Letters, Jun. 25, 1945

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"We Now Know"


Because I think that it holds human interest, I am enclosing a copy of a letter from my son, now 20, and 18 when drafted, who is with the Ninth Army in Germany:

"... I have returned to Maastricht (Holland) to find the town totally changed. It seemed to me as though life itself had suddenly emerged from the darkness of cellars to the sunshine-basked surface.

"To have known the dreariness and weariness of this town in wartime is to appreciate the laughter, the smiles, the gay colors that fill every broad street and crooked winding alley now. . . . To see the lights burn unshaded, to see a half-dead village suddenly become wonderfully alive, to see Dutch boys once more united with their families, is almost compensation enough for the inconvenience that I have had to face here. They are not things to write about. They are feelings which have to be felt, and often the whole story is conveyed in a look, a smile, a handshake. . . .

"Gone is the blackout. Gone are the curfews. Gone are the sleepless nights spent in cellars. The air is free. The sun is warm and bright. The people of the land are free people.

"If we ever doubted what we have fought for, we now know. . . ."


New York City

Get Rid of the Lumpen


This evening I called the people of this little town together to elect a new mayor. . . . Since I speak German fluently, I opened the meeting, and . . . Herr , owner of the local inn, took over and read a previously made-up list of names for the posts of mayor, assistant mayor, town clerk, treasurer, and town crier. He asked anybody who had any objections to raise his hand.

For about two seconds no hand showed, nobody spoke. Then a man in the rear of the room spoke up. He said: "No, no, we have had enough of the Nazis. And all the stories you tell now of having been forced into the party are so much bunk. I never belonged to it. Many others did not. Take Herr Hanzel-gruber, for example. He never joined and he would not make a bad mayor. As long as I have anything to do with this village, no Nazi will ever belong to the administration if I can help it." There were quiet "Bravos" and an intense, quiet whispering.

Then another old man spoke up: "Let , get rid of these Lumpen [scoundrels] once and for all. They have had us under the yoke long

enough. Take , who presides. He has been playing along with them all the time. Now he is trying to ram his pals down our throats." . . . People were speaking from all sides of the great room. I rose and said: "Let me suggest to you that you hold a hand vote on Hanzelgruber whose name was suggested." They did, and a vast majority wanted him. Hanzelgruber was the new mayor. . . .

Then they elected the other members of the town council, again tossing out this one because he had not been quite reliable in the Third Reich, that one for his failure to be openly against the Nazis. Not one man elected had ever belonged to the party. It was easy to see that many present did not dare speak their minds—it had been too long since they last could. Others were unable to grasp this new thing, free speech. But it was as fine a start and as encouraging a seed of a decent new Reich as I could have wished for.

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