Saturday, May 31, 2014

July 11, 1939: Opa's Optimism


Dear Miss Salmon,

I received your letter of June 22nd for which I thank you very much indeed. You can imagine how excited I am about the favourable development of the case. I will immediately begin to take the necessary steps to obtain my visum, and I will let you know at once should I have obtained any results. In the meantime I thank you once again very much and assure you I appreciate tremendously all you have done for me. 

I remain with very best wishes and kindest regards.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Doeppner

I’m impressed. Opa has such a pleasant and optimistic response to learning he is first alternate for Oberlin. I wondered which way his response would go, and here it is: optimism. He is genuinely encouraged by the progress in his case. I imagine that he was delighted to hear that he got close to any school’s top choices, and felt encouraged that it meant he might make it on someone’s acceptance list. Opa’s letter to Gisela just a couple of weeks before this (find it here) was bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t heard of any promising progression on his attempt to go to school in the US. This was progress, even if it wasn’t the final step.

Way to be Opa. He’s reminding me of his eternally optimistic friend Bern Brent from his Quaker youth group. (If you haven’t read about him yet, you must meet this gem, read about him here.)

PS- I wonder if he learned British English instead of American English...

Opa's niece Helene (Patti's daughter) just wrote me to tell me the answer to my last question:
I know for a fact that my mother learned British English in gymnasium, so am quite sure Tom would have, too.  I think it was only after the war that American English was taught in Europe; before, the Queen's English was much preferred, certainly considered more proper.  Now I think it's a mixture, but often American.

Friday, May 30, 2014

July 6, 1939: What about Jan?


Mr. Phil Myers,
1722 E. Gordon,
McPherson, Kansas.

Dear Mr. Myers:

      The other day Miss Marion Frenyear of the Fellowship of Reconciliation was in the office and inquired about Jan Rosenbach.

     I wondered if you had been able to come to any decisions about your refugee scholarship. Please let me know when you do because it will undoubtedly be difficult to get any foreign student over here.

    I have just come from the International Relations at which the Student Peace Service Volunteers are being trained. There I saw Dan Wilson, Maxim Ring and many other Kansas students. They are set for a wonderful summer.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte S. Salmon,
Placement Worker,
Refugee Service.

We mentioned earlier in the blogs that we were going to follow Jan Rosenbach’s American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) files a little bit as they intersect with Opa’s in interesting ways. In this letter, Charlotte Salmon is proactive (always!) in reaching out and checking on the status of McPherson’s final decision for extending a scholarship. She emphasizes the difficulty of getting foreign students to the US, and politely requests to be informed of a decision as soon as possible.

Charlotte does a good job of politely lighting the fire under these discerning committees. They likely have little idea about how each day counts to these refugees. Even Charlotte seems to be omniscient as she can’t possibly realize how close Europe’s borders are to completely shutting down once the Nazi invasion really kicks in. If you didn’t memorize your WW2 battle dates like I didn’t before this project- then it is helpful to remember that the Nazis invaded and conquered Holland (where Opa is living at the time of this letter) in May of 1940. That is only 10 months from Charlotte’s letter here. Time is not on their side.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

July 5, 1939: Point of Information Please!


Mr. Bob Spivack,
International Student Service
8 West 40th Street,
New York City.

Dear Bob:
     Point of information please:

      Why is it advisable to get affidavits for students? Although these affidavits may serve as a protection for them against the police, I should think that the indication that they intend to immigrate permanently would spoil their chances to get a student's visa. I am thinking particularly of the case of Jan Rosenbach. Is there a special kind of affidavit for students? Would not a scholarship providing room and board as well as tuition serve the same purpose.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker.
Refugee Service.

This is one of those letters that you want to see the response. Charlotte asks a good question, and her request for information shows you that the organizations are constantly learning and trying to figure out the best way to help refugee. This shows how the decisions made by the American consuls are increasingly tentative and subjective.  

You may remember Jan Rosenbach is the student who is in the running to be accepted to McPherson College. His situation is a little bit unique because he is a political refugee. His father was a prominent pacifist.  He is a little closer to the danger of the Nazis but still has a chance to get out. Bob Spivack at the International Student Service (ISS) alluded to the fact that an affidavit would help protect Jan in the meantime while he waits to leave for the USA. 

Charlotte is trying to make sense out of this - especially for any other students. I think she basically is trying to make sure that getting an affidavit is not the new obstacle required for students to enter the US. We will discuss affidavits more in the future, but for now I'll give you a simple definition of an affidavit in this context. An affidavit is a sworn statement by a person who is both willing and able to be financially responsible for the refugee, so that the refugee will not be a financial burden on the USA. This requirement was an important (and difficult) step in the tedious process of hopeful immigrants to the USA. Charlotte is confused and asking for clarification because an affidavit was usually only required for immigrants seeking permanent relocation to the US.

Charlotte's logic that an affidavit makes the student seem more permanent is pretty sound... the addition of an affidavit to a student's request for a visa might make the American consuls hesitate if they sense that the students have no intention of returning to their country of origin. If the consuls don't think that the students intend to be temporary, they might revoke the student visa (which is temporary) and send the students to the back of the regular (but permanent) visa line. Charlotte understands the protective power that having someone "watching" from the USA might have for a refugee- but she also doesn't want to detract from quickly getting that refugee to safety. 

Ultimately, obtaining affidavits is hard work. It requires a very detailed process of proving financial stability and ability in a time when folks are just starting to come out of the hardships of the depression. I'm sure Charlotte would rather not have to add this to the criteria for students.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

June 20 & 22, 1939: 1st Alternate for Oberlin


Miss Charlotte Salmon
Refugee Section, A.F.S.C.
20 South Twelfth Street
Philadelphia, Penns.

Dear Charlotte S. Salmon:
     The Oberlin committee was very favorably impressed with the records and recommendations of Thomas Doeppner. He stood high in our choice for the scholarships which were difficult to make from so many applicants. We have chosen him, however, for our first alternate. I mentioned to you the possibility of a small scholarship of $200. This would have gone to Thomas Doeppner only the committee felt that as the winners were all in Europe now, it would not be wise to divide our eight hundred dollars among three students.
     There seems to be at present difficulty in securing an affidavit for one of the winners. If this can not be straightened out Thomas Doeppner will be the next in line for the scholarship. In any case as the committee have left Oberlin, all further communications will go through William Seaman, Admissions Office, Oberlin College. Mr. Seaman already knows of our decisions and has the records of all the applicants.
     As you have done all direct correspondence with Thomas Doeppner, I would like you to write him of our decision.

Sincerely Yours,
Helen Mary Forbush
Chairman of Refugee Comm.


Thomas Doeppner
Amstelveen N.A.
Emmakade 8, Holland

Dear Thomas Doeppner:

     A letter has just come from Oberlin College stating that you have been chosen as first alternate for a scholarship at that college. I wish that one of the scholarships might be awarded to you, but at present there seems to be some difficulty in securing an affidavit for one of the winners. I don't understand just what the complications regarding this immigration problem are, but in case the recipient of the scholarship can't come to this country you should be next in line for it.
     I am writing to Oberlin to urge them to let us know as soon as possible if an opportunity does come for you. It might take some time for you to get your visa, but I think that it would be possible for you to get a student visa to the United States. I'll continue to do what I can here, in the meantime, please see that you have all the necessary papers that you will need for getting a visa in case such an opportunity arises.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker

Helen-Mary Forbush
5102 York Road
Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Helen-Mary Forbush,
     We are so glad to hear Thomas Doeppner has been appointed alternate for one of your scholarships. I wish that he had received a scholarship, of course, but without meaning to be unduly pessimistic I think that if the two winners are both in Europe there may well be some hitch in getting them over here. I don't know about their situations but I do know that conditions have to be just exactly right before the consuls are willing to grant student visas. I think that Thomas Doeppner would have no trouble because his father is established in Holland. However, you never know what complications you may run into, so if you should find out that one of the other boys can't come will you please let me know as soon as possible so that we can begin to work on getting a visa for Thomas. I have written him of your decision.
     Is Oberlin on the approved list for foreign students? Just now I can't find the list published by the Immigration Bureau of the Labor Department. I don't remember seeing the name of Oberlin College. This is one requirement that must be fulfilled first of all.
     Congratulations on the committee's work. It must have been quite a job, and I know you are glad that it is finished.

Sincerely Yours,

Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker

Noooooooooooooooooo. Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man.

