My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

PARIS, Tuesday —On Sunday afternoon I saw something an American woman—Mrs. Anne Murray Dike—was instrumental in doing for France and Franco-American relations.

After lunch we drove out to Blerancourt. The Chateau of Blerancourt was built in the 17th Century by Potier de Gesvres, a favorite of Marie de Medicis and Henry IV. The French Revolution destroyed most of the famous chateau, leaving only two semi-ruined pavilions and two monumental gates. World War I did a little more damage, but then the American Committee for Devastated France established its headquarters at Blerancourt from 1919 to 1927.

This group restored the pavilions and one wing of the chateau and created a museum that is now one of the French national museums and it will always commemorate Franco-American cooperation.

On one side of the building, history goes back to the early days. There are busts and pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the Marquis de Lafayette and John Paul Jones. There also is a long-hand letter of Thomas Jefferson, which would make any collector of early Americana envious.

On the other side, there are reminders of World War I and II. Since the American 26th Division in February 1918, moved into the sector on the plateau between Coucy and Anizy, over which ran the Chemin des Dames, one goes through this countryside with constant reminders of battle in which Americans played such an important part. Chateau Thiery also is near by, and it seemed to me that almost every name in the neighborhood would be familiar to some of our American Legion men who had taken part in the Allied offensive with the First, Second, Fourth and 32nd Divisions, which were with General Mangin, and the French 10th Army between the Aisne and the Marne.

The American committee did not confine itself to rebuilding what they could of the museum. They created health, social and agricultural centers and restored the morale of the people, which, after four years of war, was no mean achievement. Everyone who knew Mrs. Dike, who was the director of the American committee, speaks of her almost as though she were a saint.

There is the greatest affection evidenced also for Miss Anne Morgan, who lives in one of the pavilions when she is here and who has made some of the most beautiful rose gardens. There also is a little inn here, where one may stop by for a wonderfully French-cooked meal or make reservations for a longer stay to visit the historical points and the lovely churches.

Since the second World War has again devastated the region, a trip will give you a picture of the physical destruction caused by the Germans, which these courageous people had to see come again to their land and which they must gird themselves again to clear away before the task of rebuilding can be undertaken.

The great gate, as you enter the grounds of Blerancourt, is very impressive. You can still imagine how grand the old chateau must have been rising beyond it. But you also are forced to wonder all over again, as you drive in, whether we human beings are bound to go on destroying each other and our possessions forever.

Is it quite fair that the little people who really have so little to say about whether they keep their homes or see them shattered before their eyes—and yet who have the courage to start building a anew and who have to do so with their own hands—must always be the pawns on the chessboard of world politics? Or can they prevent this and be a motivating force?

* * *

On Saturday morning Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and my grandson got back from a trip to Israel. To both of them I think this was a trip of great interest, and I do know that it gave my grandson exactly what I had hoped—a glimpse of a world completely different from any he had ever lived in.

Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the same can be said of London and New York City. But when Mr. Morgenthau and my grandson told me a little about all the things they saw, I began to feel that I understand little of how the people in Israel live and work in their effort to build a new nation. It is really a spot where men and women labor side by side at the same tasks and there is no question that they are feeling a great sense of creative achievement.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL