Tuesday, April 29, 2014

June 9, 1939: Phil Myers Asking

Letter from Phil Meyer to American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)


Dear Sirs,

     I have at hand your letter of May 27, the dossiers of two students, Manfred Lange and Thomas Doeppner, as furnished by you and the dossier of Jan Rosenback as furnished by Miss Frenyear. Your former communications have been addressed to Mr. Luther Harshbarger who graduated this spring. I am chairman of the committee in charge of this project for the summer and the ensuing school year. Will you please place my name on your mailing list in place of Mr. Harshbargers.

    The committee has met and considered the dossiers of these three students. We do not feel that we have sufficient information about Manfred Lange to consider him, furthermore since he is an Aryan, we cannot favor him because our campaign was conducted for the support of a non-Aryan student. We doubt that Thomas Doeppner could receive the instruction he desires at McPherson College because this institution is a Liberal Arts college. The remaining student Jan J. Rosenbach seems to fulfill our needs quite satisfactorily. However, we would like some additional information about him before making our final decision. 

   Our registrar has had some difficulty in interpreting the grading system used on the "Annuary School Report". The individual grades appear to be average or below, while the "degree of total progress" seems to be above average. Could you clarify this matter by expressing these grades in terms of an A, B, C, D, F, system or on a percentage basis? We desire a student of superior ability if such an individual is available.

    Your original letter states that Jan's father was a "prominent pacifist." This was one reason for our particular interest in this student since McPherson College, supported by the Church of the Brethren, holds strong pacifist convictions based upon religious tenets. However we are interested in the motivating force in the pacifism of the Rosenbach family, for we do not desire agitation of a communistic or other undesirable nature. Can you clarify this matter to our satisfaction?

    Will you please send us a picture of Jan Rosenbach if one is available.

    I have asked the Registrar to send you a catalogue of McPherson College. You will notice that the institution is a small, church related, liberal arts college. The student body is drawn from rural and small urban areas. The social life is based upon the traditions and beliefs of the Church of the Brethren. Smoking, drinking and dancing are prohibited on the campus. On the basis of available information do you recommend Jan J. Rosenbach as a student who will be able to adjust himself to such an environment?
     Referring again to your letter of May 27, I notice that you mention that we have raised $400. I think it is advisable to clarify our financial situation. Our original plan provided for a three point program.

1. Student-Faculty contribution  -  $150  
2. Charitable and religious organizations - $100
3. College administration
 a) scholarship - $50
 b) Work at the prevailing wage - $100 ($150)
                                 Total - $400

     A student, by careful financial planning, can complete a year at McPherson College for this amount. The Student Faculty contributions amounted to $135; organizations to date have contributed $70. Of the deficit of $45 we have pledges of $20 and finally three of the largest charitable organizations of the city have delayed action until new officers shall have been installed. We have a tentative promise of a job on Saturdays for the student. We are confident that sufficient funds will be available at the opening of school to care for this student. Does this plan fulfil the requirements of a student entering the U.S. on a non-quota visa?

   President V.F. Schwalm is out of the city and expects to return June 19. We hope to receive the additional information requested above before that date, in order that we may take final action upon his return.

Phil Myers

Here is a letter from Phil Myers of McPherson College. From the looks of it- this guy has all the qualities it takes to be a CEO. I mean seriously, I’d follow this guy in any business venture!

Phil takes over for Luther Harshbarger, who started the conversation between McPherson and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and has now graduated (if you missed the spotlight on how his life shaped up, check it out here). Phil gives the update on how McPherson is doing in selecting a refugee to support at their college: they have eliminated Manfred Lange as a candidate due to a lack of information on him, as well as the fact that he is Aryan, and they hope to help a Jewish student. It is interesting to me that this distinction in labels is so obvious. Before this project, I thought of Christian and Jewish as only a religious distinction. It never quite entered my brain as a racial or “blood” or even cultural distinction. It certainly did not occur to me that someone could be considered distinctly Jewish without having any personal religious connection to the Jewish faith, or even that they could be of another faith entirely, but still “genetically” Jewish. I’ve learned otherwise in this research, but I wonder how many people think like I did, when only a generation or two ago, the racial/genetic identity of the Jew was clear and distinguishable to the common person.

So McPherson decides to rule out Manfred because he is Aryan and has insufficient information. Then Opa is next on the chopping block. They fear Opa wouldn’t receive the kind of education he wants at a small liberal arts school. Opa had interest in studying engineering, so this logic makes sense, but it excludes him from a potential opportunity to leave Europe.

Phil Myers and his group focus in on Jan Rosenbach as the most likely candidate for a scholarship. Jan’s family background, especially his father’s reputation, as a prominent pacifist, is intriguing to McPherson. However I think it’s funny that they make sure that the pacifism is not stemming from a Communist or other political agenda that could potentially be disruptive for McPherson. When I think about it though, this was probably wise for them to ask because he did describe McPherson as a small school that had students from rural and small urban towns. So a student with strong political opinions that were very different would have a hard time in a school like this. This school seems to be still closely tied with the Church of the Brethren, its original founders, and Phil reminds the AFSC that a student will not be allowed to drink, smoke, or dance.

Phil clarifies how the scholarship plays out in terms of support from the students, staff, and area organizations. That comprehensive effort to support a refugee student, involving the entire community, it’s pretty amazing. Phil makes sure that this would be sufficient support for a student to come on a non-quota visa and asks for more information on Jan. So at this point, it looks like Opa is out of the running. So right now Oberlin seems to be his best bet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

May 30, 1939: Pushing Jan

 Letter to Luther Harshbarger of McPherson College from Marion Frenyear of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)


Dear Mr. Harshbarger,
At the suggestion of Charlotte Salmon of the Refugee Service of the American Friends Service Committee I am sending you this enclosed information about Jan Rosenbach, whom she believes may be a suitable refugee student for your campus.
As you will see from the correspondence, Jan has been highly recommended to us by a leader in the Czech Fellowship of Reconciliation. Both his father, who was a Jew, and his mother were members of the F.O.R. He heard of him through Enrico Molner, one of this group who is now in the U.S. For the refugee committee of the American F.O.R. I have been trying to place him. One of our members is signing an affidavit for him to help him emigrate to this country.
We hope you will consider him as a candidate for your refugee scholarship. If there is any way in which we can help you in reaching a decision about this, please let us know. 

Sincerely yours,
Marion G. Frenyear

Letter from Marion Frenyear of FOR to Charlotte Salmon of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Dear Charlotte:
Enclosed is a copy of my letter to Luther Harshbarger, McPherson College. At Harold Fey's suggestion I also sent such a carbon to Donald Smucker, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas. I have not sent Jan's papers to the other colleges you mentioned but will do so.
I am also enclosing a copy of Jan's school report and of his letter to me of May 15th. I believe you have copies of the rest of the correspondence i.e.

1. Enrico Molnar's letter of April 24th
2. Jan Rosenbach's letter to the Director of Carnegie Tech
3. The answer to that dated May 3rd
4. Premyal Pitter's letter of April 13th.
If you have not any of these please let me know.

Last Friday Robert Berquist was here. We had a talk with Robert Spivack and Robert Berquist decided to go right ahead with the affidavit for Jan Rosenbach.

Thank you for the additional information about Morgentham. I sent an item for "Fellowship" about him and Beule.

With thanks for your help and all good wishes from

Marion Frenyear

These two letters may throw you off a bit because they have nothing to do with Opa- but as Opa is “waiting and seeing” about Oberlin, things are still moving with McPherson, and we wanted to follow some of Jan’s story as his and Opa’s sort of intersect a few times. Charlotte has moved forward with getting Jan Rosenbach’s information to McPherson College. I imagine she also sent Opa’s information, but with things looking good at Oberlin, Jan seems to be getting the spotlight at McPherson.

Luther Harshbarger at McPherson gets a letter from Marion Frenyear, who seems to be a placement worker for refugees with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). This group seems to be an international group that is working in cooperation with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). I wonder how that cooperation and sharing of information happened? There must have been quite a professional sharing for people to recommend candidates found through other venues. I’m impressed!

One last thing- in his letter to Charlotte, Marion mentions that he will go ahead with the affidavit for Jan Rosenbach. This is a new step in the student visa process for me. Does Opa need an affidavit as well?! I have done some research on visas and immigration into the USA during this time period. An affidavit in this context is a sworn statement that someone will be (primarily) financially responsible for the refugee. This was sort of a method to keep out perceived “moochers” from immigrating into the US and then becoming a financial burden on society. I’ll talk more about this later, but an affidavit was kind of a big deal, and could be challenging to find a solid one.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spotlight: Jan Rosenbach Part 1

As we mentioned earlier in the blog, we were blessed that Ron and Becky from the Holocaust Museum located us and introduced us to the refugee files from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Most of what you have seen so far came from these files and was supplemented by what we found in Sarah’s grandmother’s apartment. One of the pieces of this journey that Sarah and I continue to share is the way we have been amazed at all the stories we have encountered along the way that are fascinating and whether in small or large ways, have engaged Opa’s story. Part of my research for the project has been to look into any name that came up in Opa’s letters. I’ve done some spotlights on some of the people representing schools looking for refugees. Another set of names that have come up are other refugees the AFSC were seeking to help. In many cases, the refugee workers were constantly trying to help a large number of students to get settled somehow in the area. 

Most research begins by googling and searching the internet. Sometimes, that proves fruitful, other times it doesn’t. But with these other refugees, they, like Opa, have their files with the AFSC. I will take a week soon to share the stories of some of the refugees whose names you have seen in Opa’s files. I want to give you a part 1 spotlight on one of these names: Jan Rosenbach. I want to share a little about Jan as his story intersects Opa’s in this moment of history because Jan is being considered for McPherson, like Opa is. Tomorrow, Sarah will share a few letters from Jan’s file as the AFSC works to place him. Sarah and I thought it might be neat to see the way Charlotte is working for Opa and his unique situation and at the same time, is working for Jan in his unique situation. So, I wanted to share what I learned about Jan up to this point to frame the letters and then later, I can give you a “Part 2” of the spotlight to tell you what happens to Jan later.

Jan Rosenbach

Jan was born in Czechoslovakia on September 1st, 1921. His father was Jewish and his mother, Anna Lorene Rosenbach, born in Moravia, was Aryan. They were involved in the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Czechoslovakia. His father, Franticek Rosenbach, was a state police counselor or inspector. In correspondence, it says he “died suddenly” on March 16, 1939, Jan’s final year of school. Another letter says he “died of nerve-shock when the German troops entered Prague”. This was when the F.O.R. in Czechoslovakia began helping Jan leave to go to the U.S. In Jan’s file are many letters from the Fellowship working to get him out and settled at a school.

Spotlight: Fellowship of Reconciliation

In Jan's letters, it will talk about the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). This organization will come up again later in Opa's story as well, so I figured I would do a quick spotlight on it. For our blog, I just want to note that FOR was started around the events of World War I and was another organization invested in peace and seeking refuge for those persecuted by war. To read more (and explore), you can go to the link below on the USA Fellowship of Reconciliation website: http://forusa.org/about/history.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

May 30, 1939: Takin' Care of Business

Sorry for the little delay in posting. I've had a pinched nerve which has made it difficult to type- but I'm slowly getting better (and better at typing one-handed!).

 Letter from Opa (Tom) to Charlotte Salmon at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)


Dear Miss Salmon,

Please find enclosed copy of Form F of the Oberlin College filled in by Studienrat Widder. I also enclose copy of my letter to Miss Forbush of the Oberlin College.

Many thanks again

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Doppner

Letter from Opa (Tom) to Helen-Mary Forbush at Oberlin College

Dear Miss Forbush,

Miss Salmon of the American Friends Service Committee was good enough to send me the enclosed blanc, which has been filled in by Studienrat Widder, who was my head-teacher for the last three years in Berlin. 

Thanking you very much for your kind help

yours sincerely

Form F from Oberlin College, filled out by Ernst Widder, Opa's head teacher


Estimate of Scholastic Ability

Ease of Learning: Learns quickly

Relation of Achievement to Ability: Works Steadily up to capacity; takes pride in work.