So- basically Opa makes it to the top of the wait list. And in this situation, as honoring as that may be- it's actually quite frustrating.  Logistically- it gets him nowhere. Both Helen-Mary Forbush and Charlotte Salmon have suspicions that Opa could easily bump up as the visa process is so meticulous and ... well ... ridiculous. So the chances that none of the choices get out of Europe are probably just as likely. However, as Charlotte emphasizes, the sooner she can get to work on Opa's visa the better. She can't get to work until she has an acceptance (and a scholarship?? not sure). 

Immediately, Charlotte lets Opa know and encourages him to be ready in case the other refugee students have difficulty getting over and are unable. This must have been a mixed bag for Opa. His latest letter to Gisela revealed that he didn't think he was getting very far in his attempt at going to school in America. This news shows that he may be closer than he thought, and yet still so far away. Was he encouraged? Frustrated?

Charlotte does the diplomatic congratulating of the committee's hard work. She's a smart lady- always keeping the options open. She also asks if Oberlin is on the approved list for foreign students. This is a new one for me. What on earth is that? I did a cursory search and couldn't find anything concrete on this time period (I'm sure it's there- I'm just not looking hard enough), but in the context of the other things I found- I think I have an idea of what this list was. There are currently requirements and restrictions about employing foreign folks in American businesses... so it seems fitting that there are some requirements that a school must fulfill to accept a foreign citizen as a student. More red-tape for the refugees of Europe, but this one seems pretty standard.

So this is kind of a bummer. Opa's most promising lead on American schools is- at best- delayed. But there's some hope- he made it towards the top of Oberlin's list - who knows what other list he'll top!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

June 17, 1939 - Opa's Confidant

Translation by Salome:
Amstelveen, June 17th 1939

Dear Gis,

Maybe it is better if I don't discuss your letter, but try to forget with you and recall the previous time. There is only one thing that I would like to tell you in regard to your last letter. I am very thankful that you convinced Anni to write me again. You can imagine how I felt after receiving the letters from Italy (of which you obviously know), and how glad I was that we were writing each other again. And I want to get back to you on another subject, which has been a long time ago, but hasn't been forgotten. I want to thank you for what you have been to me during the mountain trip. It was a difficult time for me, and I felt very lonely. I didn't get any sympathy from the other girls, but only trouble that this awful tension happened. While the boys (Werner being at the head) had a tremendous fury against Anni and tried to arouse me against her. You were the only one who showed consideration and tried to help me. I have remembered that and I do appreciate it.

Great that now you finally have the permit. When is it time to go? Do you know already from where you will be leaving? It is really bleak how Germany becomes empty of people. When one considers that all the people that are being written to, to all countries and parts of the world who have been living in the same town three to four years ago, and we see that these migrations become bigger and worse, then one can see the effects the Nazis have. Even the people I like, start to emigrate; Hitler makes sure that nothing and nobody stays back in Germany that I would want to long to return to, or that going away would make me sad. How terrible though for the unfortunate ones who have to stay back in Germany! One cannot think about it, otherwise there would only be hate feelings growing within oneself. I am really not sure what I would do if it would start 'over there'.  I know certainly well what I would have to do, but if one would go with the flow in the decisive moment? Be glad that you are a girl and don't know the lust which is shown in violence. Because with us it is the opposite than with you, the feeling tells us: Strike! and it is the mind that keeps us back. (I recently tried to explain these things to Mrs. Pollatz, you can imagine her outrage.)

I haven't gotten any further with my American affairs. The Ohio College sent me a form which I had to have filled out by my last teacher. My math teacher sent it back to me now, but it is filled out with mistakes. He marked all the questions with the best answer and on top of that a most polite general judgment.  Also with that, I received the day before yesterday the copy of a recommendation, which a U.P.-man has sent for me to Ohio. This U.P- man has been late, which he felt very uncomfortable. He tried to make up for it by writing a most favorable recommendation about me. He described me with character traits, of which I haven't discovered myself yet. For example I speak, read and write German, English, French, and Dutch, as well as some knowledge in Spanish, Italian and Russian. I am a young man of splendid Christian character, who does not drink. I have been an active Quaker for 12 years(!) and have always been head of the class at school, and so forth in this style over two typed pages long. In addition he has asked a United States Governor, as well as the president of the U.P. to write recommendations; the people will have a good impression of me, as long as they don't know me. I'm only afraid that these recommendations are too good, and unbelievable, but it seems to be common practice in America. Well, hopefully it will help some. In addition there is still the French issue, and it was promised to my sister that she will have the determining answer in 14 days. They probably will give her the same promise again in another 14 days...

