“If Thine Enemy Hunger Feed Him,” by Reinhold Niebuhr
Hunger and starvation on so wide a scale as will revolt the conscience of the world is developing in Germany. The mass misery, beggars description, particularly in Eastern Germany, where millions of refugees from Silesia and Czechoslovakia are being thrown into territories already unable to take care of their own. This situation has developed, partly because of the destruction of German industry and the dislocation of means of transportation during the war, partly because of the wholesale dismantling of industrial equipment for reparations and partly because of the policy of forced migrations of German populations in Eastern Europe.
Secretary Byrnes, in his report on Germany, suggests that it will be necessary to import food without payment into Germany for at least two years until German industry is sufficiently restored to produce the manufactured goods for export, which will be required to pay for its food imports.
But long range plans, however important, do not help to avert catastrophe this winter. The impending catastrophe is made more terrible by the fact that UNRRA is specifically prohibited from feeding Germans and that private and church relief organizations have been unable to ship food, because of government restrictions.
Bishops Oxnam and Sherrill, who have just returned from Germany, report that “millions have been torn from their homes, their personal property taken from them, and forced to migrate to Germany under conditions that result in starvation and the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands.” A private correspondent in Washington reports that the army will not act “because it takes for granted that ‘public opinion’ is hostile to any plan of feeding Germans at our expense.” Meanwhile Bishops Oxnam and Sherrill report that the army is now ready to import food at least into the US zone, sufficient to maintain the daily ration at 1,500 calories.
Even if it should prove correct that the army is now shipping food to the American zone, this is not necessarily an adequate policy considering the needs in all zones, and the special obligations which we have as a nation with surplus food supply. Meanwhile the army admits that the clothing shortage also is very severe, particularly in view of the fact that houses will have scant heat this winter. Despite this situation none of the relief organizations have been able to secure licenses for the shipment of either food or clothing. The national leadership in Washington has been discouragingly unready to acquaint the public with the facts or to take any steps which might seem in advance of “public opinion.”
For these reasons the churches ought to take the leadership first in making the public aware of the dimensions of this issue and secondly in bringing pressure upon the War and State Departments to grant the relief agencies licenses to ship food and clothing, but particularly clothing, into Germany.