Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. H. Kinerk

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. H. Kinerk

17 November 1947 [New York City]

Dear Mrs. Kinerk:

I do not think I am anti-Catholic. I am a Protestant but I have always judged religious groups by their individual actions and I have never given a thought to what religion people I know happen to practice, but in the matter of freedom of religious practice in Europe, I think that where there is that freedom, we should acknowledge it.3

The gentleman whom I quoted was a man who for many years has traveled over Europe for a great international organization with headquarters in France, which watches over the freedom given to small denominations, mostly Protestant. I have no idea what his own religion is; I never asked him, but he has such a long and wide knowledge, I was glad that he came to this country for a few weeks to talk to some of our leaders of various religious groups. His conclusions were in Yugo here church people, if they adhere to religion only, have complete freedom of teaching and practice.4

The trouble with Archbishop Stepinac was that in Yugoslavia there are two racial groups, one of them largely Catholic in religious practice. When Germany attacked, some of them preferred the Germans to the other people within their own country and this led to some very complicated situations. The evidence shows pretty clearly that even such high ranking church officials as Archbishop Stepinac sometimes sat by and watched the murder of groups of which they did not approve, by groups of which they did approve. The result was that when the partisans gained control of the government, there were political accusations made, but all of these things are in the past. At the present time I think it is important that we encourage as much as possible freedom of religious practice.5

                                        Very sincerely yours,


1. Dr. Jean Nussbaum, see n3 and n6 Document 272.

2. For the full text of ER's November 4 column, see Document 272 (Edward W. Scully to ER, 24 November 1947, AERP; T. C. Kirkpatrick to ER, 14 November 1947, AERP; "Ex-FBI Agents Expose Commies," New York World Telegram, 12 June 1947, AERP; Francis Griffith to ER, 10 November 1947, AERP; Mrs. H. Kinerk to ER, 5 November 1947, AERP).

3. See Document 272. ER was an Episcopalian.

4. Nussbaum was a Seventh-day Adventist. He spoke at the November 7 closed-door meeting where the delegation's report was presented to an audience of 250 clergymen. For more on this meeting, see n3 Document 272. According to one of the Yugoslav interviewees, the American clergymen failed to ask if there were any adverse consequences for those who practiced their religion. The New York meeting was the first of a series of such gatherings planned for other American cities ("Report on Yugoslavs Given to Clergymen," NYT, 8 November 1947, 9; Alexander, Triple, 186).

5. Stepinac's activities during World War II remain controversial. As a Croatian nationalist, he initially welcomed the Germans' defeat of Yugoslavia in April 1941 and its subsequent dismemberment and the establishment of an independent Fascist Croatian republic free of Serbian domination. However, as the dimensions of the new government's plan to empty Croatia of Serbs (one-third killed, one-third expelled, and one-third converted to Catholicism) became clear, he began to protest publicly, particularly after the government sanctioned the killing of Serbs regardless of whether or not they converted. (Some Catholic priests, among them Croatian army chaplains, were involved in these murders, which further complicated the issue.) Stepinac also began to help those whom the Croatian government persecuted including Jews, Serbs, and Slovenes.

At the same time, he maintained enough of a relationship with the government to conduct religious ceremonies for the government on its behalf and to lead the diplomatic corps in a traditional New Year's greeting to official representatives. These activities plus his willingness to temporarily house the archives of the Croatian government's foreign ministry after World War II made Stepinac vulnerable to charges of collaboration, which the Yugoslav Communist government exploited in his 1946 trial. Stepinac further muddied the question of his collaboration when he denied all the charges, saying, "I do not consider that I have ever betrayed my country." He also refused to speak in his defense and declined to name defense counsel.

Because she viewed Stepinac's situation as primarily a political matter and because of her position as a UN delegate (the US State Department's position on Stepinac was one of "concern and deep worry"), ER declined to help the prelate or speak out in his behalf as several of her correspondents asked. (Her negative reply to one such supplicant, John F. Rapp of the New York State Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, appeared in the Catholic News under the headline, "Mrs. Roosevelt's Views.") Still, ER did what she could to help the prelate. In 1946, she forwarded a resolution from an unnamed organized group on his behalf to the UN secretary-general for consideration in the appropriate UN committee.

At the same time, ER refused to disassociate herself from the American Committee for Yugoslav Relief (see Document 73). The committee supplied medical aid and extra food then unavailable in Yugoslavia to women and children there even after the Yugoslavian ambassador to the United States suggested at a committee function in his honor that the Catholic Church rather than Tito was responsible for the status of Catholic church-state relations in Yugoslavia.

She defended the committee in My Day writing that

it has … been suggested to me at various times that one should not be interested in shipments of any kind to Yugoslavia. I do not agree with this … women and children, who suffer most because of war, are entitled to our help in recognition of the fact that the partisans under Tito did not collaborate with Germans, and did render the Allies a great service … Moreover, refusal to render aid to other nations which will keep their people alive and help them reestablish themselves on a healthy economic basis seems to me a very short-sighted policy.

For more on ER's relationship with the American Committee for Yugoslav Relief, see Document 73, Document 209, Document 215, Document 216, Document 217, Document 218, and Document 222 (Alexander, Triple, 26-40, 107; Kirby, 129; "Stepinatz Denies Guilt at His Trial," NYT, 1 October 1946, 15; "Stepinatz Refuses to Defend Himself," NYT, 2 October 1946, 13; Gannon, 339; "U.S. Voices Worry at Yugoslav Trial," NYT, 12 October 1946, 7; "Envoy Describes Stepinatz 'Plot,'" NYT, 23 October 1947, 13; ER to Friedl H. Haas, 5 November 1946, AERP; MD, 17 November 1947).

On Truman's Foreign Aid Appropriation

On November 17, Congress, which had been in recess since July, returned to Washington for a special session Truman called to "consider two problems of major concern": the food crisis in Europe and the threat of inflation at home. "The future of the free nations of Europe hangs in the balance," the president began, and "the future of our own economy is in jeopardy … The costly lesson of two world wars" is that "human misery and chaos lead to strife and conquest" and that hunger and poverty tempt the strong to prey upon the weak."

Concerned that the economies of France, Italy, and Austria might collapse before the Marshall Plan could be implemented, Truman then asked Congress to appropriate $597,000,000 in emergency foreign aid. Conceding that "emergency assistance by itself will not solve European problems. Emergency aid is no substitute for a long-range recovery program, but it is a vital prerequisite to such a program. If the Western European nations should collapse this winter, as a result of our failure to bridge the gap between their resources and their needs, there would be no chance for them—or for us—to look forward to their economic recovery."1

Turning his attention to the domestic economy, Truman called inflation "an ominous threat" whose "harsh effects … are clear." After proposing that the Federal Reserve monitor consumer spending more closely, the president then called for executive authority to reimplement wage and price controls; the rationing of steel, grain, and other scarce goods; and a stronger rent control law.2

ER wrote to the president to offer her congratulations and to request an appointment.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. H. Kinerk

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. H. Kinerk