Tuesday, December 9, 2014

September 19-22, 1939: Peer Pressure

 Letter from Chief Editor of United Press to Consul General in Amsterdam, page 1


Amsterdam, September 19, 1939

Mr. Frank C. Lee,
Consul General,

Dear Mr. Lee:

Thank you for the letter to the Belgian Consul General.

I received my visa without delay and leave tomorrow morning for Brussels by air. I plan to return by Sunday and hope to have the pleasure of seeing you gain before proceeding to Scandinavia.

Meanwhile I would greatly appreciate your assistance in a matter of considerable interest to me personally and to the United Press.

Mr. A. F. Doeppner, our manager for incoming services in the Netherlands and Belgium, with headquarters in Amsterdam, has a son who has won a scholarship through the Quakers to McPherson College.

The son, Thomas, is without a German passport, having left the country to avoid serving military training under a Nazi regime, but has a Dutch Identification Card with runs until August 20, 1940.

Thomas is now in Amsterdam with his father and has been there since September 1938. He is nineteen years of age.

Mr. Doeppner has been with the United Press for six years and is one of our most loyal and esteemed managers. Obviously there would always be a home for Thomas with his father here in Amsterdam or elsewhere if we decided to transfer Mr. Doeppner.
  Letter from Chief Editor of United Press to Consul General in Amsterdam, page 2


    -  2 - 
Thomas is eager to leave for the United States to begin his studies at McPherson College since the Fall term already has opened. He has received letters and cablegrams from the President of McPherson College and the Quakers urging that he arrive at the earliest possible date.

Our New York office and Washington bureau have taken the matter up with the State Department. I enclose a cablegram received from New York.

I understand Thomas must go to Rotterdam to secure a student visa.

In this connection I would be grateful to you if you would contact the Consul in Rotterdam and aid in any possible way.

I am anxious to see Thomas go ahead. He is a splendid chap. He plans to major in engineering.

With all good wishes, I am,

Faithfully yours,

Chief Editor Continental Services
and European Business Manager. 

Letter from H.C. Burrman (Representative for Holland with United Press)
 to Consul in Amsterdam


Mr. Frank Lee,
Consul General
of the United States,

Dear Sir,

I herewith state that Mr. Thomas Doeppner intends to depart for the United States about the end of September, to spend the school year at McPherson College, and intends to return to his father's home at Amstelveen, 8 Emmakade, Holland, before June 28, 1940

Yours faithfully,

H.C. Buurman. 

Letter from Chief Editor and General Business Manager of United Press, Virgil Pinkley, 
to American Consul in Amsterdam


Mr. Frank C. Lee,
Consul General,
The Netherlands,

Dear Mr. Lee:

It has come to my attention that Mr. Thomas Doeppner desires to leave the Netherlands shortly to attend school at McPherson College.

It is my understanding that he plans to return to his home with his parents in Amstelveen, Amsterdam, at the close of the school term next June. 

Any assistance you and your office can render Mr. Doeppner in this connection will be greatly appreciated.

With all good wishes, I am

Faithfully yours,

Virgil M. Pinkley
Chief Editor and General Business Manager.
Letter from August (Opa's Dad) to American Consul in Amsterdam


The Consul General of
The United States,

I herewith state that my son, Thomas Doeppner, intends to depart for the United States about end September, to spend the school year at McPherson College, and intends to return to my home at Amstelveen, 8 Emmakade, Holland before June 28, 1940.

Faithfully yours,

August Døppner  

Letter from Amsterdam Quaker group to American Consul General in Amsterdam


To/ The American Consul General
The American Consulate

Dear Mr. Bonnett;

May I speak for the American Friends Service Committee, of 20 South 12th Street Philadelphia, in recommending to your attention the application of Thomas Doeppner for a student visa in order to take up his studies at McPherson College, McPherson Kansas.

We have known Thomas Doeppner as a volunteer worker in our Bureau and believe him to be a student of unusual ability and a character of the highest principles and ideals. We are entirely ready to assume the responsibility of meeting the requirements of the American Immigration Act regarding foreign students, in this case and give you your assurance that he will return to his home in Amsterdam at the date specified.

We wish to express to you our gratitude for your interest in Thomas, and for your promise of co-operation when we are in need of counsel and advice.

Sincerely yours,
Mary Champrey (??)

Once Opa sends out the SOS to Charlotte at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) everyone jumps in to help him out. All the letters written to the consul (or as a request for someone to write to the consul) are like a pile of peer pressure on the American Consul in Holland to just give the kid his visa already. 