Now a request: When Kaethe Juergens was here I organized for her the report of your Easter conference, but afterwards I haven't seen her nor the report anymore. Can you write me your report? I will type it then for myself, and will return it to you again. It means a lot to me. In addition I want to write about it to Berlin as well.

How do you like the picture? I find it very good, even if it isn't very similar. Do you want more copies of it?

With hearty greetings!

In every person’s life- they should have a trusted confidant. The sooner and longer we have this- the less alone we will feel. Gisela was this for Opa- I can see it. There may be a hint of affection between them, but at least for Opa, this was a classic friendship - where two people can confide, inform, sharpen, disagree, and genuinely care for the other. I love this friendship. I had a friend in grade school who remained a friend throughout High school- he was a confidant- another person who felt a little odd in the masses... and together, I felt less odd and accepted. We don’t keep in touch very much now, but our friendship was important. I see the role of friendship as having the power to sustain people for the struggles of life. Not just existing friendships- but the foundation and comraderie of friendships past.. knowing someone out there shared a part of your formative years of life and walked with you- it is comforting.
Opa is a bit cryptic (for us anyway) about Gisela’s last letter. I wrote this blog a while ago and am now coming back to correct it. I had originally thought the cryptic beginning was about the fight he had with Anni, but now I think I know what it is- and I can’t believe I didn’t see it before!
Another Quaker group alumni that I have had the privilege of meeting- Bern Brent- said that Gisela and Opa would often go off on little walks and talks together during the Quaker trips to the mountains. Bern of course assumed that their talks evolved into more than friendship- but he never knew for sure. In fact- when he and my parents and Gisela were all sitting in the Quaker meeting room in Berlin in 2013, he asked Gisela point blank- “Did you two ever kiss?!” It was like he was asking for the finale to a 75 year cliff-hanger!
The kiss! I kept putting off the kiss story because I wanted to wait until she had officially made her visit in the timeline of these letters. However, they never mention it in the letters, so I kind of forgot about it. Well- then I remembered that Gisela gave me this picture she had taken when she visited Opa in Amstelveen, with a date on the back of it. The date: May, 1939.
Photo of Gisela Halle in Amstelveen
Back of Photo
This letter is after their visit, and I believe that Gisela must have written a note to Opa about the kiss. Having met Gisela, her demeanor is such that I’m sure she was a little bit embarrassed and wanted to make sure that they would remain friends, remain in touch, but also remain practical. To “forget” - as Opa said he would forget with her.
SO let’s take a brief moment and tell the story of the kiss, as retold by Gisela:
When Gisela rode on the kindertransport train to Britain, she was able to make a stop in Amsterdam on her way. That stop resulted in a brief visit with Opa. Gisela said they were making their way from Amstelveen back to Amsterdam when they were stopped by the police in a sort of air raid drill. So the two of them stood huddled and waiting for the all-clear. That was when Opa kissed her. Gisela said it was her first kiss, and she thought it was Opa’s too. She said it was sort of sad, it was almost like a goodbye kiss because they knew the war would come and they knew they wouldn’t see each other. At the time she was to go to New Zealand and he was hoping for France or otherwise. The kiss was not so much romantic as it was a final gesture of connection. When Gisela told the story, she had pictures in her hand, one was the one of her outside August and Emma’s house (she didn’t remember them at all), and the other was one that Opa had sent of himself, she said he looked very nice, all grown up.
So that answers Bern Brent’s 75 year old question that he posed to Gisela: “did you kiss?!” Yes indeed, they did. And how many of us can say we interviewed our grandparent’s first kiss?
Back to the letter- for whatever reason, Anni and Opa had gotten into some argument and Anni had not been writing and Gisela convinced her to write again. Opa is grateful. I met Anni when we took our trip to Berlin in 2013... and she was a firecracker- so who knows what offense Opa committed to get her upset with him. (I wonder if she found out about the kiss? Legend was that she didn’t like Opa, but maybe she did?) It seems that Gisela smoothed things over and they are back to communicating.
This letter gives us an incredible glimpse into the observations of two teenagers on the mass exodus that was happening from Germany (or at least the attempted exodus). Opa notes that Germany is so bleak, becoming “empty of people… Hitler makes sure that nothing and nobody stays back on Germany that I would want to long to return to…” How sad. Can I even conceive of this? Can I imagine America emptied of friends, family, and people who make my home worth missing? How do you grieve that? Opa shares with Gisela his current method- not to think about it at all. He shares his primal urges to fight back, to strike in the face of evil. This is quite the confession to a daughter of prominent pacifist Quakers. I laughed about him trying to explain it to Mrs. Pollatz- she probably lost her mind!
It is odd how freely Opa is speaking to Gisela about his dislike for Germany’s current Nazi regime and leader. Maybe I’m mixing my timeline a bit- but I thought that the letters were already being censored or at least monitored. Either way- he doesn’t seem to think his letters are being watched.
Opa catches Gisela up on his attempts to get into an American school- and at this point, we know only a little more than he does with our insight into the files from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) who are working hard to get him to the USA. The Ohio College is Oberlin, the one we’re waiting to hear from. In Opa’s mind, he isn’t really getting too far- but it isn’t for the lack of effort. His description of Pinkley’s letter of recommendation is hilarious. Pinkley is his father’s boss at the United Press (U.P.) in Amsterdam, click here to see his glowing letter of recommendation. So basically everyone inflated Opa’s abilities and qualities, although I imagine that he is downplaying his in this letter. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

