FEBRUARY 15, 1947
NEW YORK, Friday—It is hard for us to visualize displaced persons in Europe as people like ourselves but living under unnatural conditions, so today I am quoting from a letter about them which has a moving quality and will, I think, help toward a better understanding of the problem:
"It is Christmas Day in Germany. Last night the young displaced persons on my staff and I had our Christmas Eve dinner of regular British Zone rations. Little gifts dug from the bottoms of duffel bags were produced for each person, and we spent a nostalgic evening singing the songs of Latvia, Estonia, Poland and the United States, with a few concentration camp favorites thrown in for good measure. A bad German was our common tongue, but it sufficed. I felt very sad about the pitiful presents I had given. They had not seemed so futile last year, but this Christmas they seemed a poor recompense for the only things these young people really wanted—a country, freedom and a home. I did not dare think of their next Christmas!
"This morning I went to the Christmas service in a fine old 12th century church. Wrapped well in a woolen blanket, I watched the white breath of the German congregation who were listening to the Christmas messages of love and peace. Again I dared not think of how little joy and light there was in the somber hearts of these unhappy, hungry people. In the last twenty months I had heard daily of the atrocities their nation had committed against the people for whom I am working. But I could not hate them. I only wanted to help them, for I knew too well what they could again become if left long without hope. But first of all I wanted to get my people out of this sad land, and I did not see how they could stand the hate and the suspicion they find here until another Christmas! I was sure I could not.....
* * *
"In this brief letter I shall not go into the assets and liabilities of the various groups, but I know them well. All I shall say is that, except for some few thousand Poles, the people left here will not willingly repatriate. To force them will mean only countless tragedies. I am very sorry that they will not go home. I feel sincerely that their countries are most progressive and are pointing the way to a social revolution that cannot and should not be stopped (no, I am not a Communist).
"The only solution I can see now is emigration—and emigration in the not too distant future, if the people are to have any morale left with which to face the difficulties of making a new life for themselves. It is on this point that I feel most strongly. These people must not stay on here in Germany.
"Locked here in Germany, we cannot know all that is being done for our people on the outside (yes, that is prison language, but I have worked in prisons and the words fit well here)."
What are we doing here about this problem, and what is the answer of the people of the United States?
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1947, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 15, 1947
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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