My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Friday—I have just been talking to a most interesting woman who has done one of those remarkably unselfish things which very few people manage to make themselves do.

Having lost in Germany all that made life worth living, she escaped to England, and then, after the war, went back on a British passport. In spite of thinking that she could not bear to work with the Germans, she found herself working to try to feed the little children—not only food for their tummies but food for their minds.

She put on the international book fair, where children came to look at books as at some strange and curious and wonderful thing. They queued up and stood for hours for the chance to sit down at a library table and look at a picture book. I met this woman when I was in Germany in 1946, and now she is here and is getting support and books for her children's libraries over there.

Without books how can the minds of the small German children be opened to new ideas? How can the minds of the older children be changed, so that they will understand that there are other points of view besides those which they were taught under the Hitler regime?

* * *

This woman told me what I know to be true—namely, that in every country there are people who manage to get food when others are hungry. Those are the people who are willing to deal in black markets. The good people starve and cannot do their work. That is happening today in Germany.

A report that came to me through some of the old-time government people, who have struggled against both Nazis and Communists, leads me to believe that the time has come when the German people, particularly those who might build a democratic Germany, need help from the United States.

For instance, I find that in Frankfurt the municipal health service reports that only 17 percent of the children are in good condition and that infant mortality has almost doubled in the past year. Children cannot take part in gymnastics in school because they are not strong enough.

The increase in tuberculosis among school children 6 to 7 years old has been such that, whereas in 1938 only 8 percent had tuberculosis, today 20 percent have it. The spread of the disease is probably helped by the type of home conditions. For instance, in a school of 200 pupils, it was found that 30.5 percent had no beds of their own; 43 percent lived in houses that had no bathrooms; 75 percent had insufficient clothing, and 85.5 percent insufficient underwear.

Yes, the time has come to help the German children as well as the other children of Europe. But don't forget to send books as well as food. We must not let the children grow up again into young Nazis and Fascists, so we have to give them food for thought.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL