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Son of UN's first Middle East mediator and Swedish royal Count Folke Bernadotte reveals he first heard about his father's 1948 assassination on the radio and says his 'loyal' mother knew her husband might die

Son of UN's first Middle East mediator and Swedish royal Count Folke Bernadotte reveals he first heard about his father's 1948 assassination on the radio and says his 'loyal' mother knew her husband might die
  • Count Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish royal and UN's first Middle East mediator
  • He attempted to negotiate an agreement between Israel and Palestine in 1948
  • Speaking to BBC's Witness History, son Bertil Bernadotte shares his memories
  • Revealed he first learned about his father's death while listening to the radio 
The son of the UN's first Middle East mediator has shared his memories of his father's assassination by Jewish extremists. 
Count Folke Bernadotte, a member of the Swedish royal family, was shot dead by members of the Zionist group Lehi while carrying out his official duties in Jerusalem September 1948.
Speaking to BBC World Service's Witness History, Count Bernadotte's youngest son, Bertil Bernadotte, told how he first learned of his father's death while listening to the radio at the age of 12. 
Count Folke Bernadotte, a member of the Swedish royal family, was shot dead by members of the Zionist group Lehi while carrying out his official duties in Jerusalem September 1948. Pictured, with his wife Estelle Manville and sons Bertil (left) and Folke in Greece that summer
Count Folke Bernadotte, a member of the Swedish royal family, was shot dead by members of the Zionist group Lehi while carrying out his official duties in Jerusalem September 1948. Pictured, with his wife Estelle Manville and sons Bertil (left) and Folke in Greece that summer 
In September 1948, Count Bernadotte's motorcade was travelling through Jerusalem when it was stopped at a makeshift roadblock. Bernadotte and a French officer sitting beside him, Colonel André Serot, were shot through an open window. Pictured, the diplomat (foreground in cap) in a jeep with an escort of officers just days before he was killed
In September 1948, Count Bernadotte's motorcade was travelling through Jerusalem when it was stopped at a makeshift roadblock. Bernadotte and a French officer sitting beside him, Colonel André Serot, were shot through an open window. Pictured, the diplomat (foreground in cap) in a jeep with an escort of officers just days before he was killed
At the time, Bertil and his older brother, Folke, were living with their mother, American-born philanthropist Estelle Manville. 
Count Bernadotte had stationed himself on the Greek island of Rhodes, which he had chosen as a 'neutral' base while working in the Middle East.
The UN, which was still in its infancy having only been established three years prior, gave the Count an airplane so that he could easily fly between Rhodes and Israel and Palestine.
In September 1948, Count Bernadotte's motorcade was travelling through Jerusalem when it was stopped at a makeshift roadblock. Bernadotte and a French officer sitting beside him, Colonel André Serot, were shot through an open window.  
The American-born Countess, wasn't 'very happy' about her husband's decision to take up the position but remained loyal and supported him. Pictured, being greeted by her husband on her arrival in Greece in the summer of 1948, weeks before he died
The American-born Countess, wasn't 'very happy' about her husband's decision to take up the position but remained loyal and supported him. Pictured, being greeted by her husband on her arrival in Greece in the summer of 1948, weeks before he died 
'I heard about it first [of my family], actually,' Bertil explained. 'It came out over the radio and I was playing in my room with a friend and I heard it. I rushed out to say to my mother that something's happened to father. And she knew immediately.'
Bernadotte, nephew of the then Swedish King Gustaf V, was voted unanimously to take up the role following his successful diplomatic endeavours during the Second World War. 
During the autumns of 1943 and 1944, he organised prisoner exchanges which brought home 11,000 prisoners from Germany via Sweden. 
He is also credited with negotiating the release of about 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps in 1949. 
Bertil recalled how in the lead up to his father accepting his Middle East posting, the family had been holidaying on an island of Gotland. 
A state funeral was held and Bernadotte was buried in Prince Oscar Bernadotte's family tomb at the Northern Cemetery in Stockholm. Pictured, his coffin being repatriated
A state funeral was held and Bernadotte was buried in Prince Oscar Bernadotte's family tomb at the Northern Cemetery in Stockholm. Pictured, his coffin being repatriated 
Bertil told how his father spent 'quite a bit of time' walking alone as he mulled over the proposition of becoming the UN Security Council mediator. 
'Everyone said it was an impossible job,' Bertil explained. 'And he [my father] said officially, "I would always regret it if I didn't try, even if it was impossible".'
The American-born Countess, who was a leading figure in the International Red Cross and Girl Scout movement, wasn't 'very happy' about her husband's decision to take up the position but remained loyal and supported him. 
The couple were aware of the extreme risk the Count was taking by inserting himself into the conflict.
'They discussed funeral plans and things like that, so they were aware it might go wrong,' Bertil added. 
The day after the murders, the United Nations Security Council condemned the killing of Bernadotte as 'a cowardly act'. 
A state funeral was held and Bernadotte was buried in Prince Oscar Bernadotte's family tomb at the Northern Cemetery in Stockholm. 

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