Karl B. Frank and the New Beginning Group, 1935-1945
by Terence Renaud
Work for a Bachelor of Arts
and Distinction in the
Department of History,
under the advisement of Professor James Schmidt,
approved by Professors William R. Keylor and Jonathan Zatlin,
partially funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations
Birth of der Berufsrevolutionär
Exiled German Socialists in
Friends of German Freedom
International Coordination Council
Attempt to Collaborate with the
Emergency Rescue Committee
Visas and the State Department
German Labor Delegation
The Case of Paul Hagen
Enemies among the British
The Stout Group
Potential for Resistance
Was There a German Resistance?
On the Radio
Council for a Democratic
American Association for a Democratic
I must extend my gratitude to
Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations
AADG American Association for a Democratic Germany (formerly AFGF)
AMG American Military Government (Germany, 1945-1949)
AFGF American Friends of German Freedom (formerly FGF; later AADG)
AFL American Federation of Labor
CDG Council for a Democratic
CIIA Canadian Institute of International Affairs
CIO Congress of Industrial Organizations
COI Office of the Coordinator of
Information (later incorporated into
Comintern Communist International, or Third International
ERC Emergency Rescue Committee
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
FGF Friends of German Freedom (later AFGF)
Gestapo Geheime Staatspolizei [
GLD German Labor Delegation
ICC International Coordination Council
IRA International Relief Association
ISK Internationale Sozialistische Kampfbund [International Socialist Fighting League]
JDF Jewish Daily Forward, or Forverts (Yiddish newspaper)
JLC Jewish Labor Committee
KPD Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands [German Communist Party]
NB Neu Beginnen [New Beginning group] (formerly Org.)
NKFD Nationalkomitee Freies
Deutschland [National Committee for a Free
NSDAP Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterspartei [National Socialist German
Workers’ Party; the Nazi Party]
NVZ Neue Volkszeitung (émigré newspaper)
Org Leninistische Organisation [Leninist Organization], or Miles-Gruppe [Miles
Group] (later NB)
OWI Office of War Information
RSÖ Revolutionare Sozialisten
Österreichs [Revolutionary Socialists of
SAP Sozialistische Arbeiterspartei [Socialist Workers’ Party]
Sopade Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands Parteivorstand im Exil [German Social-
Democratic Party Executive Committee in Exile]
SPA Socialist Party of
SPD Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands [German Social-Democratic Party]
SPWWIII Society for the Prevention of World War III
UDSO Union deutscher sozialistischer Organisationen [Union of German Socialist
WWB Writers’ War Board
ERC Records Emergency Rescue Committee Records, 1936-1957
KBF Papers Karl Boromäus Frank Papers, 1937-1961
KOP Papers Karl Otto Paetel Papers, 1907-1984
MJG Papers Maurice J. Goldbloom Papers, 1911-1977
NYT New York Times (newspaper)
VF Papers Varian Fry Papers, 1938-1999
He is perhaps “The Man We Lost.” Thus titles James
A. Wechsler an article written near the end of the life of his friend, Karl
Boromäus Frank. “Despite the cruel exile and indignity to which he has been
subjected,” writes Wechsler, “he has achieved the unique immortality reserved for those who
know there are many men whose lives they touched and inspired.”
The tone of the article and its complementary piece, “‘This Was a Man’,” which
appeared shortly after Frank’s death, is one of bitterness and lamentation. Writing
in the late 1960s, Wechsler deplores the “political idiocy” of West Germany—specifically,
the success of politicians like Kurt Georg Kiesinger and Franz Josef Strauß,
both former Nazis—and imagines with sadness all that could have been, all that
should have been, had this unknown man, Karl Frank, been given a fair chance:
he is a “man who might have been a distinguished leader of a democratic
resurgence in postwar Germany,” and “whose presence might have altered this
desultory drift in German history.” Wechsler also quotes the prominent American
labor unionist Walter Reuther, who “vainly berated the intolerance and
incompetence of those who apparently ‘cannot understand the contribution Paul
Hagen [i.e. Karl Frank] could make to the cause of democracy in
Wechsler’s term “unique immortality” is a euphemism for utter obscurity. How can such an important man have been lost to history, or at most, relegated to a mere footnote in the tragicomic chapter on early German democracy? Who is this man whose death should have been “an occasion for state ceremonial”?
Karl Boromäus Frank, an Austrian who used the pseudonym Paul Hagen during his political exile, falls into the broad and cluttered category of history’s forgotten men. The periodic mining of this category for nuggets of inspiration is a cottage industry among historians, whose field is often mired in tedious debates over exhausted issues. From minor figures who had major but indirect influences on great events, to major figures who had the misfortune of choosing the wrong side, the subjects of history’s slag span the widest possible range. This type of historiography constitutes a genre all its own, one acting as a sort of net thrown out to the periphery to draw back to the center all that we usually consider insignificant or irrelevant. By illuminating some relatively obscure person or event in history, we peer into the dark corners of our inheritance, leaving the lavish foyer of convention behind. The Austrian playwright Franz Grillparzer writes, “You cannot understand the famous unless you feel the pulse of the obscure.” This quote could very well be the motto of all those who labor in the stubborn soil of anti-Nazi resistance research. The source material is sparse, and what does exist is prone to interpretations misguided either by romanticism or by cynicism.
Paul Hagen, Frank’s political ego, became
well-known in New York intellectual circles, the American government, and the
wider public during the early 1940s for his powerful rhetoric advocating, first,
an American military or financial collaboration with anti-Nazi resistance cells
within Germany, and second, after it became clear that such a collaboration was
not in accord with Allied war plans, support for a democratic reconstruction of
postwar Germany, or as he phrased it, “the completion of the democratic
revolution in Germany” which had started in 1918.
He made multiple trips to the
Dissatisfied with the impotency of the old German Social-Democratic Party—the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), and later, the Sopade (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands Parteivorstand im Exil)—the New Beginning group (NB) sought to revitalize German socialism as a viable adversary to both fascism and communism, and to make it the vanguard of a European democratic revolution. The term “socialism,” which can mean generally any ideology or political party based upon the notion of collective ownership of property, here referred to all Marxist groups not associated with communism—i.e. those groups that neither aligned themselves with Soviet policy nor subscribed to the Stalinist idea of permanent party dictatorship. To NB and its supporters, socialism included Social-Democracy, but was not limited to it.
When they used the term “democracy,” the New
Beginners referred to its more general and literal meaning of representative
government, i.e. when every citizen or member has a “voice,” or a “vote,” in
his particular government or organization. To the supporters of the SPD,
however, “democracy” meant a government reliant upon a bureaucratic
representative body—specifically, the parliamentary democracy of the
After the outbreak of war, Karl Frank’s German mandate of representation—i.e. his leadership of the New Beginning group—ceased to be relevant. Nevertheless, he continued to promote the principles of this group from his American exile, thus providing a voice abroad to the important non-communist leftist opposition within the outlawed German labor movement. He was known, and often criticized, for his tendency to impress, or worse, “seduce” younger members of the labor movement and convince them to work for his group. If one judges his ideology and political proposals as worthy, as righteous, then impression becomes inspiration, which in turn becomes an untold influence on the future movement. Following Wechsler, I hold that while his immediate political career was clearly a failure, his legacy was a quiet success.
The reasons for his failure were numerous. Chief
among them was the attitude of the American public: fearful of communism and
blinded by the idea of
By 1947, Frank had completely dropped his
pseudonym and had retired from active political life. Following his earliest ambitions
as a student in
Birth of der Berufsrevolutionär
In 1917 he joined the Social-Democratic Workers’
Party of Austria [Sozialdemokratische
Arbeiterpartei]—the forerunner of the Social-Democratic Party of
His association with the Friedländer-Eisler group
prompted him to join the Austrian Communist Party [Kommunistischen Partei Deutschösterreichs] in 1919. The next year,
he went to
While the “line” held by the New Beginning group was thoroughly Marxist and inspired by the Leninist sympathies of its founder, Löwenheim, Frank’s own political stance was considerably less defined. His younger friend and fellow New Beginner, Gerhard Bry, writes,
Karl had actually his own theory about theories. He thought that traditional political and social theory was both deficient and often misapplied. Marxist and non-Marxist theories alike, failed to integrate psychological insights. Better knowledge was needed about individual and group psychology, the “thinness of the veneer of civilization,” the quest for being led, the aggressive implications of guilt feelings, the xenophobic reactions of groups. Karl argued that such knowledge—integrated with sociological and anthropological insights—was necessary to understand history, to anticipate phenomena like the success of Nazism, and to orient oneself in the jungle of political life. He also argued that theory and political actions were not as closely linked as sometimes presumed. Political reality was too multidimensional and complex to permit deduction of strategies from general principles. Some of these considerations were, of course, related to his interest, training, and practice in psychology and in particular, psychoanalysis. The corollary of his contention that political science needed psychology, was an equally strong conviction that psychology and psychoanalysis needed to recognize the full impact of sociogenetic and political factors on the functioning of individuals and groups.
