Saturday, May 30, 2015

Spotlight: Manfred Lange

If you remember in the documents, when Luther Harshbarger first asks about refugees for McPherson, three names are given (see the letter from May 27 & June 9): Tom Doeppner (Opa), Jan Rosenbach, and Manfred Lange. Charlotte doesn't seem to have much info on Manfred, so Jan and Tom become the two top runners for the spot.

With other refugees, I found family members or more info. Manfred's file is vague and consists of mostly inquiries from his mother's sister. Here is what I could discern about Manfred based on his file from the AFSC:

Alfred (Manfred) Lange was born in Danzig (an independent city-state that is now located in Poland). Manfred’s mother, Lydia, was divorced from Manfred’s father and married Walter Neumann. Walter was Jewish and emigrated to the U.S. earlier than his family and ended up in New York working as a dentist on a visitor’s visa. Manfred and his mother were seeking passage to America, and as Aryans, should have no trouble. In fact, in a letter from Charlotte Salmon to Robert Spivak, she says that if any student should be able to get over, his was the best situation. Lydia had a sister in Wilmington, and of course her husband in NY, who was working hard to get them over. Supposedly, Manfred was accepted to Antioch College as well. Manfred and his mother left Danzig for Poland on April 1, 1939. While they are there, Warsaw was attacked, they were imprisoned and lost all their personal belongings. It seems that he didn't make it out of the country in time to take advantage of his college acceptance. The German invasion erased all possibilities of immigration. 

They somehow end up in Berlin. Manfred was forced into the German army until 1942. They released him to study medicine, but apparently he ended up in a concentration camp at some point, which he supposedly escaped before the war ended (this is all based on his aunt's information given after the war in his file). His mother and he end up in Hamburg by 1946. Manfred at this point says he is studying medicine and his mother is ill from malnutrition.  

Based on the file, the information trail seems to end here. Surprisingly, even though Manfred had the best chance to get over based on his background, he does not make it over and others who had a slim chance, got over and were able to make a life for themselves. As far as Manfred's story, it is pretty choppy and some of the facts don't seem to make sense. Hopefully, down the road, I can give you a better understanding of the story and maybe find a family member who might shed some light on his journey. 

Manfred's story shows how all the refugees were racing against time and on borrowed luck.

Refugee Posts

This is Jason, Sarah's husband and researcher! Part of my research has been to study the names and places along the way (as you've seen in the spotlights so far). When we gained the documents from the AFSC files, I began to wonder about the other names that came up. Did they make it to the U.S.? What schools did they end up attending if they did? Do their families know that there is this documentation surrounding their ancestor's attempts to emigrate? 
      So, I took time to look at the AFSC files for these different names. And, when I could, I tried to find living family members to let them know about these files and to ask if they might be willing to share some information or even write a spotlight for you all to read. 
     Now that we know Opa is heading to McPherson and en route, in the next week I will share spotlights on what has happened to the other refugee students based on information I gained from the files and information shared or supplied by the family. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

November 6- 15, 1939: Smooth Sailing?

The S.S. Pennland - The ship that brought Opa to America!

Opa finally boarded his ship for America on November 2, 1939. Opa wrote in his memoirs that this was the date he arrived in America, but according to the ship records- this is the day they left. Either way- it was an important date. All quotes in this blog are from Opa’s memoirs, “From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom.”

On board ship I was seasick much of the time; after a few days of “misery,” the steward had an amazing cure. He gave me a glass of beer and “Rollmops” (pickled herring) a combination which turned out to be effective.

Gross. I think the cure may have been worse than the illness. But the pickled herring worked for Opa! I guess the nausea kept him from worrying about anything else:

Next, we were stopped by a British warship. They checked all passengers and took off several German passengers. Had it been a German ship, I would have been very concerned.

I have a feeling that hindsight allows Opa not to be as concerned about this encounter. Of course a German ship would have meant certain defeat- but I can’t imagine a British warship pulling a bunch of Germans off the ship didn’t make Opa a little nervous. 

