Camera Rolls: 317:78-83
Sound Rolls: 317:41
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Trude Lash , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on , for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
Speeding. Good, mark.
Are you ready now? When you came, when you first came to this country, the very first time you came, what kind of a country did you expect the United States was at that time? This is the early 30s what did you expect?
1931, I came in 1931, and I expected a country that was very, very wealthy. The reason for that was, that most of the students that came to the university where I was in charge of foreign students, were rather wealthy, compared to us, anyway. They had their own cars, and they traveled all around Europe, and they had whole apartments while we lived in little rooms, or sometimes two to a room, so I thought everybody was wealthy. But I had also read books on economics, so I knew there was more wealth, but there had also been a bust, because this, remember, was 1931. Then I had read the 'leather-stocking books', so Indians were very much in my mind. In every European's mind are the Indians, and we don't know whether they roam the streets, or where they are. Then, a friend of mine, a doctor, had come to Chicago to an America conference, and he came back with an enormous Stetson hat, very handsome, and boots, cowboy boots. From then on, he was the hero of the university, he was very tall, anyway. So I thought men in the United States are very good looking. Well, they are.
What about, kind of, I'm thinking almost in terms of imagery, like the Statue of Liberty, what kind of, politically, or, what kind of a place did you think it—
Well, yeah, well, of course, it functions on two levels. Politically, we were quite aware that there now, was now in the United States, a situation that hadn't existed before, that a great many people had lost their jobs, that people were traveling over the country without jobs or homes, we knew that, but at the same time, when out of another experience, we expected something else. I was fascinated with the fact that pretty soon, there were the preparations for the election, the 1932 election, and we all had listened to Hoover's speeches, which were a little difficult, and we listened to Roosevelt's speeches. We debated about the gold standard, and we debated about the closing of the banks, when we were here, this was then when we were here. I say 'we' because a whole group of us came over. So, America was a revelation, every day there was something new. Except, of course, then I had to teach, I taught at Hunter College, and teaching, I guess, is more or less the same, wherever you do it, I'd done it in Europe, so I taught here again, and pretty soon there was a way of life which was a little more familiar to me.
Did you find that this was a country, or did you expect that this was a country in which people were welcome, people were tolerant, people, that there was a very open society, what did you expect to find in terms of the people?
Again, building on the Americans we knew in Europe, we expected to be welcome, because they were indeed, very, very friendly. On the other hand, you know, we had also heard that black people were not treated well in the United States, and while we didn't understand what the tensions, racial tensions, meant in the United States, we had been told about that. So, but in general we expected that Americans would be free and open the way people are in a very wealthy country, and in a very enormous country. I came from such a small corner of Europe, Southern Germany, where everything was very old, and everything was very small, and everything was very intimate, so that, to me, this, this was something which I hadn't thought was possible.
How did, when you did get here and spent some time here, how did, how did the country differ, how did this nation, the people, the openness, did it differ from your expectations?
No, no, no. I found that this country was very open indeed, and that it didn't differ at all. I took a trip down South very soon after I arrived, and I learned very quickly that there were certain things one didn't talk about if one didn't want to have a long stream of arguments. So, one learns that, but I found, and I still find this country a very open country.
What things, what things couldn't you talk about on your way down South?
You could—you couldn't talk about the Civil War.
I'm sorry, could you, can you start again, say, "When you went down south—"
When, when, sorry, when, when I went down South I learned quickly that you shouldn't talk about the Civil War, because you were being inundated with reasons why the South had been treated very unfairly, and you shouldn't talk about race relations, because you were faced with an almost immovable wall, which, which was something I have never learned fully to understand.
Great, thank you. Why do you think, or do you believe this, I'll pose this as a question, maybe you don't agree with this, but, why do you think there was, and now I'm thinking of overall in the 30s, during the Depression, why do you think there was heightened anti-Semitism in this country during that period?
One, why was there heightened, was there heightened anti-Semitism in this country? Well, I found a lot of anti-Semitism in this country when I first arrived, so it certainly was heightened later on. It, it, anti-Semitism grew much worse, beginning, let's say, with the middle 30s, towards the end of the 30s, when the pressures were on to admit more refugees to this country. The pressure against admitting refugees grew enormously, the groups, the isolationist groups had their slogans, "America to the Americans," though, how do you find the Americans? That was never so clear why, which people in America who claimed America were being left out by the slogans of the isolationists, I often wondered. Yes, there was more towards the end, but I think it came as a reaction to events. Fear that the country would be pulled into the European problems, lack of understanding of what the Nazis were all about, and it was quite easy here not to really know, until, let's say, 1937 or 38. If you didn't want to know, you didn't have to. Lack of sympathy for foreigners. There seemed to be a very strange situation, while, in this country, there were waves of foreigners who became Americans, then the Americans then turned against the foreigners, particularly, particularly I think, in a refugee situation, where there waves of poor people, very poor people. There was a slogan which was then, I often heard during those years, 'Charity Begins at Home'. We don't have enough to take care of other people's, let's take care of our own. And that showed itself, of course, in many, many ways, then, towards the end of the 30s, you know, the Child Refugee Bill which never was, was passed, the-
We'll, we'll, actually, we'll get to that and I'll be more specific about my questions about that. In fact, we'll start again into it now, which was, after Kristallnacht, when—
1938, when, clearly, it was becoming more apparent what was, what was in store for the Jews of Europe, and people, I think, tried to, there was greater efforts, more people tried to get into this country. What were the obstacles that Jewish refugees faced at that time, to try to get into this country? What sorts of bureaucratic, attitudinal [sic], what, what obstacles did Jews face trying to get into this country?
