neljapäev, oktoober 18, 2007

From the lips of Herbert Hoover

This is the second installment of material from the Kerten Commission's investigation into the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States in 1953. Earlier I quoted Johannes Klesment who was present during the seizure of power in Estonia in 1939 and 1940 and present at the high-level meetings where it was decided on how to respond to Soviet demands.

This time we turn our attention to Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, who held office from 1929 to 1933. Hoover is popularly remembered as a failed president because of his inability to effectively react to the stock market crash of 1929.

Hoover has been redeemed by more recent discussions of this history, but last year, for example, my cousin's husband called a neighborhood in Queens a "Hooverville" in reference to its shoddy condition, and to the economic conditions during Hoover's presidency. Let's just say that Hoover tops the 'best presidents' lists of very few American historians.

But Hoover was not a failed president in the sense of the corrupt Warren G. Harding or the useless James Buchanan. Instead he lived a life more similar to the first President Bush or President Carter. That is he was extensively qualified, he was involved in humanitarian missions, he perfected the job of civil servant, but he ran into trouble when it was time for him to lead.

It was in his role as director of the American Relief Association that Hoover was involved in delivering food and supplies to the Baltic countries during the First World War. In 1938, after he had been ousted from office, Hoover found time to visit Estonia and Latvia who had both invited him to thank him for the ARA Relief. It was these visits that Hoover gave an account of while under oath in front of the Kersten Commission in December 1953.

Hoover: During the years afterward I had many invitations to come to the Baltic States, Poland, and other countries. They wanted to express some appreciation for our services, but I was busy with other things, as you know, and it was not until 1938 that I responded to those invitations, 19 years after my previous experiences.

I then visited Latvia and Estonia. I did not go to Lithuania, although I made considerable inquiries as to how they were getting on. I was also interested in knowing what was going on in Russia because there was a constant migration back and forth, chiefly of skilled mechanics from the Baltic States going into Russia, for employment in Russian industry. These people were coming back and they knew all about details of life in Russia. I interviewed a great number of them and could give you something of the picture and contrast.

Mr. Kersten: We would like that picture.

Mr. Hoover: The problem you are working on bears directly in that direction. Russia at that time was drastically rationing all food and clothing. They had an entirely unstable currency, if you could call it a currency at all. You know the nature of the Russian government and the characteristics.

The Baltic States, in contrast, had a free economy. Their currency was stable, their currencies were convertible into gold, they were accepted all over the world. Their fiscal policies were completely successful,; their budgets were all balanced, their industries were thriving, their agriculture was making an astonishing progress.

The result was that the standard of living in the Baltic States was about as high as any standard of living in Europe, possibly outside of Switzerland and Norway.

Mr. Madden: Mr. President, what year was this?

Mr: Hoover: This was 1938. The contrast with Russia was so great that it became one of the menaces of the Baltic States. The Russian people were constantly attempting to escape from Russia into the Baltic States. The Russians had established a barbed wire fence over some portion of that border, I don't know how many miles, but in any event, they maintained a rigid picket line in order to repel their own people from escaping into the more prosperous Baltic States to live.

The contrast was enormous and I should say that those three states had made more progress from the very low beginnings they had had 19 years before, than probably had ever been made by any series of states on record.

The testimony later goes on to discuss how during the Sept. 1939 discussions between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Germany was originally slated to get Lithuania, while the USSR would grab Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. Part of Lithuania was later purchased by the USSR from Germany, in cash. That is they had the cash to buy a strip of Lithuania from the Nazis, but not the cash to invest in their own people.

Towards the end of his testimony Hoover is asked if he has any hopes for the Baltic States regaining their independence.

His reply:

Hoover: When these three states came out from under the Russians in 1919, they had a flowering literature, they had great vitality in all of their racial qualities. Now, I have the belief that you cannot stamp that out of a people; you can't stamp it out of the Czechs, you can't stamp it out of the Poles, nor the Baltic peoples.

The only hope I can see is that some day, in some world cataclysm, those people can rise again as they did in 1919. That is the only solution I can see at the moment and it is the main hope.

He died in New York in 1964. His funeral was the third in three state funerals in a year, following the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Douglas MacArthur.

13 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Menace, that is the reason why my estonian grandfather left his homeland 1939. In Germany they experienced that the arrival country was shitty the same as the SU at that time. Too late. These were the times.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And because this f...d up history. I will post this once. My grandfather's son became a German soldier cause of that history. He was responsible while shooting down a American plane near Maribor, nowadays Slovenia, it is my uncle. He was witness of atrocities against French villages. He was f...d off. He deserted. Some women in Alsace helped him to escape. SS were searching for deserteurs then. He became a POW of the American army. His luck. I can not interrogate him about his past anymore, his health, he is old. He spend his liftime in The GDR, I met him first when I was 21. All this sucks.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And for the Americans who are still missing someone. I know the date, sorry for that.

antyx ütles ...

Good catch. I've translated part of it into Russian and posted on LiveJournal. :)

DukeLupus ütles ...

Giustino, any chance of creating an article about Kersten commission to Wikipedia? You seem to be knowledgeable about it. I left a request to WikiProject Estonia as well.

Wahur ütles ...

"The testimony later goes on to discuss how during the Sept. 1939 discussions between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Germany was originally slated to get Lithuania, while the USSR would grab Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. Part of Lithuania was later purchased by the USSR from Germany, in cash."

Giustino, I suggest you check your facts here. IIRC cash was not involved, instead they changed territory for territory (I think Russians gave up Warsaw district in return).

Of course, that doesn't disqualify your point in anyway :)

Wahur ütles ...

Yep. Checked my memory (sorry for hasty translation):
"According to the other protocol Lithuania was transferred to the Soviet zone of interest in return for Lublin and partially Warsaw districts, which would be handed over to Germany." Meltyuhov, 2002, discussing Soviet-German agreement on the division of Poland from 1939.

Giustino ütles ...

Giustino, I suggest you check your facts here.

That's what the book says:

"Stalin wanted it and he made a settlement -- I forget the date -- by which he paid actual cash to the Germans for that piece of Lithuania."

Here's what the actual documents say:

From January 1941:

1. The Government of the German Reich renounces its claim to the strip of Lithuanian territory which is mentioned in the Secret Additional Protocol of September 28, 1939, and which has been marked on the map attached to this Protocol;

2. The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is prepared to compensate the Government of the German Reich for the territory mentioned in Point 1 of this Protocol by paying 7,500,000 gold dollars or 31,500,000 million reichsmarks to Germany.

space_maze ütles ...

Stange how he speaks of Norway as an exceptionally prosperous nation this early on, when Norway only found its oil in the 70s. Till then, I would think Sweden would have been considered a lot more prosperous ...

Well, maybe he mixed them up :D

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

In the Wikipedia article there is mentioned the end of the war. First World War. I guess it is refering to the year 1918.

When the Humanitarian aid to Russia and SU was planned there was even military envolment of the US in Northern Russia.

The Free Dictionary:
"British, French, and US expedition to northern Russia 1918–19 to protect the Murmansk–Petrograd railway line from Finland which was then an ally of Germany. The expedition was also to occupy part of the Kola peninsula which the Finns were bargaining with the Bolshevik government for.

The regional Soviet authorities cooperated with the Allies in protecting the railway line and the Allies, for their part, undertook not to interfere in the area politically and to provide food for the population. Shortly afterward the Supreme Soviet changed its mind and ordered the local Soviet not to cooperate, but the locals ignored the order. The Allied force moved south in October 1918 and cleared the area of various renegade Finn and Bolshevik groups, eventually reaching Lake Onega in the summer of 1919. By this time the original purpose of the expedition had been achieved, and, the war being over, evacuation was ordered. By the end of 1919 the entire force had been withdrawn."

Wahur ütles ...

Yep, Giustino. I need to learn reading more carefully - did not pay due attention to that "strip".

Colm ütles ...

Tere! Nice to see some blogging in English about Estonia! :-) Nice blog you have. I'll be back!

Colm Iirimaalt aga praegu elab Eestis.
Language and Politics:
Irish and Estonian:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And about food supplies and Estonia, it was new to me to read Edgar Mattisen (1996): Searching for a dignified Compromise. The Estonian-Russian Border 1000 years:

'As soon as news about the peace treaty [Tartu 1920] spread, the ambassador of the USA in Helsinki, T.Haynes, was immediately called back to Washington to report on "the abnormal situation" in the Baltic states. Sanctions followed immediately - the United States stopped food deliveries to Estonia. Representatives of the State Department declared the treaty "void" '... .