I am thinking about Opa standing outside, leaning against the railing- getting some fresh air and looking out at the endless horizon of water. In that moment he was free. He might have been able to suspend any anxieties about his family at home and the life to come. He may have been able to lose himself in the blue shimmering horizon, to hold on to that fleeting feeling of relief.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

March-May 1939: Fundraising for a Refugee

These news articles from the Spectator (the McPherson College newspaper) spanning March-May of 1939- speak for themselves. I share them now that it is no longer a mystery that Opa is en route to McPherson College. It is fascinating to see the process of how a small college in Kansas can independently offer freedom to a refugee. It makes me believe in things. It makes me believe in the ability that we have to do good in the world- even for someone across the world. There are two sons, three granddaughters, and five great-grandchildren that exist because Paul Myer and his friends decided to do the work it takes to help someone else.

May Bring Refugee Non-Aryan Student
Groups Cooperate in Trying to Support Student Here
Vera Heckman, co-president of the S.C.M., has revealed that the student movement is planning to make it possible for a non-Aryan christian student refugee to come to Macampus and attend college next year.

Bill Thompson, student council head, has said that every effort will be made by the student council to cooperate in making this possible. 

Officials believe that if the two organizations work together, enough money can be raised for the support of a student refugee from Germany.

The Intercollegiate Committee to Aid Student Refugees has written officials here saying that refugee students capable of paying their transportation to the school.  It will take about $400 to support a student for a year.

Through the cooperation of the student council and the S.C.M., together with the aid of the I.C.A.S.R. and the Friends Service Committeeit is hoped that such an expression of good will to the non-Aryans may be made possible on this campus.

Pictured above are committee chairmen who will be active on campus next week in their efforts to bring a non-Aryan student to the campus. Heading the central committee is Luther Harshbarger. Vera Heckman, co-chairman of the S.C.M. will be active in club solicitation. Bill Thompson heads the committee contacting off-the-campus organizations, while Phil Myers will govern student-faculty solicitation.
Newspaper  Heading:

Hitler Pitching, Macampusans Catching Refugee

(article found on far right of this picture, and is shown below in sections) 

Students Plan to Secure Non-Aryan to Come Here
As an active front against race hatred and as a positive action for world peace, the major student organizations of Macampus are hoping to make it possible to secure a refugee non-Aryan student from Germany to come live in the dormitory next year and attend the college.
Already assured of cooperation from the college administration, the Student Council, the International Relations Club, and the S.C.M., in cooperation with other student groups, will next Wednesday begin an extensive financial drive among the students. 

It will take $400 to assure the success of the plan. The college administration has promised to do its share, and part of the money will come from service clubs and from women's clubs off the campus. The cosmos club already has given $25 to the fund, and since some money has so soon came in from the students, already one-eighth of the necessary fund are available, without counting the promises of the college officials.

This shows that the plan is practical and can be carried out successfully, assuring students the privilege of having as their constant companion a student who is aware of the European situation and Hitler's purge.

The student will be secured through the American Friends Service Committee and the Intercollegiate Committee to Aid Student Refugees. A Christian student can be secured and the local students may choose from a large list the student they desire. Sex, age, and even looks may enter into the choice.
(I snickered at the looks comment)

 Initiating the student campaign, which is hoped to reap at least $200, will be a chapel program with Dr. Burton Metzler as chairman and speaker. He will explain the plans and the desireability of aiding a refugee.

The solicitation will begin Wednesday and, aided by "I have contributed" signs, will end Friday noon. Three days, April 26, 27, 28, will constitute the duration of the drive.

Since most Macampusans work their way through college, student leaders here think it only fair that any student who is aided here should be willing to work also.

All the major student clubs and organizations are represented on the central planning committee headed by Luther Harshburger.

"M" Club President Bob Wiegand will work with Lenore Shirk of the W.A.A., Don Newkirk, International Relations: Phil Myers, Men's Council: Rosalie Fields, Women's Council: Vera Heckman, S.C.M., and Bill Thompson, Student Council representative. Dale Stucky is publicity director of the campaign.