Initiative and Enthusiasm in School Work: seeks and sets for himself additional tasks; is enthusiastic student.

Originality and Imagination: Displays highly developed creative power and originality.

Capacity for Independent, Critical Thinking: Displays marked capacity for independent, critical thinking.

Habits and Methods of work: Appropriate and well established

Breadth of General Reading and Information: Is widely read and exceptionally well informed.

What characteristic scholastic and intellectual traits and habits come immediately to mind when you think of the candidate? In which qualities and traits do you feel the candidate shows greatest need for growth and development?:
D. is chiefly interested in mathematics and physics. But he also showed a remarkable inclination for literary studies and for languages.

(signed) Ernst Widder
Mathematician, physicist and analytical chemist.

May 26th, 1939

These three letters are Opa’s final promised paperwork for Oberlin College. He had to feel good finishing that task. He sends to Charlotte Salmon the copy of his “form F” that Oberlin had requested and his teacher Ernst Widder filled out for him. Then of course, he sends the form and a brief note to Oberlin College. Everybody has what they want! Yay! And he sends it May 30th, 1939. Charlotte receives her letter June 10th, so I imagine Oberlin wasn’t too far behind in receiving it. The first request for information was April 24-26 1939. So considering that the letters were crossing oceans, in imminent war-time, and communicating between four parties involved (Opa, Charlotte with the AFSC, Oberlin, and Widder)- just over a month to gather all the information isn’t bad!

The form “F” is really just a questionaire for the teacher to fill out. You can tell Opa’s teacher, Mr. Widder, really liked Opa. Opa looks like a pretty amazing student. I want to add that my Opa’s niece, Helene told me that his scores for the Arbitur were pretty impressive. She said that “sufficient/passable” was actually quite good. So his scores are good- and now this glowing recommendation! How can you not want this young man to grace your halls?!

Mr. Widder paints the picture of a well-rounded, intelligent, and hard-working student who is excellent at math and science, but also well-read and gifted in literature and languages. I need to step it up! I love the last question of the page that asks for any traits or needs for growth. That question has been around for ages! And Mr. Widder ignores it completely. Take that “growth edges” trick question!

Opa has (I think) finished all of his required paperwork for Oberlin. Charlotte also should have enough of his information that if anyone else shows interest- she can send the info along. Now it’s a game of wait and see!

Monday, April 7, 2014

May 27, 1939: A Good Fit

Letter from Charlotte Salmon at AFSC to Luther Harshbarger at McPherson College


Dear Mr. Harshbarger:

Congratulations on your campaign for raising funds for a refugee student. We are so glad to know you have been interested in this problem, and you certainly must have worked hard to raise $400 dollars.

It is a little difficult to suggest students to you since I haven't a catalog of McPherson and don't know very much about it. For instance, one very fine boy whom we should like to see in this country, and who needs scholarship help is Thomas Doeppner. I enclose a brief curriculum vitae. However, he is interested in engineering and should continue his studies along that line. I don't know whether or not he could do this at McPherson.

I have asked Miss Frenyear at the Fellowship of Reconciliation , 2929 Broadway, New York to send you the credentials of Jan Rosenbach, a young Czech boy whose father was a prominent pacifist, and who needs a scholarship.  If you don't hear from her soon please let me know, for I think you will be especially interested in him.

My third suggestion is Manfred Lange. I haven't full papers for him as yet, but I enclose some information about him.

Will you please send me a catalog of McPherson College? If you think that perhaps none of the boys would fit in there you might also write to the International Student Service, 8 West 40th Street, New York. I should be very glad, however, if there were a chance for one of the students I have mentioned.

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker
Refugee Service

Charlotte writes Luther back, and with praise for their job well done. I just finished watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Dust Bowl, the severe drought that hit the mid-west in the 1930s. It was mind-boggling. I highly recommend seeing the film, I found it on Netflix. When Charlotte commends Luther on a job well done for the students of a college in Kansas to raise $400 - she had reason to be impressed. I’ll keep bringing it up: this was not a fruitful, wealthy, solid, safe, lush time. It was perhaps the scariest financial time these folks had ever seen. Financial security was a forgotten experience. The Great Depression was slowly lifting - but not into wealth, and the drought conditions in the mid-west were so immense that many were sure that the land would become desert. There was even a mass-exodus of people from this area in search for a better life, primarily: jobs and food.