I like the observation about how it is common practice in America to inflate and exaggerate (even though the German math professor did as well). This is probably right- as the Germans tend to be more forthright with their honesty. Someone once described the Berlin way (even their way of speaking) as being particularly abrupt. They said in a restaurant seating situation, someone from another area of Germany would join in the courtesy dance of allowing others to sit where they like, where a Berliner would immediately sit where they please and/or instruct others to sit in a certain spot. Direct. I kind of love it. I experienced this when having dinner with one of Opa’s Berliner friends in Virginia last month. She had no problem telling people what to do or where to sit, but she pulled it off with the grace of hospitality and friendliness. That’s skill!
I don’t know what the "French issue" is that Opa is talking about with his sister Patti, who lives in France. I’m wondering if this is a hint to their work on trying to get Ella to France with Patti.
Opa finishes his letter with some inquiries about the Quaker group’s recent report - which I appreciate. He is trying to keep up with what the group is doing, he is still invested. Not everyone has left Germany yet.

Monday, May 19, 2014

June 14 & 19, 1939: Keep the Options Coming!

Lafayette College
Office of the Dean
Easton, Pennsylvania

(Handwritten names: Lange - 1598, Rosenbach, Zilsel - 1548, Doeppner, Hernried)

Mr. D. Robert Yarnall,
American Friends Service Committee
20 South 12th Street
Philadelphia, Pa.

My dear Mr. Yarnall,

      A combined faculty and student committee has raised funds to support a Refugee student here at Lafayette College for the next two years. The Board of Trustees has voted free tuition for such a student for the next two years. 

     We have at present one student under consideration for this award, but I would like your office, if you will be good enough, to furnish us with the credentials of at least two or three others so that we may make an appropriate choice. The recommendations which you make would have to be for individuals who will require not more than two years to complete their education. The student whose credentials we have now would appear to be able to complete his work in Engineering in a two-year period. Could you send us some Liberal Arts candidates?

     Your cooperation in this matter will be very greatly appreciated.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore A. Distler,


Mr. Theodore A. Distler, Dean
Lafayette College
Eastern, Penns.

Dear Mr. Distler:

      Mr. Robert Yarnall has referred to the refugee service your request for information about refugee students. We are very glad indeed to hear that the refugee committee at Lafayette has been so successful in its efforts to secure scholarships and funds for foreign students.
      You may know that at present it is very difficult for young Germans to obtain student visas for the United States. Non-Jewish students are seldom allowed by the German government to leave the country, while students with any Jewish blood would not be allowed to return to Germany. For this reason the American consuls are reluctant to grant student visas which are supposed to be temporary. The net result is that it is practically impossible for any student to get out of Germany.
     We are, however, acquainted with several students who have already arrived in the United States, and with others who have established a permanent residence in another country to which they could return after their school term here. The two young men who have the best records and who could, in all likelihood, get student visas both want to study engineering. I'll enclose the records of Thomas Doeppner and Rudolf Hernried, in case you should decide to take another engineering student. I am still trying to get more complete academic records for these boys, but it is particularly hard to get them since they had to leave Germany in a hurry and many of their former professors would be unwilling to get their records or else afraid to.
     I'll also enclose some information about Paul Zilzel, an outstanding student highly recommended to us. He will arrive in the United States in the fall. However I believe that he is only ready to enter college and could not complete his work in two years. I am not sure about this. Probably the only way to determine his standing would be to give him some sort of examination after he arrived.
     Please let me know if I can send you other information, or assist in any way.

