University of Illinois Broadcast Archives

Can A Free People Survive?


December is a fateful month in our history as a nation. On December 7 1787 Delaware was the first state to ratify the charter of our liberties. The Constitution of the United States of America one hundred and fifty four years later to a day this nation was faced with the question of whether a free people living under the guarantees of that Constitution and protected by its Bill of Rights could survive on December 7 7 1941 this country met a trial

by fire under the massed onslaught of Japan and the European Axis powers. It was compelled to fight a two front war as the totalitarian powers sought to encircle it in the West and in the Far East. In December 1944 our troops entered the battle of the bomb and successfully met that last savage attack by the Nazis. Less than a year later a victory which we thought to be final hours. Today December 10 1950 the western world is again faced with the issue of survival with the

respite of a few brief years years themselves filled with turmoil and conflict we are now engaged in a defacto war with communist China. The scale of the conflict the number of forces committed in North Korea leaves no doubt that Communist China has taken up the sword against the United Nations and that we have an undeclared war in Korea. It is fitting that today Sunday December 10 1950 should be set aside by the president of the United States as human rights day

so that we may take time to think of our goal in the conflict and carnage that has scourged the world for the past two decade.

Many of our boys now fighting in Korea have throughout their lives known of war.

The Sino-Japanese War the Italian Ethiopian war the Spanish Civil War World War 2 the war between nationalist forces and communist forces in China. There were but few years in the past few decades when full scale war was not raging at some point on this globe.

The nations of the West including the United States have of late been often charged with a lack of a positive ideology.

It has been said that our approach has been negative instead of positive that we must have affirmative goals.

If we are to appeal to the peoples of the world I suggest that the preservation of our way of life that our determination to realize the dream of man through the centuries that his basic human rights shall be respected. It is a positive goal of overpowering importance today. Democracy itself is but I mean the end of the preservation of human rights. Its vision of equality and liberty was conceived in the democracies of ancient Greece. It was Plato who said

all men are by nature equal made all of the same earth and by the same creator. And however we deceive ourselves as dear to God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince. And it was Aristotle who found that the basis of a democratic state is liberty which according to the common opinion of men can only be enjoyed in such a state.

The vision endured in ancient Rome. It was Cicero who said in no other state say where the power of the people predominates has liberty any home liberty. The sweetest of all blessings and which if it is not equal for all is not liberty the vision endured through the fall of Greece and wrong to the strife and feudalism of the Middle Ages and through the rise of the system of national states and the theory of divine sovereignty.

Magna Carta in 12 15 the English Bill of Rights in 16 89 our Declaration of Independence in 1776 the French declaration of the rights of man adopted by the revolutionary National Assembly of France in 1789. The Bill of Rights and next to our federal Constitution. These kept the vision alive during the passing century. In our time we have seen the rise of the totalitarian state and its threat to the liberties of man which until this threat

seemed finally to have been secured through the struggle of centuries and in our time with the coming of the totalitarian state we have seen in the words of John Dos Passos the pale file of arrested persons marched to the station. The bedraggled company is locked into a freight car.

No food no water or filthy with excrement. The sealed train full of dying and dead rumbling away into exile. Isolators extermination camp.

The rediscovery of torture the infliction of pain an instrument of national policy. Murder become one of the industrial arts the infliction of elaborate agonies. Part of the science of statecraft the or the denials of human rights upon which the totalitarian state is founded. Can anyone say that the fight to rid the world of these practices to bring to an end the extermination of peoples and the use of torture as an instrument of

totalitarian justice is a negative goal.

What are these rights that have become such a part of our daily lives that some of us apparently cannot conceive of their absence.

A broken cardinal means any testifying on a communist witness stand. But you know you millions of displaced persons in Western Europe living a life of privation but nevertheless of freedom could tell you. Displaced Persons who have finally reached our own community. I could tell you it is urine trying ADP speaking to an allied interviewer. We stood at the cards and soon the SS men drove us into them.

