Eleanor Roosevelt to Irving Flamm

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Irving Flamm

27 August 1948 [Hyde Park]

My dear Mr. Flamm:

I think your analysis of the Kosenkina affair is ridiculous. Our nationals who stay in the USSR do so because they are married to Russians. They haven't denounced our ways, they are there because they want to be there and we have made no effort to remove them.

If you read Mme. Kosenkina's story I think you would realize that she came over here with the intention of getting out of Russia because her husband and son disappeared. That does not happen in our country and it does happen in the USSR.5

I quite understand how the cold war started but I can assure you that if war comes it will come because Russia wants it and not because we do. It will come because Russia has decided she has a better chance to win now than later.

As far as the Dean of Canterbury is concerned, he has been known for a long time to be a gentleman who embarrassed the church in Great Britain very much and I think it would be very foolish at this moment to have him traveling around the United States. You say he is a highly respected British citizen which may be true in certain quarters but I assure you the church is none too happy about him. If we were not at present in such a state of jitters I would think there was no reason for not letting him come but at the moment I think it would be unwise.

I do not happen to think that the American-Soviet Friendship report of the news is a very unbiased report.6

I hope we can get along with Russia and I certainly hope she will come to her senses it will not be because she thinks we are conciliatory and weak—it will be because she thinks we are strong.

                                          Very sincerely yours,


1. Irving Flamm to ER, 5 November 1947, 25 August and 8 September 1948, and Irving Flamm, "The USA and USSR Can and MUST Get Along," Soviet Russia Today, n.d., reprint, AERP.

2. Irving Flamm to ER, 25 August 1948, AERP.

3. In August 1948, the Very Reverend Hewlett Johnson (1874–1966) was denied a US entry visa for a six-week lecture tour organized by the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, which the State Department regarded as "subversive." Popularly known as the "Red Dean," Johnson had written positively about Soviet achievements, served as a member of London's Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker, and taken an interest in reconciling Communism and Christianity. After some 300 prominent American citizens campaigned in Johnson's favor, the United States granted him a visa in October 1948 ("The Very Rev. Dr. Hewlett Johnson: Controversial Dean of Canterbury," TL, 24 October 1966, 10; Clifton Daniel, "U.S. Refuses Visa to 'Red Dean' as Guest of a 'Subversive' Group," NYT, 24 August 1948, 1 and 3; "'Red Dean' of Canterbury Receives Visa from U.S.," NYT, 23 October 1948, 5).

4. Employed as a teacher for children of the UN's Soviet delegation, Oksana Stepanova Kosenkina failed to sail back to the USSR in July 1948 and sought refuge at a farm north of New York City run by the anti-Communist Tolstoy Foundation. The farm had hosted many refugees and displaced persons from the Soviet Union who did not wish to be repatriated. On August 7, 1948, Soviet consular officials removed Kosenkina from the farm, claiming that she had been "drugged and kidnapped by 'White Russians.'" They then took her to the Soviet consulate and held her there until August 12, when she leaped from a third-story window of the consulate, sustaining injuries for which she was hospitalized. The House Un-American Activities Committee then subpoenaed her, which allowed her to remain in the United States under US government protection. Kosenkina recovered from her leap, received asylum, and became a US citizen in 1954 (Alexander Feinberg, "Russian Factions Here War Over 'Kidnapping' of Woman," NYT, 8 August 1948, 1; "Russian Teacher Gains in Hospital," NYT, 20 August 1948, 9; Eric Page, "Peter Hoguet," NYT, 28 October 1996, D11).

5. ER made a similar point in her November column for the Ladies' Home Journal:

Her husband and son were evidently suspect and disappeared. Her sorrow and her fear must have been very great, and I think she showed how desperate she was when she determined to jump from the consulate window rather than return to the U.S.S.R Incidents of this kind point up for us the kind of terror existing in any country which is controlled by secret police (IYAM, LHJ, November 1948, 69).

6. Flamm attached "the Simms article" for ER's review. ER did not retain the copy in her files. The National Council did release a State Department statement to the Times in which the department announced that it "has nothing against the Dean personally but would not regard his visit under the auspices of that organization as in the national interest" ("Nothing Against Him Personally," TL, 24 August 1948, 4).

On Loyalty Oaths and Government Service

In an article appearing on the front page of the August 29 New York Herald Tribune, reporter Bert Andrews reprinted excerpts from a letter sent to him by a "Troubled Man … seeking answers to questions which arose because of the wave of loyalty investigations, and which had been given new emphasis by the Hiss-Chambers controversy." Intrigued by the man's concerns, Andrews sought and received permission from him to reprint his letter in its entirety. The letter from the anonymous New Englander reported that although he had received security clearance from the FBI, he wrote Andrews in response to "the apprehensions that have plagued me since I decided to work for the government, apprehensions brought about by the current witch hunts." Disturbed by the "current fit of jitters" dominating government employment, he wondered:

Is it still possible to think freely and live without fear as an American while serving your country? All I have read recently does not point to this, yet I am not sure as to how bad the situation is. Do you think one can work to improve the existing situation while holding a government job, or are things at such a state that the independent thinking must come from outside the government?

Although Andrews appreciated these concerns, he urged the "Troubled Man" to take the job, insisting that "if a man is sincerely interested in doing a good job and is honestly loyal … he's sufficiently well armed to bat the ears off of the would-be thought controllers who rise up from time to time." Believing that the "current fit of jitters will pass," the reporter thought a citizen could help his country by going into government because "if he's truly honest and loyal, he isn't going to have much to worry about."1

ER thought Andrew's response too optimistic, and used the following column to discuss why she now hesitated "in these days" to advise young people to accept a job in the government.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Irving Flamm

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Irving Flamm