AUGUST 23, 1945
NEW YORK, Wednesday—I would like to report to you today on two books which I have recently read. One of them, Zelda Popkin's "A Journey Home," should be read, I think, by both servicemen and civilians. It is a good picture of the tension within a man when he first returns after long service abroad. It shows the unreasonableness of both civilians and returned servicemen. The final discovery in the course of a train wreck—that it is our joint participation in living which makes us one again, whether we have understood what the boys have gone through in the war or not—gives point to the whole book.
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The following paragraph in particular is one that neither servicemen nor civilians can afford to forget in these months after the war:
"That was the torment. Not fear of death. Not guilt of killing. But that he hadn't crossed over, out of himself into life. Now, in the chaos of a wrecked passenger train, he had come unexpectedly, stumbled, through three little words, on his answer: 'I'm in this.' Suffering was life. Struggle was life. Destruction was life. Even death was. You're alive. You're in it. You take what it gives. You do the best that you can."
I like the end of the book because it leaves you with hope, the hope that tenderness and love will bridge the gaps and find the answers to the problems which will give many of us sleepless nights in the next few months.
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The other book is a novel by Martha Dodd, called "Sowing the Wind." As the daughter of President Dodd of Princeton University, who was our ambassador in Berlin in the days just before the war, she had a good opportunity to observe the people about whom she writes. I kept thinking of another book which I read not long ago, called "The Arrow and the Cross," which is a stronger book than "Sowing the Wind." They deal with different types of German people, but "The Arrow and the Cross" leaves you with some hope in the future, horrible as it is. "Sowing the Wind" depicts in its main character a man of charm, ability and grace who belonged to the freest fraternity in the world—the fraternity of airmen. Then you see what the doctrines of Nazism can do to this type of human being. But what you really watch is how a man degrades himself in body and soul. Only a man himself can accomplish the horrible end which came to Eric Landt—no external things such as ideologies, pressures, friendships or hates can do it.
The book holds your interest, for its characters are alive and vivid. But it left me with a sense of emptiness and hopelessness. There is little to hope for, evidently, from the group of educated, charming, sophisticated, one-time men of the world in Germany. If there is to be regeneration in Germany, it must come apparently from the plain people.