Tuesday, December 9, 2014

September 19-22, 1939: Peer Pressure

 Letter from Chief Editor of United Press to Consul General in Amsterdam, page 1


Amsterdam, September 19, 1939

Mr. Frank C. Lee,
Consul General,

Dear Mr. Lee:

Thank you for the letter to the Belgian Consul General.

I received my visa without delay and leave tomorrow morning for Brussels by air. I plan to return by Sunday and hope to have the pleasure of seeing you gain before proceeding to Scandinavia.

Meanwhile I would greatly appreciate your assistance in a matter of considerable interest to me personally and to the United Press.

Mr. A. F. Doeppner, our manager for incoming services in the Netherlands and Belgium, with headquarters in Amsterdam, has a son who has won a scholarship through the Quakers to McPherson College.

The son, Thomas, is without a German passport, having left the country to avoid serving military training under a Nazi regime, but has a Dutch Identification Card with runs until August 20, 1940.

Thomas is now in Amsterdam with his father and has been there since September 1938. He is nineteen years of age.

Mr. Doeppner has been with the United Press for six years and is one of our most loyal and esteemed managers. Obviously there would always be a home for Thomas with his father here in Amsterdam or elsewhere if we decided to transfer Mr. Doeppner.
  Letter from Chief Editor of United Press to Consul General in Amsterdam, page 2


    -  2 - 
Thomas is eager to leave for the United States to begin his studies at McPherson College since the Fall term already has opened. He has received letters and cablegrams from the President of McPherson College and the Quakers urging that he arrive at the earliest possible date.

Our New York office and Washington bureau have taken the matter up with the State Department. I enclose a cablegram received from New York.

I understand Thomas must go to Rotterdam to secure a student visa.

In this connection I would be grateful to you if you would contact the Consul in Rotterdam and aid in any possible way.

I am anxious to see Thomas go ahead. He is a splendid chap. He plans to major in engineering.

With all good wishes, I am,

Faithfully yours,

Chief Editor Continental Services
and European Business Manager. 

Letter from H.C. Burrman (Representative for Holland with United Press)
 to Consul in Amsterdam


Mr. Frank Lee,
Consul General
of the United States,

Dear Sir,

I herewith state that Mr. Thomas Doeppner intends to depart for the United States about the end of September, to spend the school year at McPherson College, and intends to return to his father's home at Amstelveen, 8 Emmakade, Holland, before June 28, 1940

Yours faithfully,

H.C. Buurman. 

Letter from Chief Editor and General Business Manager of United Press, Virgil Pinkley, 
to American Consul in Amsterdam


Mr. Frank C. Lee,
Consul General,
The Netherlands,

Dear Mr. Lee:

It has come to my attention that Mr. Thomas Doeppner desires to leave the Netherlands shortly to attend school at McPherson College.

It is my understanding that he plans to return to his home with his parents in Amstelveen, Amsterdam, at the close of the school term next June. 

Any assistance you and your office can render Mr. Doeppner in this connection will be greatly appreciated.

With all good wishes, I am

Faithfully yours,

Virgil M. Pinkley
Chief Editor and General Business Manager.
Letter from August (Opa's Dad) to American Consul in Amsterdam


The Consul General of
The United States,

I herewith state that my son, Thomas Doeppner, intends to depart for the United States about end September, to spend the school year at McPherson College, and intends to return to my home at Amstelveen, 8 Emmakade, Holland before June 28, 1940.

Faithfully yours,

August Døppner  

Letter from Amsterdam Quaker group to American Consul General in Amsterdam


To/ The American Consul General
The American Consulate

Dear Mr. Bonnett;

May I speak for the American Friends Service Committee, of 20 South 12th Street Philadelphia, in recommending to your attention the application of Thomas Doeppner for a student visa in order to take up his studies at McPherson College, McPherson Kansas.

We have known Thomas Doeppner as a volunteer worker in our Bureau and believe him to be a student of unusual ability and a character of the highest principles and ideals. We are entirely ready to assume the responsibility of meeting the requirements of the American Immigration Act regarding foreign students, in this case and give you your assurance that he will return to his home in Amsterdam at the date specified.

We wish to express to you our gratitude for your interest in Thomas, and for your promise of co-operation when we are in need of counsel and advice.

Sincerely yours,
Mary Champrey (??)

Once Opa sends out the SOS to Charlotte at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) everyone jumps in to help him out. All the letters written to the consul (or as a request for someone to write to the consul) are like a pile of peer pressure on the American Consul in Holland to just give the kid his visa already. 

It reminds me of the odd parable Jesus told his disciples- 
Luke 11: 5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
Anyhow- Opa’s friends at the AFSC, United Press, and the Quakers of Amsterdam are playing the role of annoying neighbor by asking in many ways for the consulate to grant the visa for Opa. A few of the letters emphasize Opa’s plan to return to Amsterdam to live with his father after the school year. Which, as you may guess, is a big, fat, lie. I know Opa does not know what his future holds, but I'm pretty sure he planned on staying in the United States at least as long as possible/for his whole school career. 

However, you might recall from earlier posts when I talk about the immigration laws- part of the difficulty for Jews and other refugees was that they had to be able to prove that they could return to their country of origin once the visa expired (for any visa that was temporary like the student visa). This was impossible for refugees out of Germany, as the case was clear that they could not return. So it became only possible for folks who somehow got beyond the German borders (like Opa) or who were in countries that had not yet been occupied or invaded by Germany. Those who know their WWII history know that that list of countries will change drastically in a short amount of time. Opa's additional little hiccup was that his legal status in Amsterdam was tentative. In order to be able to "return home" to Amsterdam, he would have to do it before his temporary resident status ran out in June of 1940. Again- if you know your WWII dates, you may remember that June of 1940 was a rough time for Europe. (I'll give you a hint- Germany invaded a lot of countries and took over with crazy scary speed.) But no one knows that, so right now all of these respectable people are lying for Opa (or out of forced ignorance) so he can obtain his student visa under these strict rules.

