Trygve Lie

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Trygve Lie
Trygve Lie 1938.jpg
Trygve Lie in 1938
1st Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
2 February 1946 – 10 November 1952
Preceded byGladwyn Jebb (acting)
Succeeded byDag Hammarskjöld
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
19 November 1940 – 2 February 1946
Prime MinisterJohan Nygaardsvold
Einar Gerhardsen
Preceded byHalvdan Koht
Succeeded byHalvard Lange
Minister of Justice
In office
20 March 1935 – 1 July 1939
Prime MinisterJohan Nygaardsvold
Preceded byArne T. Sunde
Succeeded byTerje Wold
Minister of Industry
In office
25 September 1963 – 20 January 1964
Prime MinisterEinar Gerhardsen
Preceded byKaare Meland
Succeeded byKarl Trasti
In office
4 July 1963 – 28 August 1963
Prime MinisterEinar Gerhardsen
Preceded byKjell Holler
Succeeded byKaare Meland
Minister of Trade and Shipping
In office
20 January 1964 – 12 October 1965
Prime MinisterEinar Gerhardsen
Preceded byErik Himle
Succeeded byKåre Willoch
Minister of Provisioning and Reconstruction
In office
1 October 1939 – 21 February 1941
Prime MinisterJohan Nygaardsvold
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byArne T. Sunde
Minister of Trade
In office
1 July 1939 – 2 October 1939
Prime MinisterJohan Nygaardsvold
Preceded byAlfred Madsen
Succeeded byAnders Frihagen
Member of the Norwegian Parliament
In office
1 January 1937 – 31 December 1949
Personal details
Trygve Halvdan Lie

(1896-07-16)16 July 1896
Kristiania, Sweden–Norway (now Oslo, Norway)
Died30 December 1968(1968-12-30) (aged 72)
Geilo, Buskerud, Norway
Political partyLabour
Hjørdis Jørgensen
(m. 1921; died 1960)

Trygve Halvdan Lie (/l/ LEE, Norwegian: [ˈtrʏ̀ɡvə ˈliː] (About this soundlisten); 16 July 1896 – 30 December 1968) was a Norwegian politician, labour leader, government official and author. He served as Norwegian foreign minister during the critical years of the Norwegian government in exile in London from 1940 to 1945. From 1946 to 1952 he was the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. Lie earned a reputation as a pragmatic, determined politician.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lie was born in Kristiania (now Oslo) on 16 July 1896. His father, carpenter Martin Lie, left the family to emigrate to the United States in 1902, and was never heard from again. Trygve grew up under poor conditions together with his mother Hulda and a sister who was six at the time. His mother ran a boarding house and café in Grorud in Oslo.[2]

Lie joined the Labour Party in 1911 and was named as the party's national secretary soon after receiving his law degree from the University of Oslo in 1919. Lie was editor-in-chief for Det 20de Aarhundre ('The 20th Century') from 1919 to 1921. From 1922 to 1935 he was a legal consultant for the Workers' National Trade Union (named Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions from 1957). He chaired the Norwegian Workers' Confederation of Sports from 1931 to 1935.[3]

Political career[edit]

In local politics he served as a member of the executive committee of Aker municipality council from 1922 to 1931. He was elected to the Norwegian Parliament from Akershus in 1937. He was appointed Minister of Justice when a Labour Party government was formed by Johan Nygaardsvold in 1935. Lie was later appointed Minister of Trade (July to October 1939) and Minister of Supplies (October 1939 to 1941).

A socialist from an early age, Lie once met Vladimir Lenin while on a Labour Party visit to Moscow and gave permission for Leon Trotsky to settle in Norway after he was exiled from the Soviet Union.[2] However, because of pressure from Joseph Stalin, he forced Trotsky to leave the country.[4]

When Nazi Germany invaded Norway in 1940, Lie ordered all Norwegian ships to sail to Allied ports. In 1941, Lie was named as Foreign Minister of the Norwegian government-in-exile, and he remained in this position until 1946.[5]

United Nations career[edit]

Lie led the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations conference in San Francisco in 1945 and was a leader in drafting the provisions of the United Nations Security Council. He was the leader of the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. On 1 February 1946, he was elected as the first Secretary-General of the United Nations as a result of a compromise between the major powers, having missed being elected President of the first General Assembly by only a small margin.[citation needed]

