Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, and the Atomic Bomb – The Rewind


– Did you know that Eleanor
Roosevelt once hosted a show called Prospects of Mankind on WGBH? Welcome to WGBH’s The Rewind, where each week we explore
the public media archives where history is preserved
online and in the vault. (light music) I’m not gonna lie, the
idea of Eleanor Roosevelt hosting a talk show is pretty cool. If you could pick an
iconic historical figure to host a show, who would it be? Mine would be Benjamin Franklin. Let us know your answer in
the comments or on Twitter with the hashtag WGBH Rewind. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, though the partition in the German Capital was hotly contested for
decades before it’s fall. In the early 60s, as the Cold War was
reaching a boiling point, Berlin came to civilize the conflict between the United States and Russia. In this clip, we’ll hear Eleanor Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger discuss
the nuclear arms race and how it would affect Germany. – Now to continue our discussion
of the important questions which Secretary Rusk has introduced. We have with us a group
of distinguished gentlemen of varying points of view. – I believe that the build up
of atomic weapons as we do it is absolutely necessary,
cannot be avoided. But we do it so that the Russians know if they produce a total
destruction in the west with atomic weapons, then we can equally produce a
total destruction in the east. But we shouldn’t use them
except one situation. That means the situation that they themselves use them first. If they use them, then
of course this means mankind has had this moment of providence in which it destroys itself. And then all human possibilities are gone. – Well, now I think there
must be some answers to that. How about you, Professor
Kissinger or you, Mr. Reston? – Well I certainly disagree
with that point of view in this sense: if you take the premise
of Professor Tillich that we were at that position, then I think we could
argue it back and forth whether this was right and
ethical or whether it was not. But the question I would like
to put to Professor Tillich is that at this point in the crisis, if this nation took the position which Dr. Tillich has just defined, is it not almost inevitable
that the Russians, knowing that that was our position, could take over the whole of Europe without any action on our part? – It seems to me through the
cases that are likely to arise, and the situation which you described differs between Berlin
and the rest of Europe only in the amount of time it will take the Soviet Union to occupy either area. It is the general consensus of people who are concerned with strategic questions that a purely conventional
defense of Europe against the forces which the Soviets
could now bring against it is not possible for any
extended period of time and if we commit ourselves in advance never to use nuclear weapons
in such circumstances, we are in effect not
only dooming ourselves to losing Europe in case of an attack, I would even suggest that we
are encouraging an attack. We will give the Soviets no
other option except to attack. – We’ve come to no decisions here today. We just know more about the
problem than we did before. And I thank you all for being with us and I’m very grateful
for your participation. – Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt. – Can’t get enough Eleanor? Other episodes of Prospects of Mankind are available for viewing at the American Archive
of Public Broadcasting at americanarchive.org. Let us know what you find in the comments or on Twitter with the
hashtag WGBH Rewind. Thanks again for unwinding with The Rewind and we’ll see you next
week in the archives. (light upbeat music)

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