Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spotlight Part 1: The I.S.S.

Hey All,
    This is Jason again! There were many organizations who were helping refugees throughout the 30's and 40's besides the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In the last post, you saw a note from Robert Spivack, who is the secretary of an organization known as the International Student Service (ISS). I figured I would give you a glimpse into this organization with a two part spotlight. In this first one, we will look at an article from the New York Times from April 9, 1939 and what appears to be a promotional pamphlet, which I found as one document back and front in Jan Rosenbach's AFSC file. This will give you an idea of the work they were doing at this point in our story and Sarah will share her reflection on it below. In the next part of the spotlight, I will share a little more about the organization as a whole through my research. Enjoy!!


Robert G. Spivak Declares Philanthropy Has Already Brought Acceptances for 80
Already $54,000 Raised to Help Clothe, Feed, House Those Being Placed

American college students and administrations have demonstrated greater generosity toward student refugees from Germany and Central Europe than in any other philanthropic project they have undertaken since the World War. In making this statement yesterday, Robert G. Spivack, secretary of International Student Service, said that more than 100 colleges had provided nearly 130 scholarships for students recommended by International Student Service. Eighty students have already been accepted. Most of them began their studies last February. Many scholarship committees, including that of Harvard University, where eighteen awards are yet to be made, will meet this week.

The total value of the scholarships granted by administrations is $43,000. Nearly $54,000 additional has been raised by student bodies to help clothe, feed house and provide spending money for the refugees, Mr. Spivak stated. This money is being distributed by the local committees and not through the New York office of I.S.S.

"In many instances fraternities, sororities, churches and settlement houses have offered dormitory facilities," Mr. Spivak added. "In conformity with student traditions of volunteer work and self-sacrifice, the total administrative expenses of selecting, interviewing, recommending and placing student-refugees has been less than $5,000 for the fiscal year."

Old Foes Unite in Work

Of the students thus far accepted about 55 per cent are Jewish, 25 per cent Catholic and 20 per cent Protestant. Nearly every large university in the country is cooperating in the work, including Columbia, Harvard and Yale, and many smaller institutions such as Oberlin, Berea and Colby are doing their share. State-supported institutions including Wisconsin, California, Ohio State and Penn State have selected refugees. Women's colleges have been exceptionally generous , said Mr. Spivack, especially Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Vassar and Simmons.
Nearly every campus drive-the majority of them took place last November following outrages in Europe-was a reaction against some political development of German foreign policy, Mr. Spivak explained. He said that campus committees usually sprang up without any outside influence being exerted by I.S.S. or other refugee agencies. Students representing diverse viewpoints on campus peace activities such as the Student Christian Movement, the Newman Clubs, American Student Union and Quakers have minimized their differences to aid their persecuted fellow students abroad, Mr. Spivak added.
"Despite the unprecedented generosity of American students (similar activities have gone on at Cambridge, Oxford and other British universities), the whole problem of student-refugees cannot be met," he asserted.

Applications Exceed 5,000

"The number of applications to the Geneva and New York offices from from Germany and Czecho-slovakia alone is near 5,000. Additional requests in smaller numbers are coming from persecuted students in Italy, Rumania and Hungary. Because most countries have closed their doors, the bulk of the work is now being done in England and the United States.

In both countries it is unlikely that more than 500 students per year can be helped. They are selected on the basis of academic achievement, interest in extra curricular activities such as music, literature, sports and all-around personalities. It is worth noting that despite the serious sufferings and humiliations these refugees have undergone, their morale is generally high.

"The most difficult obstacle which I.S.S. must meet after a student has been recommended and accepted by a university is getting him to the United States. Although Protestant and Catholic students have had a fair degree of success in obtaining student visas, most Jewish students are unable to obtain them, since the German government stamps a 'J'  on their passports.

Only 15 Per Cent Are Women

"The average age ranges between 18 and 25, with nearly two-thirds of those students entering undergraduate schools. Women constitute only about 15 per cent of those accepted or applying. This is explained by the fact that fewer women attended European universities and that many do no prefer to continue their university studies. Very often they become nurses, act as governesses or are married.

"Students of the social sciences, domestic law, international politics and literature constitute the largest number of applicants. While these fields are overcrowded in American institutions, it has been schools offering liberal arts courses which have been most generous. With the notable exception of M.I.T., Carnegie Tech and Stevens Institute, few technical schools have opened their doors to refugees. Medical colleges are almost completely shut. About 20 per cent of the students enter the natural sciences and about 5 per cent go into agriculture, architecture, mathematics or astronomy.