So Charlotte again tackles the challenge of recommending students for the “prize” of studying in one of America’s colleges. It is interesting the balance she tries to find between finding a good fit for the student, and finding an exit strategy for the refugee. She first mentions Opa as a “very fine boy” (indeed!) who would be interested and qualified, but wants to study engineering. Charlotte pretty much knows nothing about McPherson college and so I am guessing that she is suggesting folks who have the best chance (and most need) of getting to America. Charlotte also mentions Jan Rosenbach, who seems to have a file with the folks at the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He is a Czech boy, and if you do a little digging into history, you’ll remember that Czech’s were in a pretty shaky relationship with Nazi Germany. Germany annexed the Sudetenland (borders of Czech with higher populations of German folks), and that mobilization into Czech was what I think prompted my Opa to be drafted into the Army when he was. Luckily, he ran the opposite way. Now, if you’re a boy in Czech with a father who is a prominent pacifist- you are likely *not* on Hitler’s happy list. Last Charlotte recommends Manfred Lange and encloses information on him. (Also - a side note- I love the exchange of information and cooperation between the agencies that are all aiming to help refugees.)

Charlotte asks to get more information on McPherson so she can make better suggestions. I appreciate how thorough she is on trying to make a good fit. On the one hand, she is searching for quality of life along the success of relocating. On the other hand, if I were a refugee and knew what lie ahead- I would tell her to forget the happy fit and find any old school who’ll have me. However, the folks didn’t know exactly what lie ahead. I wonder if Charlotte knew more about what would happen and when, would she put as much emphasis on the fit? Or would student visas be just another function of safe exit, without much emphasis on the student part? 

Charlotte’s goal in finding a good match for a student was likely more big-picture than just “can they study what they want.” A good match meant that the refugee had better chance of adjusting, adapting, settling, and success to stay in the safety of the school and the country. Maybe Charlotte did have a long-term view of this and understood that the success of the student in that first year would go a long way in securing his/her success as a potentially permanent resident of the USA.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014: Holocaust Museum Visit

Yes folks- I fast-forwarded a bunch of years. I am posting from the library in the Holocaust Museum today. Jason and I are here doing research like a good nerdy couple. You may remember that the librarians/historians at the Holocaust Museum reached out to us when they discovered that some of their newly acquired archives might be of interest to us. And they were incredibly interesting- and opened up a whole new world of information! The files they contacted us about were the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) files - and those are the letters we are going through right now.

When we first started this blog, we had my Opa's autobiography, and a box of letters that were not organized or all in English. As we had the documents translated, and dug deeper into the letters in conjunction with Opa's books - we found clues that led us to more information. Before we were contacted by the Holocaust Museum, we had very little detailed information about Opa's process of immigrating to the United States. Now we have almost a play-by-play! And with each new discovery, of course there are more characters, more stories, more clues, and more mysteries. So that is why we are doing some more research with the fine people of the Holocaust Museum today.

In addition to resources like Opa's file with the AFSC, the Holocaust Museum library also has documents, studies, and even thesis papers that involve the stories of the people affected by the Holocaust. One of these thesis papers that Ron (a librarian at the museum) shared with me was a fascinating insight into the culture of the work-place for the American consuls working in Vienna (then part of the German- annexed Austria). These were the folks who (among other things) processed refugee requests for immigration to America. I'm probably going to write up a little spotlight on this because it was really helpful to get an idea of what was happening on the inside of the American immigration offices on foreign land. I keep asking the questions of why the consuls were so strict in their interpretation of the immigration law, and this paper gives me insight into answering that question.

I share all of this nerdy research to remind my readers that often the answers (or at least the treasure chest of clues) are out there if you are willing to search for them. It boggles my mind how much information is out there once I find the right place to dig. The Holocaust Museum has been a treasure- and I know there are likely other places I haven't even discovered yet that will hold the next clue. Also- there are people who are really, really smart. These people navigate a very complex database and get you 20 pages of primary documents in 5 minutes, when it would have taken me an hour to get the first page. You may think a google search is a final search- but there are folks who are specifically trained and skilled at research- and many of them want to do this- for YOU. Most of these folks are called librarians. Go make friends with one now- it's fun.

