APRIL 22, 1948
SOESTDIJK, Netherlands, Wednesday—We are here visiting Her Royal Highness Princess Juliana. I was delighted to see again the three little princesses whom I knew when they were in the United States. They have grown but are just as sweet. And the baby princess, who is a new acquaintance, is darling.
We drove from Brussels to Amsterdam, where we were met by Princess Juliana. Then we proceeded to the Ridderzaal, which is the hall used by the Dutch Parliament on state occasions. But on this occasion, a women's meeting, which I was to address, was being held there.
As we drove into the great stone courtyard, the only men in sight seemed to be those in the band. Women serving in the Army and the Navy were lined up on each side of the entrance. And though I am sure there must have been men in the crowd around the courtyard, the impression was one of women and children in great numbers.
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In the course of the meeting, four women from Friesland, in beautiful native costumes with gold and lace caps and silver chatelaines, made a speech (which I am sorry to say I could not understand) and then presented me with a lovely little china bowl and silver ladle, both of them family heirlooms about 200 years old.
After I spoke, the leader of the Women's Labor Movement, Mrs. A. E. Ribbius Pelletier, made a charming speech in English—which shows how much better the Dutch are in talking our language than we are in talking theirs, even when we have ancestors who were Dutch.
After the meeting, we went to a luncheon where I had an opportunity to talk with a number of very interesting women who are members of Parliament or leaders of women's organizations. There is a Women's Voluntary Services here patterned after the one in England. They are trying to use women volunteers in various fields, but they tell me that, since the war, the average housewife's difficulties have been so great that she does not have a great deal of time for work outside her home.
As we drove out to the airfield after lunch, flowers of every imaginable color were in bloom in well-kept fields. You can buy tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and narcissuses in great quantities and decorate your car with them—many people do—because flowers sell for almost nothing. It is the bulbs which are the real crop that goes to market.
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For two hours we flew over this corner of the Netherlands, including a number of the islands. Two of them were completely inundated during the war, but many people refused to leave, living in the upper stories of their houses. Today, the land is back in use. It is not as fertile as it was before, but the advance has been far greater than was originally thought possible.
We saw Rotterdam from the air, having already driven through it and seen at close range the areas devastated by the Germans. From the air we could see that they had bombed a straight line through the city. Of course, they destroyed the docks as far as possible, and yet today ships can be loaded in Rotterdam almost faster than in any other port in the world.
I very much regret that, while I was in Belgium, I was unable to visit Bastogne, where our men fought so courageously during the Battle of the Bulge. However, I was given a relic containing a little of the Bastogne earth. In large letters on the outside of the box are the words: "Nuts City." At first, I did not understand, and I had to get a Belgian to remind me that "Nuts!" was the answer given by the American commander when the Germans demanded that he surrender the besieged city.
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On my last evening in Brussels, the president of the Belgian Senate, Henri Rolin, gave a dinner in my honor in the Senate building. Afterwards, I saw the room in which the Senate sits and also the one where the Chamber of Deputies meets. Both are beautiful.
At dinner, the Minister of Finance sat beside me and, after a friendly argument with the lady across the table, he said: "No one approves of the fiscal policy of Belgium except the Minister of Finance." It is the same old question of taxes, but he explained blandly: "The country has to be rebuilt."
I was told that the Belgian Senate uses the simultaneous-translation system because some of the members speak Flemish while others speak French. In such a small country it is curious to have two languages. Every child has to learn both in school.