SEPTEMBER 24, 1945
HYDE PARK, Sunday—The news of Judge Irving Lehman's death is in the papers this morning, and the State of New York has sustained a loss which its citizens will recognize with deep sorrow. For many years, the Chief Justice of the highest court in New York State held a unique position, and he was respected and regarded with great affection by all those who knew him. To his family, this loss is a heartbreaking one. I can hardly imagine how Mrs. Lehman will face life without the deep concern and solicitude for her husband which has always been present in her mind and heart. Deeper than that, however, will be the loss of someone who has always stood for her, as well as for the rest of us, as a tower of strength and integrity.
I have been reading some reports in the last few days which perhaps are sharpened for me by the fact that we have lost Judge Lehman's strength in the fight for the right. These reports have come to me from a number of sources. They speak of the fact 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.
* * *
Just the other day, the late Judge Lehman sent me his address of welcome given in New York City to General Eisenhower. In this address he quoted: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul," and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
"That is the law which went forth from Zion." According to that law, Judge Lehman lived his life out.