We live in a time when speculation and opinion are given an incredible amount of air-time. Let me tell you- the truth is way more exciting. Way more informative. Way more instructive. And really, a million times more productive to process. SO- become a research nerd. I used to be too lazy for it- but now I see the benefits of a well-researched paper. There is nothing without a human bias- and the human part is very important- but my PSA for today is: Do your homework- you'll like it, really. Oh- and go be friends with a librarian.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

May 18-27, 1939: Tying Loose Ends

 Letter from Thomas (Opa) to Charlotte at AFSC


Dear Miss Salmon,

Please accept my very best thanks again for your letter of May 8th, and all the work connected with it.

I have asked one of my teachers in Berlin to fill out the form you have sent me. I shall forward it to you as soon as I have received it.

As for my funds, the situation is, that I would be very happy, if getting a tuition scholarship. Although my father will hardly be able to spend $400 to $450 a year, he will send me a corresponding sum during the first months, and I am confident, that I can manage very soon to earn some money by myself.

At any rate, the question of a full scholarship must by no means be a handicap.

I am acquainted with the difficulty in getting a student visa. However, I hope to get over this difficulty.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Doppner.

It is the nature of almost any correspondence, especially by “snail mail” - that answers and questions cross over the ocean. So, although Opa has already sent Charlotte a letter about his curriculum and letters of recommendation, he still has a few more loose ends and questions to tie up for Charlotte.

He lets Charlotte know that he has sent his teacher the form and will forward it as soon as he gets it. Then he answers the lingering question that Charlotte has about the scholarship (can he do with less?), although he has already mentioned it before and she has already assumed he could do with less before. But now it is in black and white in response to her question- my translation: “just get me there.”

I absolutely LOVE Opa’s response to Charlotte’s Debbie-downer question in a previous letter of whether or not he knows how hard it is to get a student visa: “I am acquainted with the difficulty in getting a student visa. However, I hope to get over this difficulty.”

There are many ways I could take this statement - this is the challenge with the written word, it is hard to know the emotion behind the words. Was Opa frustrated with Charlotte’s negative statement? Or un-phased? It’s hard for me to know because the Opa I knew was an older, wiser Opa with a pretty solid handle on life. Plus, I was his granddaughter- so any vulnerability he was feeling was not shared with me. So I never really thought of Opa as a worrier. Although he did have a little bit of a temper. He didn’t like it when people didn’t do things the way he thought they should. Ha. I’m remembering my Grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary party- they had pre-ordered baked Alaska for dessert. I was pretty excited about it because I’d never had it and it sounded cool. Somehow the order got confused and it was confessed that there was no baked Alaska. I saw Opa get mad, but in that scary calm German way. He left to “take care of it” and when he came back it was announced we would all have ice cream sundaes. I was pretty excited about that, too- but to this day I still have not had a baked Alaska. Maybe on my 50th wedding anniversary.

So was “young Opa” someone who felt the pressure of this situation? Or was he more like a typical High School graduate who feels more or less invincible? Was this statement bravery, assurance, veiled optimism, or completely void of emotion? I’ve been talking to Opa’s niece, Helene, about the cultural norms of emotional expression. We talked about the stereotypical German stoicism, and even within American culture, the generational differences of emotional expression and the need for positive feedback and assurance. Helene pointed out that my generation and younger have been raised in a culture that normalizes excessive praise and encouragement, while her generation and the ones further back were more stoic and/or at least spoke the bad news with the good news. I know these are generalizations- but it is interesting to think that a letter I read might feel significantly more negative to me than it did to my Opa. Charlotte’s reminder that Opa faces an obstacle ahead with securing a student visa may have been read more nonchalantly and fact-giving than fear-inducing.

