Friday, 1 November 2013

A Forgotten Man

Had you ever heard of Sean Lester? No, well neither had I.

In fact like most people, I have hardly heard of the ‘League of Nations’, the precursor to the modern 'United Nations'. It was set up after World War I in 1919 and was largely the dream of the US President Woodrow Wilson, but was probably doomed from the start (it had no armed forces, or commitment from ‘the great powers’ to back its resolutions with armed force) – its maximum membership was just 58 member nations.

By the 1930’s, the Axis powers; Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain and others, started leaving and the organization collapsed as the world geared up for WWII.

So who was Sean Lester? Well amongst other things, he was the last Secretary General of the League of Nations, and probably the last person to tell Adolf Hitler ‘No’  in Germany, while he was 'High Commissioner' in the Baltic port of Danzig (which the Germans wanted back under German control) … he opposed Nazi attempts to limit freedom of speech, and he criticised moves by Hitler to silence his political opponents. He was eventually removed from his post as 'High Commissioner' by a combination of events and the Nazis, and spent the war years in Geneva, where he was installed as the last Secretary-General of the League of Nations, before the United Nations was created in 1945.

Sean Lester Last Secretary General League of Nations

Western history never completely forgets these figures, and there are moves afoot to commemorate this Ulsterman’s life with a street name or plaque, here and there ….

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