Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart

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Gerrit Jan van
Heuven Goedhart
HeuvenGoedhart1944 (cropped).jpg
Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart in 1944
United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees
In office
1 January 1951 – 8 July 1956
Secretary-GeneralTrygve Lie
Dag Hammarskjöld
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byAugust R. Lindt
Members of the Senate
In office
22 October 1947 – 1 January 1951
Parliamentary groupLabour Party
Minister of Justice
In office
11 July 1944 – 23 February 1945
Prime MinisterPieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy
Preceded byJan van Angeren
Succeeded byPieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy
Personal details
Gerrit Jan Goedhart

(1901-03-19)19 March 1901
Bussum, Netherlands
Died8 July 1956(1956-07-08) (aged 55)
Geneva, Switzerland
Political partyLabour Party (from 1946)
Other political
Independent Social Democrat (1944–1946)
Francis Becht
m. 1924; div. 1931)

Erna Hauan
m. 1932; his death 1956)
ChildrenKarin Sophie van Heuven Goedhart
Bergliot Halldis van Heuven Goedhart
(born 1936)
(second marriage)
Alma materLeiden University
(Bachelor of Laws, Master of Laws, Doctor of Philosophy)
OccupationPolitician · Diplomat · Jurist · Journalist · Editor · Author

Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart (19 March 1901 – 8 July 1956) was a Dutch politician and diplomat of the Labour Party (PvdA) and journalist. He served as first United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1 January 1951 until 8 July 1956.[1]


Early life[edit]

Van Heuven Goedhart was born on 19 March 1901 in Bussum, North Holland. His father, Gijsbert Willem Goedhart, was a Protestant vicar. His mother was Francina Dingena Helena van Heuven. Van Heuven Goedhart was initially called Goedhart, but in 1933 he received permission to add his mother's maiden name to his surname. Van Heuven Goedhart studied Law at Leiden University and graduated in 1926. The year before, he had already become a reporter for newspaper De Telegraaf. On 1 January 1930, at the age of 28, he was promoted to editor in chief. He was fired on 1 June 1933 because he refused to publish an article that called the newly elected German leader Adolf Hitler "a great statesman". He became editor in chief of regional newspaper Utrechts Nieuwsblad, where he would stay in office until the German invasion of the Netherlands.


During the World War II, Van Heuven Goedhart worked as a reporter and editor in chief for the illegal resistance newspaper Het Parool. In 1944 he fled to London, where he was appointed Minister of Justice in the government in exile.

After the World War II, Van Heuven Goedhart returned to Het Parool, where he once again become editor in chief. In 1947, he also became Senator for the Labour Party. In 1951, he gave up both occupations to become the first High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations. Under Van Heuven Goedhart, the UNHCR was awarded the 1954 Nobel Peace Prize.

Van Heuven Goedhart was also the first chairman of the "state committee for the coordination of government information" (Dutch: Staatscommissie over de coördinatie van de overheidsvoorlichting), the predecessor of the Netherlands Government Information Service (Dutch: Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst).


Van Heuven Goedhart married Francis Becht (1899–1987) in 1924. The marriage was dissolved in 1931. In 1932, Van Heuven Goedhart married Norwegian Erna Hauan (1899–1991). Van Heuven Goedhart had two children from his second marriage, Karin Sophie and Bergliot Halldis.[2][3] Van Heuven Goedhart died in Geneva on 8 July 1956, while being United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


Ribbon bar Honour Country Date Comment
NLD Order of the Dutch Lion - Knight BAR.png Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion Netherlands 30 April 1949
Ribbon bar Awards Organization Date Comment
Nansen Refugee Award.svg Nansen Refugee Award United Nations 1956 Posthumously
Wateler Peace Prize Carnegie Foundation 1956 Posthumously


  1. ^ "Goedhart, Gerrit Jan (1901-1956)" (in Dutch). Huygens ING. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Dr. G.J. van Heuven Goedhart" (in Dutch).
  3. ^ "GOEDHART, Gerrit Jan (1901-1956)" (in Dutch).

External links[edit]

Media related to Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by
Jan van Angeren
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Office established
United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees

Succeeded by
August R. Lindt