Thus, ideological considerations did not always determine his political affiliations. His purview was social psychology, with particular attention to the study of popular irrationality. While he undoubtedly fit the mold of a “professional revolutionary” and had the traits of a political leader, his emphasis on practical action (often contradictory to theoretical action) must be understood within the context of his academic roots in the field of psychology—and not as political opportunism.
At the outset of the Nazi regime, only a handful of groups had any prior experience in clandestine activity. One of these groups was New Beginning, which had led a rather secretive existence even before 1933 when it was known alternatively as the Leninist Organization (Org, for short) or Miles-Gruppe. It garnered a great deal of suspicion for attempting to infiltrate the larger parties, particularly the Social-Democratic Party, to which Frank had been admitted after a year-long probation period in 1932. The New Beginning group was not as insidious as some terms often used to describe its activities, such as “infiltration” and “clandestine,” may suggest. The pre-Hitler group was always more intellectual than militant, always working toward a theoretical solution to what they saw as the stagnation of the German labor movement and its impotence against the rising fascists.
When the National Socialists took power, the
German political party members and trade unionists were forced to decide
between four options: remain in Germany and attempt a legal existence through
parliamentary means; remain in Germany and adopt an illegal existence, i.e. to
go underground; dissolve their respective organizations and collaborate with
the new regime; or, flee into exile, either with the intention of fighting
Hitler from abroad or of giving up entirely. The first option quickly became
impossible. The Reichstag fire on
The second option, that of going underground, seemed to many party bureaucrats at the time to be the most dangerous and the least desirable course. Actually, the immediate transition into illegal existence proved to be the most prudent option and the safest alternative to fleeing the country. Many of the smaller political groups, such as the Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP), the International Socialist Fighting League (ISK) and the New Beginning group, as well as many KPD cadres, took this route. The larger Social-Democratic Party apparatus, which had held the majority in the Reichstag for thirteen years prior to 1932, refused to go underground, partly because the Party leaders lacked any experience in clandestine activity, and also because an organization with so many hundreds of thousands of members could not possibly disappear into hiding. Nevertheless, the early parliamentary initiatives of SPD leaders like Otto Wels, who were attempting to salvage some vestige of their historic organization, proved to be futile and even disastrous. One cannot blame them for trying to oppose Hitler legally. Nobody knew for sure whether the Nazis would remain in power for any significant period of time. Yet, the smaller labor groups benefited from their greater flexibility, enabling them to take certain precautions which later turned out to have been wise.
As parliamentary options waned, the underground began to take shape. Jon B. Jansen and Stefan Weyl, pseudonyms, describe life underground as part of the New Beginning group:
A cadre organization could only include a relatively small circle, because its demands on its members were very great. It had to be highly centralized, it had to encompass a group not too large to be personally controlled. But, at the same time, it had to extend its contacts over the entire Reich; it had to be in touch with the representatives abroad.
. . .
The members of this organization had not only to be completely devoted, loyal and ready to do anything their work demanded, but these “professional revolutionaries” also had to be many-sided individuals. In addition to the mastery of conspiratorial technique there was the need for ability and talent in handling people. In addition to broad knowledge of political problems was the need to be able to deal with many special problems.
Their description quotes an individual account as an example of the day-to-day activities of a “professional revolutionary”:
My first and most important function is teaching. . . . [We] are an educational organization.
. . .
In the course of a week I have to give two or three lectures. . . . Such courses serve a double purpose: first, to inform our people, and second, to give them a broader comprehension of our work. An individual member must often feel that the tasks he is asked to perform are quite incidental, sometimes completely absurd. His job may be to maintain contact with a certain person or it may be to deliver reports. He has to take a paper from one place to another or he has to convince an elderly lady that she should permit a meeting to be held in her home. In doing these things, he is risking many years of imprisonment. Is he going to overthrow Hitler with such petty acts? We have to show the rank and file members that their individual work has a meaning, show them how it fits into the larger whole.
. . .
Everyone who goes into the opposition under Nazism runs the risk of isolation. Each of us is living under a glass bell. Life in the Third Reich is hard enough for those who are older and experienced. How much worse it must be for the younger ones. For them the underground organization has to serve as a substitute for all those things that used to be furnished by the great democratic organizations: special schools, libraries, companionship. We have to provide the books for them that are no longer in libraries. Our information service has to supply the news that does not appear in the newspapers and magazines. . . . We have to try, as well as we can under illegal conditions, to take the place of the labor colleges. This involves finding suitable teachers and places in which the courses can be held. It is no easy problem to find a place where a group can come together without arousing suspicion.
In underground work, something as simple as selecting a meeting place became a group’s most frustrating problem. Frank, as the New Beginning group’s foreign bureau chief in Prague and as a regular courier into Germany, was one of these “professional revolutionaries” [Berufsrevolutionäre]. He lived a true “cloak and dagger” existence, constantly risking Gestapo capture, something which carried with it the almost certain consequence of death.
For most, death was too great a risk. The rank and
file members of the SPD either passively accepted Hitler’s New Order, or
actively collaborated with it. To many it seemed as though the
Exiled German Socialists in
Drawing on the precedent of the “heroic
age” of German Social-Democracy under
Among those who supported Stampfer’s call for the transposition of the party leadership abroad was Paul Hertz, a Reichstag member since 1920, but only a recent addition to the SPD executive committee. Hertz was considerably more leftist than Stampfer, having been a member of the revolutionary Independent wing of the SPD [Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD] for its full duration, 1918 to 1922, after which it dissolved into both the SPD and the KPD. As Edinger notes, he was much younger than most of his comrades on the executive—only forty-three—and his ideology differed from the old bureaucrats Otto Wels, Hans Vogel and Otto Crummenerl. He aligned himself with other former Independents like Karl Kautsky, Rudolf Breitscheid and Rudolf Hilferding. Hertz would become an important ally for Frank and the New Beginning group in the years to come.
The New Beginning group maintained a working, if
strained, relationship with the Sopade. Not until 1935 would the majority of
the Leninist Organization officially form “New Beginning” as such. The recalcitrant
minority of the Org disbanded. Thus, the formal ties between the new group and
the Sopade were always rather vague. Hertz was chief among the group’s
supporters, especially after 1935 when he started having problems with other
members of the Sopade, particularly
The years 1938 and 1939 saw an increased tension
between the two groups. The Sopade mandate for the representation of German
Social-Democracy increasingly came into question. For many exiles, the Sopade’s
rhetoric was very conservative, often giving the impression that the group was
simply waiting for the Hitler regime to fail so it could lead a triumphant return
Friends of German Freedom
The first important contact between
Americans and the New Beginning group came in summer 1935 when B. Charney
Vladeck’s purpose for visiting
Arriving in the
Frank’s meeting with Niebuhr while
The best result of Frank’s first
mission to the
As his first trip to the
Something rather unexpected did occur on this
trip. He met a wealthy girl from Virginia, Anna Caples, and fell in love; they
married, and she accompanied him back to
The fiscal year 1937 brought in some $12,000 from American supporters who were marshaled by the Friends of German Freedom. This total was 50% more than the previous year’s. But an unfortunate event occurred in 1938 that threatened the group’s newfound financial security: B. Charney Vladeck died of a heart attack on October 30 at the untimely age of 52. His group, the Jewish Labor Committee, was directly responsible for a large percentage of the funds raised by Frank and the FGF. However, after his death, the older generation of Jewish labor leaders centered about Abraham Cahan began to exert a greater influence on the JLC. The Cahan faction had taken a special dislike to Vladeck and to Norman Thomas, and thus by proxy, to Karl Frank and the FGF.