 Heading the subcommittee to work with the different clubs of the town is Bill Thompson, aided by Harshbarger and Heckman. Concerned with student-faculty solicitation are Wiegland, Shirk, Newkirk, and Fields, with Phil Myers as chairman. Dale Stucky's publicity committee is composed of Raymond Coppedge, Verda Grove, Forrest Groff, and Raymond Flory.

Several years ago Toshiro Tsubokawa, a Japanese student, attended McPherson College. He is now working on his thesis prior to securing a master's degree at Denver University.


Drive Gains Momentum As End Is Near
Committee Heads Believe Plan to Secure Non-Aryan For Campus Is Success

At the half-way mark in the drive for funds among faculty and students to secure a non-Aryan refugee for Macampus next year. It was found yesterday that more than fifty dollars had already been raised for the purpose. 

Chairman Phil Myers of the solicitation committee reports that many students have indicated their intentions to contribute to the cause, but that they did not have the money yesterday. The momentum gained by the drive will have brought increased activity by this morning.

Although the active campaign ends today at noon, the committee will continue to accept contributions for several days. The quota set for students has been $200.

Committee heads of the movement are all of the opinion that the drive will be sufficiently successful to insure the success of the plan. Off-campus organizations are already aiding, and the college administration has promised its share of the necessary $400.

Inaugurated last Wednesday morning, the campaign has yet to gain its top momentum, and solicitation since yesterday noon will probably show an increase even over previous solicitations.

The campus was yellow yesterday with "I have contributed" cards dangling from lapels, and today the signs may even rival the ever-present campus dandelions.

(We searched for a picture of these cards on lapels, to no avail. How amazing would it have been for Opa to see that?!)
Good Will Is Cement That Holds World
Metzler, Harshbarger, Myers Lead Drive for Refugee Student Fund

Good will is the cement that holds our house of civilization together, and it is pretty badly cracked. This was suggested by Dr. Metzler in chapel Wednesday. "Some of our fellow students have gotten caught in the shortage of good will and are in an unfortunate predicament. How can we help?"

Luther Harshbarger spoke of the reason for the attempt to bring a non-Aryan student to the camps next year, beginning next fall. There are three phases of the financial drive: a faculty- student campaign, in which each are asked to contribute at least one dollar; a downtown drive; and an honor scholarship and work for the student who will be chosen.

Phil Myers outlined the plan of which the funds will be solicited.

The chapel choir sang two numbers. "The First Trio" by Mendelssohn was played by Professors Loren Crawford, Nevin Fisher, and Ralph Stutaman.  


Thompson Starts Down-Town Drive
To Contact Service Clubs To Aid in Securing Refugee

With the successful termination of the campus campaign for funds to help support a non-Aryan refugee on the McPherson college campus next year plans are now being perfected for the obtaining of financial aid from service groups of the city. 

Within the next two weeks the committee to contact the off-campus organizations, of which Bill Thompson is the chairman and Vera Heckman and Luther Harshbarger the other members, will present this drive to the outstanding clubs of the town. The service clubs such as the Lions, Rotary, and Elks will be contacted. Aid will also be sought from the McPherson Women's Club and active young people's groups of the city.

A fund of twenty-five dollars has already been contributed by the Cosmos Club to initiate the campaign. 


Students Give $120 To Get Student Here
Myers Announces Success Of Plan To Secure Refugee Non-Aryan

Haven for a refugee non-Aryan student next year will be Macampus, according to the opinions of leaders of the drive for funds to make the plan possible.

Phil Myers, chairman of student-faculty solicitations, has reported that $120 have already been raised in cash on the campus, inspite of a dire spring slump in student finances.

It is hoped that his amount can be raised to $150 within the next few days. Several students who have not paid cash to the solicitors have indicated their intentions to contribute to the campaign. Myers urges that any student who has not supported the drive and wishes to do so act immediately.

As the student drive is being completed, the drive among service clubs in the community is gaining momentum. Luther Harshbarger, general chairman of the movement, says that he believes the success of the plan is assured.


Refugee Plan Is Success
Harshbarger Announces Plans for Selection

Luther Harshbarger, general chairman in charge of securing a non-Aryan student refugee for Macampus next year, has announced that the financial drive in connection with the project has definitely been a success and that a student will be secured.