One hundred and twenty people into each car. The doors were shut. We have no food with us and now we tried to sit down. When any people sat down the others had no place to stand and there were many people who were very tired. It was not possible otherwise. We stood over one another. We trampled on other people’s fingers and the people of course resisted and were striking each other and so a panic ensued. It was so terrible that people went crazy during the trip and soon we had

the first death among us. We had more and more dead due to the heat in the car and the bodies began to smell and that is how we were traveling. There was a mass of insane and dead people in the car and after five days of contd continuous traveling we arrived in Ragan’s brain and when we arrived and ducked out there were more dead bodies than survivors. It is Fela flextime speaking. We passed the crematories

and we saw mounds and mounds of dead. It was unbelievable. Dead with whom the crematory could not keep up. There were mountains of dead and from the air came all the sickness. It is Jacques Metzner speaking in Barragan Gelsen I saw for the first time how people were burned on open Piers. Apparently the gas or gas piping stopped functioning. So they piled up people in mounds and or gasoline over them and burned them on open peers.

One got a custom for such a sight as if it was something ordinary. It is terrible to say that. And even now I can’t conceive how I was able to bear the stench which would not only come through the nose but stick to one’s palette as though it were something palpable this rip magnet pestilential stench that filled the air it is a Muslim speaking the Laga fear it caught her. And now I want to tell you about the sadism of that man. He did not care that it was a woman a young girl

and he beat her. He beat out her eyes with a whip. And that is the first time in my life that I saw such a beating and I thought that is the worst I could not imagine that there may be something worse. I was 14 years old. I thought then that is the worst that can be.

But later I found that there were many steps beyond that so many that one simply can’t imagine.

These are documented interviews with DP published by the University of Illinois press and I did not interview the dead.

The General Assembly of the United Nations has sought to set forth the basic human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved without dissent.

On December 10 1948 save only for the abstentions of Soviet Russia by satellite state and two other countries Saudi Arabia and the Union of South Africa.

On this the anniversary of that day. Let us take time to examine that doctrine. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence and its statement of human rights has become familiar to every schoolboy in this country. Let us hope that the Preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights will become familiar to every person throughout the world. If its words could be brought home to the people behind the Iron Curtain which Russia will not permit

we would quickly find that they are far from a weak and negative approach.

The appeal of those words to people everywhere is only to clear from the resistance to their spread by the communist leader.

Let us read those words.

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom justice and peace in the world. Bear in this regard in him or a human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings Yelle enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common

people and it is essential if man is not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. Whereas the member states have pledged themselves to achieve in

cooperation with the United Nations the promotion of universal respect for an observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge. Now therefore the general assembly proclaims this universal declaration of human rights as a common standard of achievement for all

peoples and all nations to the end that every individual and every organ of society keeping this declaration constantly in mind shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures national and international to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance both among the peoples of member states themselves and among the peoples of territories in their jurisdiction.

What are these basic human rights as declared by this historic document. Are we so concerned with our affairs of the moment the noonday meal the daily paper that we cannot take time to think a bit about these rights. Rather the question which we face today as a nation is whether we can rise above the ease and comfort that our way of life has brought us and concern ourselves with those goals for which our forefathers gave their lives. The freezing cold of North

Korea is is bitter to the G.I. as was that of Valley Forge to Washington’s man. Death is his final. To a wounded doughboy to whom a Communist Chinese has set the torch as it was to Patrick Henry when he said is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery for bid. Almighty God I know not what course others may take but as for me Give me liberty or give me death.

Everyone asserts the Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to life liberty and the security of person. The slave labor in a Siberian concentration camp it says no one shall be held in slavery or servitude to the victims of the Soviet secret police it says no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to a Judith Coplan.

It says as our own federal court has just said no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and all are equal before the law. Remembering the victims of Nazi sterilization it promises that men and women of full age without any limitation due to race nationality or religion have the right to marry and to found a family. To the Catholic victims of communist religious oppression it promises

everyone has the right to freedom of thought conscience and religion to those cut off from communication with the Western world behind the Iron Curtain that declares everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the regimented policed voting of Communist regimes to the peoples of East Berlin. East Germany and Korea.

