Memorandum of Press Conference Held by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
Memorandum of Press Conference Held by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
3 January 1946 RMS Queen Elizabeth
Q. There is actually a great anxiety over anti-Semitism all over Europe.2
mrs. roosevelt: Not only that. I mean granted that you can't eliminate everything else, you still—I heard someone tell about a man who came directly from there and gave a story of one man who had been at Belsen who had gone through from the very beginning to come out alive, although every member of his family were either killed or had died. He had managed to give such a dramatic story that the person who spoke to me said he would never get over the feeling of guilt that he hadn't done more here to help that situation.3 Now you have to know we are not easily moved because we haven't seen very much. And you have to be told a story, a very compelling story, to make one of us, a pretty comfortable people, feel that our own sense of guilt was tremendous in this situation.
I have talked and seen quite a lot of people who have been in concentration camps and been in Dachau and places like that,4 and I recognize the fact that as for us we cannot imagine something we have never seen.
Q. What is your suggestion as to how you might get this across to the people at home?
A. That is a terrible problem. You can write and talk all you like about it. I have done my best,5 but to people who have never seen or heard anything similar to it it is practically impossible to get it across. Nothing makes it live.
Q. I have even talked to people who have seen horror pictures and talked about it afterwards as if it were a theory or fiction of some kind on the screen.
A. They don't want to believe it. It is a defense mechanism and you push it away and close your mind to its implications because you don't want to know.
Q. Do you have any specific problems or proposals for dealing with refugees? I notice the Agenda has been changed under the Order of Business.6
A. I think they really do not mean refugees but displaced persons generally, and I have no specific remedy. I would like very much to hear what is said. I was very glad when the President announced that we would, up to our quota, our limit, take people who are displaced persons7—because I don't see how we can ask the rest of the world to do something if we don't take some part in it ourselves; and for that reason we must accept some responsibility. I do not think you can be indifferent to the misery that exists in a tremendous area and just think of people dying without doing something about it. I think it does something to the people who are indifferent just as well as to the people who died.
Q. Do you think something should be done—can be done—at this first meeting?
A. If there is any opportunity it should be done—the sooner the better because according to all reports people are dying at the rate of 50 a day in Germany. Supposedly we are feeding them.8
Q. I was wondering if something could be done.
A. I think something could be done even on a temporary basis to start a movement for such people. I don't mean by that that we could take up any permanent solution—such as the Palestine question9—but something could be done to start moving people in different directions.
Q. Do you have any feeling about the competency of the small group of people coming over here who have very little knowledge of this country and who will look for a site for the permanent home?10
A. I really don't know who the people are because we don't have any vote in that. I don't know the names of the people who are coming. But I should think that if they know what the requirements are they should be able to judge whether any place was capable of fulfilling the requirements. I don't know what the requirements are. They have been working on it and must know.
Q. There has been quite a lot of discussion about the possibility of putting it at Hyde Park.
Q. What is your particular interest, Mrs. Roosevelt, as a member of the Delegation? I noticed last night you raised various questions about the specialized agencies and the social and humanitarian problems.12
A. I have one main interest—that we do set up an organization that can function. I think that is the main interest of everybody on the Delegation—that we set up machinery and begin to go to work; because no one is going to set up a perfect—51 nations are not going to set up a final and perfect organization but are going to set up something which can start to give us a chance to build for peace. I think this is the main objective of everybody on our Delegation. Naturally by having the kind of background I have, my interest is in the things that contribute—which are the causes of war.
One of the things that contributed to the League's failure was the fact that although many of the Committees did quite remarkable work, they were always referring controversial questions to special committees. The work of those committees never got back to where it was brought out into the open and discussed.13 It is quite important to be able to enforce what a group decides. But the permanent job that has to be done is to eliminate the causes that bring them to war. Naturally with the kind of background that I have I am interested in that as compared to the background to match the rest of the world.
Q. That is really the job in a lot of little ways.
A. All of the different things come into that. That is one of the reasons I asked about the specialized things—Food and Agriculture, world labor conditions.14 All of those things … into the understanding and solution of the of the causes of war … from my point of view they are the important part … should think about.15
And I don't think the general public is well enough aware of any aspect of the United Nations work. I have been interested for a long time. I have sat in and listened to all these people who are here talk, and I have heard things that have been said.16
I remember the League and all the discussions that came before that. I was pretty close to all of that. I came home on the trip when President Wilson brought the Covenant home;17 and yet I can sit here and be told things about the details every day, so how can we expect that the general public is really going to have a very good understanding of the details. I think there is a very wide appreciation of the need to prevent war. I think that if the atomic bomb did nothing more it scared people to the point where they realized that either they do something about it or chances were there would be a morning when they would not wake up. So, I think that for the first time there is a real general interest which you can discern.
