Eleanor Roosevelt to W. D. Kuenzli

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Eleanor Roosevelt to W. D. Kuenzli

8 September 1947 [Hyde Park]

My dear Mr. Kuenzli:

I think you have misunderstood my attitude toward the German people. I have said that relief should come to them after relief3 to our Allies.4

During the war years our Allies suffered more hardships and we have more to make up to the people whose countries were invaded.

Perhaps there are many Germans who were innocent of guilt in the German war crimes, but I can not believe there were many. Too many concentration camps scattered over Germany make one realize how largely the population as a whole have to accept responsibility for Hitler's actions.5

                                          Very sincerely yours,


1. ER frequently discussed German guilt for the war in her My Day columns and correspondence and she argued for putting limits on the restoration of German industrial capacity so that Germany would not have the ability to wage war again. Her determination that German guilt not be forgotten emerged pointedly in her commentaries on Pastor Martin Niemöller. See Document 165 and Document 171.

2. Elsa von Heydebreck to Mrs. Karn, 30 July 1947, AERP. Both the original letter in German and the English translation cited here were forwarded to Kuenzli by Ilsa Albertz.

3. In the carbon copy of this letter in ER's files the words "after relief" are repeated.

4. For ER's attitude toward treatment of the German population after the war, see, for example, Document 66.

5. ER continued to voice her message about German responsibility after this exchange with Kuenzli and to express wariness about a reconstructed Germany's potential to wage war in the future. "I do not want the Germans to starve," she wrote in her My Day column of June 25, 1948, "but they have started two wars and I do not want them to be set up again industrially so that they can start a third one." Describing her meeting with German women doctors in Stuttgart in late 1948, she wrote, "I had no intention of letting their coldness prevent me from saying certain things I had in my mind, so I began with a denunciation of the Nazi philosophy and actions. I made it as strong as I could and I expressed the opinion that the German people must bear their share of the blame. I had not expected my audience to be pleased by such remarks and they were not" (MD, 25 June 1948; ER, Autobiography, 321).

Assessing Protestantism, Wallace, and the Truman Doctrine

E. Ralph Wiborg, minister of the Hamden Plains Methodist Church in Hamden, Connecticut, wrote to ER September 11, 1947, to voice his concerns about the potential for another war. "It more and more seems to me," he began:

that big business and big religion (Roman Catholicism) are about to join forces in a great crusade against Russia and Communism. You know as well as I do what this would mean in terms of death and destruction, probably causing our people more suffering by far than in the recent war. Many families in my parish lost dear ones in that war, and I don't want to have to go through another. But I also believe that in any such coming struggle liberal Protestantism with its emphasis on liberty, tolerance, justice, ethical religion, would find itself crushed between the two totalitarianisms, Russia or Communism and Roman Catholicism, and that would be tragic, even though Protestantism as both of us know has its shortcomings.

He then asked ER to evaluate the Truman Doctrine, the position of Protestantism in America, the legacy of FDR, and the leadership potential of Henry Wallace.1 The following letter is ER's response to Wiborg's inquiry.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to W. D. Kuenzli