Right in this moment of time, although the war is on and the focus is on Americans returning, Opa is in the right place and time. He can still technically return to Amsterdam, and the war has not breached his borders… yet. Time is ticking.

Let’s see if the persistent letters tip the consul’s pen into approving Opa’s visa.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

September 11-15, 1939: Getting Antsy

Letter from Phil Myers to Charlotte Salmon, page 1


Charlotte Salmon
Friends Service Committee
Philadelphia, Penn.

Dear Madam:

Will you please pardon the stationary as I am at work and have no means of attaining other. If I do not write this letter now you will not receive it tomorrow.

We do not wish to unduly rush Thomas Doeppner but we would like to know definitely if he would be able to come for this school year. We wondered if you would cable him at our expense and thus we would know something definite. It seems to me that if he has not yet obtained his visa it will be impossible for him to get over here in time to make use of this school year. If he has obtained his visa probably he --
Letter to Charlotte Salmon from Phil Myers, page 2


Charlotte Salmon

--can get over here in sufficient time.

Do I make myself clear? We are willing to wait a reasonable time for Mr. Doeppner if we know that we are not waiting uselessly and we are willing to pay the cost of a cable to find out whether we should wait or look elsewhere.

Since all our correspondence has been thru you we felt it would be better if you would cable rather than for us to cable direct.

I am sorry if this letter is disconnected and rather illegible but I shall mail it without correcting these mistakes for I feel the need of haste and I cannot mail this until tomorrow otherwise.

Sincerely yours,
Phil Myers.  

Charlotte receives this letter from Phil Myers written on September 11th, 1939, on his work stationary- the McPherson Ice Company (I love that!). Phil is writing with a sense of polite urgency- imploring that Charlotte confirm that Tom Doeppner is indeed planning on coming to McPherson. The moment that Opa received acceptance to McPherson, everything jumped into hyper-speed. The issue is that not everything/everyone responds as fast as wanted- so Phil Myers is checking in to make sure that Opa is going to be able to make it in time to fully make use of his opportunity at McPherson. Keep in mind that the acceptance and scholarship is really supposed to be for one school-year. Phil makes clear that they are “willing to wait a reasonable time” for Opa, but in light of the odds- he wants to make sure that if this case fell through for whatever reason, that someone else could be given a chance. 
Telegram from Charlotte Salmon at AFSC to Opa in Holland


Emmakade 8



On September 13th, it appears that Charlotte Salmon cables Opa for his “probable date arrival America.” Despite Phil’s direction that they could cable at the school’s expense, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) foots the bill. 

Telegram from Opa back to Charlotte Salmon at AFSC


Letter from Charlotte Salmon to Phil Myers


September 15, 1939
Mr. Phil Myers
1722 East Gordon Street,
McPherson, Kansas.

Dear Mr. Myers:

In response to my cable to Thomas Doeppner asking him to let us know the date of his arrival in this country, there came a cable from him this morning - "Trying secure visa whereon appreciate your assistance State Department". We figured out that the official papers and our letters sent both to the Consu and to Thomas Doeppner, arrived just about the time that the war began. They were mailed from here August 21st and probably arrived when the Consulate was in a high state of excitement and in no mood to bother with anything except the problem of getting Americans home.

This morning we talked by phone with Mr. Warren, Chief of the Visa Division in the State Department. We asked him to cable the consul in Holland and inquire why the visa had not been granted, if it would be granted ad when. We should get a report from him in the next day or so. We explained that it was possible that Thomas Doeppner might lose his scholarship, if he could not come right away.

I realize that this puts you in an awkward position. It's too bad that we didn't get this done just a little sooner, before the war broke out. I hope now that you will wait a few days until I hear from the State Department before you give a scholarship to Jerry Schroder or to some other refugee. I'll let you know just as soon as I can.

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker

On September 14th, Charlotte gets a response from Opa: “trying to secure visa… appreciate your assistance- state department.”

That doesn’t sound good. Charlotte wrote to Phil on September 15th, explaining the situation. The timing of Opa’s big break may have been too late. The request for his visa flew into the consulate with the news of war and a host of other requests to get Americans out of Europe. The other news and requests caused Opa’s request to get lost in the shuffle. Charlotte called the right people and is now waiting and hoping that it does the trick. She asks for Phil Myers’ patience in waiting with them for a definitive answer.

I’m thinking about Opa, still living in Holland after nearly a year away from Germany. I wonder if Germany and his memories and friendships felt like a lifetime away. He’s been taking classes, meeting with the Quakers in Amsterdam, and working with his Dad- all while waiting and hoping to move to America. After all the waiting - he finally gets the green light- only to be told that it might not matter anymore- Europe is at war. He may once again have to wait for another chance, another miracle.

It reminds me that I don’t have a clue about real patience.

Friday, December 5, 2014

In Transition

To all who have been following diligently - I have not forgotten this blog and project. I am starting a new job and as with all new things, the transition is all-consuming and takes my energy right on out the door. When the dust settles, I will get back into the routine of blogging, hopefully on a frequent basis. Thanks for your patience!