandishing a sub-machine gun, he took four bank employees hostage and demanded 3 million Swedish crowns (about $730,000) and the release of a friend from prison.  The hostage situation devolved into a 6 day standoff with Swedish authorities, during which Olsson and his hostages underwent a strange bonding experience.  The hostages started identifying with their captor and vice versa.  On top of that, all involved – hostages and kidnapper alike – took on a hostile “Us vs. Them” view of the outside world that was trying to hurt them.  This feeling was heightened by the presence of armed police and hostage negotiators outside of the bank.  Nor was this just a passing emotion – indeed, Olsson’s victims visited him during his ten-year prison sentence.  This strange and seemingly counter-intuitive reaction to such a stressful and traumatic experience has come to be known as Stockholm Syndrome – a mainstay of TV crime dramas.

Featured Image: “Kreditbanken in the Norrmalmstorg.” By Tage Olsin – Own work (Photo taken by me), CC BY-SA 2.0.
Source: Perosino, Monica and Francesco Semprini. “Forty Years Ago, A Swedish Bank Robber Gave Us “Stockholm Syndrome”.” La Stampa. 28 August 2013.


TDISH: An Embarrassing Launch

On August 10, 1628, King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden and his entourage were gathered on the docks of the Stockholm shipyards to take part in the ceremonies to launch the king’s newest warship, the Vasa, named after the ruling dynasty.  The massive ship, armed with 64 800px-Vasa_stern_color_model.jpgbronze cannons, was the largest warship in the world and was meant to be symbolic of Sweden’s rise to the ranks of the Great Powers of the seventeenth century.  Unfortunately, today would not be the triumph Gustavus II Adolphus hoped.  Less than 20 minutes and about one mile into her maiden voyage, the Vasa was struck by two strong winds that caused the massive ship to founder and sink to the bottom of the Baltic Sea, killing 30 crewmen.

For years, a mystery has surrounded these events – what exactly caused such an amazing ship to sink so quickly.  Recent studies have shown that the ship was particularly top heavy and was so cutting edge in its construction that it went past the technological capabilities of the day.  However, there was also a borderline comic reason for the sinking – the ship was lopsided.  Why was it lopsided?  Well, of the four construction leaders on the ship, two used a Swedish ruler that measured 1 foot and was divided into 12 inches and two used a Dutch ruler that measured 1 foot, but was divided into 11 inches.  So depending on who was doing the measuring, the measurements of an inch were different and thus led to major structural problems with the ship.

Featured Image: “The Vasa.” By JavierKohen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 1. “Painted Model of the Vasa.” By Peter Isotalo – Own work, CC BY 3.0.
Source: Chatterjee, Rhitu. “New Clues Emerge in Centuries-Old Swedish Shipwreck.PRI‘s The World. 23 February 2012.

TDISH: A Terrible Case of Mistaken Identity

From late August into early September, 1972, the world gathered as it does every four years to celebrate peace and sport.  This time the gathering was to be held in Munich, West Germany.  Ap_munich905_t.jpgUnfortunately, these Olympics were to be marred by one of the greatest tragedies ever to strike the games.  On the evening of September 5, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian terrorism group, Black September, attacked the dormitories in which the Israeli delegation was staying.  By the time the horror was over, 11 athletes and coaches lay dead along with 5 of the terrorists.

In retaliation for this horrific attack, the Israeli national intelligence agency, Mossad, struck out at the culprits and those who supported them in a series of assassinations that have been dramatized in movies such as Steven Spielberg’s Munich. However, not all of the victims of the so-called Operation Wrath of God were terrorists.  On July 21, 1973, a team of Israeli assassins gunned down a man who was on his way home with his pregnant wife in Lillehammer, Norway.  This man was Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan writer living in Norway.  Bouchikhi had no affiliation with Black September or any other Palestinian organization.  His only crime was looking somewhat like Hassan Salameh, an intelligence agent for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.  This attack caused strained relations between Israel and Norway since Mossad had no authorization to conduct such an operation on Norwegian soil.  To this day, Israel denies any wrong-doing in this event, but they did pay Bouchikhi’s wife a settlement.  Six Mossad agents were captured by Norwegian officials and were found culpable for the death.  A Norwegian court has issued a warrant for former Mossad agent, Michael Harari, whom they suspect of having masterminded the attack.  Norway, however, does not expect Harari to ever be turned over to their custody.

Source: Mellgren, Dylan. “Norway Solves Riddle of Mossad Killing.” The Guardian. 1 March 2000.
Featured Image. “Mossad Logo.” By Source, Fair use.
Munich Massacre.” By Source, Fair Use.

Mists of History: Gorm the Old

Long ago, somewhere around 936 CE, a Viking warrior sat upon a throne in the midst of his Gorm-the-oldhomeland at the town of Jelling, Denmark.  His name was Gorm and here he has being crowned king.  He had no way of knowing it, but he has starting a line of kings and queens that would last over 1,000 years.  His kingdom still stands, though now it is governed from a capital at Copenhagen.  Gorm was king during the earliest days of Christianity’s arrival to his kingdom and raised the first of the famous Jelling stones located in central Denmark.  These stone stelae are covered in runic inscriptions that describe the arrival of Christianity to the country and the earliest days of the Danish monarchy.  He gained the sobriquet “the Old,” not due to his age, but rather because he was the first in the line of Denmark’s royal houses.

Featured Image: “Gorm’s Rune Stone.” By Jürgen Howaldt – Own work (selbst erstelltes Foto), CC BY-SA 2.0.
Figure 1: “Gorm the Old.” By dllu – Painting by August Carl Vilhelm Thomsen (1813-86), Public Domain.
History of the Danish Royal House.” The Danish Monarchy.
Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones, and Church.” UNESCO.