The Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation is named after the former party chairman of the Swedish Högerpartiet, Jarl Hjalmarson. He was an early critic of the abuses of the Soviet Union. For example, his critcism of the invasion of Hungary in 1956 was so heavy that the Swedish social democrat government refused to send him as the Swedish representative to the UN.
Jarl Hjalmarson was born in 1904 and began studying law at Uppsala University in 1923. He lost his father at an early age and as a student he supported himself by giving performances as an illusionist in cabarets and students’ association gatherings. This was a skill he had picked up during his high school years. His alias as a performer was “the Magician from the Nile”. He also joined an organisation for illusionists called Svensk Magisk Cirkel.
When studying in Uppsala, Jarl Hjalmarson became politically active. His first foray into politics was with the socialist students’ association Clarté. However, he soon changed his mind and joined Heimdal, which was an association for conservative students. Between 1928 and 1929, he was the chairman of Heimdal.
In 1929, Jarl Hjalmarson got his law degree and was recruited as a secretary on the staff of Prime Minister Arvid Lindman. The Lindman government stepped down in 1930 and Jarl Hjalmarson started work as an ombudsman within the Swedish Högerpartiet. He remained in this position until 1937, when he was recruited by Handelns arbetsgivareorganisation, an employers’ organisation for business owners. From 1942 to 1950, he was the CEO of Försäkringsbolagens förhandlingsorganisation.
In 1944, Jarl Hjalmarson was elected second vice chairman of Högerpartiet. In 1947, he became a member of parliament.
When Fritiof Domö resigned as party chairman of Högerpartiet in 1950, Jarl Hjalmarson was elected his successor. As a politician, Jarl Hjalmarson was a relentless campaigner who enjoyed meeting with and talking to voters. In order to make as many stops as possible on the campaign trail, Jarl Hjalmarson employed a helicopter.
The political ideal of Jarl Hjalmarson was a democracy where people could attain financial and social security by means of their own work. An integral part of this ideal was that people should have the opportunity to own their homes and invest in stocks, so that they could benefit directly from economic growth. People were considered stakeholders in society rather than just employees and tax-payers. This view would develop man’s good and responsible traits.
In matters of foreign policy, Jarl Hjalmarson agreed with the policy of neutrality that the Swedish government subscribed to, but he did not take it to mean that Sweden should remain a silent witness of persecution and opression in Eastern Europe. The harsh treatment of the citizens of East Berlin in 1953 and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, stirred up violent emotions within Högerpartiet.
In the summer of 1952, a Swedish military aircraft of the DC3 model disappeared over the Baltic Sea. It was on a mission gathering signal intelligence. This was the cause for much worry and bewilderment and in response, another aircraft, of the Catalina model, was sent out on a reconnaissance and rescue mission. When the Catalina was shot down by Soviet fighters, the Swedish public was outraged. Högerpartiet and the Swedish Liberal Party wanted to discuss the incident in the UN, but the government said no. To Högerpartiet this was yet another example of the government’s – and of Foreign Minister Östen Udén’s – appeasement of Soviet aggression.
In 1959, the so called Hjalmarson Incident occurred. It had its roots in a 1956 official visit by Prime Minister Tage Erlander to the Soviet Union. The Soviet leaders Nikita Chrustjev and Nikolaj Bulganin were scheduled to reciprocate the visit later in the year. However, due to the invasion of Hungary on the 7th of November, the trip was postponed. Public sentiment in Sweden was not particularly friendly at the time.
When Chrustjev was finally scheduled to visit Sweden in 1959, Högerpartiet and the Liberal Party criticised the plans. Jarl Hjalmarson was particularly vocal in his criticism, stating that only three years had gone by since the Hungarian people were subjugated with tanks and bullets and this was hardly enough time for such an event to fall into oblivion. He considered the visit a propaganda event.
Jarl Hjalmarson’s speech provoked a formal protest from the Soviet government’s side and the Soviet visit was cancelled.
The Swedish government responded to this by refusing to appoint Jarl Hjalmarson as the Swedish delegate to the UN general assembly.
After retiring from political life, Jarl Hjalmarson acted as chairman of the Swedish Red Cross from 1970 to 1974.
Text: Johan Westrin