My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

LONDON—Some of our committees are meeting at night and, when I met Senator Connally of Texas on Thursday morning, I thought he felt a distinct resentment at being kept up so late! He reminds me of another well-known Texan, former Vice President Garner, who used to tell me, on the rare occasions when we attended the same evening party, that he always went to bed at 9 o'clock. I doubt if many of the delegates here are going to bed at 9 o'clock, and I'm quite sure that none of their advisers or their staffs are getting through with their work until late in the evening.

In the debate on refugees which has continued in the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, in connection with Yugoslavia's proposal that no more assistance should be granted to displaced persons after four months' time if they refused to return to their native lands, I was particularly impressed by a speech made by the Belgian delegate.

He took up the thorny problem which the delegate from Yugoslavia and the delegate from Poland had brought out—namely, that there are a great many categories of refugees. Among political refugees one may find, besides war criminals and outright traitors to their country, groups of men who love their country but are opposed to its present form of government. The Belgian delegate cited the fact that the Socialists and Communists in his country were as far from the right wing as it was possible to be, and yet you could belong to the right wing and still love your country. However, if you were a refugee, you might not want to return to it under its present regime.

He made the point that governments change but countries remain—that it has taken centuries to build up the right of a man to asylum if he left his country for religious or political reasons. He emphasized that we must not forget human rights and the rights of the individual.

Of all the speeches that had been made on the question, it seemed to me that his was the first one that said something really new which required our attention. He received a round of applause.

I have felt, of course, that the delegate from Yugoslavia made a very telling point when he said that it was rather ludicrous for a country to have to support, in some other country, enemies of the existing government in their own country. Imagine, for instance, Franco's Spain being required to support refugees who were driven out after the Civil War and, ever since, have been working steadily to oust Franco's regime. That would demand an amount of altruism which one usually does not find either in governments or individuals.

However, I think that all these questions should be left to the consideration of a commission set up by the Economic and Social Council, as proposed in the resolution originally presented by the United Kingdom and backed by the United States. Such a commission ought to sift the various categories of refugees or displaced persons, and it should be allowed the greatest possible freedom for investigation since, in the course of the next few months, new factors may come to light.

All the speeches made in our committee will be available to the members of this commission, and I think they should be read very carefully as an indication of the attitude of various countries, all of which will have to be considered by the commission in deciding on its final recommendations.

I heard, the other day, of a country where some of the people look upon the Nuremberg trial as a joke and think that all they hear about the horrors of concentration camps is pure propaganda. I hope there is no one left in our own country who is so willfully blind and deaf as these people are reported to be. It is only by acknowledging that human beings, when they once accept wrong leadership, can be led far astray that we can guard ourselves from ever accepting it.

We must remember that the hope of the world lies in acceptance of a philosophy which has come down to us through the ages. Love can be stronger than hate, but we as individuals have to see to it that love and not hate is the basis of our action.

Among my callers recently was a very young girl from Sweden who was full of enthusiasm and hope. She was anxious that the UNO, which seemed very complicated to her, should be translated into something simple in which every individual in every country would feel that he had a part. That will have to come, of course, but the way is not yet clear. Young people, however, are the ones to do it and I hope that, the world over, they will band together for better understanding of the efforts made in the United Nations Organization.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL