May 19, 1959

Page 8459

MR. MUSKIE; Mr. President, I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity the Senator from Kansas has given me to speak on this occasion.

I hope the Senate will forgive me if I speak in a rather personal way of these courageous women and their visit to this country.

I am speaking, not only for myself, but also for my father, who is not here to speak for himself. Fifty years ago he came to this country from Russian occupied Poland. He came to the United States to escape tyranny and to find opportunity. I can remember standing long hours at his knee, as he told me of his homeland and of the kind of people from which he and I sprang.

I am sure that if he were here today, he would say to these countrywomen of his that what he found In the United States justified the sacrifice which was involved in his coming to this country. He found in the United States a love of liberty and unparalleled opportunity. More than that, and of even more significance, in terms of these ladies, he found in the United States compassion and a great heart for the unfortunate and the oppressed.

He told me many stories illustrating that the Polish people are courageous, and have intense pride in their traditions, particularly in their tradition of freedom and love of liberty. He told me of their stoicism in the face of oppression and tyranny, of their patience in the face of adversity, and of their fierce determination to fight always to maintain their integrity as a nation and "the sacredness of their traditions.

All America, I think, has been touched by the story of these ladies. All America has been shocked, in the first instance, by the horrible experience to which they were subjected, but also has been touched, ultimately, by the resources of spirit and heart which have made it possible for them to turn their backs on the terror of the past and to look to the future with hope and with confidence in their ability to deal with life as they find it.

The Senators from New York [Mr. JAVITS and Mr. KEATING] and I had what I found to be a most moving experience this noon in meeting with these ladies. It was moving because we could see on their faces and in their eyes the character, the courage, and the firm belief in freedom and in the ultimate compassion of mankind which have made it possible for them to put the past behind them and to live for the future.

I am grateful to my distinguished colleagues for the interest they have taken in my father's countrywomen. I shall not repeat the story of these ladies, which already has been touched upon by my colleague, the distinguished Senator from Kansas (Mr. CARLSON], and will also be touched upon by the distinguished Senators from New York.

However, Mr. President, I should like to obtain unanimous consent to have printed at this point in the RECORD, in connection with my remarks, a statement I have prepared which outlines some of the considerations which I think may be of interest to the Senate, and also a statement which is a chronological outline of the steps taken by the Ravensbrueck Lapins and groups acting on their behalf to obtain indemnification from the Federal Republic of West Germany.

I cannot close without paying particular tribute to Mr. Norman Cousins and to Miss Caroline Ferriday for the dedication and the interest they have given to this project, without which it would not have materialized.

I thank the Senator from Kansas for yielding to me, Mr. President; and I now ask that the two matters to which I have referred be printed at this point in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the statement and the memorandum were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:


I should like to add a few words of sincere praise for the dedicated efforts of Mr. Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review of Literature, and of Caroline Ferriday, who took the trouble to interest themselves in the problems of the Polish survivors of the surgical brutalities practiced by Nazi physicians during the darkest moments of the Second World War.

Credit also should be given to the Pan American Airlines for providing free transportation for the 30 women who are making their visit to this country, and to the individuals in private life who, through public donations, have made free medical diagnosis and treatment possible.

It is significant, I think, that even now, a decade and a half after the end of the war, we are still far from having achieved substantial justice for these victims of some of the most inhuman actions on record. It is to be hoped that the Federal Republic of West Germany will find it possible to support the resolution adopted by its own Cabinet as long ago as July 26. 1951, when the Federal Government of West Germany recognized, in the Cabinet resolution, the existing moral obligation in cases of special need to grant effective aid to such victims Of medical experiment as were persecuted for reasons of race, religion, ideology, or political conviction. For nearly 10 years, various groups and individuals have attempted to persuade the Government of West Germany that it has an obligation to these courageous women.

It does not seem unfair to suggest that the German Government has been able to find an unusual number of obstacles in the way of taking effective action. In some cases. the German Government has said that money was not the real problem; that the real stumbling block lay in the fact that there were no diplomatic relations between Poland and the Federal Republic. The Polish representatives then proposed that until such time as diplomatic relations were established. the matter be handled by the International Red Cross. This was rejected by the German Ministry Of Foreign Affairs.

Last year Mr. Norman Cousins went to Warsaw and arranged to bring 35 of the Ravensbrueck Lapins to the United States for physical and psychological rehabilitation. At the same time, Mr. Cousins held discussions with officials of the West German Government and gained an agreement that the German Government's objections about dealing with nationals of an unrecognized state would not hold once the Lapins were outside Poland and a responsible committee to represent them was organized In the United States.

Twenty-seven of these ladies arrived in this country on December 23, 1958. In February of this year. The original group was augmented by eight additional Lapins. On February 27, Mr. Cousins was informed by the Press and Information Office of the German Embassy that in 30 cases, a decision had been made to pay $1,000 each as a contribution to the healing costs, provided that these Polish women were then in the United States.

On April 16 the American representatives of the Lapins group met with an official of the German Government in Washington. They advised him that all concerned appreciated the Government's offer of $1,000 per Lapin, but that the funds could not be accepted if acceptance would prejudice negotiations for payment of pensions or compensation.

From this point forward, the situation seems to have reached a stalemate. Apparently, partly because of the strong opposition of the West German Finance Ministry. Since the German Government apparently already has on file medical reports which demonstrate that the victims now in the United States are entitled to maximum compensation under the prevailing rules, it is hard to understand the reasons for any further delay.

It is to be hoped that the visit of the Ravensbrueck Lapins to our Nation's Capital will serve to dramatize the necessity for a prompt and just settlement of their claims against the Federal Republic of West Germany.


[The Congressional Recordat this point shows a lengthy chronology of efforts to gain West German payments for damages done to these women. The text of the entire chronology may be found on Page 8459 and forward of the May 19, 1959, Congressional Record.]

©2002 The Edmund S. Muskie Foundation. All rights reserved.