I find it and I think you would find greater interest among your soldiers coming home from this war than those who came home from the last war. I have been talking to hospital people, and the questions they ask are so much more aware of the need for certain things than the questions you would get at the end of the last war. That, I think, is very encouraging. The younger generation, the people who fought the war and the people who worked during the war are very much more aware of what might happen in the world than they were at the end of the last war.
Q. Do you think that the people in Europe, in Russia for example, would have the same feeling?
A. I haven't any way of knowing. I was in England in the autumn of 1942 when most of our soldiers were just arriving and went from there to Casablanca while I was still in England, so I only have as real comparison talking with the British people at that time.18 Now I have had no real contact with the peoples of the countries in Europe. I have had letters from some of the French people and some Italians but most of those letters, except in few cases of people that I know, are begging letters.
From letters from the people that I know in France, I am sorry to say, I get a sense of hopelessness which I hope is not indicative of a lasting feeling, but which is probably indicative of the years of depleted physical condition. I am interested in letters that I have had the last year from women in England because up to that time I thought that morale was really extraordinary.19 This last year I can detect a great change in the acceptance of minor (major for us) discomforts there when bombs were dropping on their heads but they became harder and harder to bear.20 I know of one officer who has been on a carrier. He said his wife runs a home for the children in Liverpool. She was ready to give up but while the war was on she was never ready to give up, which is understandable, utterly and completely.
If you and I had to stand up for five years against the type of thing I saw in England for three weeks, I know I would be ready to give up and it would be completely understandable. But I think it is something we should be aware of because it does put a greater responsibility on us. It means that we have the courage and stamina and have to give it in some way to other people.
Q. What type of writing do you plan for your column; are you going to write about the meeting?
A. Only in so far as it is open to all the press. If at any time the press is admitted to everything, and I imagine the press will be, I might mention what has happened at that time. I plan to deal with such things that are outside. I would like very much if I can to draw some comparisons, not that I hope to get a real picture across but I would love to get as much as I can across of the drabness of life—by telling little things.21
My husband had a cousin who lived in London and she was bombed out of two apartment houses. Right in the middle of the war she decided to buy a house. It was cheaper than before and it was a better buy so she bought it. Then two bombs came along and her door was blown completely off and the windows were smashed. The windows were covered up again but the door could not be taken care of so it was put back and leaned up and stayed in that way and that is where it still is.22 You get mad because someone can't come and mend the door for two weeks, but she has been nearly 9 months with a door that couldn't close. I think those little things might possibly be good things to tell and that is what I rather hope to be able to do. That is purely an effort to bring a little more awareness of different conditions in life and I don't know whether I can make it interesting or whether I can make it worthwhile.
But I also think that I will write of anything in a purely social way that might interest people at home, because you would have the opportunity of knowing that you did it or you might have some interest in writing certain reactions.
Q. Are you planning to stay right with the Delegation?
Q. You are staying at the Claridge?23
A. Yes. I plan to try to do a job.
Q. What other plans do you have, Mrs. Roosevelt, to carry out your interest? Through what machinery do you plan to operate beyond the conference? People who know at home have speculated about your future. Can you say anything about that?
A. I shall go on doing what I have done. Do as much writing as I can; work with such organizations that I can; I expect to continue doing what I have done. OFF THE RECORD. For the first time in my life I can say just what I want. For your information it is wonderful to feel free.
Q. There has been speculation whether you might run for Senator of New York.
A. I do not intend to run for office or to accept a party position of any kind. I don't mean by that that I wouldn't take this sort of thing because I think I could be useful here and I feel that I had enough background and equipment to be of some use here but I don't intend to do anything which I feel I haven't really the background for.
Q. I was in New York in November and I was told that you would carry New York State like nobody's business if you intend to run.
A. I don't intend to run. No, I think that when you get to be 61 you might better be helping younger people do the job. After all they have a job to work at for a good many more years than you have and it is much better to help younger people that you think have real interest and convictions than it is for you yourself to stay in harness.24
Q. Going back to one minor point. I am curious what you do about these begging letters that you get from abroad.
A. The letters from foreign countries which are purely begging letters, if they seem to me to be sincere I sent them on. For example the Italian letters were sent on to Myron Taylor who sent them to people who could investigate them. He started the organization over there for relief25 I learned a long while ago that there was no use in doing things for individuals unless you can investigate the people.