Either way, Opa’s response is hope. Emotional or not, hope was the power to move forward for Opa and many others who faced similar obstacles.
Letter from Charlotte at AFSC to Helen-Mary Forbush at Oberlin College


Dear Helen-Mary Forbush:

It seems to take a long time for Thomas Doeppner to get together the necessary material. I had a letter from him on May 23 in which he said he had forwarded to you a curriculum vitae and a copy of his final high school report. Because he had to leave Germany so hurriedly I think that he probably has no more complete records.

Today I received from him the following letter:

"Please accept my very best thanks again for your letter of May 8th, and all the work connected with it. I have asked one of my teachers in Berlin to fill out the form you have sent me. I shall forward it to you as soon as I have received it.

As for my funds, the situation is, that I would be very happy, if getting a tuition scholarship. Although my father will hardly be able to spend $400 to $450 a year, he will send me a corresponding sum during the first months, and I am confident, that I can manage very soon to earn some money by myself. At any rate, the question of a full scholarship must by no means be a handicap. I am acquainted with the difficulty in getting a student visa. However, I hope to get over this difficulty."

We shall be eager to hear the result of your scholarship award and, of course, will be very happy if Thomas Doeppner could come.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker
Refugee Service

After receiving Opa’s letter, Charlotte wrote to Helen-Mary Forbush of Oberlin. She essentially forwarded Opa’s letter with a little of her own commentary. She writes “It seems to take a long time for Thomas Doeppner to get together the necessary material.” My first read, I sort of thought that Charlotte was throwing Opa under the bus. But after a second read, I realize she more likely was just stating a fact- the materials took a while to get back to Oberlin. Charlotte knew Oberlin was on a time schedule, but she also knew that the logistics of getting all the necessary paperwork from Opa was taking time. This wasn’t anyone’s “fault” so much as just fact. Charlotte even alludes to Opa’s quick escape as to the reason why he doesn’t have all the material with him to begin with.

Charlotte uses Opa’s words to convey his gratefulness, his promise of paperwork, and his ability to work and function with a lesser scholarship. I like that Charlotte used Opa’s words- it likely gave Helen-Mary and the folks at Oberlin a better feel (even a small one) for Opa’s personality and willingness to do what it takes to get to America.

Charlotte closes that she is looking forward to hearing who they have picked- and would be happy if Thomas Doeppner could come. Me too, Charlotte!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spotlight on Luther Harshbarger

Jason writing again! Once again, we are going to do a spotlight on someone Opa probably never met, but I’ve enjoyed learning about all these students who were working on refugee placement through this time. Many of them went on to do really wonderful things and Luther’s story is no different. Much thanks to his sons, Dohn and Scott, for providing a biography and the other resource I used was from a history of the Lordship Community Church in Stratford, CT. Enjoy the below spotlight on Luther H. Harshbarger!

Luther H. Harshbarger was born on December 4, 1914 in Lewistown. He graduated from McVeytown H.S. in 1932. He attended Millersville State College and graduated in 1939 from McPherson College in Kansas. After McPherson, he served Salem Community Church in Nickerson, KS. He also served as advisor to the Young Peoples cabinet of that state. At the time, both Mr. and Mrs. Harshbarger were directors of the Amity House Association at Woodbridge where settlement work is carried on for the Italian-American residents of that community.

He studied at Bethany Seminary in Chicago and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1942 where he studied under Richard Niebuhr among others, and became an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. During his time in seminary, he served as pastor of Lordship Community Church in Connecticut. Upon graduating from Yale, he went to Pennsylvania to serve a Church of the Brethren church in Ambler, PA.

Luther traveled to the U.K. before the end of WWII and worked with prisoners of war after the war ended. He subsequently became Director of the YMCA’s in Europe. In 1949 he returned to the United States as YMCA Director at Penn State University. In 1952 he became University Chaplain and Coordinator of Religious Affairs. During his tenure as Chaplin, the Helen Eakin Eisenhower Chapel was constructed with President Eisenhower attending the dedication.

After teaching Religious Studies courses part-time as Professor of Religious Studies while Chaplain, Luther was named Head of the newly-created Department of Religious Studies by President Eric Walker in the 1960’s. He served in that capacity until near his retirement in 1980. He died in September, 1986.

