Thursday, March 13, 2014

April 24, 1939: Howard Johnson of Cornell College

Letter from Charlotte Salmon of American Friends Service Committee 
to Howard Johnson of Cornell College

I get the impression that Charlotte either knows Howard or that Howard is on more familiar terms with the folks at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). This has no base in fact- just a hunch of mine based on what seems to me a more relaxed letter from Charlotte Salmon.

Cornell has now joined the list of colleges we’ve encountered, just in Opa’s case file alone, that have expressed a wish to help German refugees. Mr. Johnson has had some previous conversation with a Mr. Cary about the Scattergood project (read a little more about the history of this place here if you would like). Ms. Salmon’s next step is to introduce Cornell to the adventure of helping a refugee student study in America.

Once again Charlotte mentions the challenge of placing students in the appropriate schools that will fit for both the student and the school. She writes about the difference in the system of education for Europeans (Germans specifically) and for Americans. Essentially, the students who are looking to enter into their first year of school in America probably already have started specialized training and education. I imagine that someone who has specialized in Engineering would find the first year of core classes in a liberal arts college to be a challenge, and perhaps a step back. At the same time, the students needed time to catch up on English proficiency and adjusting to a completely new life. As Charlotte said, “these students have gone through trying years lately.” Helene (Patti’s daughter- my Opa’s niece) gave me some insight about the school system in Germany. She wrote to me: 
I've always been told that the Arbitur (like the French license) was the equivalent of the two years of a demanding American university -- still unspecialized, but much more sophisticated than what is taught in US high schools. I think graduating age was more like 18+ than 17+. I know that American universities used to give 2 years' college credit for it.
Not every student in Germany finished with the Arbitur (see this post when Opa consoles Gisela of her guilt for not finishing), but those who did were very well qualified to study in America, perhaps overly so.

My Opa was one of the students Charlotte suggested to Cornell. We’ve seen Opa’s name suggested many times, and so far the only school to request further information is Oberlin. It is now April of 1939, Opa has been in Holland since November 1938. He is hoping to attend school in America in the fall of 1939. There are a lot of things that need to happen between April and September for that to work! That’s only 5 months away! (And if you ever saw the movie “Father of the Bride”- you understand when I say “5 months not much!”)

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