It proclaims.

The will of the people shall be the basis of authority of government. This will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by Universal and equal suffrage and she’ll be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures to submerged groups. It says every one is a member of society has the right to Social Security and is entitled to realization through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the

organization and resources of each State of the economic social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality to everyone everywhere it declares everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration without distinction of any kind. Such as race color sex language religion political or other opinion national or social origin property birth or

other status. Today we are confronted with the question whether we shall hold to those ideals. As to that question there can be but one answer we shall. But there is an even more fundamental and important question than that. Can we do that with equal confidence. I answer we can. For there is a strength in an association of free nations freely trying to achieve the values

and goals of freedom that has twice been tried in the crucible of a world war within our generation and has come through victorious. The freedom of the peoples of the Western world to participate in a rich varied and strong institutional life brings to them a strength greater than the strength of fear and torture on which the totalitarian world relies.

A vision in a way of life that have endured over two thousand years will not perish from this earth overnight. The vision did not die when Greece and Rome fell to the barbarian hordes of the east and the visions shall not die today. When the West is again confronted with a masked and brutal military power of the east today for the first time since the war of 1812 we are faced with foreign attack within our borders. The burning of Washington in that war United our people and their defense.

Today atomic attack and destruction faces our cities we must stand united. It is no time for recrimination. It is no time for division. It is no time for politics. If we stand firm and united the sweep of the historic forces expressed in the Declaration of Human Rights and the movement of the peoples of the world to attain those rights will not be stopped. At the end of

his first term of office as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with prophetic insight said there is a mysterious cycle in human events to some generations much is given of other generations. Much is expected this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny. In this world of ours in other lands. There are some people who in times past have lived and fought for freedom

and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. Our only success can stir their ancient hope. It is this ancient hope of man of which the Declaration of Human Rights becomes the Beacon in a solid dark and sorry world. It is the voice of Walt Whitman the poet of democracy speaking. Each of us inevitable each of us limitless. Each of us with his or her

right upon the earth. Each of us allowed the Turnell purports of the earth. Each of us here is divinely as any is here. By God I will accept nothing which all of us cannot have their counterpart on the same terms. The peoples of Western Europe are tired of war. The peoples of Asia are tired of war.

The peoples of this hemisphere do not find in war their way of life. If there is any one cause of the Communist onslaught that now confronts us it is our perception that disarmament and return to the ways of peace.

After World War II while the communist world continued implacably to build its military strength these times of war were indeed times to try the souls of man but united in defense free peoples will once again show the strength that lies in freedom and in societies dedicated to the preservation of human rights

Human Rights Day posterA lecture by Kenneth Carlston, University of Illinois Professor of Law, on the second anniversary of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, commemorating the the first Human Rights Day (Dec 10, 1950). The program begins with a parallel between the date of the first state to ratify the Constitution (Delaware, Dec 7, 1787), the bombing of Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941), and the onset of the Korean War. He sets up a dichotomy between democracy and totalitarian states and he discusses human rights in the context of democracy, liberty, and a way of life that is contrary to that of China, Soviet Union, and communism. He lists the foundational documents that establish the meaning of basic human rights: Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, US Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights of Men, the US Constitution. Carlston describes different aspects of WWII as evidence of totalitarian states and encroachment on human rights by talking about displaced people and first-hand accounts when soldiers reached the German concentration camps (he cites documented interviews published by the University of Illinois Press). The United Nation developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights out of this context. Carlston lists the countries that did not sign this document and life behind the Iron Curtain where this Universal Declaration does not apply. 

He reads the full preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is followed by a call to think about what basic human rights means and the conditions by which had lived and died during Word War II and by which people live without such a deceleration in 1950. He wraps up the speech with oration about the West and the East, the threats of atomic warfare, and then quotes FDR and the need to uphold the human rights and democracy. The concluding point identifies that after WWII, the West moved towards disarmament and the Communists continued to build their arms. Carlston calls on the need to continue uniting and fighting for basic human rights.