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

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EN ROUTE TO NEW YORK, Sunday—I think my readers would be interested in a students' sanitarium which Princess Juliana and I visited in Holland. The patients are young men who were in the resistance movement during the war and so missed their schooling. Now they have tuberculosis.

Because of months or years spent in concentration camps, and for other reasons, the incidence of tuberculosis among young people who were in resistance groups is very high. But if they have to spend a year or more in bed, they chafe under the enforced quiet and loss of time—for they have already lost so much time, and they want to complete their education and start making a living. Therefore this student sanitarium, the first of its kind, was organized through the cooperation of the universities. Courses are planned for the patients, and examinations are given.

The Dutch believe in rest flat in bed for tubercular patients, so these boys have folding boards which are put up before them to hold books. Some draw and many have taken up pottery work or some other form of handicraft which they can manage while lying flat on their backs. Occupation, and the feeling they are not standing still but progressing, has had a good effect on their health.

This first small institution could take only 17 persons, though they have hundreds waiting admission. They hope to build a larger sanitarium when funds have been raised and, of course, many more must be established. I should think the same condition probably exists in France and that similar institutions would be needed there.

I cannot help wondering if some of our student organizations at home would not be interested in helping these victims of tuberculosis in lands where so many of our own students fought and where so many young American soldiers lie buried. I was told again and again how grateful the people of the Netherlands are for help which comes from the United States, and as one travels from one country to another in Europe one sees a constantly broader picture of the activities in various relief fields of our generous people in the United States.

* * *

At a dinner one evening, I had an interesting talk with the Dutch Minister of Welfare, who had begun, in his own province many years ago, a type of coordinated welfare service because the province was very poor. When the war ended and the whole country needed welfare services on a grand scale, he was given the job of applying his plan to the country as a whole.

He has tried to decentralize as much as possible, and to oblige each province and even each small unit within the province to organize such services as existed in their midst, calling for information when help is needed from the central organization. One of the welfare workers explained to me that one of their main objectives was to acquaint everybody with the services which existed, whereupon they could call upon them for help. They often found that, if people had known in their youth of certain services or if parents had known where to take children to obtain certain care, later conditions would never have developed which were much more difficult to remedy.

* * *

That same evening, after dinner, we saw motion pictures of the destruction accomplished in Holland by the Germans. The films looked very much like similar pictures of cities in Great Britain or Germany, but it seemed as though the destruction in Holland in proportion to its size must have been greater than in almost any other country.

Their low point, of course, was during the occupation. These pictures showed their food being shipped to Germany. From a pre-war diet of 3000 calories, they came down to a 400-calorie diet, on which people cannot exist. This was starvation. The joy on the faces of the people when the first planes came over and dropped food was pathetic to see.

Seeing these pictures, you found it hard to believe that the country around you actually ever looked that way, and the work accomplished by the people since fighting came to an end seems simply unbelievable. I began to understand why they seemed so buoyant—their relief after the occupation and complete starvation makes present restrictions seem small—just pin pricks. For instance, there is very little butter, only two eggs a month per person, and none too liberal an allowance of bread. But they do not complain—they are willing to make almost any sacrifice to build up their country and get back to normal conditions.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 26, 1948

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.