Sunday, October 12, 2014

September 5, 7, 1939: Is He Coming?


 Original Letter from Phil Myers of McPherson College to Charlotte Salmon of AFSC


Charlotte Salmon
Friends Service Committee
Philadelphia, Penns.

Dear Miss Salmon:

In your last communication to me you requested that I send letters to Thomas Doeppner and to the American Consul informing them that Thomas Doeppner had been granted a scholarship at McPherson College. We sent the letters immediately but we have received no reply from Mr. Doeppner.

Since school starts the 11th I am becoming rather uneasy about the situation and I wondered if you had received information of any sort. If you have received any information that would be of any value to me I would appreciate it greatly if you would wire it to me. We have the fund for this purpose and if Thomas Doeppner cannot
(Charlotte Salmon - pg 2) 
come because of the present situation in Europe or for some other reason, we must obtain another student immediately. If such were the situation we would probably consider Jerry Schroeder who if my information is correct, is now at the Scattergood Hostel.

If you have already relayed some information to me just disregard this letter but I was growing uneasy about the situation and decided to contact you and see if you could relieve the doubt in my mind. Thank you for your anticipated help, I am
              Sincerely yours,
              Phil Myers

Original Letter from Charlotte Salmon at AFSC to Phil Myer at McPherson College


Phil Myers
1728 E. Gordon Street
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Phil Myers:

On August 28 I received a letter from Thomas Doeppner. I'll enclose a copy. I would have passed the information on to you, except that I thought you would hear from him directly.

Probably he won't be able to get here by September 11, since I understand that American citizens are being given preference on the boats. It is difficult, as you probably know, for any one to get steamship passage now. We have information that all immigration has bee temporarily stopped, but it is possible that he got his visa before immigration was cut off. His letter to me was dated August 15; if he got busy right away, as he planned, he may have gotten a visa before the War began.

Could you hold the scholarship open for him for a week or two, at least? I think that we will be hearing from him soon. If it appears that he won't be able to come any time soon it would be fine to transfer the scholarship to Jerry Schoeder, if he has no other plans. I will let you know just as soon as I hear anything from Thomas Doeppner, or as soon as I have any other information about immigration.

     Sincerely yours,
     Charlotte S. Salmon
     Placement Worker

Phil Myers of McPherson College wrote to Charlotte Salmon of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to ask simply: is he coming or what? Phil Myers hasn’t heard anything from Opa since the school sent the formal invitation for Opa to join them in the fall. Opa sent his one-word “ACCEPTED” telegram after he heard of their offer through the AFSC. But McPherson has yet to hear directly from him. Phil Myers appropriately wonders if he is not able to come or has had difficulties with the visa process. If Opa cannot attend, there is a runner up, Jerry Schroeder, who is currently living in Scattergood Hostel- a place in Iowa the AFSC organized for refugees to live.

Charlotte drummed up a response quickly with some encouraging facts that will hopefully keep Opa’s scholarship and admittance in tact. She says she heard from Opa on August 28th. In the letter, it seems he alluded that he would get right on the ball and get his visa. She seemed confident he would be able to get it.

So that was the good news. The bad news was: War has begun. Germany invaded Poland on September 1st which catapulted a response from the world. Britain declared war on Germany as of September 3rd. A British cruise ship was sunk by a German U-boat in the Atlantic on September 3rd. People are ready to get home if home is away from Europe. Passenger ships are sold-out. American citizens are given preference on the boats, especially since the war has officially begun. So that meant Opa had to get in another line: the line for a ticket on a ship. I hadn’t even considered that would be an issue. But of course, with war a reality rather than a rumor, the Americans would be scrambling to head home and get out of dodge.

Then the news gets worse: “all immigration has been temporarily stopped.” What? What just happened? She is hopeful that Opa got his visa approved before this development, but this is bad. The declaration of war triggered a pause on all visa processing, so that concerned nations could revisit their policies and likely make them harder for certain folks to immigrate.  For many people, this could mean their visa was just a day away, but null and void.

Charlotte manages to make things hopeful and requests that Phil keeps the scholarship open for just a little longer before transferring it to Jerry Schroeder. I know this must have been challenging for Charlotte, as Jerry may very well have needed that offer. But has far as she knew, Opa may have gotten the visa in time. If we think in triage terms- Opa is still in Europe- he needs this more- and it may very well be his last chance at getting out of Europe.

So, what’s Opa doing? Is he coming or what? Did he get the visa in time? Can he find a ship with a spot for him?