Just who the student will be has not been determined, but dossiers showing qualifications and including pictures and descriptions of the refugees are expected any day here from the International Student Services.

The student will be secured through the American Friends committee and the International Committee to Aid Student Refugees.

Only fifty dollars is lacking to complete the four hundred dollars that is necessary for the success of the project. The students, faculty, administration, and various service groups have made possible this effort to relieve racial tension.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

November 3, 6 & 8: Leaving Europe!

RCA Radiogram




November 6, 1939

Mrs. Alice Palmer
The New York Protestant 
Episcopal City Mission Society
38 Bleeker Street
New York City

Re: Thomas Doeppner

Dear Mrs. Palmer:

     The enclosed radiogram sounds as if Thomas Doeppner would arrive very soon now. Individual Friends in Holland helped him with his passage money and I believe that explains the rather cryptical wording of the cable. I hope he won't have any difficulty in landing. I think he should not have but if there is anything we can do, please let us know. 

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte Salmon,
Placement worker.

November 8, 1939

From: Charlotte S. Salmon      To: Louise Clancy

Re: Thomas Doeppner

      The latest news is that Thomas Doeppner who has a scholarship at McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas, will arrive on the "Pennland" November 14. I have written to the boat and have arranged with Mrs. Alice Palmer to meet him and help him through Ellis Island. I only want to let you know about his coming in case there should be any difficulty and Mrs. Palmer calls upon you.


At last he is on his way! These telegrams and letters just tell us the hurried message that Opa is finally on his way, on the Pennland. I have one more resource: Opa’s autobiography. He gives us the background scoop on how he was able to hop on the Pennland. In case you think it’s like changing from one flight to another- his words remind me how precious that ticket on a boat out of Europe was at that time:

my ship...was diverted… and all other ships scheduled to leave from Holland were sold out. The next ship to leave for the States was the SS Pennland, departure date late in October. It was also sold out. In desperation, I asked the shipping line if I could have a copy of the passenger list on that ship. They gave it to me, along with local telephone numbers. I spent a long time calling American passengers on that list offering to trade tickets with them. My English was very poor in those days (two years in high school), and I don’t know how many calls I made, but finally I found one American - I think he was a businessman - who wanted to stay in Europe a little longer, and agreed to trade with me. We exchanged tickets, and I finally left for America… (From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom, p.9)

<mouth open>

Thank you American businessman. God bless you Opa for having such determinism. Thank you shipping line person who was crazy enough to give out the passenger list and phone numbers to a nineteen year old German half-Jew. And thank you Charlotte for paving the way for Opa in America.

He's on the ship. To the land of the free. What did Opa think about when he watched the European continent and everything and everyone that he knew... disappear? I can only imagine. I am thinking about his mother, Ella, stuck in Berlin and without recent word from him. I am thinking about his father and step-mother: August and Emma- in Holland without a clue what the future would hold for them, and a stillness in the home now that Opa was gone. I am thinking about his sister, Patti, studying in France, who doesn't know when she'll see her brother again. It has already been over a year since they'd seen each other. I am thinking about Gisela, and Anni, and all of Opa's friends in the Quaker group. None of them knew if they would ever see each other again. I think they all assumed they wouldn't. 

Opa left home in search of a future in freedom. He titled his autobiography: "From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom" - freedom was very important to him. I imagine he had mixed emotions as he sailed toward freedom, but left home behind. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

November 3-5, 1939: Opa Makes the Papers

 Article in the Spectator (McPherson Newspaper) November 3, 1939

British Delay Doeppner By Blockade
Student Refugee Has Difficulty Getting Passage to U.S.A.
    According to a letter received by Phil Myers, chairman of the committee to aid McPherson's student refugee, Thomas Doeppner has been delayed by the British blockade on ships. The letter was received from the Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee, through which the local committee has been working. 
    The New York office reports that it knows nothing about the whereabout of Doeppner, and stated that a letter from him required a whole month to cross the Atlantic.
     The Vollendam of the Holland-American Line, on which Doeppner booked voyage left Antwerp for a previous voyage  on September 9, and arrived in New York on October 23, and is expected in Rotterdam on November 7 or 8. The British will probably stop the ship and hold it in custody for some time. Apparently much time is lost on each trip because the Dutch boats are delayed by the British blockade." states the letter.
     It goes on to say, "It seems to us that we surely will have some word directly from Thomas Doeppner soon. It must be the difficulty of transportation that is holding him up."
Article in the Hutchinson News Herald (Local Area Newspaper) November 3, 1939

