|Excerpted readings relevant to American eugenicist Robert Stoddard follow, from
IN THE EAGLE’S LONG SHADOW:
U.S. Americans inside Nazi Germany
Human beings are always
and finally the subject
of history. History is the
record of human behavior,
the most fascinating subject
Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
It’s a complex fate, being an American.
Fate is strange.
William L. Shirer
Table of Contents
i Foreword: The Whole World is a Stage
1 Introduction: the Story
xxx Introduction: the Setting
xxx Introduction: the Characters
xxx Chapter One: First Impressions
xxx Chapter Two: Follow the Leader
xxx Chapter Three: Ties that Bind
xxx Chapter Four: Eat, Drink and Be Merry
xxx Chapter Five: Where the Heart Is
xxx Chapter Six: All in a Day’s Work
xxx Chapter Seven: Under a Watchful Eye
xxx Chapter Eight: Children of Israel
xxx Chapter Nine: Ueber Alles
xxx Chapter Ten: On the Homefront
xxx Chapter Eleven: Parting Glances
xxx Afterword: For a Thousand Years
xxx Biographical Notes
xxx Reference Notes
Foreword: The Whole World is a Stage
Three interests motivated the research for and compilation of this book. The first arises from the desire to explore the effect of one’s culture on an individual’ experiences—especially regarding larger historical developments: the rise and fall of regimes, wars, economics, reform movements, trends in art and science, etc. In this usage of the word I consider the elements of “culture” to be inclusive: family systems, religion, language, political structures, art and education, but also food, work, street life, housing, means of communication, and social and religious tolerance. By looking at cultural dynamics in a historical context—in this case the era of World War II because of its significance to the modern world—I hope to provide examples of how one’s native culture indelibly colors the experiences one has. As trade, academic and citizen exchanges, government projects, environmental concerns and social-change movements increasingly transcend national borders, we need to better understand cultures other than our own. This increased sensitivity also will enrich our own culture.
My second motivation consists of gaining a unique perspective from which to examine the rise of Hitler and the regime he and his fanatical National Socialists built in hopes of conquering much of the world. Myriad accounts have been published regarding Hitler the man, the Nazi movement and the subsequent war fought to repel Nazi Germany’s ideological as well as military expansion. The first-person accounts in this book provided by U.S. Americans who visited or lived in Germany, however, offer glimpses of life in the Third Reich that contrast with those of Germans or other Europeans at the time.
While certainly rooted in western civilization, the culture of the United States in Hitler’s time differed from contemporary European culture in significant ways: in the Anglo-Saxon New World authoritarian rule had been dismissed long ago as an acceptable form of government, civil rights and individual freedoms enjoyed fuller protection both under the law and within the tolerance of the general public, and—while present—anti-Semitism did not as fundamental a role in U.S. American as it did in German culture. Also, historical developments from the middle of the nineteen century onward and specifically after the First World War affected the people of Germany and the United States in vastly different ways: while the former suffered greatly both politically and economically from their narcisstic leader’s folly, the latter was catapulted into world power and incredible material wealth by the war’s outcome.
The most compelling reason for me to conduct research into the experiences of U.S. Americans in the Third Reich, however, arises out of my own search for cultural identity. Only after the initial world war were U.S. Americans citizens of a world power; before that time we preoccupied ourselves with settling an unspoiled continent and constructing a European-based culture where there had not been one. Only by being drawn into the international arena during the collapse of Old World dynasties did U.S. Americans venture out from their isolation and see ourselves in a cultural context besides the one we had created. Believing our own myths about what it meant to be an “American” and overlooking our own collective psychoses as well as our strengths remained easy as long as we stayed at home. Butted up against the unhappy realities of Nazism, however, we could no longer glibly retain our characteristic blind optimism. Stranded beyond the reach of the rule of law, U.S. Americans living in Nazi Germany had to learn to monitor their public utterances for fear of reprisal; they gained a new appreciation of what freedom of expression really means. Enduring food shortages and the constant barrage of state-sponsored propaganda, they learned the value of abundance and liberty. In coming to know another culture, U.S. Americans discovered their own.
Rather than through bold declarations or long, involved ideological debates, it was through experiencing daily-life abroad that U.S. Americans began to realize more fully what sets our society apart from others. Instead of the obvious, it was the subtle, most profane characteristics borne of the “American experience” which we discovered had shaped us into a unique people: our history, our geography and climate, how we related to each other and to ourselves, our assumptions about what government can and cannot do, how we work and how we spend our free time—in short, how we live and dream and die. While some social observers falsely might focus on music, art and literature as the basis of “culture,” it is the mundane which determines the genuine origins of our personal as well as societal realities. Rather than opera, ballet, the “great writers” and other traditional ascribed hallmarks of “culture,” I see the components of true culture as consisting of the various forms involved in the documentation, interpretation or celebration of the human experience.
To more deeply explore the significance of the three above quests, I have chosen eleven U.S. Americans who lived in or visited Nazi Germany between late 1932 and early 1942. Because of the profound impact of what at the time might have seemed ordinary, however, the distinction becomes difficult to make between daily life and events usually seen as having a wider historical significance. Is William Shirer’s visit to the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, for example, of purely “historical” interest, or does his reaction to it—his dumbfoundedness at the Germans’ willingness to be so blindly led by a powerful authority figure like Adolf Hitler—reflect a solidly acculturated value of individuality? Marjorie Rohfleisch—who seems largely to have ignored contemporary politics—made friends with a Jewish family during her stay in Freiburg. Why did she not share many Germans’ distrust of and disdain for Jews? Was it because she was not reared with the anti-Semitic bias recurrent throughout German history? Why did the Dodd household seem a safe haven for Germans to confess what they really thought about the Nazi regime? Did U.S. Americans in the Third Reich not succumb to Nazism because they did not share a cultural longing for a Teutonic Vaterland, the Germans’ nationalism that had become ripe for exploitation by shrewd Nazis?
Using their accounts from that time as well as personal narratives written later, I wish to emphasize how the experiences and perceptions of representative U.S. Americans inside Nazi Germany differed from that of the Germans because of differing cultural values in the two countries at that time. Because this is an introductory survey of social and political history, I intend this work to be grounded in significant detail to be of interest to the serious scholar, yet general enough to attract the casual reader. Because it is a comprehensive look at some of the experiences of eleven people, some critics may point to a certain selectiveness in choosing what I recorded and what I left unsaid.
Along with exceptional material, in this study I discovered considerable challenges. U.S. society has always been diverse, dynamic and fluid, for example, and therefore hard to accurately characterize. And, because German culture is so ancient and richly complex, earlier influences which led to Nazism—nineteenth-century German romanticism and nationalism, power struggles between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, anti-Semitism, etc.—receive less attention then they deserve, but as much as the scope of this study will allow. Also, fundamental differences between authoritarian Nazi Germany and the largely democratic United States of the same period exaggerate the influence of cultural background found under “normal” circumstances.
Another difficulty presents itself in that with few exceptions, almost all the material used in this study comes from primary sources, resulting in an impossibility of verifying the accuracy of the accounts with cross-references. This situation allows the subjects to determine largely the “truth” behind the “reality” they attempted to convey and subjectifies the impressions of the reader. In short, these sketches really are very personal accounts of the subjects’ experiences inside Nazi Germany.
Of course, the act of interpreting another’s experiences—especially second-handedly, with usually only information provided by the person being studied—can be tricky. For this reason, whenever possible I attempt to present the reader with adequate material to form largely her or his own opinion. I also acknowledge that simply by the choice of what I present, I have made judgments on what is relevant and what is not. Because of the rather delicate nature of responsible historical and sociological scholarship, all I can do with clear conscience is faithfully illustrate the daily lives of U.S. Americans inside Nazi Germany by covering—often in their own words—the subjects’ first impressions upon arriving in Germany, their encounters with the Fuehrer himself, their experience of public life and their enjoyment of private life with family and friends. I also can recount the subjects’ accounts of communication, work, housing and the “Jewish problem” in the Nazi state, and of their personal experience of war on the German homefront. Finally, I can present the experiences of U.S. Americans in German-occupied territories and of a couple U.S. Americans trapped inside Germany after the U.S. entered the war in order to offer yet another dimension of the U.S. American experience inside Nazi Germany. The final assessment, however, of how cultural background influenced U.S. Americans’ experiences of Nazi Germany—and how those experiences clarified what it means to be “an American”—will have to be made by each person who shares this journey into the past.
Notes on Style
In this study I specifically refer to “U.S. Americans.” After a couple centuries of oversight and assumption, it’s important to acknowledge that while all citizens of the United States are “Americans,” not all “Americans” live in the United States; the designation “American” literally refers to any person from North, Central or South America. Also, U.S. Americans in the 1930s and ‘40s had cultural biases different from, say, Argentinean Americans or Canadian Americans in the same period—not to mention French, Arab, Chinese or other peoples. As an U.S. American with predominantly German ancestry and significant affinities for both cultures, I am intrigued by the dissonance that must have been felt by my compatriots living under Nazi rule, as U.S. culture has long prized individual freedoms, a healthy disregard for authority and deep distaste for oppression—values antithetical to Nazism.
To better understand the setting in which U.S. Americans found themselves while in the Hitler’s Germany, I have provided a chronology of the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945 following the afterword; biographical notes included after the chronology summarize the lives of the eleven subjects in this book once they left Germany.
Regarding literary concerns, all dates will be written in the European manner, going from smaller to larger units of time: day month year. The Standard English spelling of continental places names will be used (e.g. “Munich” for Muenchen, “Vienna” for Wien, etc.), except where they are part of a German name or title—for example, a newspaper name. German words for proper nouns (e.g. cities, persons’ names) will be printed normally; other German nouns unfamiliar with most readers of English, however, will be noted by the use of italics (e.g. Schutzstaffel, Weisswurst, etc.), usually with an English translation immediately following. Within direct quotes words will be [mis-]spelled or italicized as the author has done. Each German Umlaut will be spelled out (e.g. xxx “Fuhrer” will be spelled as Fuehrer, “Nurnberg” as Nuernberg, etc.).
In most cases in each section or chapter of the book where a specific individual is mentioned, the person will be introduced once by first and last names, and occasionally also with a commonly used middle initial (e.g. Howard K. Smith, George F. Kennan, etc.). Thereafter, that person will be referred to only by last name. Exceptions, however, will be Marjorie and Kramer Rohfleisch and Martha Dodd, in order to distinguish each one from their relatives also appearing in this book; for clarity, those subjects will be referred to by first and last names at the start of each section or chapter, then by their first name only each time thereafter.