And, the people, what obstacles did Jews face trying to get into this country, and I would add, from my point of view, what obstacles did those of us face who wanted to help people get into this country, the refugees. And while it was mostly, at that time mostly German refugees, of course there had also been a group of Spanish refugees after the Spanish Civil War. There was the attitude, which I discussed a little bit before, that you didn't want this kind of foreigners to come into the country, that there were just a lot of poor people who were coming in, and at that time there wasn't full employment in this country, and that those people would then take jobs away from the Americans. The other was, we don't want any more Jews. We have enough Jews. That's when, when these, these rumors started, the Jews take over all the very good jobs, look at the banks, all the top jobs are, are held by Jews. And some of the Jewish groups—
—got very worried, what would happen if you now had large numbers—
I'm sorry, excuse me, did we run out?
We just ran out of film, so we'll have to start over—
Tilt it down a little bit. OK, that's good. And slate when you need to. And mark.
So, why don't we pick up again, what it was about, they didn't want, as you put it, that they didn't want, the people didn't want any more Jews coming into this country.
Why did, didn't Americans want anymore Jews coming into this country. Well, that's, well, of course, I'm not writing history here, I am simply giving my own impressions and my own, what I remember, and indeed, after thinking a great deal about it, because being born in Europe you always feel closer to these problems. People had a feeling that, that the Jews had gotten a lot of the very best jobs in this country. There were rumors that all the bank heads were Jews, and in the financial world particularly, that there were a great many Jews and there shouldn't be more Jews. There's also, was still I believe, there was at that time, and still is, I think, an underlying anti-Semitism, which reacts against the Jews because the Jews are different from us. The Jews have a long, long history of which they are very proud, Jews are never full citizens anyway, because they also relate in a citizen way to Israel. And then there was fear: if we get more Jews, and the Jews have suffered so much from the Nazis, then are we going to get involved? Will the Jews try to propagandize us and get us involved in what is, after all, only a European war or a European problem? Or even, it was said then, a German problem. So there was hesitation. The State Department, for instance—now, I can't say, not the whole State Department, there were people in the State Department who did not feel that way, Sumner Welles, for instance, but in the State Department were a good many who were very averse to allowing Jews to come to this country, and, and who had a good deal of support, and exerted a good deal of pressure both politically, socially, you know, "old boys network." So the pressures were amazing, that were against doing things that would make it easier for Jewish refugees to come to this country.
Why don't we begin to talk, then, about what your work was in terms of bringing refugees into this country, and particularly, again, I think, you worked throughout the decade on having refugees come in, I'm thinking more towards the end, when it became really more apparent that this was a critical situation. What kind of work were you doing to have refugees, and then you brought up the fact of what kind of obstacles did you face trying to get into, trying to get people into this country. So, if you can, sort of, tell us a little bit about your work, what you were doing to...
Well, I, what, I worked to try and help refugees in many different ways. I had worked with the New School for Social Research, I was on the board then, and the very, the real genius- the head of the school was a real genius, he was Alvin Johnson- and he had the idea that he would establish a 'University in Exile', and invite exiled professors, refugee professors, both from Spain, for instance, [De Los Rios ?], famous Spaniard, became a professor, from Germany, I think one or two from Austria, and later on, of course from France and other countries, Hungary as well. So I worked with him, trying to raise money, and trying to get affidavits, and even trying sometimes trying to provide housing for some of the new professors, or the very, very tired refugees who arrived with their families, dead tired. So, I would find a house, an empty house in Long Island, say, Stay here for two weeks with your families, and recover, and then come, and start looking forward to your new life. For instance, Professor Paul Tilly was one of those whom I knew very well from Europe, and he came with his family, with his daughter and very pregnant wife, so, I found them a place to stay and to rest a little, before the battle became, started for the new life.