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker

I have to hand it to Charlotte Salmon of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The moment I think she couldn’t be more diligent and helpful in Opa’s quest for acceptance into a university in the USA - she takes it a step further. Opa is on a high list for Oberlin College, and his name has been shared with several other schools, some we likely are unaware of, but Charlotte has not slowed down or considered anything a done deal. I’m guessing her experience has taught her that more possibilities are always better. She knocks on every door she finds.

So here, she is cleverly writing to the Dean at Lafayette College, who seems to have expressed interest in refugee students. There also seems to have been some past success with this school in getting scholarships for refugee students. For Charlotte, this is a golden door to knock on.

Charlotte catches Mr. Distler up on the details of how it has become practically impossible for students to leave Germany. Her description gives us even more insight into the refugee crisis in Germany than we had before. You would think a student visa would be easier to get than waiting in the endless line for a regular visa, but Charlotte outlines the Catch-22 that is being a student in Germany:

Non-Jewish students are seldom allowed by the German government to leave the country, while students with any Jewish blood would not be allowed to return to Germany. For this reason the American consuls are reluctant to grant student visaes which are supposed to be temporary. The net result is that it is practically impossible for any student to get out of Germany.
I didn’t really think about non-Jewish students being unable to leave Germany before. But of course it makes some sense, Opa fled the country because he faced the Nazi draft. As a “mischling” (“half-Jew”) - he was good fodder for the front lines of battle. In a society that did not value higher education (the Nazis shortened the entire regular educational process by a year)- college students must have been less of an investment and more of a pool of fish for the army draft. Wouldn’t want them getting away, now would they?

Opa and some others were lucky to have gotten out of the country when they did, and now were seeking to take the next step forward to study in America. For students fleeing Hitler in Europe, this was especially dire, as the Nazis had made no secret of their desire to be a force in the world. European countries were preparing and watching for signs of attack and invasion as the months dragged on. No one knew exactly what Hitler’s plans were or that they were seriously in danger of being conquered, but I imagine anyone bordering Germany didn’t feel immune to the Nazi effect.

We get another glimpse into the nature of Opa’s situation in terms of getting his school records, and how he really was lucky to have his professor respond so willingly. Charlotte mentions that former professors may be “unwilling to get their records or else afraid to.”

At this point, Charlotte is continuing the struggle to keep open any options available to Opa. Which door will open all the way?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

June 14, 1939: Let's get Thomas in Oberlin!


Dear Helen-Mary Forbush,

           Thomas Doeppner has sent me copies of the application form he sent to you, and also a copy of his letter. We hope that he is still under consideration and shall be interested to hear the final decision of the committee.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte Salmon 


Governor Charles Sprague
Governor Charles A. Sprague, State House, Salem, Oregon.
My dear Governor:
         It has come to my attention that Oberlin College is considering a scholarship for Thomas Doeppner.
        I understand that the matter has been taken up by the Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee of Philadelphia. 
       Please permit me to state that no better selection for a scholarship could be made than to confer one on Thomas Doeppner.
       He is a young man of splendid Christian character. He does not drink or smoke. It is my understanding that he has for a number of years stood at the head of his class in schools attended in Berlin. He speaks, reads and writes German, English, French and Dutch, and has some knowledge of Spanish, Italian and Russian.
      It is his ardent desire to become an American citizen.
      Thomas has been an active Quaker for the past ten or twelve years.
      I have known Thomas' father, August Doeppner for the past two years. He has been a member of our Berlin and Amsterdam staffs for the past four years. August Doeppner is one of our most valued and loyal employees.
     Therefore, I recommend to you and to Oberlin College, as a future American citizen and a young man who deserves every consideration and assistance, Thomas Doeppner. 
      As an Oberlin alumnus you will, I know, be interested in this case.
      I will appreciate it if you will have the kindness to drop a few lines to Oberlin approving the award of a scholarship to Thomas Doeppner.
      For your own private information, I might tell you that Thomas escaped from Germany into Holland to avoid serving in the Nazi army. He is a real democrat in the true meaning of the word. 
     Thomas's father also is a democrat. He is extremely happy to be living outside of Hitler's Germany.
     There is an interesting story in connection with the arrival of Thomas in Holland, which I will tell you when next we meet. 
     There is a growing possibility that I will return home this Fall, provided there is no European War. If possible, I want to visit the West Coast and to include a brief halt in Salem in the itinerary.
     It would be fine to see you again and to personally congratulate you on your election as Governor of the State we both hold in high esteem.
     Mrs. Pinkley joins me in all good wishes to you and Mrs. Sprague.