It reminds me of the odd parable Jesus told his disciples- 
Luke 11: 5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
Anyhow- Opa’s friends at the AFSC, United Press, and the Quakers of Amsterdam are playing the role of annoying neighbor by asking in many ways for the consulate to grant the visa for Opa. A few of the letters emphasize Opa’s plan to return to Amsterdam to live with his father after the school year. Which, as you may guess, is a big, fat, lie. I know Opa does not know what his future holds, but I'm pretty sure he planned on staying in the United States at least as long as possible/for his whole school career. 

However, you might recall from earlier posts when I talk about the immigration laws- part of the difficulty for Jews and other refugees was that they had to be able to prove that they could return to their country of origin once the visa expired (for any visa that was temporary like the student visa). This was impossible for refugees out of Germany, as the case was clear that they could not return. So it became only possible for folks who somehow got beyond the German borders (like Opa) or who were in countries that had not yet been occupied or invaded by Germany. Those who know their WWII history know that that list of countries will change drastically in a short amount of time. Opa's additional little hiccup was that his legal status in Amsterdam was tentative. In order to be able to "return home" to Amsterdam, he would have to do it before his temporary resident status ran out in June of 1940. Again- if you know your WWII dates, you may remember that June of 1940 was a rough time for Europe. (I'll give you a hint- Germany invaded a lot of countries and took over with crazy scary speed.) But no one knows that, so right now all of these respectable people are lying for Opa (or out of forced ignorance) so he can obtain his student visa under these strict rules.

Right in this moment of time, although the war is on and the focus is on Americans returning, Opa is in the right place and time. He can still technically return to Amsterdam, and the war has not breached his borders… yet. Time is ticking.

Let’s see if the persistent letters tip the consul’s pen into approving Opa’s visa.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

September 11-15, 1939: Getting Antsy

Letter from Phil Myers to Charlotte Salmon, page 1


Charlotte Salmon
Friends Service Committee
Philadelphia, Penn.

Dear Madam:

Will you please pardon the stationary as I am at work and have no means of attaining other. If I do not write this letter now you will not receive it tomorrow.

We do not wish to unduly rush Thomas Doeppner but we would like to know definitely if he would be able to come for this school year. We wondered if you would cable him at our expense and thus we would know something definite. It seems to me that if he has not yet obtained his visa it will be impossible for him to get over here in time to make use of this school year. If he has obtained his visa probably he --
Letter to Charlotte Salmon from Phil Myers, page 2


Charlotte Salmon

--can get over here in sufficient time.

Do I make myself clear? We are willing to wait a reasonable time for Mr. Doeppner if we know that we are not waiting uselessly and we are willing to pay the cost of a cable to find out whether we should wait or look elsewhere.

Since all our correspondence has been thru you we felt it would be better if you would cable rather than for us to cable direct.

I am sorry if this letter is disconnected and rather illegible but I shall mail it without correcting these mistakes for I feel the need of haste and I cannot mail this until tomorrow otherwise.

Sincerely yours,
Phil Myers.  

Charlotte receives this letter from Phil Myers written on September 11th, 1939, on his work stationary- the McPherson Ice Company (I love that!). Phil is writing with a sense of polite urgency- imploring that Charlotte confirm that Tom Doeppner is indeed planning on coming to McPherson. The moment that Opa received acceptance to McPherson, everything jumped into hyper-speed. The issue is that not everything/everyone responds as fast as wanted- so Phil Myers is checking in to make sure that Opa is going to be able to make it in time to fully make use of his opportunity at McPherson. Keep in mind that the acceptance and scholarship is really supposed to be for one school-year. Phil makes clear that they are “willing to wait a reasonable time” for Opa, but in light of the odds- he wants to make sure that if this case fell through for whatever reason, that someone else could be given a chance. 
Telegram from Charlotte Salmon at AFSC to Opa in Holland


Emmakade 8



On September 13th, it appears that Charlotte Salmon cables Opa for his “probable date arrival America.” Despite Phil’s direction that they could cable at the school’s expense, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) foots the bill. 

Telegram from Opa back to Charlotte Salmon at AFSC


Letter from Charlotte Salmon to Phil Myers


September 15, 1939
Mr. Phil Myers
1722 East Gordon Street,
McPherson, Kansas.