People who beg by letter frequently do not want help but they may lead you to real conditions and you start investigations.
(Spoke of the woman who asked for replacement of rare coins, and young girl who asked for shoes and dress for graduation)
I made the grave mistake, on leaving the White House, of thinking I would have no mail. But I have never had less than 100 a day and frequently 300 and 400 a day. It is just a perfectly terrible job and I keep hoping it is going to disappear but so far it hasn't.26
Q. Are most of them begging letters?
A. No, strangely enough, when the war came a great deal of the character changed. Of course in the White House it was mostly dealing with those that hoped to get in the Government. The year after my husband went into the White House, I got 300,000 letters. We built up a system that the obvious letters went to the different departments and anything that nobody wanted was always left for me to answer—between 50 and 60 letters every night.27 In a way it was the best education in this country I had ever had. It was an education in the USA during the depression. The whole character changed in the war. Most letters were regarding soldiers—can you find out where my boy is; my boy is in camp and his father is dying; and, can you find out what is happening to my boy. The reply to these letters was that the information was governed by military rules. But nevertheless that in itself seemed to be something which seemed to have a strengthening substance. I can't tell you why but it did. It is a mystery. Of course, at first it was largely things that they felt the President had done and that now they can't quite understand it. The President used to tell us, what does this mean—why doesn't this happen or why doesn't that happen. Also there were some concrete things, such as, could you tell us how one would go about getting certain things.
On the average, I could have given away $20,000 a day.28
Q. You spoke of this feeling of a greater awareness on the part of the returning veterans. What is your own feeling about what kind of a spiritual reaction we are going to have as a result of the war? Do you expect a let down of the general moral standards as in the last war?
A. I think that depends so tremendously upon the men. You will get it among the women because they haven't felt the war except for anxiety and losing their men; but none, except the few who have been abroad for the Red Cross or WACS29—except for that very small percentage practically no woman in America has actually wondered when she left in the morning whether she would have a home at night.
Having that experience, I think, is an incentive to fight for peace, for this type of organization which we haven't got. That worries me terribly, because it is going to depend a lot upon the women if the will to do it is going to live. And I am afraid that the women who know it are going to be sapped of strength, and perhaps the women who have the strength will not know enough to put in the strength. The theory is they desire them but lack putting the pay into it. You don't get anything unless you pay for it. (It all depends on) what you are willing to give up in order to have a chance for peace and whether you are willing to have some hardship, and that is hard to do.
(Told story of Dutch publisher who had spent 4 years in concentration camp and who, in his travels through the Middle West had listened to some of his friends complaining of all the hardships in traveling at home. He said he could not tell that back in Holland because his people would not understand the feeling.)30
The men have to tell their stories and make their people understand or else how are we going to fulfill our obligations?
Q. What do you think about the pessimistic talk about having to go to war with Russia?
A. I don't think we have to go to war with Russia. I don't think we have to go to war with anybody, but it depends a good deal upon our willingness to think about people as people. Why should the Russian people want war any more than we do? Why shouldn't they be as much at present, or a little more, afraid of us than we are of them, and why shouldn't we try to build a little confidence?
There is no surer way of going to war than being afraid of what other people are going to do to you. I think we need to build our own confidence, and through having confidence in ourselves, the confidence of the rest of the world. I don't see why we can't start thinking of the Russians as individual people rather than as we get a picture of them as a great big bear.
TMem AERP, FDRL
1. The General Assembly convened in London, January 10, 1946. For more on ER and the delegation's duties see Document 68 (Lash, Years, 39; "UNO May Throw Light Upon Moscow Meeting," NYT, 23 December 1945, E3).