"While all of the refugees are vigorous anti-Nazis, their political views reflect the many parties which formerly existed in Germany. Most have not participated in political affairs and are interested primarily in their studies.

"Organizations cooperating with the I.S.S. include the Institute for International Education, the National Coordinating Committee, the Intercollegiate Committee for Aid to Student Refugees, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Hillel Foundation and a number of national fraternities and student groups."


Since the article re-printed on the other side appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES, International Student Service has helped 20 more students find refuge in American universities.

Some salient facts on the student-refugee work of I.S.S. are:

1. Of those applying 25% are Catholic, 20% Protestant and 55% Jewish.

2. Applications are now being received from Czecho-Slovakia, Spain, Rumania, the Free City of Danzig, and Germany.

3. About 110 students will be placed by the end of the academic year, 1938-39. (There are over 1,000,000 American college students. Student-refugees are not competing for scholarships with any of them.)

4. The total value of scholarships distributed by I.S.S. this year is approximately $100,000.

5. The work of I.S.S. which includes help for Chinese students in the Far East as well as the European refugee work has been carried on with a budget of less than $5,000.

In order that this work be continued I.S.S. needs at least $25,000 more to meet emergency needs of students who are victims of racial, religious, and political persecution. An additional $3,000 is needed to meet administrative costs. Will you please help?

Send contributions to: 
8 West 40th Street
New York City

This article is fascinating. I know more about this topic than the average person, so I noticed how complicated some of the details are, even though they have been simplified for this article. It reminds me to keep that in mind anytime I’m reading an article about something I know nothing about. 

It starts out very optimistically...all of these scholarships that have been rewarded, money that has been raised, the overwhelming charity of these schools who have risen to the occasion to respond to events like kristallnacht. The actual event is not really named, only alluded to, so if you didn’t know it happened, you would be confused. Some of the article is devoted to talking about people who have put aside their differences to help. I’m not sure if they are talking about the people who are being helped or the groups that are helping. The article mentions the fact that a majority of the people seeking help are Jewish. I wonder if emphasizing "putting aside differences" in light of this particular population's needs is a subtle reference to the Anti-Semitism rampant in the U.S.

After the "good news" of financial help and cooperation, you get the "bad news" - that they are hardly touching the amount of students who are actually trying to get over...they have successfully helped 80 students and the amount applied exceeds 5,000. 

This is where, if you don’t know what you are looking for, you would miss this. It talks about how the
...number of applications to the Geneva and New York offices from Germany and Czecho-slovakia alone is near 5,000. Additional requests in smaller numbers are coming from persecuted students in Italy, Rumania and Hungary. Because most countries have closed their doors, the bulk of the work is now being done in England and the United States.
For someone who doesn’t know what that means, it would be easy to miss the bottom line. Essentially what they are saying is most of the refugees in Europe are hopeless cases because the borders are closing. In England and the U.S., it’s likely that no more than 500 students can be helped in a year. 
It's kind of bleak- and I think the students were some of the easier ones to help. Regular refugee folks had to obtain affidavits - which was a pretty difficult process. Opa's case looks more and more impossible at this moment- but so far he is not in Nazi-controlled land, so the door is still open a crack.

Finally, the last sort of unfortunate news is that 
the most difficult obstacle, which ISS must meet, after a student has been recommended and accepted by a university, is getting him to the United States...most Jewish students are unable to obtain them [student visas], since the German government stamps a J on their passports.
After reading that quote, I wondered if the average American reading this article understands what that means...that the J means they are Jewish and don’t have the normal rights of citizenship. Do they understand that American immigration policy requires students to have a viable return country? Therefore, the very fact that Jewish students need to get out of Germany means that they won’t likely be welcomed back and thus negates their ability to get a student visa, which is irony at its best. Opa was sort of ahead of this obstacle as he escaped Germany and destroyed his passport. His temporary visa from Holland was his flimsy hope.

Then, the article points out that the overwhelming majority of support comes from liberal arts colleges, not technical ones, which is part of Opa’s dilemma. This is why Jan, with a less than stellar record, superceded him for McPherson...because of the nature of the school. I wonder why the technical and medical schools are so closed, particularly because they probably have financial capabilities and means?

On the other side of the document was this update and specific details about the ISS’s work on student refugees and a request for financial help. If I could retroactively give them money, I would!

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