My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Friday—I wrote yesterday about a letter to me which expressed fears as to our attitude towards Germans in Germany and over here. I think that letter pointed up what I have tried to say in regard to the invitation to Pastor Martin Niemoeller to come and lecture in this country.

Since the war was not fought in our land and since no cruelties were ever perpetrated here by the fascists, it is entirely natural that we do not feel the same bitterness towards fascists as is felt by people who actually saw what was done in their own countries by invading fascist armies. We know that the Jews and some other groups in Germany suffered persecution, and we know that Pastor Niemoeller himself, because of his religious stand, suffered in Hitler's concentration camps.

However, we must try to prevent easy forgetfulness of where responsibility really lies for the coming to power of the Hitlers and the Mussolinis of the world. In a country where education is as widely spread as it was in Germany, the people cannot escape responsibility. We must be aware of this lest we let those who love Germany, because they are the sons of Germany, lull us into forgetting that a nation which accepted Hitler must prove itself before it is again received on an equal basis in the family of nations.

* * *

We do not have to ignore the many and great contributions made by the Germans in the fields of music, literature and science. We do not have to ignore the fact that there were Germans who struggled against cruelty. But we have to remember the results of the coming to power of the type of men who brought on a war that devastated many lands; and we must guard against forgetting where the responsibility lies when, in any nation, such men are allowed to become dominant.

Anyone who comes to this country and, through a religious or an intellectual appeal, makes us forget this—even temporarily—does harm to the policy which must prevail if everywhere we are going to watch out for another rise of fascism. The people must remain conscious of their responsibility to prevent the recurrence in the world of the ideas which led us nearly to the brink of destruction.

It is impossible to feel a dislike for individual Germans whom you have known or will know in the future—just because they are German. But I think that Germans who are public figures in any field should not come to our shores at the present time unless they have a record of having fought the Nazi policies every step of the way. And if that was the case, I fear they would not be alive to come here today.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 4, 1947

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.