Dear Mr. Myers:

In response to my cable to Thomas Doeppner asking him to let us know the date of his arrival in this country, there came a cable from him this morning - "Trying secure visa whereon appreciate your assistance State Department". We figured out that the official papers and our letters sent both to the Consu and to Thomas Doeppner, arrived just about the time that the war began. They were mailed from here August 21st and probably arrived when the Consulate was in a high state of excitement and in no mood to bother with anything except the problem of getting Americans home.

This morning we talked by phone with Mr. Warren, Chief of the Visa Division in the State Department. We asked him to cable the consul in Holland and inquire why the visa had not been granted, if it would be granted ad when. We should get a report from him in the next day or so. We explained that it was possible that Thomas Doeppner might lose his scholarship, if he could not come right away.

I realize that this puts you in an awkward position. It's too bad that we didn't get this done just a little sooner, before the war broke out. I hope now that you will wait a few days until I hear from the State Department before you give a scholarship to Jerry Schroder or to some other refugee. I'll let you know just as soon as I can.

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker

On September 14th, Charlotte gets a response from Opa: “trying to secure visa… appreciate your assistance- state department.”

That doesn’t sound good. Charlotte wrote to Phil on September 15th, explaining the situation. The timing of Opa’s big break may have been too late. The request for his visa flew into the consulate with the news of war and a host of other requests to get Americans out of Europe. The other news and requests caused Opa’s request to get lost in the shuffle. Charlotte called the right people and is now waiting and hoping that it does the trick. She asks for Phil Myers’ patience in waiting with them for a definitive answer.

I’m thinking about Opa, still living in Holland after nearly a year away from Germany. I wonder if Germany and his memories and friendships felt like a lifetime away. He’s been taking classes, meeting with the Quakers in Amsterdam, and working with his Dad- all while waiting and hoping to move to America. After all the waiting - he finally gets the green light- only to be told that it might not matter anymore- Europe is at war. He may once again have to wait for another chance, another miracle.

It reminds me that I don’t have a clue about real patience.

Friday, December 5, 2014

In Transition

To all who have been following diligently - I have not forgotten this blog and project. I am starting a new job and as with all new things, the transition is all-consuming and takes my energy right on out the door. When the dust settles, I will get back into the routine of blogging, hopefully on a frequent basis. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

September 5, 7, 1939: Is He Coming?


 Original Letter from Phil Myers of McPherson College to Charlotte Salmon of AFSC


Charlotte Salmon
Friends Service Committee
Philadelphia, Penns.

Dear Miss Salmon:

In your last communication to me you requested that I send letters to Thomas Doeppner and to the American Consul informing them that Thomas Doeppner had been granted a scholarship at McPherson College. We sent the letters immediately but we have received no reply from Mr. Doeppner.

Since school starts the 11th I am becoming rather uneasy about the situation and I wondered if you had received information of any sort. If you have received any information that would be of any value to me I would appreciate it greatly if you would wire it to me. We have the fund for this purpose and if Thomas Doeppner cannot
(Charlotte Salmon - pg 2) 
come because of the present situation in Europe or for some other reason, we must obtain another student immediately. If such were the situation we would probably consider Jerry Schroeder who if my information is correct, is now at the Scattergood Hostel.

If you have already relayed some information to me just disregard this letter but I was growing uneasy about the situation and decided to contact you and see if you could relieve the doubt in my mind. Thank you for your anticipated help, I am
              Sincerely yours,
              Phil Myers

Original Letter from Charlotte Salmon at AFSC to Phil Myer at McPherson College


Phil Myers
1728 E. Gordon Street
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Phil Myers:

On August 28 I received a letter from Thomas Doeppner. I'll enclose a copy. I would have passed the information on to you, except that I thought you would hear from him directly.

Probably he won't be able to get here by September 11, since I understand that American citizens are being given preference on the boats. It is difficult, as you probably know, for any one to get steamship passage now. We have information that all immigration has bee temporarily stopped, but it is possible that he got his visa before immigration was cut off. His letter to me was dated August 15; if he got busy right away, as he planned, he may have gotten a visa before the War began.

Could you hold the scholarship open for him for a week or two, at least? I think that we will be hearing from him soon. If it appears that he won't be able to come any time soon it would be fine to transfer the scholarship to Jerry Schoeder, if he has no other plans. I will let you know just as soon as I hear anything from Thomas Doeppner, or as soon as I have any other information about immigration.

