“Who’s Who at the Upcoming United Nations Meeting?”, New York Times, 21 November 1953, 7a.
The meeting of the United Nations later this month will be unusually well-attended by world leaders. What follows is a brief guide to the main foreign participants.
It is symbolic of these troubled times that so many current Continental European leaders emerged from the police services.
Lavrentiy Beria: b. 1899, Georgia, Russian Empire. Beria began his career as a “Chekisti” (as Russians still call members of their oft-renamed security police) at age nineteen. He rose through the ranks at a fast clip, especially after he hitched his wagon to Josef Stalin. At the same time, and curiously, he surrounded himself with rootless cosmopolitans. He became the Curator of the “Organs of State Security” under the Khan Josef of Great Russia (as Josef Stalin called himself after the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1941). He became Khan in his own right upon the death of Khan Josef in the “Doctors’ Plot” of 1953.
Joseph Darnand: b. 1897. War hero in the First World War; involved in national revival movement between the two wars; war hero again in the Second World War; strong supporter of Marshall Philippe Petain; leader of the paramilitary “Milice” domestic security force; Secretary of State for the Maintenance of Order in French Indochina, 1946-1949; Minister of the Interior, 1949-1951, during the Algerian “troubles”; Prime Minister of the French State since the death of Marshall Petain in 1951. Many people suspected, on the basis of his fighting against the Germans in two wars, that Darnand was anti-German in his own beliefs. Nothing in his post-war political career has supported this belief.
Reinhard Heydrich: b. 1904. A member of the Nazi Party and of the SS from 1931, he entered the Party’s security service. From here, he made a meteoric ascent by combining a combination to great intelligence with a tremendous work ethic. From 1939 he headed the national police. He became Reichschancellor of Germany upon the deaths of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Goering during the failed “putsch” of 20 July 1944. (Many rumors surround this event and we shall probably never know the truth.) Since 1944, Heydrich has been a principle architect of a “United Europe.” Very much the dispassionate technocrat, Heydrich has pushed forward a series of initiatives for the standardization of European regulations on the German model.
Still, not everyone in power these days once wore a badge.
R. A. Butler (called “Rab”): b. 1902. Butler is what the British call a “Tory reformer.” Commonly this means a person of inherited wealth and position who has a powerful sense of the common welfare and the need to use government to promote it. Before the late war, he stood in the front ranks of those who desired a peaceful accommodation with Germany. In 1941 he became Foreign Secretary in the cabinet of Lord Halifax and government leader in the House of Commons. As Foreign Secretary, he negotiated the peace settlement. Butler then turned his attention to his other policy concerns. He negotiated the independence of Britain’s Indian Empire (1945). He succeeded Lord Halifax as prime minister in 1947. As prime minister, Butler launched important reforms of the British education system.
Subas Chandra Bose: b. 1897. Bose led the younger-generation within the Indian National Congress before the war, then went to Germany in 1940. Germany’s victory made him the chief interlocutor with R.A. Butler. The two men worked easily together in arranging the separation. Subsequently, Bose became the “Netaji” (Respected Leader) of the Indian State. Although India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Bose’s personal affinity for both Germany and Japan has challenged Anglo-Indian relations.
Shigeru Yoshida: b. 1878. Yoshida came from a background of political activism and wealth. He spent two decades in the Diplomatic Service, splitting his time between postings in China and in the West. In 1938, the military clique that dominated the government blocked Yoshida from becoming foreign minister. After a decade “in the wilderness,” Yoshida became prime minister in 1948. At this point Japan wished to legitimize its territorial gains and to reform its economy in light of new conditions. Yoshida is rumored to be a secret Catholic.