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President Franklin D. Roosevelt Thanks for a “Heartening” Telegram Received September 27, While FDR was Trying to Prevent Hitler from Starting War
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“Please accept sincerest thanks for your telegram of September twenty-seventh. It is heartening and I appreciate much your sending it.”

FDR thanks Republican New York City attorney Frederick R. Coudert Jr. for a telegram received a day earlier, September 27, 1938. On that date, in response to Hitler’s threat to annex the western third of Czechoslovakia, known as the Sudetenland, Roosevelt sent a message urging German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to avoid the “incalculable disaster which would result to the entire world from the outbreak of European war” and “the mutilation and death of millions of citizens.”

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. Typed Letter Signed, to Frederic R. Coudert Jr., September 28, 1938, Washington, D.C. On White House stationery. 1 p., 7 x 9 in.

Inventory #27516       Price: $1,250

Historical Background
Roosevelt insisted that “the question before the world today, Mr. Chancellor, is not the question of errors of judgment or of injustices committed in the past. It is the question of the fate of the world today and tomorrow. The world asks of us who at this moment are heads of nations the supreme capacity to achieve the destinies of nations without forcing upon them, as a price, the mutilation and death of millions of citizens.”

Hitler responded the same day by telegram, “Be assured that I can fully appreciate the lofty intention on which your remarks are based and that I share in every respect your opinion regarding the unforeseeable consequences of a European war.” However, he continued, “I can and must decline all responsibility of the German people and their leaders, if the further development, contrary to all my efforts up to the present, should actually lead to the outbreak of hostilities…. conditions in the Czechoslovak state, as is generally known, have in the last few weeks become completely intolerable. Political persecution and economic oppression have plunged the Sudeten Germans into untold misery… it now rests, not with the German government, but with the Czechoslovak government alone, to decide if they want peace or war.” In reality, in order to create a pretext for invading, Hitler had intentionally created the crisis.

On September 29, Hitler, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met in conference and signed the Munich Agreement that allowed the immediate German occupation of the Sudetenland. In the face of that fait accompli, the Czechoslovak government acquiesced on September 30. Despite all promises, in March, 1939, the German army went on to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia, annexing part, giving part to the Slovak Republic (a German satellite state), and forming the remainder into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) was born in New York into an elite family. He graduated from Harvard University in 1904 and attended Columbia Law School but dropped out after passing the bar in 1907. He married his distant cousin Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905, and they had six children between 1906 and 1916. Surprising everyone by gaining election to the New York Senate from a strongly Republican district, Democrat Roosevelt served from 1911 to 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He served in that position until 1920. He campaigned as the Democratic candidate for Vice President in 1920, but illness in 1921 left him paralyzed from the waist down. He served as governor of New York from 1929 to 1932, when he won the presidential election over unpopular incumbent Herbert Hoover. He went on to win reelection three times, serving as president from 1933 to his death in 1945, the longest term of any president in U.S. history. His response to the Great Depression of the 1930s was the New Deal, a series of measures to combat widespread unemployment, falling farm prices and industrial production, and homelessness. He also led the nation through World War II, effectively inspiring and mobilizing the nation to confront Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in alliance with Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.

Frederic René Coudert Jr.(1898-1972) was born in New York City and began studying at Harvard College in 1916. He left college to join the U.S. Army in World War I. He served as a first lieutenant in the 105th Infantry Regiment. He graduated from Columbia University in 1918 and Columbia Law School in 1922. He was admitted to the bar in 1923 and began a practice in New York City. He served as assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1924 and 1925. He was a Republican member of the New York State Senate from 1939 to 1946 and was known for his participation in the legislature’s Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate the Educational System of the State of New York from 1940 to 1942. Known as the Rapp-Coudert Committee, its goal was to identify the extent of communist influence in the New York educational system. From 1947 to 1959, Coudert represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives. While in Congress, he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He returned to his law practice in New York City and served on the State Commission on Governmental Operations of New York City from 1959 to 1961.


Complete Transcript

The White House / Washington

                                                                        September 28, 1938

Dear Fred,

Please accept sincerest thanks for your telegram of September twenty-seventh. It is heartening and I appreciate much your sending it.

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Honorable Frederic R. Coudert,
2 Rector Street, / New York, N. Y.


Condition: Expected folds; minor toning.

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