     Sincerely yours,
     Charlotte S. Salmon
     Placement Worker

Phil Myers of McPherson College wrote to Charlotte Salmon of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to ask simply: is he coming or what? Phil Myers hasn’t heard anything from Opa since the school sent the formal invitation for Opa to join them in the fall. Opa sent his one-word “ACCEPTED” telegram after he heard of their offer through the AFSC. But McPherson has yet to hear directly from him. Phil Myers appropriately wonders if he is not able to come or has had difficulties with the visa process. If Opa cannot attend, there is a runner up, Jerry Schroeder, who is currently living in Scattergood Hostel- a place in Iowa the AFSC organized for refugees to live.

Charlotte drummed up a response quickly with some encouraging facts that will hopefully keep Opa’s scholarship and admittance in tact. She says she heard from Opa on August 28th. In the letter, it seems he alluded that he would get right on the ball and get his visa. She seemed confident he would be able to get it.

So that was the good news. The bad news was: War has begun. Germany invaded Poland on September 1st which catapulted a response from the world. Britain declared war on Germany as of September 3rd. A British cruise ship was sunk by a German U-boat in the Atlantic on September 3rd. People are ready to get home if home is away from Europe. Passenger ships are sold-out. American citizens are given preference on the boats, especially since the war has officially begun. So that meant Opa had to get in another line: the line for a ticket on a ship. I hadn’t even considered that would be an issue. But of course, with war a reality rather than a rumor, the Americans would be scrambling to head home and get out of dodge.

Then the news gets worse: “all immigration has been temporarily stopped.” What? What just happened? She is hopeful that Opa got his visa approved before this development, but this is bad. The declaration of war triggered a pause on all visa processing, so that concerned nations could revisit their policies and likely make them harder for certain folks to immigrate.  For many people, this could mean their visa was just a day away, but null and void.

Charlotte manages to make things hopeful and requests that Phil keeps the scholarship open for just a little longer before transferring it to Jerry Schroeder. I know this must have been challenging for Charlotte, as Jerry may very well have needed that offer. But has far as she knew, Opa may have gotten the visa in time. If we think in triage terms- Opa is still in Europe- he needs this more- and it may very well be his last chance at getting out of Europe.

So, what’s Opa doing? Is he coming or what? Did he get the visa in time? Can he find a ship with a spot for him?

Friday, October 10, 2014

September 5, 1939: Your Message has been Forwarded

Original Letter from American Consul General in Amsterdam: Frank C. Lee, to AFSC


Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee,
 20 S. 12th St.,
   Philadelphia, Pa.

   The Consulate General acknowledges the receipt of your communication dated September 1st, 1939 in regard to the visa case of Thomas Doeppner and you are informed that as the American Consulate in Rotterdam is the only office in the Netherlands authorized to issue immigration visas for the United States, your communication has been forwarded to that office for appropriate action.

   Any further correspondence in the case should be carried on direct with that office.

            Respectfully yours,

            Frank C. Lee
            American Consul General.

Before I talk about the content of the letter, let me point out two things:

1) The first paragraph is one sentence. Holy editing moly.
2) This is a fill-in-the-blank letter, as you can see by the penned-in date and typed-in name that specify the case. This means that it was common enough for people to send this type of request to this office and be forwarded to Rotterdam.

The letter from the American Consul in Amsterdam alerts the folks at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) that the only American Consulate in the Netherlands that has the power to issue a visa for the United States is in Rotterdam. The folks in Amsterdam were kind enough to forward the communication to the right place.

I wonder how this news was received by the folks at the AFSC. Was this standard procedure- an expected forwarding process? Or was this a sign of the diminishing possibilities for people in Europe to have access to the possibility of entering the United States? Either way, for Opa, it’s a delay in a process that really needed to be expedited. We will see how it plays out.


Monday, October 6, 2014

August 22 & 28, 1939: Good Relations Are the Key

 Original Letter from Charlotte Salmon to Dr. Naumann


Dear Dr. Naumann:

Miss Kraus has given me your letter with the good news that you have at last gotten your non-quota visa. We all rejoiced here in the office over such a victory.

I have too the letter you received from the State Department (Consul Mokma) which was discouraging to say the least. We are much interested to learn what was done to make him change his mind. Perhaps you have written in greater detail to Miss Derenberg. Since there are a number of others in your position, I know she'll want to learn as much as she can from your experience.

We hope there will be at McPherson this winter a refugee student Thomas Doeppner, from Amsterdam. If he is able to get a student visa and to come, I know he will be glad to find there a fellow countryman who can perhaps help him to get used to a new country and to American ways of doing things.

We are all delighted that you are well settled for the next year. I hope that your fiancee will be able to come soon.

With best wishes to you both,
    Sincerely yours,
        Charlotte S. Salmon,
        Placement Worker.