Luther was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Juniata College in 1955. He wrote numerous articles for journals and magazines over the years and in 1968, he co-authored with John Mourant the textbook, “Judaism and Christianity”. He received the Lions Paw award for outstanding service to the University by Penn State in 1985. At the time of his retirement, the Luther H. Harshbarger Endowed Fund was created which underwrites the Harshbarger Lecture Series in Religious Studies and provides scholarship funds for students taking Religious Studies courses. The lounge in the Eisenhower Chapel was named the Luther H. Harshbarger Lounge in 1987.

Luther was married to Marian Masemore Harshbarger who died in 1995. He has two sons, Scott and Dohn, and three grandsons, Michael, Benjamin and David.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

May 18, 1939: McPherson College Doesn't Dance

Letter from Luther Harshbarger at McPherson to Charlotte Salmon at AFSC


Dear Miss Salmon:

The students here at McPherson College have just completed a successful campaign to raise funds for a non-aryan student. Will you send us a number of cases from which to choose the student?

Our college is controlled by the Church of the Brethren and as a church college has certain requirements. The college prohibits the use of tobacco and discourages dancing as well as card playing. The student, I think, should adhere to these principles.

The nature of our plan is this;- We have raised $400 for the support of the student which is apportioned as follows;
  Cash .................... $250
  Scholarship......... 50.00
  Work Aid...........100.00

This is the minimum amount. There is a possibility of having more. In addition, if the student has had experience in mercantile work, we can get him a position with a Jewish merchant in the city. The cost per year is approximately $375. This includes room, board, tuition and incidentals. The scholarship is granted on the basis of scholarship.

We shall appreciate a reply as soon as possible as school closes next week, May 26.

Luther Harshbarger
Student Christian Movement.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this letter from McPherson College that has no mention of Opa in it. You would be correct, but we happen to know that McPherson College has more communication that involves Opa later in the game. So I wanted to include this as a nice introductory letter to this school. We will also be sharing some of Jan Rosenbach’s case file from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) which we were able to copy from the archives at the Holocaust Museum. Jan’s story parallel’s Opa’s for a bit and it is interesting to see how their files connect.

Luther Harshbarger from the Student Christian Movement in McPherson College, writes to Charlotte Salmon at the AFSC. We did a little research on Luther- and let me tell you- very cool person. You’ll hear more about him later. I’m not sure how much Luther and Charlotte have been communicating, but this letter has got to be the best kind that Charlotte gets from schools. Why? Because they have already raised the funds, have a plan- and they are just ready to pick a student.

I want to be like- way to go Luther and McPherson! Again, remember that McPherson, Kansas is in the heart of the mid-west- and if you know your American history well, this area was the site of a horrible drought that crippled the farming industry in the 1930s. We call that event the Dust Bowl. I am about to read a book about this time period and the effects of the stock market crash and dust bowl events. Without having completed my research, I still think that I can say for a fact that these students were being incredibly generous in a time of recent scarcity. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat the theme.

So let’s get to the letter- because there’s some fabulous parts to it. Luther reminds Charlotte of the culture/rules of McPherson college:
Our college is controlled by the Church of the Brethren and as a church college has certain requirements. The college prohibits the use of tobacco and discourages dancing as well as card playing. The student, I think, should adhere to these principles.
This is delicious. So- Charlotte now must find a student from Europe who has been through some pretty tough times, and possibly is fearing their safety- and she has to make sure they can promise not to chew/smoke, dance, or play cards/gamble. Welcome to the mid-west of the good ol’ USA!

Either way, honestly, it isn’t too much to ask, and I’m sure any prospective student would be more than happy to comply for a chance to study with the kind support of this school.

Another thing I want to mention- I don’t know how to adjust for inflation, but $375 a year. That includes room, board, tuition and incidentals. Sigh.

Lastly- check out his closing line: “We shall appreciate a reply as soon as possible as school closes next week, May 26.” Um… that seems like an awfully short time to get things settled! I do appreciate that the Student Christian Movement is trying to help a Jewish student. This is a step outside of the comfort zone for non-dancing, chewing, card-playing Christians from the mid-west to give up hard-earned money to help a Jewish student from Europe get a new start. Makes me happy.