My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Wednesday—Sometimes, as I read the papers, I think that we as a people are not very realistic. Somebody sends in a report on our occupation zone in Germany, and it is quite evidently a report where all the bad things have been noted, as they should be in a report to the authorities in charge. We promptly behave as though this report were something unspeakable that would wreck our whole record in Germany, and yet it deals largely with certain individual misdoings.

It would be much more serious if our Government had issued directives of such harsh nature that the recovery of the people within our zone was threatened. But as a matter of fact, I think, we can show that, on the whole the people in the American zone have been well treated and that their recovery, while slow, is progressing. They have been our enemies, we have fought a bitter war against them, but they have to live again in the world and they have to believe in the broad principles of democracy if we are going to live with them safely.

Therefore, we must be concerned with the official acts which represent our Government's attitude. That is the first and most important thing.

All of us know, however, that individual human beings, when placed in unnatural situations, do not always live up to the best traditions of their country or even of their own particular environment. This latest report deals in great part with the failure of individuals.

* * *

It is regrettable. We wish that the men in our army and in our navy, who represent our people all over the world today, would always remember that fact and act accordingly. I am afraid, however, that that is asking a good deal of even the older men. And when you realize that the great mass of these men are in their early 20s or younger, you cannot be surprised at their failure to live up to our best traditions. The accusations of using the black market could also be levelled at some people even here at home, and heaven knows we have had less reason for indulging ourselves in that way than any other people in the world!

This report should have been made to the Army authorities, not to Congress. They should have dealt with it very seriously, for the conditions it pictures are a menace to the health of our troops, and a menace to the development of respect for us as individuals wherever we may go throughout the world. But Congress can do little to remedy these conditions. And I think we should realize that the proper authorities have done and are doing all they can to preserve discipline, health and order under extremely difficult circumstances.

An occupation army is in a much more difficult position than an army actually at war. There is not the danger from bullets and bombs, but there is the danger from idleness, unfamiliar surroundings and loneliness.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL