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


PARIS, Tuesday—On Saturday morning last Brig. Gen. Howard Peckham called for us at our hotel and took us to Orly Airport where we boarded a plane for Stuttgart, Germany. I had been invited by the women doctors of Germany to speak at their meeting in Stuttgart, which was also to be a public forum.

We had a good flight to the German city and on our arrival we drove directly to the home of Charles LaFollette. Richard Winslow, who is secretary-general of the United States delegation to the U.N. and who accompanied us, had been in Stuttgart for the UNRRA and came along on this trip in the hope of renewing many of his old acquaintances who are now working with the International Refugee Organization. Gilbert Stewart, of the Public Information Office of our delegation, also came along.

After a few minutes' stay at Mr. LaFollette's home, I went off with several of the German women doctors, most of whom spoke some English, to the "Gasthaus," which fortunately had been spared in the bombing during the war. The building has long been used for the entertainment of foreign visitors, and in this much-bombed-out city it must be a blessing to the people now.

Our luncheon was designed, I think, to give me some idea of their difficulties in obtaining a variety of foods. Potatoes and other vegetables reappeared in different guise in the hors d'oeuvres, soup and the main course. Cooked fruit was served for dessert. It was a very good luncheon if you did not have to have the same thing day in and day out, but the women told me again and again in answer to my inquiries that the food available to them was always the same.

"Potatoes and vegetables, vegetables and potatoes," I was told. "On Sundays if we are lucky we get a little meat." There was too little milk, they said, except for babies up to one year.

These doctors are working in different fields. One of them, for instance, took care of children. Another had a general medical practice. As the luncheon progressed, several of them read to me reports on conditions with which they are familiar.

A portion of the report read by Dr. Leni Eidemann was particularly interesting and I quote it here to show that some of the women, at least, are becoming aware of the true situation.

“We are fully aware," she read, "and regret very much that not only Germany has to suffer from the consequences of the war and National Socialism, but that all European countries are terribly struck and have to fight great difficulties. One problem, however, is characteristic for Germany and seems to be our most difficult and most critical problem, which cannot be solved without foreign assistance. It is the problem of German expellees.”

The English translations of the reports were done by the women themselves for my benefit, as they feared I would not understand German.

It is very hard for nationals of any country to face the fact that their present sufferings were brought on by past actions. When I was in Germany in early 1946 the people still seemed to be stunned. Now, after three years of occupation, they have done a great deal of work. There is hope, but the problems loom very large.

In Stuttgart, for instance, after three years, housing facilities are only 65 percent of what they were before the war and very little has been rebuilt in the way of schools and hospitals. The schools are so crowded that the children go on a staggered schedule, and hospital beds are totally inadequate.

As so often happens, overcrowding and a lack of calories and certain necessary vitamins and proteins have greatly increased the incidence of tuberculosis. One doctor told me that when a child is found to have tuberculosis and should be hospitalized for at least two years, he faces the prospect of spending three months at most in some sanitarium. When older people are found to have tuberculosis and it is evident that they are not going to get well, they are not welcomed at hospitals at all.

Also, displaced-persons camps are a burden, and should be removed as soon as possible from the German economy. German expellees from Czechoslovakia and parts of Germany taken over by Poland have meant that a tremendously large number of people are migrating into Germany. From 1945 to 1947 more than fourteen million destitute people came into the British and United States zones, which were already overpopulated and devastated by the war. That's a large migration of people, to say the least, and they are not taken care of by the IRO but are entirely charges on the Germany economy.

I visited one small town where German expellees form one-quarter of the entire population. They are living in made-over factories under deplorable conditions of overcrowding, insufficient heat and inadequate sanitation. Though there have been no epidemics as yet, one doctor told me that there has been many cases of tuberculosis.

I kept thinking to myself that this is what a man like Hitler could bring upon the people of his own nation. And it is no worse, of course, than what he brought on the peoples of many other nations of Europe who are now struggling under similar conditions to rebuild their countries and rehabilitate their people.

It sometimes is hard to visualize how we might bring about a world fellowship with so many people suffering such hardships. Nevertheless, I feel there is a possibility of building an understanding of democracy and a desire to live in a world without war, particularly among the women and the young people of Germany. The women, of course, can have a tremendous influence in Germany, for at present they far outnumber the men. These women, however, will have to learn to use their power wisely.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Eidemann, Leni [ index ]
         ? doctor
  • Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945 [ index ]
         German dictator
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST ]
  • La Follette, Charles Marion, 1898-1974 [ index ]
         American lawyer and politician from Indiana
         [ VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC ]
  • Peckham, Howard Louis, 1897-1972 [ index ]
         American army soldier and Brigadier General
         [ LC | VIAF ]
  • Stewart, G. W. (Gilbert W.) [ index ]
         American; served at the Public Information Office
         [ LC | VIAF ]
  • Winslow, Richard S. [ index ]
         American? director of the World Affairs Center
         [ LC | VIAF | SNAC ]
  • Paris (France) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 27, 1948

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | LC | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | Wikidata | SNAC ]

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)
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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.