Can you tell me, I'm sorry to interrupt, but can you tell me, you mentioned the thing about affidavits, and our viewers aren't going to know what affidavits are. Can you, sort of, tell me, kind of, what steps you had to go through to get somebody into this country? What exactly, what did it take to get somebody—
Yes. Of course, you had to take a number of steps to get a person into this country. There were committees all over that helped that, but there was one part of the strategy, the process, that they couldn't do, namely: you had to promise and assure the government that this person who arrived in the country would never be a load onto, on the government, the public agencies of this country, that there was [sic] always be somebody to take care of this person. So, my job was, to try and find people to take care of the refugees, and to get as many affidavits as you possibly could. I did that alone for a long time, and then later on, of course, working with Mrs. Roosevelt. I think people began to run away when they saw me come, because they thought I was going to ask them for another affidavit, as indeed I was. So that was a big job one had to do. Then, early, I went to Germany only once during the Nazi period, and that was during the 1936 Olympics, when the rules were, sort of, less strict, and when the country was rather open. My then-husband and I went with a great deal of money, to help people escape. That wasn't because they needed affidavits, that needed, that was simply, they had to escape with false passports because they were political escapees. So when, and, some money had to be used to bribe officials, quite a lot of money had to be used that way, so that was another way. But my main work was to get families and children, and particularly children, over here, and that meant trying to organize places for the children to stay. There was a, a school committee was established which saw to it that the children were placed in private schools. We placed them in families.
Well, in that case, then, you mentioned the children, and you also brought up a little bit before, and we want to get into this, the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which is the Refugee Orphans Bill, which of course is children.
They weren't really orphans, you know. It is, they were—
That's what it was called.
Temporary orphans, some of them. Some were orphans. Some didn't know where their parents were, I mean, of the children who wanted to come in. It didn't pass.
Well, what was this bill, and what activities did you do to work for, for this bill, what was this Wagner Act, what was it trying to do, and what did you do to try to make it happen?
What, what was the bill, I mean, the quota, the German Quota, most of the refugees came into this country under the German quota. The quota, simply a statement of how many, how many nationals of one nation are going to be admitted to the United States within one year, that's the Quota. The Quota, the German Quota was rather small, though I don't remember exactly what it was, and it was decided that maybe, maybe one could enlarge the quota, maybe for a year or two, if one limited the refugees to be brought into this country to children. So, a bill was, was drafted. A friend of mine, a daughter of Rabbi Weiss, was, took a big part in drafting it, and
Mrs. Roosevelt became the main supporter of the bill. She went to the President and told him about the fact that this bill was drafted, and asked him whether he would support it, and he said yes he would, though he would not go out and make it part of his priority program, that was too dangerous.
** So the bill was written, and on the President's advice good sponsors were found, Senator Wagner from New York, and Edith Rogers, a Republican from Massachusetts, it was wonderful sponsorship. And a committee was established on which Hoover served, ex-President Hoover, and, among others, and that wonderful Cardinal of Chicago, Cardinal Mundelein. There was much hope in the beginning that this bill would pass, but there were congressman that introduced bills that cut the existing quota, and they were very powerful people. Many organizations immediately, the minute the bill was introduced, immediately opposed it, the DAR, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Legion, a lot of patriotic societies, opposed the bill, again saying 'Charity Begins at Home', we don't want any more Jews. The danger was real, that they would filibuster, and push their own bills through, so that instead of having more spaces, more slots, we would have fewer. And so, after a while, Senator Wagner withdrew the bill. It was such a sad day, because, we tried even to change the bill, and said, all right, let's have 20,00 altogether, not 20,000—
—a year for two years, 20,000 altogether, no, or let's have ten—it's enough anyway, about the bill.
No, it's good.
No, we want, I want more. [laughs]
Set, and mark. Tilt it, thank you.
You mentioned something, you were just talking about the Wagner-Rogers Act and I want to go back to that, you were saying, when the bill died, or when they withdrew the bill it was a very sad day, can you [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] that for us just a little bit, what happened, and what the feeling was when all those efforts, when you realized they weren't going to come to anything?
Well, when the Wagner-Rogers Bill died, I was in Washington. We had known, as a matter of fact, for a number of days that it would die, that Wagner would have to withdraw it, because the President had not agreed to make it a priority. Unfortunately, we had to agree that, of course, the danger was very real, that this bill would be used to really decimate the quota figures that existed. So, everybody had to give in, and of course, this was, Mrs. Roosevelt worked very closely with Wagner and Edith, Wagner was really the one who worked for this bill, mostly, as he did for so many good bills. Walter White, who was the head of the NAACP, who was in and out every day...I'd like to say one thing here, at no point did Mrs. Roosevelt doubt that the President would make the decision he'd have to make, that this was not lack of interest or lack of caring. You know that, so many people now in this revisionist [laughs] era say the President didn't care enough. None of us believed that, and Mrs. Roosevelt, who cared very deeply, knew that that wasn't the reason. The reason was that, politically, it just did not work. The forces that were against this were so strong that they couldn't be overcome at that time. This was, after all, already early in 1939, when it was already clear that probably there would be war. And—
We better stop for a second.
—why the President had to do what he had to do, just start with that again, why didn't President Roosevelt, particularly when the end was in sight, why didn't President Roosevelt come out and support the bill publicly?
President Roosevelt did support the bill—
Can you start again, I'm sorry—
Hang on a second, just—
President Roosevelt did support the bill, and let it be known, and whenever he was asked he would say yes, he was for the bill, and if it came to his desk he would sign it. But President Roosevelt did not fight for it, and the reason he didn't, was that he couldn't afford to. Now, some, there are some people who say, Yes, he could, and there are different opinions, but he was convinced, and all the people around him who were on our side, who were for the bill, were convinced that the, those opposed, had it in their power to simply stop other legislation that was absolutely necessary for the nation from passing, and the President would be stopped in the work that he absolutely had to do. So, we had to accept that, accept, so many preparations had been made to bring children over, so many groups both in England and in Switzerland were waiting for the gates to open to these children, and that was all finished, except for a small trickle under the existing quota. So that's what made it such a sad day.
What, you, I want to talk about Mrs. Roosevelt and this bill, you said that she was very much involved in it. Was she, did she feel very strongly about it, and when the siren goes away we'll talk about this. Why don't we cut?
And slate when you need to. Good, anytime, take five.
OK, so, let's talk some about Mrs. Roosevelt and the Wagner, and the Child Refugee Bill. What was her, how strongly did she feel about it, and what did she do to try [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ?
Mrs. Roosevelt, of course, was the main support for this bill, as for so many other good bills. She started by talking with people about the possibility of developing a bill, a legislative protection for children who wanted to come. Then she followed step by step, she consulted about who should come on the committee, she received Senator Wagner and Rogers at the White House, she asked how she could help them, she held hands when people got desperate. She kept herself informed and kept the President informed, but she didn't just do this, this bill, you know, there was an endless, endless stream of little notes and of letters she sent on to him, of questions she sent, of answers he sent back, so that, that, he was fully informed about what was happening and very often gave some very good advice on what should happen next. But she never did anything openly towards the outside without first consulting him. She was very clear that he was elected, and she was not, and that it was easier for her to have strong convictions and stand up for those convictions than for him, when he had to take into consideration the Congress, which after all, he hadn't elected, and a very, at that time, very conservative Senate which also he hadn't elected. So she was politically always very clear, marvelous politician.
What did she do publicly for this Wagner-Rogers Bill? What did—
She spoke, she spoke. She spoke for many, many groups—
I'm sorry, could you start saying 'Mrs. Roosevelt'?
No, no, that's all right, that's fine.
Mrs. Roosevelt made her support known in many different ways, and she did this for this bill, the Wagner-Rogers Bill, as for many other bills. She accepted very gladly invitations to come and speak to even very small groups, and explain to them what the bill meant. She wasn't always invited where she'd like to be invited, namely, to those people who should be convinced and whose opinions should be changed, sometimes she was, but very often she wasn't. She wrote in her column, she wrote articles, she was heard on the radio again and again and again. She was actually, actually tireless, whenever there was something where she might be of help, there she was. But when she was invited to do something that seemed a little questionable, first she would go to the Oval Office.
You once told me a story about, either you were speaking at the Cosmopolitan Club or she was speaking at the Cosmopolitan Club, and how people didn't really believe that this was going on, that this was a, that people didn't believe that this was a life and death situation—
I was speaking, yeah. I, I was invited to explain what the Nazis wanted, believe it or not, that the Cosmopolitan Club wanted to know. I decided I would consult the Nazi writings, the Nazi Bible and the Nazi literature, and I would state what the Nazis wanted, which from the beginning was the subjugation of Europe and the world, and a pure, a pure German nation without any outside blood influences, particularly of Jewish blood. When I was through at the Cosmopolitan Club, even while I was talking, people were a little restless. I was accused that I was rabble-rousing, and that I was painting the situation much too darkly, that they had been, many of them had been in Germany and things in Germany were really marvelous. You see, that was true, too, that when you went to Germany it was very clean and shining, and for, everywhere these bundesheer matrons singing...
I'm sorry, we, we got a little bob in there.
OK, oh, from the mic, OK, can you cut?
No, I'm still going, we're still rolling. You're OK now.
OK, let's, let's pick it up with why these people didn't believe you, why didn't [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] people—
Because we were really quite an isolationist nation, and because we didn't believe what we read because it was so very bad, particularly not about persecution of Jews and of political dissidents, it wasn't only Jews, because there was a great deal of Nazi propaganda in this country. I remember at dinner parties were there these wonderful-looking young men, blond young men, who were ever so polite, and forever clicking their heels and kissing hands, very flattering. The propaganda institutional system in this country of the Nazis was tremendous, and so people didn't want to believe, and they did like to travel to Europe, and they did find the trains were on time, and they did find people were polite because they were supposed to be polite. So, unless, unless you really studied the politics and unless you knew the inside, you could be deceived, you could. Not if you really wanted to know, but you could. And the President was so very clearly, of course, what was going on, he knew very early what was up.
He was one of the early leaders who was absolutely and totally anti-Nazi.
Speeding, [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] mark.
The ship, the ?
Yeah, about which one can't say very much, but I'll say what I know.
It wasn't sunk. The turning back of the ship.
Can you describe what you recall of that incident, of that international incident of the coming to Cuba, and we know that it got, they were invalid visas and whatnot. What, what happened when they tried to come to this country?
I remember very well the incident of the , that's the name of the ship that was turned back, though I don't remember details, I remember just the general impression and the horror that this happened. The was turned back because the papers were not valid, and had been, the had been warned that they would be turned back, that they could not come and land in this country. But they decided to proceed anyway, but they had been warned. But of course it was a terrible thing to happen, and it's among one of the things that many people will quote when they tell you that, that Roosevelt did much too little to save Jews. You know, there are a good many books that have been written, and there are articles that are coming out almost every few weeks—
But was there an awareness at that time that this was a critical situation, was there an awareness that if this ship got turned back this was very dangerous to these people?
I can't, who was aware that it was dangerous, who was aware. I can't say that many people were aware. It wasn't discussed that much in the press. Surely the people at the government level were aware that this was a desperate attempt to force their hands. I don't know, I don't know whether there were discussions about this, or whether it was simply left in the hands of those responsible to let ships in, the highest authority would be the State Department. I can't tell you who in the end was responsible, I don't really know, but one would have to say, the buck stops here, so in the end it is the President, but this, this story of the ship at that time was not considered as terrible as it has been considered since then. That's all I can really say.
Why do you think they didn't let these, I mean, it was only a thousand people, why do you think that the State Department refused, and the President, you know, as you say, the buck stops here, why do you think that there was a refusal to, to grant this request?
Why was there a refusal to let the in? I think basically it was for the same reasons that there was such tremendous opposition in this country against letting anybody in, against letting refugees in. That, that, there was a strong feeling in the country, and there had been a lot of propaganda in the country, that the people who arrived in this country are not going to be desirable citizens. And that, the powers in this country were arranged in such a way that they could squeeze the President into not doing things he wanted to do, because then they could prevent him from doing things he had to do.
OK, I want to switch, can you stop for a second? I want to switch gears.
Speeding. Stick it. Take seven.
So what was, particularly around this anti-lynching, which was Walter White's real crusade—
—what was his relationship with Mrs. Roosevelt, what kind of relationship did they have, how strongly did she feel about the issue and, and what was their relationship?
Mrs. Roosevelt had a very good and close relationship with Walter White, who was, of course, a very charming man, and who was very, very skillful in representing the, his organization, NAACP, but then black people in general. He was a very courageous man. They had known each other, as she said, in 20s, but not very well, but then, when
** came to the White House, and immediately invited Walter White, then relationship became better and better. The marvelous thing about it, and that I saw later, both of them were very honest with each other, she would never try to fool Walter, and he would tell her exactly how he felt and what he thought black people felt, and what they were going to do. Or try to do. Then she would discuss with the President, and she would be the link, she was the bridge, so that the President would sometimes see Walter White when he had no intention of seeing him, he didn't see that many people,
** and Walter White could try to convince the President of what he wanted and had to do. When I was around, it had to do mostly with employment of black people, and black people in the Army and the Navy, because then we were re-arming, and the Army and Navy were reforming, and black people were kept out or in labor battalions, and it took a long time to change that. She would also sometimes warn Walter White that he was going too far, not because he was going too far absolutely, but because he was going too far at that moment, and she would point out to him what had to be weighed. Now, she didn't expect him to follow her always, she just felt he had to know, and she understood—she never understood violence, but she understood when people became bothersome. People around the President'd say, Walter White was bothersome, indeed he was, he never gave up. So, Mrs. Roosevelt always was there for him and try to smooth feelings down when the President got impatient. But basically, you know, the President had the same feelings. It wasn't that Mrs. Roosevelt was a liberal and the President was not, it wasn't that the President, just one day somebody gave him a list with the Four Freedoms, that wasn't the way that it happened at all, that's what he believed. And that's what he wanted to fight for, but then here he was, elected as the head of a government for a whole people, and he was forever in trouble. Forever in trouble, ever, and of course, being very skillful, he got more through than other Presidents—
But, if I may interrupt, what, how are we doing with sound, are we all right, can we go now?
Was it very frustrating for Mrs. Roosevelt to believe in these things like the anti-lynching law, like the refugee bill, but she couldn't get the President—was it frustrating for her that she had these beliefs and they were very strong beliefs, but that she couldn't really move the President to perhaps act as he might have. How did she feel about that?
OK, how would she?
was terribly frustrated that certain things didn't happen
** , but in the end, she accepted the President's judgment because she knew what he thought, and what he felt, and what he wanted, but she was impatient, and she wished to God it weren't so, but it was,
** and in the end she had to accept it. And in the end she made people understand why progress was slower than, than they hoped it would be. She also told them not to give up, and for goodness' sake not to become meek and not fight very hard, 'cause she always wanted them to fight just as hard, and push just as hard
** as they needed to and wanted to. Only, they must also understand that there were certain realities that were as immovable as mountains at that time, which was a difficult, a difficult time for, for the President from the point of view of foreign policy, relationship with England, trying to get a boat to re-arm, and a thousand other issues. It wasn't such a very wealthy time, you had unemployment, there was a lot of unrest. And there were all those Father Coughlins and Gerald Smiths too.
That's, can you tell me about the Father Coughlins and the Gerald Smiths? What about them, what kind of—
Well, they were demagogues, and—
Can you say, "Father Coughlin—"
Father Coughlin, Father Coughlin gave speeches, religious speeches which were totally political, pro-Nazi speeches, and Gerald Smith was a "pure America" kind of a guy, who was also pretty pro-Nazi, I think, let's say I think. And here they were, and people were listening to them, and they were, really, pretty destructive. They were certainly anti the government, and they accused the government of being run by Jews, and they accused Mrs. Roosevelt of, of being half-Jewish or whatever they thought of at the moment, and whatever, wherever they could disorient people, they did, and they worked together, of course, very closely with the isolationists, and so together they made quite a brew, to get people excited. And since all of us always need a scapegoat somewhere, they were more—
—successful for a longer time than they need have been, but finally, they were defeated.
OK, great. So what roll, we just ran out, and what roll-
OK, tilt it... [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] . Sixteen, fourteen and...
OK, great, so maybe you can tell me about when Marian Anderson was turned away by the DAR from Constitution Hall, what was Mrs. Roosevelt's reaction to the incident?
I remember well when Marian Anderson was turned away by the DAR, and finally gave a big concert, they said there was 75,000 people, at the Lincoln Memorial. Mrs. Roosevelt was very definitely involved, as a matter of fact, Walter White wrote her afterwards, I think, and said, It was all due to you, you made this possible, and when the DAR turned Marian Anderson down,
Mrs. Roosevelt immediately thought she should resign,
** she was a very important member of the DAR. Then, I think, however, thought, should she resign or try to change the DAR from the inside out? But, both she and the President felt that this was a good example of how very terrible prejudice, racial prejudice was, and they felt they ought to zoom in on it, and she resigned, and publicly, because she knew that this would create an enormous stir, of course.
** Then, when Marian Anderson was given permission to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, then the world was really aflame. This was not a political person, Marian Anderson, she wasn't political at all, this was simply the woman with the best voice anywhere, wonderful voice, a great artist. How the DAR could be so stupid, I don't know, but anyhow, here was a marvelous example of how one shouldn't act, and what would happen if you behaved the way the DAR did. I think Mrs. Roosevelt rather enjoyed that one. It was a wonderful concert, this great voice, floating, it seemed, all over Washington, and Marian Anderson was so moved
** that for a moment, they thought she couldn't go on, because looking out at this sea of people, as far as the eye could go there were people and people,
** and then—it was an afternoon, a lovely afternoon—she sang. It was a great event, a very great event, and you see, people still know about it, talk about it, one- most things are forgotten, people can't remember anymore what the 30s were about. This still is alive.
Can you cut for a second? I'm sorry.
Camera's got speed. Take nine, take it away.
So, you do remember, though, the Joe Louis, Max Schmeling?
Do I remember Joe Louis? Yes, I do remember Joe Louis because
we were so proud of him, and I would tease, Mrs. Roosevelt would tease, and say, saying, Isn't it marvelous that our wonderful fighter is black? And that, if the Nazis want to compete, they have to fight with a black fighter.
** I remember when Schmeling and Joe Louis fought, and the fight was over, you know, very quickly—isn't that true? I was in the kitchen getting drinks for the people who had assembled, and when I arrived, it was all over, so I never saw the fight. But that Joe Louis was champion, was, you know, marvelous.
Great, great, thank you. Cut for a second.
Speed. Sixteen twenty-eight.
—opportunity missed, was there something lost?
[ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]
OK, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
Yeah, OK, well, the New Deal days in the 30s were very exciting in Washington. I don't think there has been a period before or since like that one, a lot of young people, young lawyers and young professional people stream to Washington, We want to help. And where you had, of course, the President's brain trust, grinding out legislation in order to get the economy going again, where you had people like Sam Rosemund, whom he brought from Albany with him, and a number of others who were all totally devoted to the New Deal.
I'm sorry, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , cut.
OK, so then, let's just start, start up again with regard to the—
The early New Deal time, the 1930s in Washington, was a very excited time, because there were so many young, interested, enthusiastic people who wanted to come and help, because Roosevelt had gotten their imagination with the first steps, the first hundred days, where he did some very radical things. As more and more of the New Deal legislation was pulled down, and, you know, was declared illegal, they were enormously disappointed, and a good many of them complained that Roosevelt had given up beginning in '38, 39, that he no longer believed in the New Deal, that what was happening now was destroying what had been fought for, and what they thought had been won. Mrs. Roosevelt always felt that that wasn't so, and she would console people, and saying, The time has come now where we have to concentrate on something else, though she was the one who always said to the President and had discussions with Churchill, You, you must always beware that if, that you are carrying on a war for something, for a belief, for a system, and if in the meantime you let the system die, what are you carrying on the war for? So, that, that this battle was going on in the White House. It wasn't really a battle, it was Mrs. Roosevelt insisting we always know what we were fighting for, and the President saying, I have to now be sure I have the wherewithal to fight with, and to win. But a number of the people who had been the staunchest supporters of the New Deal were bitterly disappointed that everything was put on the back burner. They were reassured by the Four Freedoms speech, but they said, We have lost years and years. OK.
What obstacles did the President face in—[motorcycle passing]—should we cut for this?
Just ask your question, we'll be good.
What obstacles did the President face in getting the country going, into war? What did he have to overcome to get the country in a war-mode?
Well, when the President decided, and the government decided that we would have to re-arm, and we have had to get the country into a war-mode, he had to, to face, of course, the people who said, See, he wants to get us into the war, the isolationists, and the absolute reluctance of people to cooperate in the program, the economic program that he was designing. You know, the resistance, we can hardly believe it today, was so strong, that he had to go slowly until late in 1939 when indeed things were rushing up, but in the beginning, the American Army was working with broom handles because they didn't have enough guns, and the President couldn't come out and say, This is what we have to do, as much as he wanted to, because the people who were against us would say, See, that's what he wants, he wants to pull us into a foreign war. The word "foreign war" was spread, or "The Yanks are Not Coming," there were all kinds of parades and there were all kinds of demonstrations, "The Yanks are Not Coming," no foreign war for us. So,
it was a difficult,
** a difficult undertaking, and of course the President had to say,
** and did say, there will not be any foreign wars. But he interpreted this to mean, this is not a foreign war for us. This is a war for the survival of democracy, or the democracies, and we are involved,
** while his opponents said, we mustn't be involved by arms or men or anything. So, it's a most fascinating time to read about it now...
Wait, wait, you mentioned on something [sic], was, that I want to get into because I think it has to do with what you just said. Was he worried about Europe, or was he concerned about how this would affect our country?
I mean, was he out to save Europe, or was he, did he feel that we were threatened, and this was, as you say...
I don't think the President believed that the Nazis would invade the U.S. But he was worried about the destruction of Great Britain. France, of course, had already fallen at that time, too, or was falling very early to the Nazis. The President, however, was mostly worried about the destruction of the Western World, and everything it stood for,
** and the victory of barbarism, which, which we couldn't keep out of, it would have a tremendous impact on us, even though the Nazis wouldn't physically invade us. He was, that's what he was worried about, this seemed to him the size of the problem.
Great, great, thank you. Were there any specific events, like Munich, or the invasion of Poland, or, any specific events that spurred him more than others—
—with regard to the war?
I think Munich was the—
I'm sorry, we just ran out—
And stick it. Twelve.
So, you were actually gonna say that Munich, you thought Munich was perhaps a pivotal event.
Well, Munich was the point when there was no return from, where there was no return. When Munich happened, then it was clear what would happen, and while it had been clear, these, these had, we had long, long discussions about this, with me feeling it had been clear when they marched into the Rhineland, the Nazis, and nobody, nobody held them back, it had been clear then, but after, but Munich, it was actually war. And the President was convinced that we had to be in the war to save the world and save this country as it was. So, it became a different situation, a situation that didn't say maybe we have to do this, or maybe we have to do that, a situation that said, This is what we're going to do, and going to have to do, and the whole country has to now pull together. I think for many people in this country, probably Munich was the greatest shock, because Chamberlain had had some, some adherents, he was a man of peace, maybe. I mean, lots of people felt that, but this was the shock when everything went to pieces, and Hitler, laughingly, you know, stepped over everything.
