FEBRUARY 20, 1946
NEW YORK, Tuesday—By asking innumerable questions while I was in Germany, I think I gained some insight into the problems confronting our Army in their administration of the American zone. In the future, I shall be slower to criticize because I understand the difficulties. By and large, I think we are doing a job we need not be ashamed of.
However, we need really able people to take over the key positions as the main military establishment shifts responsibility to a civilian administration. I'm told that these key people are hard to find and I'm not surprised, because it means a real sacrifice for the period of time one gives to this job. Yet the job has to be done for our own as well as the interests of the people of Europe.
It is not only the welfare job. It is the economic job, which is a challenge to the best ability of the highest type of men in business. The whole economy of Europe has to be changed and rebuilt.
The picture is still so confused that it is difficult to find the answers to any of the thousand and one questions we all of us would like to have answered. I heard of a journalist who, in talking to a group of service men, told them he thought the screening of Germans was going too slowly. Why didn't our military government get rid of Nazis faster and put in a different type of German? One of the boys said, "I wish you would come and see what it means to screen 100,000 people. It takes a good deal longer than you would think." I can well imagine it does!
* * *
I kept thinking that, if I had more time, I would go out and try to get more information by talking to the German people. But I wonder if I would get any answers that had validity. They tell me that, at first, the Germans were completely submissive—that they never looked at you and never smiled. They are still submissive, but they look at you now and occasionally even smile.
I saw fairly big groups of people where the black market was being conducted. Some of them carried suitcases, but some openly carried the things they wished to exchange or sell. People of many nationalities were milling around, for there is still money which appears from hidden hoards, but no goods.
The house occupied by General Lucius Clay, the deputy military governor, had been owned by big industrialists who backed the Nazis and evidently prospered greatly during the war. They must have been the kind of people whom one cannot help despising. The people of Berlin were really hungry and suffered during the last few years of the war, but here in this rich man's house, were found stores of clothes and barrels of food. Life here went on comfortably while people all around starved.
* * *
I received a letter from a 60-year-old German woman which I think might interest my readers. Her family was once well off, but after the last war, reverses came to them. She has suffered a great deal, but I want you to notice certain parts of her letter, because I think they illustrate what the attitude of many German people is.
"Please listen to me! The whole world longs for peace, but peace can only reign when love conquers hatred and, as long as hatred rules mankind, no real peace nor its blessings are possible....Man-kind has become involved in a great misunderstanding and confusion of thought and does not know how to get out of it. But 'God will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of truth.' What is truth and where is truth? 'I am the way and the truth and the life.' He who spoke these words gave us clear directives how we can obtain life, which means peace....It all would be so simple if we would follow these directives...."First of all, we must not judge each other. This would clear away the question of war guilt, which has been so much discussed since the first World War. 'Judge not that ye be not judged'....We all of us behold the mote that is in our brother's eye but we do not consider the beam in our own eye....We have done wrong, all of us. Now let us be intelligent. Let us feel 'good will toward men.' Let us sit around a table and find out together what will be the right thing to do...."
I want you to notice that, though this is a plea for us to work together, there is no feeling here that Germany has any special responsibility for the war or that its people are any different from the rest of the world.
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1946, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)
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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 20, 1946
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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