Sunday, May 4, 2014

June 14, 1939: What about Jan?


Dear Charlotte,             Re: Jan Rosenbach
In going through Jan Rosenbach's dossiers, I found a note that you were suggesting him for McPherson College. Have you received any definite word as to whether he has been accepted? Thru Miss Marion Frenyear's intervention Mr. Robert Berquist of Minneapolis has provided him with affidavits. While there are many obstacles and the affidavit is not particularly strong, we are forwarding it to our Geneva office in the hope that it will at least give him some protection against the Nazi officials.

Sincerely yours,
Robert G. Spivack


Dear Mr. Myers:
       We are very glad to know that you are interested in Jan Rosenbach. Since his father was an active member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation I imagine that his is a religious pacifism as this is the basis of the FOR.
       I have no information on Jan Rosenbach's habits in regard to smoking, drinking and dancing. We can only judge by the personal reccommendation we have on him as a splendid young man, that he would be willing to adjust his ways to those of the community in which he finds himself. I think that undoubtedly he would - since most of the foreign students are grateful for the opportunity to study here and are anxious to fit into the life of the College.
      In regard to his record I would interpret it as average even the "degree in total progress" is one mark above "insufficient". I think however that we have to take into consideration the fact that school life for him cannot have been quite normal for some time now. I know that several students who have come here legally have been handicapped by the worry and the nervous strain they have gone through. I shall ask him to send us a picture and if possible more personal details . I think your plans for his maintenance are splendidly worked out and would be sufficient for a student's visa. The only difficulty is the necessity to prove to the American Consul that he can return to some other country after his stay here. This problem is one that he will have to work out over there. We can only send him the invitation backed by the scholarship and arrangement for his maintenance.
     The sooner the committee can come to a decision the easier it would be to make arrangements for him to come to this country. I hope to hear from you soon and will send any other information that I can get.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte Salmon
Placement Worker
Refugee Service
So, basically, it looks like Jan is as good as in McPherson and both the International Student Service (ISS) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) are keeping tabs on him. 

In the first letter here, Robert Spivack mentions that the affidavit might offer some protection for Jan against the Nazi officials. This really intrigued me! We looked around more more clues on this idea... In a letter written in May from Jan's AFSC case file, Charlotte explains that "if Robert Spivack thought an affidavit would be helpful to Jan Rosenbach no doubt he considered it as a protection to him against possible arrest or other maltreatment." If Nazi officials know that someone with documented financial ability in the United States is paying attention and cares for you, would they be more likely to leave you alone for a while, at least at first? This is fascinating to me. I've heard allusions to this idea before, but have never really seen a concrete example like this. I wonder if there is any truth to it- if the Nazi's really did back off people who had American ties- at least for a little bit (or until they joined the war).  Or was this idea just another thing people thought might help but in reality, didn't make much of a difference?

Either way, it looks like Jan is well on his way to being accepted to McPherson, despite a less than stellar academic record. Charlotte at the AFSC makes a kind statement about the situation many of these refugee students have been in. She highlights the fact that life has taken an emotional toll in a way that may result in less than stellar grades. I love that Charlotte says basically without asking that Jan will do whatever it takes to fit in to the school's culture. She says, essentially: you don't want him to smoke or dance or drink, he'll do it...he'll do whatever it takes because that's how desperate and grateful these folks are for a chance to emigrate and study in America. 

Charlotte asks Phil for a final decision so they can get to work on a visa- they have their work cut out for them. They hope that his sort of tenuous ability to return to Europe won't affect his application for emigration. Meanwhile, we are still waiting on Oberlin for Opa...

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