Hats on to Hjördis Genberg, 1943-1945

This gallery consists of Hjördis Genberg hat-shots, taken for Nordiska Kompaniet’s ‘Franska’ department from 1943-1945. All photos are courtesy of the DigitaltMuseum, who have also created a Swedish language Wiki page for Hjördis.

Next page: Something big and demanding

8 thoughts on “Hats on to Hjördis Genberg, 1943-1945”

  1. This is a very interesting and poignant narrative. I first read of Hjordis in one of the earlier Niven biographies that my mom had out from the library. I was puzzled at the time by her stepson’s apparently casual statement that they had terrible conflicts but it was all perfectly normal.

    I’m afraid that while you’ve described her sympathetically, she still comes across as an alienating person. Perhaps if she had had access to a real career, or even modern mental care, she might’ve been different. But it makes one lose respect for Niven himself, that he allowed a woman described as “an awful stepmother” around his children.

    Lovely photos but a sad read.


    1. Two additional “thoughts” (promise I’ll stop after this!)

      A) Here’s an interview of Jamie talking about the impact of alcoholism on his otherwise very successful life: https://drugfree.org/article/heart-of-the-matter-guest-jamie-niven/

      B) I’m no doctor, but *if* the rumor of a STI was true, I think a promiscuous husband might be a more likely bet for the source than a single encounter with a president. The miscarriages sound really awful but beyond that, pelvic inflammatory disease is painful as well as causing fertility complications. She might not have been as much of a hypochondriac as everyone thought. And it might’ve been a cause for great bitterness if all this was finally diagnosed later in life. This is all pure speculation, of course. It just occurred to me that as a GenXer in the age of AIDS I grew up with fierce warnings about safe sex and silent STIs, and that history makes one consider these stories differently….


      1. Thanks for your thoughts! No arguments here, though I believe that Graham Lord’s Kennedy / STI theory is sensationalist rubbish. It has certainly been repeated often enough. The effects of multiple miscarriages are way more likely to have contributed to any depression. In the 1950s there was little or no help at hand for post-miscarriage trauma. I have asked a women’s health researcher whose opinion is that: “there still isn’t.”


  2. I was both in France and Switzerland during Davids last time and it was devastating for David and tragic so when he left, he finally found peace. David was a fine man.


  3. I found this website after re-reading David Niven’s “the Moon’s a Balloon’, and then “the man behind the balloon” by Michael Munn.

    Hjördis’ story is almost as interesting as David’s. One does get the feeling that however kind and loving – infidelities aside – David was with her, he never truly let her be anything more than Mrs David Niven. And he paid the price for it.

    And it’s sad that her very tragic experience at a young age was not taken seriously, by her or anybody – that was probably the root of her problems.

    Women didn’t always have it easy in those days.

    Thank you for sharing g this fascinating and well-documented story and insight.


  4. I worked for Mrs Niven for several months at Chalet St Andre in Chateau Do,ex. She was very demanding,unfriendly,and with no other staff there I found it a very lonely position. My job as Cook/ Housekeeper did not last long thank goodness,as she decided to go off to America to visit her daughters. I originally was told the job was in Cap Ferrat but never even saw it. I was very relieved when I left to return to the UK !


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