As Secretary-General, Lie supported the foundations of Israel and Indonesia. His passionate support for Israel included passing secret military and diplomatic information to Israeli officials.[6] He sent 50 members of the United Nations guard force from Lake Success to assist the Mediator in supervising the Truce in the former British Mandate of Palestine in 1948 and the "UNTSO", the first peacekeeping operation was established by the United Nations.[7] He worked for the withdrawal of Soviet forces in Iran and a ceasefire to fighting in Kashmir. He attracted the ire of the Soviet Union when he helped gather support for the defence of South Korea after it was invaded[8] in 1950 and later worked to end the Soviet boycott of UN meetings, though his involvement had little to do with the eventual return of the Soviet Union to the UN. He was opposed to Spain's entry into the United Nations because of his opposition to Francisco Franco's government.[9]

He also sought to have the People's Republic of China recognized by the United Nations after the Nationalist government was exiled to Taiwan, arguing that the People's Republic was the only government that could fulfill the membership obligations in full.[8][10]

He has been criticized for his failures to facilitate negotiation in the Berlin Blockade, as well as his failure to bring about a swifter end to the Korean War. His critics argue that he was under the influence of a select few[who?] in the UN Secretariat.[citation needed] He has also been criticized for his arrogance and stubbornness.[citation needed]

On 1 November 1950, over objections by the Soviet Union, the UN General Assembly voted by 46 votes to 5 (and 8 abstentions) to extend Lie's term of office.[11] The vote was a consequence of an impasse in the Security Council in which the Soviet Union refused to consider Lie due to his involvement in the Korean War, while the US refused to accept any candidate except Lie. The Soviet Union subsequently refused to acknowledge Lie as Secretary-General and, having been accused by Joseph McCarthy of hiring "disloyal" Americans – an allegation that he attributed to the pressing need for civil servants following the establishment of the UN – Lie resigned on 10 November 1952.[12]

The UN came under US official scrutiny after the conviction of Alger Hiss, who had served as acting Secretary General at the first convening of the UN in San Francisco (in 1945). A State Department report dated 17 January 1951, states:

Subject: McCarran Act—Possible Conflict with Headquarters Agreement
In conversation with Abe Feller in New York recently he expressed the view that the regulations which have been issued under the McCarran Act make it fairly clear to him that there is likely to be some conflict between that Act and the way in which it is being interpreted and the Headquarters Agreement. He expressed the view that in the event of such conflict the UN secretariat would be forced to resort to the arbitration procedure under the Agreement. He stated he thought this would be very unfortunate and wondered whether any consideration was being given to a general amendment to the McCarran Act which would waive its provisions so far as it conflicted with international obligations or international agreements. I told him I did not know whether any amendments were under consideration but that I would bring his view to your attention.[13]

Abraham Feller, General Counsel and Principal Director, Legal Department, United Nations Secretariat, was "reportedly" a "close friend" of Alger Hiss.[14] On 14 November 1952, just days after Lie's resignation from the UN, Feller committed suicide by jumping out of the window of his apartment in New York City.[15]

After the United Nations[edit]

Lie remained active in Norwegian politics after his resignation from the UN. He was the County Governor of Oslo and Akershus, Chairman of the Board of Energy, Minister of Industry,[16] and Minister of Trade and Shipping. He wrote a number of books, including In the Cause of Peace, an account of his years at the UN.[5]

Personal life and death[edit]

Lie married Hjørdis Jørgensen (1898–1960) in 1921. The couple had three daughters; Sissel, Guri, and Mette.

Lie died on 30 December 1968 of a heart attack in Geilo, Norway. He was 72 years old.[17]


Trygve Lie was awarded a large number of Norwegian and foreign orders. Among these, the Norwegian highest civilian award Medal for Outstanding Civic Service (Medaljen for borgerdåd) (1966), the Grand Cross of the Order of Dannebrog (1954) and Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav (1953),[18] Czechoslovak OWL (1948).[citation needed] He was awarded numerous honorary doctorates by universities throughout the U.S. and Europe. Trygve Lie was the holder of a number of other orders, decorations and other honors.[citation needed]


Some scholars rank him at the bottom of all UN secretaries-general; one who "presided over a long list of diplomatic failures, tarnished the UN, and accomplished very little".[19] On the other hand, it can be argued that Trygve Lie built the United Nations organisation from nothing, including establishing a physical presence in a huge office building in New York, after having started in a sort of "gypsy camp" on Long Island.[citation needed] In addition to this he had to deal with a number of post-World War II conflicts and conflicts with roots in the creation of the Iron Curtain.[citation needed]

"Trygve Lie′s Square" is located in Furuset center in Oslo. In the square stands the bronze statue of Trygve Lie, which was created by the Norwegian artist Nicolaus Widerberg and erected in 1994.[20] Trygve Lie Gallery and Trygve Lie Plaza are both located in New York City.

