George Marshall to Eleanor Roosevelt

views updated

George Marshall to Eleanor Roosevelt

4 February 1947

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

I have your letter of January 27 in which you indicate that Mrs. William D. Sporborg and two or three others from a group in New York City are coming to Washington within the next few weeks to discuss certain aspects of our occupation in Germany. You also told me that they are interested in our policy toward the rebuilding of Germany and of future economic relations of that country.

These, of course, are matters which occupy our attention to a great extent these days and we shall have much discussion of them at the forthcoming Moscow conference.6

I have asked Assistant Secretary Hilldring, within whose province these matters directly fall, to meet with Mrs. Sporborg and her group when they come to Washington; therefore I suggest that Mrs. Sporborg communicate directly with Assistant Secretary Hilldring who will be most happy to see and talk with her and her associates.7

You will undoubtedly have learned that last week Great Britain signified its intention to adhere to the Constitution of the International Refugee organization and to participate in the Preparatory Commission. Great Britain has served as an active member of the Executive Board of the International Children's Emergency Fund, although no member of the Fund has, as yet, made its contribution.



1. Although ER did not accompany the women to Washington, she worked with this "group in New York City" to organize the National Conference on the Problem of Germany (NCPG), held March 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. The conference further developed the position ER alludes to here. The press claimed that the NCPG's program was a reiteration of the Morgenthau Plan, but Sporborg and others in the group vehemently denied this characterization. Whereas the Morgenthau Plan called for the complete suppression of German heavy industry, the NCPG desired a rehabilitated Germany. They argued Germany ought to be self-sufficient, but not so strong as to have the ability to wage another war. In order to ensure that Germany met both of these conditions, the NCPG called for the "expansion of industries for peace" in Germany as well as international control of the Ruhr ("Program Drafted for German Peace," NYT, 7 March 1947, 11; Mrs. Wm. Dick Sporborg, Guy Emery Shipler, and Jean Pajus, "Letters to the Times: Program for Germany," NYT, 29 March 1947, 14). ER first read the report, authored by committee member Jean Pajus, in 1946 and wrote Wallace that it described "a very dangerous situation" (ER to Henry Wallace, 27 April 1946, AERP).

2. Constance Amberg Sporborg (1879–1961), a long-time associate of ER, served as chairman of the General Federation of Women's Clubs Department on International Relations and was involved in several other women's organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women and the League of Women Voters. An advocate of women's rights and a believer in the possibility of world peace through international understanding and cooperation, Sporborg represented national women's organizations as a consultant to the US delegation at the San Francisco conference in 1945. She continued her work in fostering international understanding as a member of the American division of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Sporborg also organized workshops to teach women about international politics and economics in the hopes of raising awareness of international issues among women's groups ("Mrs. William Sporborg, 81, Dies," NYT, 3 January 1961, 29; "Foreign Relations Theme of Seminar," NYT, 27 March 1946, 21).

3. See also Document 223 and Document 370.

4. On December 29, 1946, a bipartisan House committee endorsed the merging of the American and British zones in Germany in order to create a self-sustaining German economy and to serve as a "bulwark against the westward spread of communism." The plans for the merger originated with Secretary of State Byrnes and British Foreign Secretary Bevin. The two had signed an agreement in early December that called for the complete economic integration of the British and American zones by January 1, 1947. They claimed that the bilateral agreement was a step towards the economic integration of Germany provided for in the Potsdam agreement the United States, Britain, and the USSR signed in August 1945. Despite the State Department's claims, many critics of the Anglo-American merger viewed it as a complete rejection of the goal of Potsdam: cooperation between the Soviet Union and the West (Gaddis, 325-31; "Economic Integration of U.S. and U.K. Zone in Germany," The Record of the Week, U.S. Department of State Bulletin 15, no. 389, 15 December 1946, 1102-4; "Bevin Broadcast to Britain on Foreign Policy and Peace," NYT, 23 December 1946, 4; Herbert L. Matthews, "Bevin Says Britain Is Not Tied to U.S., Nor Cool to Russia," NYT, 23 December 1946, 1; "U.S. Is Urged to Strengthen Reich Economy," WP, 30 December 1946, 1).

5. General Wladyslaw Anders (1892–1970) led the 2nd Corps of the Polish government-in-exile in London, which fought in Italy during World War II. In a speech before the House of Commons on March 20, 1946, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin encouraged Polish soldiers to return to their homeland and participate in the "free elections" to be held in January 1947. Declaring, "Our march to a free and independent Poland goes on," Anders refused to return to Poland and publicly spoke out against the "Soviet occupation" of Poland. When, by June 1946, less than 4,000 of Anders's soldiers accepted the chance to return to Poland, the British government established the Polish Resettlement Corps. Approximately 130,000 Polish soldiers were enlisted for two years in the corps, which was under the control of the British Army. The government in Poland reacted by stripping the members of this corps of their Polish citizenship for joining a military arm under the control of a foreign country. Britain argued that the corps was not military in nature, but served the sole purpose of training the men for civilian work so that they might assimilate into British society. Although Bevin denounced Churchill's plan to use these soldiers to monitor the British zone in Germany as provocative to the Polish and Soviet governments, an estimated 10,000 of these Polish soldiers purportedly served in Germany as late as the summer of 1947 (Sokol, 17-18; Drew Middleton, "Bevin Bids Poles Go Home as Best 'Choice'; Warsaw Promises Land Rights to Soldiers," NYT, 21 March 1946, 9; "Anders to Press for 'Free' Poland," NYT, 2 June 1946, 25; "Anders Poles Get British Army Plan," NYT, 31 August 1946, 7; "British Reply to Poland," NYT, 14 September 1946, 3; "2,000,000 on Duty out of Homelands," NYT, 12 May 1947, 14).