2. Reports of anti-Semitism in postwar Europe began appearing in the American press in the summer of 1945. In October anti-Jewish attacks and riots occurred in Poland and Slovakia as repatriated Jewish refugees sought the return of their homes and property, causing approximately 200 Polish Jews per day to cross the border into the American and British zones in Austria. According to a report ER received in November from former USO entertainer Helen Waren, who aided Jewish refugees in Germany, much of the hostility came from possible former Nazi collaborators who feared Soviet retribution. In France, opposition to the return of Nazi-confiscated Jewish property in French hands was weaker but still present, while in Austria, the hostility of low-level officials delayed the restoration of housing and jobs to returning Jewish refugees ("Jews in U.S. Zone of Reich Find Conditions Improving," NYT, 26 August 1945, 1; "Anti-Semitism Rife in Central Europe," NYT, 9 September 1945, 22; "Polish Jews Flee into Austria Daily," NYT, 7 October 1945, 15; "Refuge for Jews," NYT, 14 October 1945, E2; "Flight of Few Jews Left Is in View as Polish Anti-Semitism Strikes," NYT, 27 October 1945, 6; Helen Waren to ER, November 1945, GCMP, ViLxM).
3. The identities of the person who told the story and the person who was imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen are unknown. Nearly 50,000 Jews and non-Jews died at Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp in northwestern Germany. After the war more than 112,000 displaced persons lived there making it the largest Jewish displaced persons camp in the British occupation zone (Rebecca Weiner, "Bergen-Belsen," The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Belsen.html, accessed 18 January 2005; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Bergen-Belsen," http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005224, accessed 12 July 2005).
4. ER did not reveal the identities of those with whom she discussed Dachau, the Nazi camp that during its twelve-year existence imprisoned more than 188,000 people from thirty-four nations, an estimated 53,000 of whom died from the treatment they received while incarcerated there (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Dachau," Holocaust Encyclopedia, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005214, accessed 18 January 2005).
5. For examples of ER's initial efforts to publicize the horrors of the Nazi death camps, see Document 4. The Holocaust continued to preoccupy ER. In her May 2 column she used the example of the concentration camps to buttress her contention that the Fascists were more dangerous than the Communists because the former's ideology affected "the nature and the souls of all human beings who fall under their domination." September 24 she drew attention to that because of
a legalism which sets down how we shall treat German nationals, both civilians and prisoners of war, our authorities feel bound to make no distinction in their treatment of German nationals whom they found in concentration camps in Germany.
We have not even removed many of these people from places where filth and disease are rampant. These prisoners of the Nazis were largely Jewish, though among them may be found political prisoners of other religious beliefs and national origin who were opposed to the Nazis. They have been interned, many of them for years, under horrible conditions. They have lacked food and clothing; cleanliness has been impossible, and they have been under constant fear of torture and maltreatment. We prolong these years of horror because, legally, they are German nationals.
This seems to me unthinkable. I am sure that the people of our country, if they were aware of this particular situation, would feel as strongly as I do that those who have suffered under the Nazis—no matter what their nationality or religion—are not our enemies or the enemies of the Allied nations, and should not be treated as such.
These are the things which happen because general directives have to govern situations which cover large areas of territory, and at first it is hard to foresee the exceptions which have to be made in almost every situation. I hope, however, that these terrible conditions, which affect so many thousands of human beings, will be corrected as soon as possible (MD, 2 May and 24 September 1945).
6. Because of its size, scope, and urgency, the United Nations Preparatory Commission (see n5, Document 68) added the refugee question to the assembly's agenda even though they originally intended the first session of the General Assembly to focus primarily on organizational issues. In early 1946, approximately 1.5 to 2 million refugees who refused repatriation for political reasons or who wished to immigrate to Palestine or the United States remained in camps in the Allied zones of occupation (ER London Diary, 2 January 1946, AERP; United States Delegation to the General Assembly First Delegation Meeting, 2 January 1946, RG84, NARA II; "Opening Session To-Day," TL, 10 January 1946, 14; Refugees, UN: Publications 1945–46, AERP; "Repatriation Task Will End in Fall," NYT, 6 July 1945; Boyd, 110; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Holocaust Encyclopedia, Postwar Refugee Crisis and the Establishment of the State of Israel," http://www1.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005459, accessed 27 January 2005).
7. On December 22, 1945, President Truman announced that he had directed several governmental agencies to expedite admission into the United States of 39,000 displaced persons within the quota system established by the Immigration Act of 1924. Because the Immigration Act set quotas at 2 percent of each nationality residing in the United States in 1890, and limited total immigration to 165,000 annually, the directive could only have a minimal impact on solving the Jewish refugee crisis in Europe. But the president believed that by taking this step, he could set an exam-ple to the other countries of the world which were able to receive some of these "war sufferers." "I feel that it is essential that we do this ourselves to show our good faith in requesting other nations to open their doors for this purpose," said Truman. "Common decency and the fundamental comradeship of all human beings require us to do what lies within our power to see that our established immigration quotas are used in order to reduce human suffering" ("Truman Statement on Displaced Persons," NYT, 23 December 1945, 6; Kolsky, 125).