The Franks returned to the
The following spring he obtained a re-entry permit
that was good for one year, and again traveled back to
I took as
witness my wife, Anna Caples Frank. The procedure was as I had been told in
advance [by friends who were “experts in refugee questions”]: the German consul
changed the passport in a routine way in a few minutes. It was obvious that he
did not consult a political list before granting renewals of passports. I was
given the same kind of passport that was given to Jewish refugees from
his years of anti-Nazi activity, Frank never seemed too concerned that his
After spending most of 1939 in
With Hertz and Hagen on their soil for what
appeared to be long period of time—the US government strictly limited the
travel of nationals of belligerent nations—the FGF renamed themselves the
American Friends of German Freedom (AFGF) and established offices at 342
It expanded its executive committee to include, among others, John Herling, who
was Mary Fox’ husband and colleague from the League for Industrial Democracy,
and Alfred Baker Lewis, a “well-known millionaire socialist” from
Ingrid was a part of one of the leading Jewish
In addition to enlarging the previous FGF
membership, the AFGF altered its objectives. Before the outbreak of war, the
purpose of the Friends of German Freedom was to directly aid the German
underground labor movement through the proxy of the New Beginning group. That
is, the funds they raised were entrusted to the New Beginning group to
distribute in the best possible way. As they saw it, the only way to cure
All were not happy, however, with the leadership
role assumed by Frank. The AFGF executive committee was a mixture of Niebuhr’s
colleagues in the
International Coordination Council
A second goal of the AFGF was the coordination of all
international democratic elements, primarily exile groups, in an independent
advisory body to be at the disposal of the Allied governments. The International
Coordination Council (ICC) formed as a subsidiary group of the AFGF in 1941.
increases the immediate effectiveness of the work that can be carried on from
there in certain respects, it also sharply limits it in others.
The purpose of such a center would be not only to coordinate the activities of the various national forces for democracy—and these are meant to be any socialist or Social-Democratic group, not including communists—but also to serve as a liaison between these groups and sympathetic Americans. The chief obstacle that the ICC faced was concern among potential American supporters about “fifth column” elements and communist infiltrators within European émigré organizations. In response to this fear, the ICC would foster “Fifth Columns for Democracy” fueled by “a healthy character of true Americanism.” While differences of opinion between various émigré groups would be inevitable—and even welcome—the ICC would have a common program consisting of four general principles:
1. Recognition of the identity of interest of all truly democratic international forces in the military defeat of the aggressive fascist powers and their allies;
2. Recognition of a
mutual interest in working for the establishment of democracy within the
nations and between the nations of
3. Recognition of the fact that such an International Council should encourage the search for truth and for the best possible solution of the problems of our time—and not be preoccupied with the traditional, national, or politically dogmatic conceptions of any particular group;
4. Recognition of a
mutual interest in working for a really permanent solution for
third “recognition” was aimed specifically at the remnants of the Sopade in the
US who interpreted the mandate that they had received on questionable grounds
in 1933 to mean that they alone were to represent the interests of German
Social-Democracy, the only legitimate organization of German labor. These
traditionalists, and particularly their adherents in the
Internecine conflict within the émigré community was the greatest obstacle to the work of the ICC. The group emphasized the necessity of drawing representatives, or “liaison officers,” from all “qualified groups” of all nationalities, in a joint effort to promote democracy worldwide that would be “neither sectarian nor competitive.” Qualified groups were those with socialist, non-communist and democratic principles. No evidence attests that the ICC was ready to welcome more conservative elements, such as religious centrist groups, but it did not make any explicit restrictions. The group not only shared the same office space as the AFGF but much of the same personnel. Chairman of the group was Frank Kingdon; vice-chairman, Edward C. Carter, active with the YMCA and the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR); and treasurer, David F. Seiferheld. Its acknowledged “cooperating organizations” were the AFGF, the American Friends of Czechoslovakia, the American Friends of Polish Democracy, and the Mazzini Society (Italian anti-fascists, led by Max Ascoli and Carlo Sforza). In addition to these “friends” groups, the ICC cited a list of “foreign representatives (in formation)”:
Milano [literary critic; professor at
[Norwegian Labor Party newspaper editor]
list appears on the ICC masthead from July 1942, in the group’s regular
publication, Voice of Freedom. While
many of these representatives would go on to have important careers in
international politics—several would serve the United Nations—at the time, they
were relatively minor figures. There are a few mutual associations among them:
Due to its limited and rather inconsequential
membership, the ICC failed to exert any significant influence on the émigré
community or, much less, on the Allied governments. However, its symbolic
importance centers upon its role as precursor to the much grander attempt at
émigré coordination in 1943, namely, the Council for a Democratic Germany (CDG).
Collaboration with the
Before the war, American intelligence units were
uncoordinated and interspersed between the State Department and various armed
forces outfits, including Army G-2 and the Office of Naval Intelligence. To
rectify this inefficiency and to bring US intelligence-gathering up to date
(the old system originated during the Spanish-American War), President
Roosevelt called for the formation of the Office of the Coordinator of
Information (COI) in July 1941. The COI represented the first US attempt to
build a modern national intelligence agency. Its driving force was Colonel
William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, a lawyer and WWI hero who would become the
leading American spymaster of the 1940s. Within the Office, Donovan established
a Research and Analysis Branch to study the strengths and weaknesses of the
Axis powers, particularly of
In June 1942,
To aid the government
in this task, Frank proposed the formation of an agency to study the merits of
the various underground groups and to nominate those groups it concludes are
the strongest and could make the best use of Allied financial support. Such an
advisory agency would consist of a “mixed party of Intelligence officers of the
army and some carefully selected people who have been active in the mentioned
underground movement.” Frank undoubtedly has himself in mind. Firstly, “A small
staff of a few dozen experienced people should be prepared, supported with
technical facilities (papers, etc.) to look up as soon as possible old contacts
As the memo continues, Frank’s proposals become more implausible and even ridiculous. A third section of the proposed agency could train “trustworthy refugees” in interrogation methods, aimed at extracting information from German prisoners of war. And among these POWs, the Allies may find individuals willing “to join a coordinated anti-Nazi underground movement.” Without a doubt, the culmination of Frank’s plan is his statement, “it could be conceived that collaborators of this agency could be dropped the parachute way in order to make direct contact with people inside if the border contacts wouldn’t be successful enough.” But the document concludes with a more grounded observation that was much more typical of Frank’s realistic outlook than the parachuting bit:
The greatest success possible could be achieved if people selected for
the work with the agency would have the feeling that they are not used as
agents but as a special nuclei [sic] of anti-Nazi Germans, treated as part of
the organized vanguard of a coming democratic
He implicitly recognizes that such émigré employees would in fact be “agents,” but that it would be necessary to make them feel like “allies.”
Frank was a strong
proponent of national self-determination. According to him, when the Allies
beat Hitler they would be liberating the country, not conquering it. Therefore,
collaborators in such an agency, as part of a “vanguard of a coming democratic
favorably to the proposal. He forwarded it along with a letter of
recommendation to William Donovan in
Although the COI did
not explicitly adopt Frank’s proposal, Donovan organized the
That summer, Frank entered
into correspondence with Lt. Col. Julius Klein, an Army G-2 intelligence
officer who occasionally worked for the
In September, Klein
passed along to Donovan another proposal by Frank. This collaboration plan was
much like the first one submitted to Dulles. But this time, Frank had privately
negotiated an arrangement with Klein that would allow him and a group of his
friends to travel to
1. To develop skilled men in the arts of underground movement and
sabotage, training for particular tasks in
2. To compile and maintain files, indices and information of all sorts to be turned over to
G-2 for final evaluation.
3. To get the volunteer cooperation of people behind the Nazi lines [who
want] not only . . . the defeat of Hitler but a chance to help prepare a new
It is not clear whether
Frank himself proposed an operation independent from the
I am sure that you will now be called in.—Of course I can only accept an assignment [to be your control] if so requested by the Donovan Office and if so ordered by the War Dept. I cannot suggest or even urge such an assignment—but you can if you care to, as you have done in your preface to the plan, express your wish and hope that I might be the officer in charge and since I expect my overseas assignment soon, I presume I could handle both jobs without any difficulty.