6. The foreign ministers of the Big Four planned to convene in Moscow on March 10 to discuss the fate of Germany. The New York Times captured the hopes and anxieties surrounding the meeting when it declared the Moscow conference "is by all odds the most important international conference since the end of the war. It may well turn out to be the decisive conference which will determine whether the grand coalition that won the war by joint effort can also make a joint peace, or whether that coalition is fated to break apart … ("The Moscow Conference," NYT, 10 March 1947, 20).

7. Major General John H. Hilldring (1895–1974) served as the assistant secretary of state for occupied areas from April 17, 1946, until his retirement in the spring of 1947. When the State Department recruited Hilldring, he headed the War Department's Civil Affairs Division (CAD), a post he had held since 1943. The CAD administered programs to ease the suffering of civilians in the occupied countries. As the State Department began to share responsibility for the occupied zones with the War Department in the spring of 1946, it asked Hilldring to serve as its coordinator with the War and Navy Departments on the forming of US policy towards the occupied zones. Marshall not only requested that Hilldring meet with the New York group, he also had the assistant secretary draft this letter to ER ("Hilldring in New Post," NYT, 18 April 1946, 5; U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Memorializations H, "Hilldring Conference Room,", accessed March 01, 2006; George C. Marshall to John H. Hilldring, 3 February 1947, RG59, NARA II; John H. Hilldring to George C. Marshall, 4 February 1947, RG59, NARA II).

Determining the HRC Position on Petitions

The Human Rights Commission convened its first full eighteen-member session January 27, 1947.1 Henri Laugier, the assistant secretary-general for social affairs2, opened the session. Laugier, who was recuperating from being struck by a car, left Nassau Hospital to deliver his opening remarks. Speaking from a wheelchair3, he told the commissioners that he "insisted upon being present in this first meeting" because he thought it:

imperative and important to insist upon the fact that the battle for human rights is the very battle of the United Nations in their effort towards a better future. In any action undertaken by the United Nations in order to ensure peace, there is none more powerful or with greater scope than that which consists of ensuring the respect and defense of human rights in the whole world.

After reviewing the positions the UN had submitted to the commission for their review and praising the nuclear commission's work, Laugier then laid out the tasks he hoped the full HRC would complete:

[You] will have to determine the drafting of an International Bill of Rights and to establish sub-commissions on the freedom of information, on prevention of discrimination, and on the protection of minorities … I know that you will be equal to these tasks, the importance of which you are aware.

He hoped, however, that the commission would:

permit me to draw your attention to a matter which I consider essential and by no means an easy one. I am referring to a problem which will be submitted to your debates and which involves the whole future of your action … This is the problem. On the day when the United Nations proclaimed, in the Charter that binds and commits them, their faith in the fundamental rights of man, their will to ensure that for all, everywhere in the world, these rights shall be respected, on the day when they have entrusted the Economic and Social Council, and on its behalf, your Commission, with the tasks of handling all problems which arise from the defense of human dignity, on that day a great wave of confidence and hope ran through the whole world. Whether we approve of it or not … what has happened is that for all individuals and for all groups in the world who consider themselves as victims of violations of the rights of man, a sort of right of appeal has emerged from these individuals and these groups to the authority representative of the supreme will of the peoples to the United Nations with its Assembly and its Councils.

I shall leave it to others more expert than myself on legal matters to decide whether this right actually exists in the texts and whether the texts give an accurate definition of its essence, its scope and its limits. I am personally inclined, slightly, to doubt it, but you will, no doubt, agree with me that it is more important to acknowledge that this right is alive in the hearts and minds of men than merely to find it a dead-letter in an forgotten text.

Laugier then announced that the United Nations had received dozens of appeals asking that it redress violations of human rights and that the number of claims would no doubt grow. He knew this would be hard for the HRC, noting that "nothing could be more moving than this appeal which arises from the most distant parts … requesting that we ensure everywhere the respect of these rights which make for man's dignity." He, however, had "serious doubts" about the HRC's "competence … to conduct inquiries or hold hearings with both sides represented." After reviewing the scope of their authority, Laugier concluded that, in this arena, their duty was "to recommend measures … for the establishment of machinery for receiving, screening, investigating and passing judgment on all appeals from all parts of the world" to ECOSOC and the General Assembly. "These appeals, arising from the depths of the conscience of mankind, must find an echo … [and] a pertinent and just reply."4

After Laugier concluded his opening statement, Ghasa Meeta,5 referencing ER's "very good work" on the nuclear commission, proposed ER serve as chair of the full HRC and that "the proposal be accepted unanimously." Carlos Romulo6 seconded her nomination. Laugier then turned his gavel over to ER, noting that "we have all appreciated the skill, the distinction, and the impartiality with which you presided over" the nuclear commission.

About this article

George Marshall to Eleanor Roosevelt

Updated About content Print Article