8. ER also used the figure of fifty fatalities a day in her November 7, 1945, column but provided no source for this information in either document. She implied in the column that she may have heard it rather than read it. The daily caloric ration for Jewish refugees in the American zone of occupied Germany in late May 1945 ranged from 2,000 to 3,100 calories a day depending on whether the displaced persons lived independently (less food) or in camps (more food). In December, a group of US army generals toured a Jewish displaced persons camp in Landsberg, Germany, in the American Occupied Zone that was reportedly short of food. They found the meals there "adequate though monotonous and too starchy" (MD, 7 November 1945; "Jews in U.S. Zone of Reich Find Conditions Improving," NYT, 26 August 1945, 1; "Displaced Jews in Worse Plight," NYT, 20 November 1945, 6; "Army Finds Camp of Jews Crowded," NYT, 7 December 1945, 5).
9. For more on the status of the Palestine question, see Document 54, n8 and n9 Document 60, Document 61.
10. The United Nations Preparatory Commission designated a seven-member subcommittee under the chairmanship of Dr. Stoyan Gavrilovitch of Yugoslavia to determine a site for the organization's permanent home in the eastern United States. Other members of the committee were Dr. Shu Hsihsu of China, vice chairman; François Brière, France; Awny el-Khalidi, Iraq; Major Kenneth A. Younger, Great Britain; Dr. Julio A. Lacarte, Uruguay; and George Saksin, USSR. The group arrived in the United States on January 5, 1946 ("Peace Site Group Flies to U.S. Today," NYT, 4 January 1946, 11; "UNO Group in Washington," NYT, 7 January 1946, 3).
11. As of January 1, 1946, Hyde Park remained on the list of potential sites for the UN's permanent home along with sites in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Publicly ER expressed no preference, although she wrote her aunt, Maude Gray, that "the Republicans are so opposed [to Hyde Park], they are afraid it might perpetuate FDR's name!" However, on September 1945, she did write Truman about the possibility of using FDR's home and the nearby Rogers estate as the UN headquarters. "There is great interest in the Village [of Hyde Park] in having all or some of the property … selected as the permanent headquarters … You will get the local petition eventually but I thought I'd pass the idea on now." Three days later Truman replied: "Your suggestion is an excellent one but I don't know what the program will be with regard to the location … Sometime when you are in Washington I will be glad to discuss the whole thing with you." See also n7 Document 140 ("UNO Will Choose Two Places in U.S." NYT, 1 January 1946, 16; "UNO Group in Washington," NYT, 7 January 1946, 3; "Interim UN Site Here Is Discussed," NYT, 9 January 1946, 10; "UNO Body Inspects Hyde Park Estates," NYT, 11 January 1946, 2; ER to Maude Gray, 22 January 1945, AERP; ER to Harry Truman, 11 September 1945; Harry Truman to ER, 14 September 1945, HSTL).
12. In her travel diary for this trip, ER says of this meeting "now I've spent an hour and a half with the press getting a repetition of much that we've had this morning from [Alger] Hiss and [Leo] Pa[s]volsky." However, ER's papers contain no record of any questions she asked or the issues she raised (ER's London Diary, 2 January 1946, AERP).
13. For example, delegates to the first League of Nations disarmament conference in Geneva (1932–34) organized committees on such technical issues as arms traffic, air disarmament, and security; however, these groups only met intermittently and their reports were tabled (Whittaker, 106).
14. See n12 above. At this point the specialized agencies included the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Monetary Fund, and a provisional version of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The International Labor Organization (ILO), founded in 1919 under the auspices of the League of Nations, became a UN agency in December 1946 ("A Short History of FAO" http://www.fao.org/UNFAO/about/history_en.html, accessed 17 January 2005); International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), "Foundation of the International Civil Aviation Organization" (ICAO) http://www.icao.int/icao/en/ro/eurnat/history02.htm, accessed 17 January 2005; http://www.un.org/aboutun/chart.html, accessed 17 January 2005).