Klein did in fact suggest the assignment for
himself: “this officer [Klein] requests assignment to take charge, organize and
supervise the activities proposed in the ‘Hagen Formula’ under the direction of
G-2, on the staff of the Commanding General of the A.E.F. [American
Expeditionary Force].” He clearly wanted to distance the operation from the
By the end of 1942, all prospects of
collaboration with the
The failure of Frank’s collaboration
schemes stems partly from the fickle attitude of the American intelligence authorities
and partly from the persistent smear campaign mounted against him by his
opponents in the émigré community. Old animosities boiled over into the
Emergency Rescue Committee
As the rapid tide of Nazism spread over Europe in
late 1939 into 1940, leaving destruction and fear in its wake, many
intellectuals, artists, scientists, liberals, and politically vulnerable
individuals and Jews fled for their lives. Several of Frank’s friends from the
New Beginning group were among the massive number of refugees that flooded into
In the eyes of US officials, the IRA was a
pacifist organization with overt communist connections. As war approached and
the number of prospective immigrants increased, the receipt of an American
entry visa became a matter of life and death for a refugee. Thus, good
relations between the
The German conquest of
Among the 200 guests were Erika Mann, who pledged
her father Thomas’ cooperation; radio commentators Raymond Gram Swing and Elmer
Davis; author and foreign correspondent Louis Fischer; Chicago-based
philanthropist Anita Blaine; journalist Dorothy Thompson; various
representatives of the IRA; and, a slew of collegiate presidents: Charles
Seymour of Yale, Robert Hutchins of the University of Chicago, William Allen
Neilson of Smith College, George Schuster of Hunter College, and Alvin Johnson
of the New School for Social Research. Several of these attendees had been part
of an anti-Nazi organization in the late 1930s, the American Guild for German
Frank Kingdon, a prominent
Reinhold Niebuhr, for the only recorded time in his life, made the appeal for money. Blank checks had been set beside every place. As the young women began to circulate around the tables to collect the checks a sort of ground swell occurred. Hands were raised to pledge money and services. People rose from the floor to speak. 
The Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) was born. It would take three weeks, however, to formalize the organization and to move into an independent office.
Kingdon was nominated chairman, and Karl
Frank volunteered the staff of the AFGF. For the position of executive
secretary, the sponsors chose the author and translator Mildred Adams, who had
been a member along with Harold Oram of the American Committee to Aid Spanish
Democracy, and thus had valuable experience in Europe-oriented political work. The
group retained Oram as a semi-official fundraiser; it would benefit from his
extensive philanthropic connections.
Denver-based investment banker James H. Causey was chosen to be treasurer,
although he would soon be replaced by JLC chairman Adolph Held, who would in
turn yield to AFGF treasurer David F. Seiferheld.
The Quaker pacifist L. Hollingsworth Wood became vice chairman. Ingrid Warburg volunteered
to be executive assistant to the chairman, and several important early meetings
took place at her apartment on
The problem with all of
On July 2, Frank made a radio broadcast on WQXR with
the subject of “Our Dunkirk,” by which he meant the rescue of hundreds of
German and Austrian labor leaders from
The vanguard of
Frank, the historical proportions of this task are enormous. The liberation of
these millions “remains the chief aim of our time.” “A staff of conscious
democratic fighters in exile, helping to reorganize from this exile a future
Aside from its immediate purpose of rescuing
political refugees, the long-term function of the Emergency Rescue Committee
was to facilitate the escape of prominent cultural figures. Even this second
objective was highly specialized and discriminating. To be fair, the sheer
number of displaced persons fleeing the Nazis was overwhelming, and if the ERC
did not discriminate it would not be able to effectively carry out any
operation at all. And furthermore, whether or not the ERC leadership held a
more egalitarian concern for the common refugee, the only way the group could
sustain its funding was to focus on rescuing
With a precise list compiled from diverse
sources, the ERC had a starting point from which it could expand or contract
its clientele depending on the size of its coffers. The original luncheon
raised nearly $3,500, but the committee directors were uncertain as to how much
the actual operation would cost. If only for the sake of reconnaissance, they
needed to send an agent to
Visas and the State Department
The staff of the ERC set up case files for each of
the hundreds of refugees on its list. Each file card contained brief fields of
identification (Name, Occupation, Age, Place of Origin), and more importantly
for Fry’s purpose in Marseille, the last known address of the given refugee.
Perhaps an even greater problem than finding specific people in the chaotic atmosphere
of a recently defeated country was the procurement of American visas for them. The
US State Department required each refugee to have a sponsor in the
The ERC, through the services of Oram, made a tour
The money flowed steadily through the ERC offices
and was quickly cabled out to Marseille, but no amount could solve the group’s
continued difficulties in obtaining visas. While Buttinger and Frank kept in
contact with Eleanor Roosevelt, having won her support, the actual visa
distribution was wholly under the control of the State Department bureaucracy.
Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, who led the Special War
Problems Division—i.e. everything to do with refugees—had almost total power
over the Visa Division. Long was an uncompromising conservative who, while he
served as ambassador to
The most damaging policy retained by the
restrictionists was the maintenance of quotas set by the Immigration Act of
1924, and the strict enforcement of
Of those involved with the ERC, Reinhold Niebuhr had the greatest political clout. Not only did he have connections with the Socialist Party of America, but he also was vice chairman of the New York State Liberal Party, a founder of the Union for Democratic Action (later Americans for Democratic Action), and a member of a three-man advisory committee for President Roosevelt in 1941. It was imperative that the ERC use his influence in order to procure the necessary visas for its countless refugee clients.
Another useful contact for the ERC was Eleanor Roosevelt. Frank and Buttinger had already exchanged several letters with her on the subject of visas, asking her to use whatever influence she had over the State Department—especially over her husband—to obtain them. She wrote to Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles in September 1940, who responded,
As you know, we
have been most sympathetic with the difficult plight of these unfortunate
persons who are endeavoring to come to the
Welles goes on to explain how it is not the policy of the United States to aid any aliens who might be evading “the laws of their countries with which this country maintains friendly relations,” but nevertheless recognizes that exceptions will be made for certain refugees in occupied France. In view of this established procedure, Welles concludes, “I believe, therefore, that the difficulty mentioned in Mr. Frank’s letter [of August 30, to Eleanor] has already been taken care of so far as this Government is concerned.” Considering this rather cold bureaucratic response, it is rather unsettling to know that among the State Department officials who had influence in refugee matters, Welles was one of the most compassionate.
If the restrictionist policy itself did not pose enough of an obstacle, then the illegal exploits of the renegade Varian Fry—he constantly sparred with the Vichy police—and his belligerent attitude toward the American Consular Service in Marseille certainly added to the ERC’s difficulties. And further still, Frank’s association with the group was actually starting to jeopardize the efficacy of certain political and philanthropic appeals. While he has been characterized as “a Niebuhrian model for the 1940s: heroic action tied to the realistic, responsible goal of defeating Hitler,” Frank had many enemies among Social-Democrat exiles who were still bitter about the subversive activities of the New Beginning group. As Niebuhr biographer Paul Merkley notes,
The campaign to
discredit Paul Hagen [i.e. Karl Frank] threatened again and again to jeopardize
Niebuhr’s vital work of rescue; and many hours went into the writing of letters
to sponsors of his work who were being unsettled by the whispering campaign
The factionalism within the ERC and AFGF rose to the surface when it became necessary for the groups to take decisive action against Fry.
The foreign correspondent Jay Allen, who was one
of the ERC directors, started pressuring Kingdon to recall Fry from Marseille.
Some elements of the committee felt that Fry was justified in thwarting Vichy
law, but others took the more practical stance that Fry’s actions prejudiced
the State Department against the ERC and made it too difficult to obtain visas.
They were willing to sacrifice their agent
extraordinaire in order to appease the government. Contrary to what Fry
might have thought, the issue was not a matter of ‘toughing out’ the pressure
of the State Department:
his actions compromised the entire mission of the ERC. Many heated letters flew
back and forth between Fry and Kingdon, the former arguing that he was the only
man for the job, and the latter curtly ordering Fry to return to the
Fry may have had a sort of “indispensability
complex,” as ERC Secretary Mildred Adams contended,
but that was only because he loved what he was doing. He must have realized
that playing host and savior to the cultural elite of
Fry’s return to
In the end, the ERC had accomplished a great feat.
Rescuing nearly 2,000 of
The yearly quota for German-Austrian immigration, as set in 1924, was 27,370; from 1933 to 1945, the actual number allowed into the country averaged about 36% of that number. Wyman, in a detailed study of the refugee crisis, estimates that some 20,000 - 25,000 lives were lost due to these quota restrictions. “Even in the absence of anti-Semitism, humanitarian considerations are not easily translated into government policy,” note Breitman and Kraut. Granted, some government officials did not share Breckinridge Long’s xenophobia and anti-Semitism, but many nonetheless agreed with Robert B. Reams, who considered the extraction of Jewish refugees as ‘contrary to the Allied war effort.’
The blame has been laid on many different sides,
The ERC was unique in that it was an incorporation
of otherwise incompatible elements of the American Left: war supporters and
anti-communists like Niebuhr and Kingdon who orbited the
German Labor Delegation
His assertive rhetoric, political
flexibility and personal charisma ensured that Frank would make just as many
enemies as friends. From late 1939 to spring 1940—the very first months of his
permanent stay in the US—several articles appeared in the papers Jewish Daily Forward (JDF), Gegen den Strom,
and Neue Volkszeitung (NVZ) that
attacked Frank as a “Stalinist agent,” and called the New Beginning group “red
fascists,” labeling them a “sect of conspirators.”
