Hans was born 1914 in Kosta, Sweden. His ancestors were typically urban; academics, militaries and merchants. They originated from Holland and came via Germany to Denmark/Sweden towards the end of 1600. One of these Nermans – as their name was at the time – was David who as David Nerman Ehrenstrale was given noble status. This fact did not protect the descendants from hard times and Hans grew up during the harsh first and second world war years.

  Hans completed a classical schooling at Fjellstedska in Uppsala and subsequently achieved a first Lund University degree – the so called FK in Semitic languages, Greek and the History of Religions (theological studies for a degree in Divinity). He interrupted his academic career for an offer – which came through the University – to an appointment as Delegate of the neutral Swedish Swiss Commission for Greece. It was an irresistible opportunity for a young man with the required technical and personal background to break out of the mandatory Swedish neutrality and become active, albeit in a humanitarian capacity, in the great combat of the Second World War.

  In his book “Peace Negotiator in Greece” (1946) he has written about his year in Patras in 1944. It was a harrowing experience of great sufferings for the inhabitants, drama, adventure as well as of humanitarian achievements.

  Hans is further mentioned in “Kaldaris – the Drama of Kalavryta” (Athens 1989). I quote the author:
  “…the saviour of our country Hans Ehrenstrole of Sweden arrived …this great humanitarian…gave himself completely to the service of the suffering peoples of Kalavryta…we owe him eternal gratitude…”

  His efforts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the liberation of Patras was recognised as an outstanding diplomatic success and brought him recognition from the Patras city council as honorary citizen with a street named after him.

  When the occupation was over and Greece was liberated, Hans returned to Sweden but was soon required again for similar work in the post war period. He carried out several short term missions to France, Italy and Yugoslavia for the Save the Children Fund and was recruited by the Foreign Office in Stockholm when the Swedish Red Cross needed a liaison officer with Lord Montgommery’s HQ in Vloto for the worst ruined German cities.

  It was on the conclusion of this assignment that Count Folke Bernadotte suggested that Hans take on the post as coordinator of the manifold organisations working for Poland’s reconstruction and relief.

  During 33 years of international activity Hans was posted for periods varying from six months to eight years in the following countries: Greece, Germany, Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Aden and Protectorates, Somalia, Congo, Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Algeria and the United Kingdom.

  In the 33 years (1943 – 1976) the world went through changing political social and cultural phases. Hans started his career as the Second World War culminated in its most decisive military operations. In the post-war efforts of reconstruction and reconciliation he and his wife were directly involved at their modest level in the activities and aims of the United Nations. In the oppressive atmosphere of the Cold War they were especially confronted with the great international move to independence for dependent territories. Their years on the African continent were contemporary with the accelerated rush for the “liberation” of colonies and their people. Finally, on retirement from the United Nations, Hans became closely involved in the emerging human rights struggles through Amnesty International as the consequences of an earlier involvement in the Raoul Wallenberg case.

  John Gunther’s Inside Africa was for almost three decades the standard work about the continent. A well read copy o this classic was to be found in the Ehrenstrale bookcases. The author’s bird’s view of the Continent as a whole and of each country and territory had helped their introduction to and understanding of the conditions they were to meet during their long safari in Africa. Across the continent from the Equator to the shores of the Mediterranean they were assigned and working with some twelve countries during a twenty year span with homes set up in Addes Abeba, Brazzaville, Abidjan and Algiers.

  When Hans retired from the UN in 1975 and they sailed out of Algiers they had acquired their own in depth knowledge of a new and different Africa. It had been the critical years of independence for a great number of African countries. Hans had been involved when Somalia in 1960 became a sovereign UN member state and they had been not merely eyewitnesses but invited guests when in the sixties the pan-african vision took shape with the establishment of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) shortly afterwards to be followed by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

  Their African experience stretched over a wide range of socio-political structures from traditional hereditary rule ( the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie) to democratically elected heads of state (Ivory Coasts President Houphouet-Boigny) to a dictatorship after a coup d’etat (Algerian President Houary Boumedien). Measured on a different scale it was an experience of the traditional market economy – again Ethiopia – to market capitalism – this in The Ivory Coast – with democratic socialism in Algeria and popular socialism in the Revolutionary Republic of Congo under Predient Massemba Debat. Applying again another type of criteria Hans work had to adjust to varying degrees of planning: from planned economies in Congo and Algeria (respectively 3 and 5 year plans) to the more pragmatic development in Ivory Coast or the “modernisation” approach of Ethiopia. Structures and classifications aside, the Ehrenstrales were primarily interested in the people they worked with and met. During their time in Africa for a short while a new medical discipline; ethno-psychiatry claimed recognition in WHO. The field studies were primarily located to the black continent, leading to misinterpretations fo racism. Hans had drawn attention to this danger in private correspondence with colleagues in WHO and saw with satisfaction that the whole concept of ethno-psychiatri disappeared, at least from official records. With his wife he was however deeply interested in behavioural phenomena among the peoples they met and worked with all the time aware of the risks in caricaturising and emphasizing at every opportunity the fundamentals of our human existence as embodied by the UN philosophy.

  Perhaps it would be right to say that they themselves embodied these principles in their work.

The Middle East
  On the 27
th May 1950 the new UNICEF Area Chief arrived in Beirut with this wife. It was their first meeting with the world outside Europe where they would be living and working for the next 25 years. The overshadowing problems in the Middle East at that time (as today!) was the Palestinian refugee issue which also took priority on Hans’ job description. This was reflected by an arrangement by chich Hans also served as head of the social affaires division of UNWRAPNE (United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees of the Near East).

  The emphasize of his agenda was however to establish working conditions with all the Governments of the region for national programmes for care of mothers and children, a concept which hardly existed yet in the local political preoccupations. This implied extensive and frequent travel to the twelve countries involved and negotiations of both a juridical and operative nature. Photographs show Hans on two such signings of basic agreements with Egypt and Iran. What appears to be an ordinary diplomatic ceremony was in fact the end result of often long and intricate negotiations when traditional national legal rules had to be reconciled with principles of international law as promoted by the UN. Long before his assignment to Beirut ended in 1956 basic agreements had been concluded with all countries in the area which in turn laid grounds for and opened technical and financial assistance to cover one hundred welfare projects in the fields of MCH (Mother and Child Health), rural health services, education, vocational training, nutrition and so forth throughout an extensive region from Iran to Libya and from Turkey to Ethiopia.