The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


NEW YORK, Monday—Yesterday afternoon I went to the opening rally of the Junior Division of the United Jewish Appeal. One of the speakers was a young man who had been at a bomber command in England during the war and, since the war, had been working in one of the refugee camps in Belsen, Germany. He spoke with a telling force which only personal experience and deep feeling can give. I wish everyone in our country could have heard him, for it would have convinced them that we want no more hate between human beings, but a growth of the understanding that men the world over are brothers, regardless of race or creed or color.

I think we cannot be reminded too often of the horrors which human beings have gone through in the past few years. It ought to keep us from doing, through fear, anything here which will lead to the same results again.

* * *

The particular story told, which I find hard to get out of my thoughts, was that of a Jewish Rabbi who, after years of hard labor in a German concentration camp, was aboard a ship, watching our shores come in sight. The young man, standing at the ship's rail beside him, was excited at getting home and said: "This gives me a thrill. It must be an even greater thrill for you, Rabbi. Here you will be able to begin life again and be happy."

The Rabbi answered: "Deep down within me there are memories which will keep me always from being really happy. Let me tell you something. On one of the Days of Atonement, as I came back to report after work, the German camp director said, 'Did you pray today, Rabbi?' I did not answer. He hit me across the mouth and said, 'When I ask you a question, answer.' I said, 'Yes, as I worked I prayed.'

"He said, 'Dog, you will see how we treat Rabbis who pray to their wretched Jewish God.' He took me out to where a little car stood upon tracks, and put my small son into the car and told me to give it a push. It rolled away from me and, before my eyes, I saw it roll into the gas chamber. Can one remember that and be happy?"

* * *

There are not only the Jews who have such memories. There are many, many other people—those who fought in resistance movements when their countries were invaded—who are faced with similar memories.

The other day, I heard of a Belgian organization known as "Les Invalides Prevoyants," whose members are veterans of World War II, with a few from World War I. They are struggling to help the orphaned children of men and women who were shot or died in captivity, or who were tortured in German concentration camps for defying the occupying forces.

Under the law, the state can do nothing for these children. Orphans whose parents died under other circumstances have some rights under the law. But those whose parents, from patriotic motives and of their own free will, chose to defy the German authorities, are left without protection. I hope very much that, when we are helping the orphans of Europe, we will not forget this particular organization in Brussels which must raise money from private sources for the care of these children.



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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 1, 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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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.