Zoom in on the article from above newspaper

Student Missing
McPherson - There's a campus mystery at McPherson college. What has become of Thomas Doeppner? He is the non-Aryan refugee student from Berlin who was supposed to have sailed from Holland on the Valendam Oct. 7. He was scheduled to enroll at the college here in the middle of October. But he has not appeared.
     Moreover, the Volendam, due to arrive in New York Oct. 14, hasn't reported, either. 

Let me say one more time how much I love the Spectator. This college newspaper is excellent. They report the news accurately and with primary sources. They even quoted Charlotte Salmon’s words and cited her.  Excellent work.

The Hutchinson News-Herald on the other hand, not the most accurate presentation of the information. Their short little blurb makes it sound like Opa’s delay is the most peculiar and unfathomable thing. They play up the mystery, and the fact that Opa is a refugee student seems like an afterthought. It’s all fluff and no actual news. What on earth were people supposed to do after they read that article? And as the Spectator article reports, it isn’t a mystery what happened to the Volendam.

Ay de mi. On the bright side, Kansas is invested in Opa and they really do care about where he is and if he’s OK and if he’ll make it across the Atlantic.

So now we sit and wait and wonder, what is he up to? Where is Opa and how is he going to get to the USA with the ship delayed?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

October 26-27: Superhuman Efforts


Office Memorandum          Date: 10/26/39
American Friends Service Committee
To: C.S.                   From: N.A.
Subject: Volendam
 The Volendam left New York Oct. 23. It is expected in Rotterdam Nov. 7 or 8. Since the British will be holding it in custody, it is not scheduled to sail from Rotterdam until November 24.
News is finally coming in, the memorandum within the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) tells the news most succinctly: the Volendam is delayed, and won’t leave Rotterdam until November 24. Now what? Is Opa just going to wait for it?


October 27, 1939.
Phil Myers,
1722 E. Gordon Street,

Dear Phil Myers:

Apparently our letters crossed and you know not more of Thomas Doeppner's whereabouts than I do. I enclose a copy of the letter we received from him just a few days ago. It took a whole month to get here. 

We have also had word from the Friends Center in Amsterdam saying that they gave him money for his ticket. I had a letter from Mrs. Alice Palmers of the Presbyteran-Episcopal City Mission on Ellis Island saying that she would Thomas Doeppner and help him in any possible way.

We called the Holland American Line and found out the the 'Volendam' left Antwerp on September 9, arrived in New York September 21. It will leave New York on October 23, and is expected in Rotterdam on November 7 or 8. I suppose that it did not make the trip across in the meantime. Since the British will probably stop the ship and hold it in custody for some time it is not schedule to sail from Rotterdam until November 4. Apparently much time is lost on each trip because the Dutch boats are delayed by the British blockade.

It seems to me that we surely will have some word directly from Thomas Doeppner soon. I think it must be the difficulty of transportation that is holding him up. I don't see anything else we can do now but I will let you know as soon as we hear anything from him.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte S. Salmon,
Placement Worker.
Charlotte wrote Phil Myers once she learns of the update- acknowledging that their questioning letters must have passed each other. She mentions that a letter from Opa had just arrived after a month in transit.

Charlotte does have an update on Opa- that everything is prepared and ready to go except for his ship. I love that the AFSC followed through and called the Holland American Line to find out where the ship was. It’s a small thing, but sometimes these details of follow through are lacking- so it’s nice to see just how diligent they are in gathering information.

I’m still not exactly sure what it is that the British blockade does with Dutch ships, but it is slowing down travel, and Opa needs to get to the USA. His scholarship is technically only for this year and if he can’t get on a boat before the semester ends, he may have to give up his scholarship.