15. The stenographer's carbon folded over onto itself and thus this part of the text was not captured.
16. See n12 above. ER's diary discusses her formal and informal meetings with members of the delegation and State Department staff on such issues as trusteeship, the agenda for the first session of the General Assembly, and the development of an international health organization. ER also attended reporters' shipboard interview with State Department officials (ER's London Diary, 31 December 1945, 2 January and 4 January 1946, AERP; Lash, Years, 40; James B. Reston, "Her UNO Task Set by Mrs. Roosevelt," NYT, 6 January 1946, 17).
17. Early in January 1919, ER accompanied FDR, then assistant secretary of the navy, to Europe where he supervised the liquidation of naval property. They returned in February on the same ship carrying President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith. The president had just completed negotiations securing the support of Allied ministers for the Treaty of Versailles (and, therefore, the League of Nations Covenant). Aboard ship, the Roosevelts attended a Washington's Birthday luncheon at which Wilson said, "The United States must go in [to the League of Nations] or it will break the heart of the world for she is the only nation that all feel is disinterested and all trust." Both Roosevelts supported the League during and after the ratification fight, and FDR made US entry into the League the centerpiece of his losing vice-presidential campaign in 1920. Twelve years later, FDR, then a contender for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination, abandoned his support for the League in part to appease publisher William Randolph Hearst, a leading isolationist. His disavowal of the League created tension with ER whose support for the league never wavered (Lash, Eleanor, 229-34, 346-48; Dallek, 18-19; Graff, 384-85; Schlesinger, 26).
18. In October 1942, ER visited Great Britain for three weeks to observe the war effort on the British home front and see American troops stationed there who were preparing for the invasion of North Africa the following month. For more on ER's travels to the European and Pacific theatres during World War II, see n13 Document 11 (Lash, Eleanor, 657-68; Leckie, 483-84).
19. During World War II, ER closely followed the work of British social worker Lady Stella Reading (1894–1971), head of England's Women's Voluntary Services for Civil Defense (WVSCD), which used women's defense work as a way to attack "class distinctions." (ER and Reading had known each other since 1918 when Reading's husband served as British ambassador to the United States.) ER considered WVSCD a model for American civil defense efforts and toured many of its installations with Reading during her wartime trip to Great Britain (see n18 above).
In September 1945, ER published part of a letter from Reading, who continued to lead WVSCD after the war, to publicize the difficult conditions in postwar Britain and the British attitude toward their hardships. According to Reading, "the one predominating worry" then was housing. "Alongside of that we are … full of apprehension of the difficulties we are going to have to meet this coming winter in food, clothing and fuel. In fact, it looks as if one's worries will not let up for quite a little while. But undoubtedly the fact that we need no longer worry in regards to people facing death does make a very great difference." Not everyone was as optimistic. Anthony Stephens, a newly demobilized British soldier and the son of one of ER's Allenswood classmates, Lottie Simpson, wrote that "the future looks rather depressing, with so much misunderstanding and hatred in the world which the Press seems to foster instead of smooth away" (Lash, Eleanor, 638-39, 644-45, 666; Cook, vol. 2, 375; MD, 11 September 1945; Anthony Stephens to ER, 8 January 1946, AERP).
For a sample of the information ER received on postwar conditions in France see, ER to Frances Willert, 31 August 1945, AERP.
20. Civilian casualties in Great Britain during World War II totaled 146,777 (60,595 killed and 86,182 wounded), more than half of which occurred in London ("Civilian Casualties," http://www.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_16.html, accessed February 20, 2005).
21. For example, February 9 ER wrote that she hoped Americans would "realize how much normal life in Britain has changed and what it means when an English family today gives a guest from overseas a dinner … frequently, this one meal takes a whole week's ration of every member of the family, particularly where meat or fats of any kind are concerned" (MD, 9 February 1946).
22. Possibly ER refers to Muriel Delano Robbins Price-Collier Martineau, daughter of FDR's maternal aunt, Katherine Delano Robbins Price-Collier. Martineau lived in England (Sara Delano Roosevelt Diaries, 1910, FDRL).
23. The Claridge is a hotel in the Mayfair section of London where the US delegation stayed during the first session of the UN General Assembly (Lash, Years, 41).
24. For more on ER's refusal to run for office and her post-White House career plans, see Document 10 and Document 11. A New York Times article in November 1945 reported "a good deal of support" for ER if she chose to run for the Senate in 1946 in the event that the incumbent, Sen. James M. Mead (D-NY), decided to challenge Republican governor Thomas Dewey for the governorship (James A. Hagerty, "Dewey's Prestige Lowered by GOP Defeat in the City," NYT, 11 November 1945, 70; Smith, R. 466).