OK. Now I'm going to ask you the last question, which is I think one that you feel very strongly about, because we never really get to talk about it. But, do you want to cut, Felipe? because, we have—
OK, we're still rolling? OK. The New Deal, the legacy of the New Deal. In other words, what, what, you talk about the exciting times, tell us what it felt like to be involved at that time, and what it meant, you know, that this was a horrible time in our country's history, but, yet—
You have to start from the top, [laughs] don't start with the but, start from the top.
[laughs] OK. The New Deal, I, I always wonder whether people remember what the New Deal really brought to this country. When we started out there was no Social Security, let's imagine what this would be, no Social Security. There was no unemployment insurance, so if you were out of a job you were down and out, and no one was going to lift you up even this much. There was no aid for independent children, no welfare program. You had a choice, to starve, or, or, only one choice, either you had work or you starved. We had, you know, the Okies traveling around the country, families in broken-down old cars traveling around the country, so we got, we got all these social insurances. Now, I'm often amused when I hear people say it was the New Deal programs that kept us in trouble, so, New Deal programs, how would it be without those programs? At that time, there were debates whether one should include in the early New Deal legislation, universal health insurance, and it was decided that it couldn't be done, that was too big a bite, one couldn't do that. But there was a group, large group of people who worked on it, and who developed a bill, and there was a commission appointed that studied the problem, held hearings on the problem, and came out with recommendations for universal health insurance, and a bill was drawn up, and it was again our Senator Wagner who introduced the bill, it was introduced into committee. But then the war economy had started, and the total concentration on the war had begun, and Roosevelt, who had supported the efforts of Wagner and his group, no longer, he wasn't against it, but no longer could give it any time or support.
OK, but what I was interested in now, aside from the programs themselves, the spirit. You know, people talk about the 'spirit of the 60's', what was the spirit of the 30s in terms of, we faced this terrible crisis, but there were people out there attempting to do something. Was it a special time, and if it's so, why was it so special, what was it about the-
The 1930s were a special time because actually, actually—
Could you start again? I'm sorry, it's my fault.
The 1930s were a special time because, actually, people moved from despair to hope. Remember that some very visible things were done first, the banks were closed so that there couldn't be a run on banks. Nobody had ever done that before, but there wasn't a run on banks, so people were beginning to believe. Then they, there were, work was created. Now, there was a big, national works program. There was the decision that since there weren't enough private jobs, since there were great public needs, a public work force was going to be created. I don't think the debate about that has stopped yet, but it had great impact, because there were a lot of young people unemployed, you had the Youth Corps. in that time. And people did hope again, you know, they, it, I've seen a good many films and read a good many reports about that, of people saying, Well, we didn't believe it could be possible, but look at us, here we are, we have a house again, we work again, and this country is going up. It, of course, it was very different from the way it's now [telephone rings], you see.
I'm sorry, cut, there—
—have a question?
Or have you ever been.
Or have you ever been...
OK, go. But it is a personal question, and I guess I want to know, how did you feel, personally, being involved in this time, being involved with Mrs. Roosevelt and all the things that she was involved in, and you having your own activities and all those things, how was it for you as a personal experience?
Well, working with Mrs. Roosevelt, and being involved with the White House, and staying at the White House, and visiting Mrs. Roosevelt and speaking with her daily, was incredible. There wasn't a day when I didn't think how lucky I was to have this chance, there wasn't a day. I was always aware that I was helping Mrs. Roosevelt, I was always aware that I hadn't been elected to anything, but that it was really marvelous to be involved in this, to be involved in history, in making history. It was great. It was strenuous very often, but it was very great.
That's wonderful, thank you. OK, [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] .
Fourteen. And take it away.
Mrs. Roosevelt was very much interested in the school across the Hudson from Hyde Park, which was a school for delinquent boys, mostly black children at that time, a few white ones. We would go and visit the school, and she'd read to the boys, and the boys would come and have picnics at Hyde Park, where she'd read to them, she'd read Kipling to them, they understood Kipling, the Just-So Stories. Anyway, one day we went to Wooltrick[?] and went inside, and talked with some of the boys, and when we came out, her key had been stolen. The key to her car had been stolen. The question is, what does one do now? Obviously one of the boys had stolen it. Mrs. Roosevelt didn't have to think very hard. She turned to the director and said, I think, Mr. Cooper, you will drive us over to Hyde Park, won't you? And then, in the afternoon sometime, either Trude or I will come back and pick up the car, because I'm sure the boy who took the key just wanted it to play with, and he'll return it. He did. He did, I came back, and the key was there. So, that's where she got people to think about what they'd done, and tried to undo it. She did that in many different situations. She quickly knew how to get, she knew how to get people to stop violence, she knew how to get people to confess what they had done, though she didn't make it difficult for them, she didn't take—she never knew who the boy was. That's a nice Mrs.—
—Roosevelt story, yeah?
Thank you, wonderful, wonderful.