APRIL 28, 1945
NEW YORK, Friday—The Congressional committee now visiting concentration camps in Germany are viewing things which we at home find it difficult to take in. The horror-filled pictures and stories which we have been getting day by day in our various newspapers make one shudder. The sufferings inflicted on war victims is cruel enough. But one also wonders what must have been done to a people who are willing to inflict such suffering. Something must have happened that we know nothing about to turn people who were highly educated and civilized into sadists who enjoy seeing other human beings suffer.
I read that one of our men, who had been a prisoner of the Germans and who is now back in this country, laughed when it was suggested that the townspeople near one of these camps did not know what was going on. He pointed out that there was constant communication between the camp and the town, and that it would have been impossible for the people of the town to be oblivious of what was happening. It is therefore not just a question of soldiers obeying orders. It is a question of civilians reaching such a state of servitude that they accepted without protest whatever happened to other human beings.
* * *
No wonder we are concerned about what kind of government and education shall be carried on during the occupation period. None of us can achieve much that is worthwhile unless we understand what happened to these people; and I am frank to say that, for me, it is still a complete mystery. I went to school with German girls, I have known German men and women. The military caste always seemed to me obnoxious, both as travel companions and as passers-by on the street. But the average human beings in Germany seemed just like other people.
The Nazi regime, the SS and the Gestapo are, of course, an obvious explanation. But how could they have become entrenched without the people being aware of what was happening? That is the really terrifying question. One wonders if other people could be fooled in the same way, and one longs to know how to prevent its happening anywhere to any people ever again.
* * *
Our men who have been prisoners of war, and who have seen these horrors which we read about, will have lost some of that confidence in their fellow human beings which is part of the heritage of every American citizen. It will take time to make them believe again that predominately people have good intentions, and I don't think they will be patient with talk which does not materialize into action.
(COPYRIGHT 1945 BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 28, 1945
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
- Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
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