This wave of slander had various precedents, most notably a speech given by
Gerhart Seger in February, 1938, at a meeting of a Jewish labor group in
The other authors of the slanderous articles
included Hans Gaidies (in Gegen den Strom,
March 1940), a minor member of the SPD who could be described as something of a
political “hanger-on,” and Abraham Cahan, a prominent Yiddish writer and
founding editor of the Jewish Daily
Forward. Cahan, who was associated with the old guard of conservative
American socialists, hated Norman Thomas and disliked Vladeck, his subordinate
at the JDF, who represented the younger generation of Jewish labor leaders.
Cahan had met Frank in 1934 at the annual meeting of the British Trade Union
The year following Seger’s unsuccessful trip, the Sopade sent Wilhelm Sollmann on the same mission: to muster up funds and support for the Prague-based executive committee, billed as the only legitimate custodian of German Social-Democracy. Sollmann was a journalist and SPD member of the Reichstag, as well as minister of the interior under Stresemann. Although he was on the executive committee of the SPD before 1933, but did not hold any official position with Sopade. Despite preparing the way with a glowing introduction written by a friend in the New York Times, his trip also resulted in failure. Seger blamed the Americans themselves: “even well-educated Americans unhesitatingly interchange socialists, communists and anarchists which are all red to them.” Yet, Albrecht Ragg, in his doctoral dissertation, “The German Socialist Emigration in the United States, 1933-1945,” takes a different, more critical perspective on the group’s failure to attract American financiers: “The Sopade and Sollmann had not yet overcome their sense of superiority over the American and American Jewish labor movement[s, an attitude] which derived from their prominence before the defeat of National Socialism.”
By 1939, whether or not they acknowledged the
fault of their hubris, the Sopade chiefs recognized the practical necessity of
a stable base in
While Stampfer was in fact a member of Sopade, and
of its exclusive inner-circle led by Otto Wels at the
Katz and Stampfer made a convincing plea for
support at the AFL meeting in February 1940, insisting upon the continued
existence of the German democratic underground movement, and foretelling that
“very soon after the end of the Hitler despotism which was . . . looming ahead,
the free German Trade Union Movement and its political exponent, a new Social
Democratic Party[,] in a second free German democratic Republic will celebrate
their resurrection.” As a further indication of how far out of touch with
reality these Sopade representatives were, they even likened the current
situation of German Socialism to the period of illegality undergone by the SPD
under Bismarck fifty years before, and thus, one could expect the old party to
weather this Nazi storm and to emerge again after the war virtually unscathed.
The decision of the AFL was as follows: “The Executive Board resolved that the
American Federation of Labor shall officially give its full moral and financial
support to the Executive committee of the German Social Democratic Party [i.e.
the German Labor Delegation].”
This Miami Resolution, as it would come to be called, legitimated the existence
of the GLD in the
The GLD’s membership consisted mainly of former
SPD officials and conservative defenders of the
When Frank arrived in the
The battle for primacy in American public opinion
had been waged between the Sopade and the New Beginning group since 1935, when
Frank made his first fundraising trip to the
Critics from the GLD and elsewhere
who accused Frank of raising money under “false pretenses” and for personal
enrichment were understandably suspicious, simply due to the sheer amount. Yet,
no evidence of embezzlement exists. David F. Seiferheld, a socially-conscious
American textile executive, was treasurer of the American Friends of German
Freedom after Adolph Held, and, while a sympathizer of the group, he had no
reason to conceal irresponsible or criminal accounting.
Whatever money Frank sent abroad to the New Beginners in London was
administered by Stafford Cripps, a neutral Englishman who, like Seiferheld, was
a sympathizer of the group but certainly not complicit. Frank claims that his
monthly allowance while working in Europe was just $65; the remainder of his
income came from what he earned as a writer for various European labor
newspapers, an amount that could not have been very substantial—“we were all
able to live on a very modest income.”
Once in the
Thus, with Frank receiving most of the American funding and attention, embittered members of the German Labor Delegation began writing articles attacking the New Beginning group and its “front,” the American Friends of German Freedom. This campaign against “Karl Frank, alias Willi Müller, alias Paul Hagen” prompted the accused to request the formation of a committee to investigate his character, past activities and the validity of the accusations made against him. He hoped to thereby clear his reputation of a number of damaging rumors that had been trailing him ever since his break with the Sopade years earlier—among other things, that he was a Stalinist agent, an opportunistic swindler and a political adventurer. He believed that the resolution of his individual case would have a healing effect on the great divisions within the European labor movement, making possible more unified action. Unfortunately the result was far from what he expected.
Representatives from the GLD and AFGF agreed to
form an investigative committee consisting of six members—three nominated by
each side—presided by a neutral chairman. Frank and the AFGF chose Joseph
Buttinger, leader of the RSÖ and New Beginning collaborator; John Herling,
American journalist and associate of Norman Thomas; and Max Hirschberg, a German
criminal defense lawyer who had directly challenged the Nazis in court during
the late 1920s and early 1930s. The GLD chose Max Brauer, former mayor of
Altona (Hamburg); Albert Grzesinski, former Prussian minister of the interior;
and William Karlin, a leader of the American Social Democratic Foundation
(opponents of Norman Thomas and the SPA) and director of the JDF. For the
nonpartisan position of chairman, the two groups decided initially on Paul F.
Brissenden, professor of economics at
The Case of Paul Hagen
Hearings began in June 1940 and continued fairly
regularly until November. At that point, in an effort to break the deadlock
between the intransigent AFGF and GLD factions, the chairman Romualdi proposed
the expansion of the committee by two additional presiding chairs. The
committee could not make a decision on this proposal and meetings adjourned
indefinitely. Everything about the “trial” must have appeared to American
observers as German exiles wantonly airing their dirty laundry in their
adoptive land. To be clear, the hearings were closed to the general public, but
interested parties stayed informed. Even in the
The following April, Frank wrote a letter to Romualdi informing him that he had decided it would be best to officially conclude the investigation in light of the fact that it had been adjourned for six months and had no prospect of reaching a verdict. Probably not by coincidence, the letter was dated the very day before Romualdi left for South America on a long-term mission for the US Office of Inter-American Affairs—the chairman likely did not read it for some time. The loss of yet another chairman is somewhat indicative of the amount of importance that neutral observers accorded the proceedings, i.e. very little. In the letter, Frank considered the committee’s indecisiveness and the GLD faction’s reluctance to hear arguments in his defense as indications that no definitive conclusion could ever be reached. The best anyone could hope for was a joint statement agreed upon by both factions. Buttinger had negotiated privately with Katz to produce such a statement some weeks before. Katz terminated the negotiation because he had heard that Frank “had been telling [people] everywhere that the investigation had resulted in [his] ‘favor.’” Of this rumor Frank stated simply that “Wherever I and my friends encountered false stories about the investigation we rectified them.” The continued investigation “serves no purpose,” and
it seems meaningless to me to carry on further discussions in this manner. This would be just as hopeless as trying to dispose of Stampfer’s, Seger’s, Gaidies’, etc. calumnies against me. An investigation needs the good will to conduct it fairly and people who have slandered someone unwittingly must be willing to repudiate such slander. This is not the case at this time.
Neither Stampfer nor Seger nor Gaidies ever appeared before the committee, despite repeated summonses. Richter, Hirschberg and Herling (the AFGF faction) sent a joint letter to Romualdi on the same day as Frank’s letter, affirming his decision—after all, they thought, he had been the one to call for the investigation in the first place, and it would be reasonable in light of the circumstances if he were to ask that it be concluded. As they obliquely put it, “[We] are agreed in recommending to Comrade Hagen that he not ask for a continuation of the investigation.” They refused to give a formal judgment, but can “agree with Paul Hagen, if he now describes the accusations raised against him as libelous.” The burden of proof is on the accuser, they claimed, and the GLD faction was unable to produce any of the authors of the original articles:
We regret that the members of the presiding committee . . . named by the German Labor Delegation have not shown the zeal which is required in finding truth in such an investigation. From the beginning, their attitude was passive. . . . Comrade Katz’s attitude and that of his friends is characterized by a statement expressed by Greszinski [sic] at the beginning of the investigation: That they had agreed to Comrade Hagen’s request for such an investigation, only because, according to the custom of this country [the US], the refusal to make an investigation at the request of the accused is tantamount to declaring the accused absolved.
. . .
An investigation, not seriously pursued and not concluded, would in this way, simply be another factor in a factional fight, which in the long run can only discredit the entire emigration.