Faithfully yours,

European Business Manager (Virgil Pinkley)


Hugh Baillie
Mr. Hugh Baillie,
United Press Associations,
New York.

Dear Hugh:

        Please see the attached letter to Governor Sprague.

        I would appreciate it if you see fit to drop a few lines to Oberlin College in connection with the consideration now being given to a scholarship for Thomas Doeppner.
       The official to address any such communication to at Oberlin College is Miss Helen Mary Forbush.
Earl J. Johnson
       If it is at all possible to help Doeppner or his son, I certainly want to do so. I don't believe you know Doeppner personally, but EJJ (Earl J Johnson - Vice President of United Press) can fill you in on the type of gentleman he is.

       Thanks in advance for any action you may take in this matter.

Faithfully yours,

VP (Virgil Pinkley)


Miss Helen Mary Forbush,
c/o Oberlin College,
Oberlin, Ohio.

Dear Miss Forbush:
      It has come to my attention that Oberlin College is considering a scholarship for Thomas Doeppner.
      I understand that the matter has been taken up by the Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee of Philadelphia.
      Please permit me to state that no better selection for a scholarship could be made than to confer one on Thomas Doeppner.
      He is a young man of splendid Christian character. He does not drink or smoke. It is my understanding that he has for a number of years stood at the head of his class in schools attended in Berlin. He speaks, reads and writes German, English, French and Dutch, and has some knowledge of Spanish, Italian and Russian.
      It is his ardent desire to become an American citizen.
      Thomas has been an active Quaker for the past ten or twelve years. 
      I have known Thomas' father, August Doeppner, for the past two years. He has been a member of our Berlin and Amsterdam staffs for the past four years. August Doeppner is one of our most valued and loyal employees.
      Therefore, I recommend to you and to Oberlin College, as a future American citizen and a young man who deserves every consideration and assistance, Thomas Doeppner.

          With all best wishes, I am, 

          Faithfully yours,

   European Business Manager (Virgil Pinkley)

Virgil Pinkley can write a letter of recommendation! So Virgil really must like August and Opa because that was the best letter of recommendation ever. And it was also... not entirely true. I think he over-exaggerated Opa's language abilities. I'm sure Opa had at least a knowledge of some of those languages. Definitely Opa was very qualified scholastically. I wonder if he kind of won Virgil Pinkley over a little bit while working in August's office. I can see that because Opa had a charming personality and a good work ethic. If you put that personality in an 18 year old boy in an office full of journalists and editors, I bet he did pretty well. Not only did Virgil Pinkley write an amazing letter of recommendation, but he also pulled every powerful name he could: the President of United Press and the governor of Oregon, who was an Oberlin alumnus. So theoretically, Oberlin could soon be inundated with letters from a governor, a famous scientist (Einstein), the president of United Press, a respected Quaker (Mr. Martin) and Virgil Pinkley- all recommending Thomas Doeppner. You'd think that Opa was a prince or some child prodigy with all these accolades! It is really cool to see people rally around him and for him and do whatever it takes to get him this opportunity. The question is...will it work? 

Oberlin was supposed to decide pretty quickly (remember- Opa had to hurry to get his paperwork in), so Charlotte's letter says, basically in my words, "What's keeping you? Let's hear the answer!" 

Side note...what is the story that Virgil is referring to when he says he'll tell Governor Sprague the interesting story about Opa coming to Holland?? Was Virgil the one who drove him into town with August following in the car behind them? I feel like Opa would have mentioned that. The story is lost!! It could have been something really silly or it could have been something really interesting. For the first time, I just realized August must have been a total wreck waiting for Tom to arrive.  Wondering if his money was spent wisely on the people who smuggled him out.  Ah- people- ask your parents and grandparents now for their stories!