October 27, 1939.
Mary Champney,
Quaker Bureau,
Galerij 13,

Dear Friend:              Re: Thomas Doeppner

We have heard from Thomas Doeppner of the help you gave him in getting his passage to the United States and also in getting his student visa. Apparently you did a fine job there. It is the first case I have heard of recently that a German student has got a student visa and it must have taken superhuman efforts.

According to the Holland-America Line the "Volendam" has not been able to follow its regular schedule. I suppose that it is the cause of Thomas Doeppner's delay. We have heard nothing from him. I hope he will be able to get passage eventually. We will be glad to know when he expects to come.

Mary M. Rogers

The folks in Amsterdam also wrote to Charlotte letting her know of the delay of the Volendam. No one has heard anything from Opa yet, so they don’t know what his course of action is yet.

However, everyone is willing to wait and are still hopeful. There is an interesting part in the letter from Amsterdam when Mary Rogers writes: “It is the first case I have heard of recently that a German student has got a student visa and it must have taken superhuman efforts.” Opa was genuinely a rare case- he was one of the very very lucky ones.

In April of 2013, Ron Coleman at the Holocaust Museum did a presentation on some of the case files from the American Friends Service Committee - many which did not end well. Opa really was a rare, lucky case. A German (half) Jew that left Europe after Kristallnacht- rare.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

October 23-27, 1939: Where Is Tom??!!!

October 23, 1939

Phil Myers
1722 E. Gordon Street
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Phil Myers:

     I have never heard whether Thomas Doeppner arrived or not. The enclosed note which came to us indicates that he sailed on the seventh of October, as he expected. I would just like to hear definitely when he does arrive and will, of course, be interested in how he gets along. 

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker


Charlotte Salmon
Friends Service Comm.
Philadelphia, Penns. 

Dear Miss Salmon:

        Once again I come to you with troubles. President Schwalm received a letter for Thomas Doeppner expressing his appreciation and saying that he was sailing this 7th of October on the Volendam of the Holland American Line.
       According to my calculations the crossing should have taken about 9 days and it has been 17 and we have no word. I presume that you have more or you would have informed us but I thought it would do no harm to write and also you might have some method of obtaining information as to the delay. I will appreciate any information.

Sincerely yours
Phil Myers

No Word Here From Refugee

Whereabouts of German Student Cannot Be Determined Here

No word has come to Macampus of the arrival in America of Thomas Doeppner, non-Aryan refugee student from Berlin. A letter from the Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee the last week in September assured Phil Myers that Doeppner had secured his visa in Holland and would leave for America the seventh of October on the steamer Volendam.

He was to be met at the boat and sent immediately to Kansas. Word of his arrival was to be telegraphed at once. As yet there has been no word. If the Valendam sailed October the seventh, it should have been in New York by the fourteenth, allowing seven days for passage.

What has happened to Thomas Doeppner? Where is the Volendam? 

If you've ever seen the movie "That Thing You Do" about a one-hit-wonder band with Tom Hanks, you may remember the scene when one of the band members is shown galavanting around California and riding roller coasters at Disneyland with his new friends from the Army. Tom Hanks' character yells into a telephone at the television studio (where everyone is supposed to meet), unknowing of the man's adventures: "WHERE THE HELL IS HE?!"

This is what I imagined when I read the letters. I don't imagine Phil was a swearing man, but I kinda feel like Charlotte let "hell" slip every now and then. Where is Tom?! She and Phil write to each other with the same question, wondering why they haven't heard from him.

We know of his delay because we get to read his letters to Gisela. If Opa wrote to the folks in the US of his delay, he may still make it before the letter does, mail overseas is so slow. The delay is obvious, it's now at least a week or two after his estimated arrival, and there's been no word. 

The McPherson College paper, the Spectator, is once again fabulous in reporting the news. The only error is their spelling of the Volendam. However, they let everyone know that as of right now, there's no word on the refugee student, and no news of the Volendam.  

I wonder what the students thought. I feel like I would be thinking worse case scenarios, afraid that the Volendam was lost at sea. 

Now everyone is on the outlook, waiting and watching.