The GLD faction received copies of this correspondence and reacted with two rather vicious pieces published simultaneously in the Neue Volkszeitung.
1. It is uncustomary and inadmissible that three members of a seven-member investigative committee—the very three selected by the accused—should state unilaterally explanations and judgments on the putative conclusion of an investigation that is not yet even remotely settled.
2. We take this as our basis in including here a factual and objective comment on the previous results of the investigation. We must however establish in opposition to the explanation given by the three Hagenite representatives [Hagenschen Vertreter] that no words were ever spoken [during the meetings] to the effect that Hagen was vindicated or “cleared” of the public accusations brought against him.
3. The investigation proceedings are exclusive, and the petitioner [Frank] broke them off without sufficient reasons. The investigation can continue as soon as its regular operation is no longer hindered by certain obstacles that are by no means insurmountable. Whether and which conclusions will be drawn from the fact that some acting on their own authority abruptly prevented any further investigation, does not undermine our passing of a resolution.
While the authors Brauer, Grzesinski and Karlin are only here acknowledging their right to proceed with the investigation and to eventually make a definitive judgment, a second piece in that day’s Neue Volkszeitung, one without a byline, makes the content of that proposed resolution quite clear.
In the Op-Ed section of the paper
appears an anonymous article, Ein
“Führer” entlarvt sich selbst [“A ‘Führer’ Unmasks Himself”].
Undoubtedly written by Katz or Seger, this piece was nothing but a gratuitous
slander. The first piece was rather clear and matter-of-fact—while the
motivations of the GLD for continuing an investigation that had died long
before were suspect, the group did have a right to oppose Frank’s motion to
dismiss the case. The second piece, however, is another shot in the salvo
initiated by Stampfer, Seger and Gaidies over a year before. Claiming that the
NVZ was the “only free German-language Social-Democratic paper in the world,”
and thus had a responsibility of maintaining “integrity, sincerity and clarity”
for German fighters for democracy, the author(s) felt compelled to expose the
hypocrisy of “Karl Frank, alias Willi Müller, alias Paul Hagen.” This man was a
He fought keenly
. . .
Karl Frank was for 10 years a member of a totalitarian party [i.e. the KPD].
. . .
This man is nothing but a political adventurer, a special product of our corrupt times, a man who swims first with one then with another political current, whatever the present situation demands.
. . .
[As a] former dictator-supporter [and] in light of detailed evidence, we cannot believe in his now alleged democratic conviction.
The author takes particular offense at an epithet given to Frank by a “well-known American political personality” at a recent fundraising dinner of the Emergency Rescue Committee: a “democratic German political Führer.” The article concludes with an attack on the New Beginning group.
From this libelous piece, which provides no specific information to back its accusations, one can begin to discern what lay behind the animosity toward Frank among some of New York’s German political émigrés: first, an instinct to protect what they had come to consider their “turf” against an ambitious newcomer—this not only applied to American soil, but also to the general domain of the old SPD oligarchy; second, jealousy of and practical opposition to what they saw as this man’s undeserved resources and his usurpation of American attention; third, a strong anti-communism bred of decades of conflict between the SPD and KDP; fourth, an idyllic and inexplicable nostalgia for the Weimar Republic; and fifth, an honest aversion to someone who was often billed, though never by himself, as the leading representative of “the German underground resistance movement.”
Paul Hertz, a former member of the Sopade who had supported the New Beginning group since its inception, was called several times as a witness before the committee investigating Paul Hagen. After the slanderous accounts of the proceedings appeared in the Neue Volkszeitung in June 1941, Hertz drafted a “Declaration on the Case of Paul Hagen” to clarify his own position and to help bring about a resolution to his friend’s embarrassing predicament. The declaration contains each question exactly as it was asked, followed by his reply. This piece serves as a guide for navigating the labyrinthine paths of German exile politics. Herein Hertz, who reflects with short hindsight upon these controversial issues that plagued Karl Frank in particular but also the exiled socialist movement as a whole, provides the historian with a more useful and concise perspective than the nearly impenetrable transcriptions of testimonies compiled from months of frustratingly futile hearings.
The questions were lettered by the investigative committee. They appear here in the same order given by Hertz in his declaration and by the editors of Neue Volkszeitung in “The Case of Paul Hagen”:
Question A: Is it true that during the years 1933-1935 Hagen carried out conspiratorial activity against the Executive of the Social Democratic Party of Germany; that he bribed an employee of the late Party President, Otto Wels, for the purpose of obtaining confidential correspondence of the Party Executive?
This question refers to the events surrounding the split of the Leninist Organization (the Org.; i.e. the proto-New Beginning group) from Sopade in 1934, when the latter’s executive committee unofficially decided to exclude two of its own members, Siegfried Aufhäuser and Karl Böchel. These representatives of the “old Left,” who happened to support the Org.—often considered part of the “new Left”—conflicted with the Sopade chiefs over their proposition to radicalize the Party’s anti-Nazi line. In response to Miles’ Neu Beginnen pamphlet, which appeared in late 1933, and which challenged the legitimacy of the old Social-Democratic Party apparatus, the Sopade published its own radical “Manifesto” in January 1934. But the supposed radical new direction did not provide a basis for practical discussion among underground labor groups, as Neu Beginnen had done. Rather, it dictated in an authoritarian manner the Sopade’s policy to these groups that it presumed to command. Aufhäuser criticized the new Manifesto for its rhetorical and dogmatic character, and recommended that the Sopade strengthen its ties to smaller revolutionary groups like New Beginning instead of pontificating on matters in which it was woefully inexperienced—i.e. underground resistance.
The Sopade bureau chiefs, however, felt that their authority would be threatened by further collaboration with leftist groups, and especially with the Communists, as that seemed to them the logical consequence of such a strategy. The majority in the Sopade Executive committee, presided over by former SPD chairman Otto Wels, obtained underhandedly some correspondence of Böchel’s that they proceeded to deem “subversive.” Claiming that the two men, Aufhäuser and Böchel, conspired to split the mandated central administration of German Social-Democracy through “faction-building,” the majority in the executive committee agreed in December 1934 to exclude them from further meetings.
The Sopade used this symbolic “purge” as a pretext
for cutting off financial support and all formal ties to the controversial
proto-New Beginners; these young militant intellectuals were viewed as
dangerous adventurers and as outsiders trying to take over the leadership of
German socialism. This schism in early 1935 mirrored a split within the New
Beginning group itself: Walter Löwenheim (alias Miles) and the defeatists on
one side; Richard Löwenthal, Walter Peuke and Frank leading the other. At the
same moment that the representatives of the SPD disenfranchised the group, the
Leninist Organization was reborn under new leadership as Neu Beginnen.
Despite the break with the Sopade, Frank managed to stay informed of the
activity within its bureau in
In summer 1934, news reached him that someone at
the bureau had ordered the composition of a memorandum that listed the names
and locations of many underground resistance fighters within
Sometime earlier, another office assistance, Otto
Schönfeldt, had recognized many of the names on the
memo’s list, some of whom were personal friends of his. He too suspected that
Schwabe was working for the Nazis. In late 1935, Schönfeldt leaked his
knowledge of the memo to Frank. The former is the “employee” to whom the
Frank’s enemies often chose as a point of attack his early American contacts and the alleged exploitation of them. Charney Vladeck was perhaps the most important of these contacts; on him the second question bears:
Question B: Is it true that in 1936 Hagen deceived the American representative, the late B. Charney Vladeck in Karlsbad by introducing to him a so-called “conference of German delegates from a great German underground movement” who were in truth not from Germany at all, intending by this to obtain financial support?
Question C: Is it true that some time around 1937
was a Social-Democrat journalist and labor leader in
This was not the first suspicion of anti-Semitism among the old SPD elite, or at least of some of its members’ toleration of such ideas. In 1936, Hertz wrote a series of letters to former SPD executives Rudolf Hilferding and Wilhelm Dittmann—not members of the Sopade—voicing his frustrations with the Prague bureau and its categorical refusal to deal with potential communist allies, describing the group as “A leadership, which has no reservations about working together with monarchists, three-quarters anti-Semites, neofascists, etc., but which rejects cooperation with real antifascists because among them there is one communist.” The Sopade undoubtedly leaned to the right. It frequently resorted to “red baiting,” or accusation of communism, as a means to silence internal or external opponents. However, on the side of Sopade’s opponents, accusations of anti-Semitism were likewise ad hominem attacks meant to evade controversial issues. Sollmann repeatedly denied the accusation and it soon became a dead issue—that is, of course, until resurrected by the GLD.
