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Feeding Russia, Starving Germany

June 2024
1min read

In his article about feeding Russia (“In the News,” February/March), Bernard A. Weisberger offers a dramatic account of Herbert Hoover’s brilliant campaign as Secretary of Commerce to combat famine in the newly formed Soviet Union. Although Hoover despised the Russian Revolution, he also understood the danger inherent in resting American security and welfare exclusively on a trial of strength with another nation. He saw food shipments to Russia as a chance to show that “capitalism was on the side of development.” So, he wrote, America could “take the leadership in the reconstruction of Russia when that moment arrives.”

The analogy is important: one doesn’t have to be soft on communism to recognize the importance of doing all we can to ease the Soviet peoples through the current crisis.

But Hoover’s prescience should not be overemphasized. The same Quaker gentleman who fed Russia also deprived a starving Germany of food to coerce unconscionable concessions after World War I. The result was the “turnip winter,” and a level of misery which Hitler freely exploited en route to his eleven million votes.

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