Original Letter from Walter Naumann to Charlotte Salmon


Dear Miss Salmon

Thank you for your kind letter. Since several days I have been about to write you, to thank you still for all the help I got. And to tell you some more about my immigration. There is however, not very much to tell that might be useful to anyone else. The change in the mind of the consul was due to a letter from A. Landon, former Governor of Kansas etc., with whom the President of McPherson College happened to be acquainted, and who recommended me to the consul. I had myself written an answer to the consul's last letter that you have seen, pointing out that I am still able to return to Europe and that therefore his charge that I should have misrepresented the facts in order to get a visitor's permit, was not right. Three days after this letter, I made an 'unofficial' trip to Mexico with some students from Los Angeles and called at the consul's office. But he had then made his change of mind already, and we we only agreed that he would write me a letter stating his new point of view, so that I could enter Mexico legally. That took place. You see that there is not much to learn for others, except that good relations are the main point. I have sent a copy of my whole correspondence with the consul to Abrahamson, so that he might learn something out of it. I shall ask him to forward it to you, perhaps it will help you to study the whole exchange and a typical consular mentality. I should like to add only, that I got my permit to enter Mexico without any difficulty, for six months, and I know a man in San Francisco who applied in vain to enter Canada, and who had to change over his case to a consul in Mexico, for which country he got a permit without a obstacle. 

I shall certainly be very glad to have a fellow country man as a student at McPherson and shall help him as much as I can. Is he still over in Europe?

About my fiance I learned from an English lawyer, that there is no possibility of a marriage in proxy in England, and besides a marriage in England would not be legal if it is not in accord with the laws of the country to which the contractants belong. It seems however that her waiting number will fall in the quota of this year, so that it will be the safest way to wait.

With my hearty thanks and my best wishes to you and Miss Derenberg, you know that I am always at your disposal if I can help anything.

Yours sincerely,
 Walter Naumann

This correspondence back and forth between Dr. Naumann and Charlotte Salmon gives us another clue to the scope of Charlotte’s work. Her role in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was not limited to placing refugee students in colleges. In these letters, she touches base with a refugee who has finally obtained his non-quota visa and is able to begin teaching at McPherson College. If you have been following along in this blog, you might already know about the differences in the types of visas. The short version is: a non-quota visa is a visa you don’t have to wait in line for. They are harder to obtain, but if you qualify- you are more likely to get one on time.

If you read between the lines, you can see that Dr. Naumann has entered the United States on a visitors visa and was in danger of being deported back to Germany. The consul was upset with Dr. Naumann, accusing him of being dishonest about his ability to return to his country (a major factor in obtaining a non-quota or visitors visa). The consul was convinced otherwise, and Dr. Naumman received his visa. His success in obtaining a non-quota visa was cause for celebration at the AFSC office, and it seems everyone was a bit worried!

Charlotte wants to learn from his success- how did he change the consul’s mind? His answer: “good relations are the main point.” It seems the president of McPherson, V.F. Schwalm, was good friends with the former governor of Kansas- and a little note from the governor was enough to change the consul’s mind. The expression that occurred to me: “It’s all who you know.”

Dr. Naumann noted that really, there was nothing to learn from his case to help others in convincing consuls- because his case change was really a brilliant stroke of luck. Thanks to some “important” people who took the time to put in a good word, the consul’s mind was changed. You can’t really buy good relations. However, and this is something that I’ve learned to view a little less cynically- the phrase “it’s all who you know” really is a testament to the power of connecting with people outside our comfort zone. I never really warmed up to the idea of networking. In my mind, it was a market for shallow interactions among people who were pushing aside others in an attempt to impress powerful people who can do something for them. I still believe that happens. However, I now see that networking can be a simple joining of the larger human web of support. You are opening up yourself to new experiences, new ideas, new perspectives. When you open up the bridges, you’ll get people who need you and people who can help you. It can be a humbling experience rather than a fight for standing out above the rest.

Dr. Naumann was connected to the previous governor of Kansas because he was a good professor and good man who impressed the president of his college. When you burn bridges, you never know what roads you might be closing off. Now, Dr. Naumann was in a place to be helpful to a new young student coming from Germany. That new young student is my Opa. See how far those bridges can stretch?

Dr. Naumann does mention how easy it was to get into Mexico, so we shall see if that comes up later in the letters. Could Mexico be a gateway for refugees looking to escape Europe?

So go out there- and keep in mind that every person you meet is part of the huge web of human connectedness. Keep those bridges open.