Another sort of denunciation popular in the pre-war émigré community was that of someone being labeled a “Gestapo agent.” Sometimes such accusations were well-grounded, like with Schwabe. But generally they were instances of gratuitous “brown-baiting.” The fourth question bears on such a case:
Question D: Is it true that in the spring of 1940 Hagen denounced Hans Gaidies, author of an article against Hagen, as “a Gestapo agent” and “a suspicious person who was not to be believed,” although in 1936 Hagen in Prague before a Party arbitration court called because of similar charges stated expressly that Gaidies was all right?
article in question was in the March 1940 issue of Gegen den Strom and was one of the slanderous pieces that prompted
Frank to ask for the formation of the investigative committee. Hertz’ reply is
evasive. Gaidies was a suspicious character who apparently hung around the
Frank was certainly not the sole
object of the
Question E: Is it true that the so-called New Beginning Group in Germany—if it still exists at all—is a completely unimportant group which has no connection with those hundreds of thousands in Germany who were formerly Social-Democrats and trade unionists; that this group is as completely unknown to the masses of German working men as is Hagen himself; that Hagen, in declaring himself the “foreign representative” of the German “Neu Beginnen” organization, deceptively appears to represent an inner German “movement” which in truth does not exist, but which is merely a small group of German émigrés of various political shades who never played an important political role under the Weimar Republic?
clause of this question betrays the sort of sentiment prevalent in the German
political emigration, especially those in the
The question’s last clause which
dismisses the New Beginners for never having “played an important political
role under the
Another troubling point for critics was the relationship between the New Beginning group and the American Friends of German Freedom, which was the most successful fundraising outfit associated with the New York émigré community.
Question F: Is it true that
mission in the
The FGF (later AFGF) money was sent to
Hertz justifies the financial relationship between
the two groups by praising the New Beginning group’s responsible management of
its funds, as opposed to the Sopade, which “from 1935 on used its large funds
simply to continue its own work.” The New Beginners supported several other
socialist underground organizations besides its own, particularly the Ten
Points Group, which claimed in its 1938 manifesto to represent “an essential
part of the living and fighting Social Democrats in Germany.” Furthermore, this
latter group directly challenged the authority of the Sopade, predicating that
when the time of revolutionary crisis came upon Nazi Germany—and this was
inevitable—“our movement will have a much greater importance for giving
directions to the masses than will the executive committee. The best that can
be said of the latter is that it is forgotten in
The seventh and final question acts as a summation:
Question G: Is it true that in light of all the facts concerning his past and his activities Paul Hagen can under no circumstances be deemed a trustworthy political personality; that he has no mandate whatsoever to act in the name of German Social-Democracy, of the German Labor Movement or of the democratic and republican movements of Germany; that he is merely a political adventurer wholly and completely unworthy of support from any American groups who wish to assist the Social-Democratic Labor movement of Germany?
Here the chief motive of the accusations from which these questions arose becomes clear. Those associated with the GLD simply wanted to outmaneuver Frank and the AFGF for American attention and financial support. In what had become the mantra of exiled Social-Democrats, an appeal to the “mandate” of German Social-Democracy was the common way to both justify their own political raison d’être and censure that of their opponents. This mandate was thus a double-edged sword: it both allowed for the preservation of the old SPD apparatus and thwarted all attempts at progressive reform within the party.
Karl Frank never held any mandate, real or imagined, nor did he want one. His various past political affiliations could imply a fickleness of character, opportunism, or political adventurism—as his critics claim—but they also could indicate a progressive realism, a recognition that the party line rarely is in touch with the necessities of the moment. His younger friend and fellow New Beginner Gerhard Bry recalls,
He was, no doubt, a man with very high qualities as a political leader. He was, as probably most political leaders, more intuitive than analytical, and his type of analysis ran often more in terms of power configurations, political leverage and organizational problems, than in terms of the categories of political science.
. . .
Karl was skeptical of theoretical deductions as a guide to policy. Some highly theoretically inclined comrades regarded his procedures as crass pragmatism and thought that they did not offer sufficient guidance for setting a policy.
The pattern of his organizational activities in New York, which was to start organizations then leave them to friends and supporters to run—e.g. the Emergency Rescue Committee, the International Coordination Council, and, to a lesser extent, the Council for a Democratic Germany—may corroborate the latter interpretation that his initiatives often lacked sufficient “guidance for setting a policy.” Frank’s theoretical posture was very broad, and often imprecise. Yet, he constantly sought a feasible “new beginning” for the stagnated and defeated German labor movement and shunned the sort of bureaucratic in-fighting exemplified by the Investigation of Paul Hagen. He sums up the quarrel in 1945:
Messrs. Katz and Seger to poison those American liberals who are in favor of
our efforts, with a systematic campaign which if it has not done more harm has
at least encouraged the Vansittartites and discouraged certain sections of the
American government to give us some of the facilities which we would have
needed to be more successful in our difficult job. That is how they understand
their self-assumed guardianship for the rebirth of a democratic labor movement
It is no wonder that he made enemies in the exiled Social-Democratic camp because internecine conflict was precisely the sort of business with which they were all, including Frank, most familiar. But as he mentions in this last statement, the most potent enemies to all German émigré efforts were the British and American followers of Sir Robert Vansittart.
Enemies among the British
The common foe was the growing trend among British and Americans to condemn Germans in toto for the crimes of the Nazis. This argument was not limited to a condemnation of the current generations of Germans who either explicitly or tacitly supported the Nazis, but rather was one that denounced the German race throughout all time as a barbaric proliferator of violence and civil discord. These anti-Germans traced nearly every war and problem of the modern age to historical German aggression, going as far back as Frederick Barbarossa—a convenient blanket allocation of blame common to all brands of racism.
The leading proponent of this way of thinking was Robert Vansittart, former chief diplomatic adviser to the British government. In 1941, he published a transcript of a series of broadcasts that he made for the BBC Overseas Program. Called Black Record: Germans Past and Present, the pamphlet traces the roots and manifestations of German aggression throughout the last two millennia. He begins by defending himself against charges of racism:
I have observed that some critics . . . have suggested that I have lumped all Germans together as bad. I have said explicitly the opposite. I have said that the good exist, but that they have hitherto not been numerous enough to turn the scale.
. . .
I have merely said that Germans have continually and copiously killed their neighbors, and how, and why. I hope to help in preventing them from doing it yet again—a rather laudable object, I should have thought.
view of what follows, these statements have an air of apology. Elsewhere he
writes that “All these people are still shocked by the discovery that I am
anti-German. What else could I be? My whole policy has been based on that
principle, and has therefore proved itself correct.”
“A working diplomatist with his coat off,” making “a plain statement of truth,”
he uses obscure metaphors like “butcher-bird” and “brazen horde” to
characterize the abstract German entity on which he bestows anachronistic
national and racial continuity. For Vansittart, there is no significant
difference between Germans and Nazis, just as there is little difference
between Kant and Hitler. Poor
To be fair, Vansittart’s purpose was
propagandistic. Much in the same way that the Entente powers portrayed the Germans during the First World
War—“Destroy this mad brute [a German gorilla]”; “Souvenez-vous ! Rien d’allemand !!! Rien des allemands ”; “The
freedom of the sea: our flag [the Union Jack] has guarded it. What would these
Pirates and Pledge-Breakers do?”; “Méfie-toi
de l’hypocrisie boche ”; “Once a German, always a German”—Vansittart
provided the British and American public with a store of catch-phrases and
simple reductionist reasons to hate their enemy. Hate does not need much of a
reason anyhow. But nevertheless, some statements indicate less of
propagandistic condescension and more of something approaching senility: “
He constantly upholds the virtue of “Latin
civilization” against the vice of German barbarism. “The German is often a moral creature; the Germans never; and it is the Germans
who count”—Julius Caesar apparently recognized this fact.
At one point he makes a clever analysis of the foundational German myth of the Nibelungen, portraying the ambitious
Frank and the New Beginning group, naturally as Germans, felt the direct bite of Lord Vansittart’s noble prose. He addresses them in his 1943 book, Lessons of My Life, which describes the “myth of the good Germans” and the English “pseudo-intellectuals” who support them. “Crypto-pan-Germanism” is the charge he brings against the New Beginning group. He interprets the NB stance put forth in the group’s 1939 pamphlet, Der kommende Weltkrieg [The Coming World War], as being a thinly veiled expression of the “megalomania” inherent in all Germans—“Scratch a German and you find an expansionist.” This is his reaction to “Herr Hagen’s book” (Will Germany Crack?, 1942), which calls for an eventual federation of European nations. A staunch conservative, he rejects all Marxist-influenced explanations for the two world wars as attempts to blame capitalist systems and objective factors, thereby exonerating the particular menace of Germany, which of course was the real cause: “People can say anything they like about their various isms in any other respect or connection—not in this one: it is too big for bias. Capitalism may be the cause of other evils—not this one. Socialism may be the cure of other evils—not this one.”