Friday, October 10, 2014

September 5, 1939: Your Message has been Forwarded

Original Letter from American Consul General in Amsterdam: Frank C. Lee, to AFSC


Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee,
 20 S. 12th St.,
   Philadelphia, Pa.

   The Consulate General acknowledges the receipt of your communication dated September 1st, 1939 in regard to the visa case of Thomas Doeppner and you are informed that as the American Consulate in Rotterdam is the only office in the Netherlands authorized to issue immigration visas for the United States, your communication has been forwarded to that office for appropriate action.

   Any further correspondence in the case should be carried on direct with that office.

            Respectfully yours,

            Frank C. Lee
            American Consul General.

Before I talk about the content of the letter, let me point out two things:

1) The first paragraph is one sentence. Holy editing moly.
2) This is a fill-in-the-blank letter, as you can see by the penned-in date and typed-in name that specify the case. This means that it was common enough for people to send this type of request to this office and be forwarded to Rotterdam.

The letter from the American Consul in Amsterdam alerts the folks at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) that the only American Consulate in the Netherlands that has the power to issue a visa for the United States is in Rotterdam. The folks in Amsterdam were kind enough to forward the communication to the right place.

I wonder how this news was received by the folks at the AFSC. Was this standard procedure- an expected forwarding process? Or was this a sign of the diminishing possibilities for people in Europe to have access to the possibility of entering the United States? Either way, for Opa, it’s a delay in a process that really needed to be expedited. We will see how it plays out.


Monday, October 6, 2014

August 22 & 28, 1939: Good Relations Are the Key

 Original Letter from Charlotte Salmon to Dr. Naumann


Dear Dr. Naumann:

Miss Kraus has given me your letter with the good news that you have at last gotten your non-quota visa. We all rejoiced here in the office over such a victory.

I have too the letter you received from the State Department (Consul Mokma) which was discouraging to say the least. We are much interested to learn what was done to make him change his mind. Perhaps you have written in greater detail to Miss Derenberg. Since there are a number of others in your position, I know she'll want to learn as much as she can from your experience.

We hope there will be at McPherson this winter a refugee student Thomas Doeppner, from Amsterdam. If he is able to get a student visa and to come, I know he will be glad to find there a fellow countryman who can perhaps help him to get used to a new country and to American ways of doing things.

We are all delighted that you are well settled for the next year. I hope that your fiancee will be able to come soon.

With best wishes to you both,
    Sincerely yours,
        Charlotte S. Salmon,
        Placement Worker.

Original Letter from Walter Naumann to Charlotte Salmon


Dear Miss Salmon

Thank you for your kind letter. Since several days I have been about to write you, to thank you still for all the help I got. And to tell you some more about my immigration. There is however, not very much to tell that might be useful to anyone else. The change in the mind of the consul was due to a letter from A. Landon, former Governor of Kansas etc., with whom the President of McPherson College happened to be acquainted, and who recommended me to the consul. I had myself written an answer to the consul's last letter that you have seen, pointing out that I am still able to return to Europe and that therefore his charge that I should have misrepresented the facts in order to get a visitor's permit, was not right. Three days after this letter, I made an 'unofficial' trip to Mexico with some students from Los Angeles and called at the consul's office. But he had then made his change of mind already, and we we only agreed that he would write me a letter stating his new point of view, so that I could enter Mexico legally. That took place. You see that there is not much to learn for others, except that good relations are the main point. I have sent a copy of my whole correspondence with the consul to Abrahamson, so that he might learn something out of it. I shall ask him to forward it to you, perhaps it will help you to study the whole exchange and a typical consular mentality. I should like to add only, that I got my permit to enter Mexico without any difficulty, for six months, and I know a man in San Francisco who applied in vain to enter Canada, and who had to change over his case to a consul in Mexico, for which country he got a permit without a obstacle. 

I shall certainly be very glad to have a fellow country man as a student at McPherson and shall help him as much as I can. Is he still over in Europe?

About my fiance I learned from an English lawyer, that there is no possibility of a marriage in proxy in England, and besides a marriage in England would not be legal if it is not in accord with the laws of the country to which the contractants belong. It seems however that her waiting number will fall in the quota of this year, so that it will be the safest way to wait.

With my hearty thanks and my best wishes to you and Miss Derenberg, you know that I am always at your disposal if I can help anything.

Yours sincerely,
 Walter Naumann

This correspondence back and forth between Dr. Naumann and Charlotte Salmon gives us another clue to the scope of Charlotte’s work. Her role in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was not limited to placing refugee students in colleges. In these letters, she touches base with a refugee who has finally obtained his non-quota visa and is able to begin teaching at McPherson College. If you have been following along in this blog, you might already know about the differences in the types of visas. The short version is: a non-quota visa is a visa you don’t have to wait in line for. They are harder to obtain, but if you qualify- you are more likely to get one on time.