Selected works[edit]

  • Den nye arbeidstvistlov, 1933
  • De forente nasjoner, 1949
  • Syv år for freden, 1954 (published in English as In the Cause of Peace: Seven Years With the United Nations)
  • Internasjonal politikk, 1955
  • Leve eller dø. Norge i krig, 1955
  • Med England i ildlinjen 1940–42, 1956
  • Hjemover, 1958
  • Oslo–Moskva–London, 1968

Source: Trygve Lie in libraries (WorldCat catalog)


  1. ^ "About Trygve Lie" (Trygve Lie Gallery)
  2. ^ a b "Immigrant to What?". Time. 25 November 1946. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on 15 January 2005. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  3. ^ Trygve Halvdan Lie (LoveToKnow, Corp)
  4. ^ Deutscher, Isaac (2003). The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky, 1929-1940 (reprint ed.). Verso. pp. 274–282. ISBN 978-1859844519. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b Sze, Szeming (December 1986). Working for the United Nations: 1948-1968 (Digital ed.). University of Pittsburgh. p. 2. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  6. ^ Waage, Hilde Henriksen (2011). "The Winner Takes All: The 1949 Island of Rhodes Armistice Negotiations Revisited". Middle East Journal. 65 (2): 279–304. doi:10.3751/65.2.15. S2CID 145309069.
  7. ^ "Fifty U.N. Guards to go to Palestine" (Press release). 17 June 1948. Archived from the original on 23 November 2001. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Milestones". Time. 10 January 1969. p. 2. Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  9. ^ Barros, James (1989). Trygve Lie and the Cold War: The UN Secretary-General Pursues Peace, 1946-1953. Northern Illinois Univ Press. pp. 80–85. ISBN 978-0875801483. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  10. ^ "The U. N. and Trygve Lie". Foreign Affairs. 1 October 1950. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  11. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 492, 1 November 1950
  12. ^ "Trygve Halvdan Lie". United Nations Secretary-General. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Memorandum by the Director of the Office of International Administration and Conferences (Hall) to the Legal Adviser (Fisher)". Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951. U.S. Department of State. 17 January 1951. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Ex-Law Teacher, Aide to UN's Lie, Commits Suicide". The Harvard Crimson. 14 November 1952. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Abraham Feller, High U.N. Official, commits Suicide in New York". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 14 November 1952. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  16. ^ "End of an Institution". Time. 30 August 1963. Archived from the original on 22 December 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  17. ^ "Trygve Lie, Secretary General Of U.N. From '46 to '53, Dies; Trygve Lie, First Secretary General of the U.N., Dies at 72". The New York Times. 31 December 1968. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Lie, Trygve (1896-1968)". Parliament of Norway (in Norwegian Bokmål). 9 March 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  19. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (22 July 2010). "Disquiet grows over performance of Ban Ki-moon, UN's 'invisible man'". The Guardian. London.
  20. ^ "Nicolaus Widerberg". Galleri Haaken, Oslo (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 30 January 2018.


  • Gaglione, Anthony (2001) The United Nations under Trygve Lie, 1945-1953 (The Scarecrow Press, Inc.) ISBN 978-0-8108-3698-3
  • Barros, James (1989) Trygve Lie and the Cold War: The UN Secretary-General Pursues Peace, 1946-1953 (Northern Illinois Univ Press) ISBN 978-0-87580-148-3

External links[edit]

Positions in intergovernmental organisations
Preceded by
United Kingdom Gladwyn Jebb
United Nations United Nations Secretary-General
February 1946 – November 1952
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Norwegian Minister of Justice and the Police
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Norwegian Minister of Trade
July–October 1939
Succeeded by
Preceded by
position created
Norwegian Minister of Supplies
October 1939 – 1941
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs
(acting 1940–1941)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
County Governor of Oslo and Akershus
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Norwegian Minister of Industry
July–August 1963
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Norwegian Minister of Industry
September 1963 – 1964
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Norwegian Minister of Trade and Shipping
Succeeded by