25. Myron C. Taylor (1874–1959), personal representative of the US President to Pope Pius XII from 1939 to 1950, helped organize American Aid for Italy, Inc., a relief organization composed of Catholics, Quakers, labor unions, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, and other organizations, which sent clothing, milk, vitamins, and medicine to liberated Italy beginning in December 1944. A close friend of FDR's, Taylor served as chairman of the board of the US Steel Corporation (1932–1938) and chairman of the Evian Conference for relief of political refugees (1938) and vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Commission on Political Refugees (1938–1944) ("Myron Taylor Dies; Ex-Envoy to Vatican," NYT, 7 May 1959, 1; Clare Boothe Luce, Letter to the Editor, NYT, 29 May 1945, 14; Papers of Myron C. Taylor, HSTL; "Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, Appointment of Earl G. Harrison as United States Representative," State Department Bulletin, 18 March 1945, 452).
26. Immediately after FDR's death, ER received large quantities of mail—as many as 25,000 letters in the first week alone. Malvina "Tommy" Thompson, ER's secretary, answered much of the routine correspondence with the help of temporary or part-time secretaries who also drafted letters. ER also used My Day on several occasions in 1945 and early 1946 to issue a blanket acknowledgment or to thank those who remembered her at Christmas, on V-E Day, and at the start of her trip to Europe for the UN General Assembly meeting. While ER was in Europe, Thompson handled all the important mail and much of the routine correspondence. She wrote her "Precious Person":
I have been answering all of the important mail and keeping what I think is important. I doubt that you will have to read much of it. Hick told me you suggested my sending her things to read, but very little has come in. So many of the letters are requests for jobs at the UNO and Dorothy Dow found out from the State Dept. how to answer them so they are easily handled. You still get letters from women wanting their men back and those are easily handled, and the same goes for veterans who aren't satisfied with their pensions, etc. Several others want you to find apartments for them, etc. A good many letters asking you to speak all over the country—to which I replied that you could make no commitments, and probably would be busy during February after you get back.
(MD, 18, 24, and 26 April 1945; 12 May 1945; 13 June 1945; 24 December 1945; and 3 January 1946; Frances M. Seeber, "I Want You to Write to Me: The Papers of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt," Prologue 2 Summer 1987, 95-105; Malvina Thompson to ER, (5 letters) n.d., AERP).
27. Within six months of the publication of her 1933 article "I Want You to Write to Me," in Woman's Home Companion, ER received more than 300,000 letters, many of them seeking help, intervention, or advice. To handle these letters and the thousands of others she subsequently received as first lady, ER devised a system whereby she sent many of the letters to the relevant government agencies. Often she followed up on these queries writing to agency heads and members of the cabinet. She and "Tommy" Thompson drafted replies to others. Thompson and Edith Helm, White House social secretary, drafted replies for routine correspondence. Anything else that remained, ER dealt with herself personally, drafting and signing the replies (Cook, vol. 2, 115; A. Black, Casting, 26; and Seeber).
28. Although ER supported numerous organizations, such as the the American Friends Service Committee, the NAACP, and the Bryn Mawr summer school for working women, she also received hundreds of individual requests for financial assistance daily from Americans struggling to cope with the economic consequences of the depression or war. For examples of appeals during the Great Depression, see MacElvaine and Seeber. (Cook, vol. 2, 3, 26, 115, 141, 201-2, 356).
29. The US Women's Army Corps.
30. ER's papers do not contain the name of the Dutch publisher. ER mentioned this publisher and his American wife and a similar encounter with a representative of the Norwegian press (all unnamed) in a December 1945 column to publicize the postwar suffering of America's Allies and encourage US support for the reconstruction of Europe's economy (MD, 14 December 1945).
Eleanor Roosevelt's London Diary
From December 31, 1945, when the American delegation left New York, until February 11, just before the conclusion of the General Assembly, ER kept an almost daily diary. Its twenty-seven entries, composed as a series of letters to her secretary "Tommy" Thompson, records her daily activities, the people she met, and her observations on a range of topics. As Tommy received these dispatches, she distributed them to various members of the family and a few friends, such as Trude W. Lash and Lorena Hickok.1 Although a few of the entries overlap somewhat with My Day, if ER covered a topic in her column, she might refer to her discussion of that event in her column rather than repeating her observations in the diary. The editors chose seven of ER's London diary entries to include here.