If you read between the lines, you can see that Dr. Naumann has entered the United States on a visitors visa and was in danger of being deported back to Germany. The consul was upset with Dr. Naumann, accusing him of being dishonest about his ability to return to his country (a major factor in obtaining a non-quota or visitors visa). The consul was convinced otherwise, and Dr. Naumman received his visa. His success in obtaining a non-quota visa was cause for celebration at the AFSC office, and it seems everyone was a bit worried!

Charlotte wants to learn from his success- how did he change the consul’s mind? His answer: “good relations are the main point.” It seems the president of McPherson, V.F. Schwalm, was good friends with the former governor of Kansas- and a little note from the governor was enough to change the consul’s mind. The expression that occurred to me: “It’s all who you know.”

Dr. Naumann noted that really, there was nothing to learn from his case to help others in convincing consuls- because his case change was really a brilliant stroke of luck. Thanks to some “important” people who took the time to put in a good word, the consul’s mind was changed. You can’t really buy good relations. However, and this is something that I’ve learned to view a little less cynically- the phrase “it’s all who you know” really is a testament to the power of connecting with people outside our comfort zone. I never really warmed up to the idea of networking. In my mind, it was a market for shallow interactions among people who were pushing aside others in an attempt to impress powerful people who can do something for them. I still believe that happens. However, I now see that networking can be a simple joining of the larger human web of support. You are opening up yourself to new experiences, new ideas, new perspectives. When you open up the bridges, you’ll get people who need you and people who can help you. It can be a humbling experience rather than a fight for standing out above the rest.

Dr. Naumann was connected to the previous governor of Kansas because he was a good professor and good man who impressed the president of his college. When you burn bridges, you never know what roads you might be closing off. Now, Dr. Naumann was in a place to be helpful to a new young student coming from Germany. That new young student is my Opa. See how far those bridges can stretch?

Dr. Naumann does mention how easy it was to get into Mexico, so we shall see if that comes up later in the letters. Could Mexico be a gateway for refugees looking to escape Europe?

So go out there- and keep in mind that every person you meet is part of the huge web of human connectedness. Keep those bridges open.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spotlight: Walter Naumann

Dr. Walter Friedrich Naumann
Nov. 3, 1910-Jan. 1997

A picture from Naumann's AFSC File

In 1939, another refugee was welcomed by McPherson College, a professor: Dr. Walter Naumann. Just like Opa, Dr. Naumann was assisted by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). We will look at one of his correspondences with the AFSC next blog. We will follow some of his case file and share it with you in the future. This is some of Walter’s story from his AFSC file and what I could find on the internet. Enjoy his story.

A picture from the Spectator,
the McPherson student Newspaper:
Walter Naumann was born in Nov 3, 1910 in the mountains of Bohemia. He came from a long line of Protestant ministers. His uncle was Friedrich Naumann, a German liberal politician (according to wikipedia, Friedrich co-founded the German Democratic Party and was “the father of the constitution of the Weimar Republic”). Walter studied literature, specifically French, with the Romance scholar Ernst Robert Curtius, under whose guidance he earned his PhD at the University of Bonn. From there, he went on to teach in various places...five months in Italy, four months in Spain, and then at the University of Toulouse in France. On our more recent timeline in the blog, he is in a hostel from February to March of 1939, then went to teach briefly at Pacific College in Oregon. By March of 1939, he is in Cambridge, MA. The AFSC works to get him a permanent position at a college, which ends up being at McPherson College.
In his AFSC file, you learn more about his desire to leave Germany. He was engaged to a Jewish girl, Hanna Jacobsohn, the daughter of a prominent former professor of German literature. While in Germany, if he were to continue his relationship with her, it would have been a race crime. So, he is trying to get her to the U.S. as well. He is successful and in January of 1941, they are married at McPherson College. 

I’ve pieced together information following his time at McPherson. He goes on to teach at University of Michigan and at Oberlin College. At University of Chicago, Wisconsin and Ohio University, he taught modern German literary history. He settled in at Ohio State University, where he held the rank of full professor. His family returned to Germany in 1954 and, when he was able in 1963, Walter Naumann went back to teach at the Technical University of Darmstadt. 

Throughout his career, he wrote many books and essays on the Romance languages and on many famous Austrian authors and playwrights. He died in January of 1997 and his wife died later that year.