It is difficult to discern, however, just who was Vansittart’s greatest enemy: these German refugee imposters, or the English and Americans who supported them. These latter “partisans” and “blind collaborators” steered a dangerous course. He warns of the German Left’s increasing “influence on our politics and propaganda,” and makes what is for him an important distinction between “tolerance and inertia”—the latter being an undesirable shift in Allied policy according to “the tyrannical ambitions” of Germans in exile, who are nothing more than Nazis by another name. In a Churchillian call to arms, he speaks for all true Allies:
democratic exiles] expect us to do what they did not attempt, to dethrone
Hitler and so instal [sic] them—in order that they may lead not only
. . .
I speak for all
the oppressed peoples of
for good measure, he concludes with a racial pun in describing the caution and
many years of German penance that will be required before
Clearly, in the face of such incorrigible enemies
as the Germans, the Allies could show no mercy. The target audience of this
pamphlet was not only his fellow British, who amidst the Blitz needed little
encouragement, but for the Americans whose country had not yet entered the war.
Vansittart dedicated the work to Dorothy Thompson and had it published in
refugees in the
He warns, “Never be blinded again by the sideshows of German literature, medicine, music, philosophy”—and presumably German democracy too.
The front cover of the pamphlet shows a graphic of
the traditional German eagle crest—used as a symbol by the
The émigrés and their supporters took Vansittart’s allegations quite seriously. Frank quoted several pages of Lessons of My Life in the appendix of his second book, Germany after Hitler (1944). His rebuttal follows, first distancing himself somewhat from the stance presented in the 1939 pamphlet, Der kommende Weltkrieg, which argued for the centrality of a German revolution to defeat Hitler—Frank and his friends had shifted their support to an Allied military victory and a more general European revolution—and then accusing Vansittart of horribly misquoting it anyhow. The appendix is an explication of the errors of Vansittart’s interpretation. Responding to the charge that the exiles who call for democratic reconstruction and multilateral disarmament secretly wanted to use Allied assistance to rule the world, Frank explains that his group has “never thought of or said such a thing. On the contrary, those responsible for the pamphlet belong to that section of German anti-Nazis which is opposed to puppet governments.” Frank speaks of the “puzzle game” that Vansittart plays with his misquotes and specious allusions, apparently meaning that the Englishman had chosen the pieces best suited to fit his own particular puzzle, his own racist agenda.
Vansittart’s followers in
The response by German socialist émigrés and their
Criticism of the New Beginning group in
The Stout Group
Rex Stout is best known as the writer who created
the popular detective character Nero Wolfe. His life was a model of progressive
liberalism, including the initiation of public school reform in the 1910s, serving
as an original board member of the ACLU (est. 1920), cofounding the monthly
magazine New Masses—a rival to the
Villard’s The Nation—supporting ardently
both the New Deal and the United State’s intervention in World War II. In 1940,
he worked with the group Friends of Democracy to spread propaganda in the
Stout began pressing his Vansittartist anti-German
views on the board, even going so far as to persuade it to adopt them as part
of the WWB’s official policy. On
Nazism is merely
a recent manifestation of Pan-Germanism, which for a century has been the
prevailing political doctrine in
The Nazis differ from other Pan-Germans only in method (both strategy and tactics), not in fundamentals of doctrine and objective.
The statement emphasizes that the Writers’ War Board considers not only the Nazis to be its enemies, but also anyone endorsing pan-Germanism, a broadly defined term similar in usage to “communism” by conservatives. According to the statement, all of Germany’s major political parties in November 1932—when the Nazis suffered a 4.4% drop from July’s election results, winning only 33.6% of the Reichstag—a date often cited by defenders of the Weimar Republic—were “colored by Pan-Germanism,” including “Social Democrats, Communists and Junkers [i.e., presumably, the German National People’s Party, DNVP].” If this reductionism were not sufficient, the WWB statement goes even further: “The German people, as a political unit—and we cannot treat them as anything else in making war on them or in making peace with them—cannot be absolved from war guilt.”
The board did not limit itself to generalities,
but took care to disguise its personal attacks with innuendo. Regarding “the
German experts,” i.e. the German political exiles in the
Several of those “prominent American liberals”
were members of the Writers’ War Board, and the increasingly Vansittartist line
of the group prompted a few to withdraw their membership. Pearl S. Buck and others
did not sign the June statement. Lewis Gannett, author and book reviewer for
the New York Herald Tribune who was
on the WWB advisory council, wrote a long letter to Rex Stout expressing his
displeasure at some of the statement’s points.
While agreeing with the document’s conclusions on how to deal with
Gannett was slowly moving into the Frank camp; Anna Caples writes her husband on June 30, a week and a half after Gannett’s letter to Stout: “I know who the people are who are on our side, and there are mighty few of them. He’s really a great guy, and we need his kind of support badly.” Unfortunately, Frank and his friends were losing ground to the Stout group. The WWB actually was the tamest manifestation of American Vansittartism. Stout’s other organization, the vituperative Society for the Prevention of World War III (SPWWIII), was an even greater threat.
Founded in early 1944, the Society represented the
collaboration of several anti-German groups in the
Foerster was one of Frank’s most eloquent and
effusive critics. Incidentally, they might have known each other briefly at the
Lipschutz himself made a successful career out of subverting Frank’s initiatives wherever and however he could. At a private meeting of the AFGF in March 1944, Jewish scholar Louis Rabinowitz pledged $1,000 to the group. Two days afterward, Rabinowitz received a call from Lipschutz, who somehow had learned of the pledge, “warning him against giving money” to the AFGF, and “telling him that Paul Hagen was more dangerous than Hitler.” Lipschutz soon visited Rabinowitz in person, giving him reading material from the Society for the Prevention of World War III.
If the Writers’ War Board’s task was to advance
pro-American propaganda, the Society’s task was to hunt down pro-German
propaganda. Indeed, one if its five official tasks was “To investigate
pro-German propaganda and influences in the
What made the Stout group and Vansittartist
criticism different from that of the German Labor Delegation was the former
groups’ indiscriminating condemnation of every German they encountered—at
least, every one that had kind words for the Fatherland. The GLD was just as
commonly a target as the AFGF. For example, Stout gave a speech at a dinner of
the Midtown Business and Professional Women’s Club in New York on May 18, 1944,
in which he said, “No German should be trusted until he has given evidence that
he is worthy of trust. Men like Hagen, [Hubertus?] Loewenstein and [Gerhart]
Seger have given no evidence that they are worthy of our trust.”
Stout voiced his approval of men like Foerster and Tetens, in other words, for those
who had renounced
Foerster had made similar criticisms of the Americans who had historically supported the likes of Frank, saying,
The resurrection of Germany after the first World War is due, to a large extent, to the systematic activities of powerful pro-German groups in America, which have exerted a growing influence on the political, economic, and cultural life in the United States ever since the end of the last century.
. . .
political, economic and ideological backing given to her in
Other SPWWIII members tended to quote Foerster as if he were the group’s official theorist. Even Vansittart gives him his due, commending his devout Christianity: “Foerster is a man not only of great learning but of great piety. Will foreign Christians please heed him.” Among these disciples were Emil Ludwig, author of How to Treat the Germans (1943), and Eric Mann.
The unrelated Mann, a Viennese like
Frank, had immigrated to the
Somehow Mann’s speech wanders into even murkier
waters when he explicates the ways in which
thousand selected trustworthy Nazis [. . .] are being trained in the ideologies
of the former political parties such as [the] Social Democrats, the Communists,
[and] the Catholic Zentrum. They will claim that they have been true to their
political faith throughout the time of the Nazi regime. They will demand to be
placed in key positions in the reorganization of
If this fear were to take hold, one need not trust a German ever again. Not only political parties had been infiltrated, but also the concentration camps, where “the Nazis have sent thousands of their most ardent followers,” figuring “that anyone whom Hitler puts into a concentration camp for political reasons would certainly be regarded as our friend and released immediately upon Allied occupation.” But that is not all. “Sixty thousand girls, picked for their looks, are being taught English, Russian as well as the art of love making. They are to undermine the morale as well as the morals of the armies of occupation.”
Such ridiculous paranoia is perhaps expected from a group that placed a large ad in a New York daily newspaper, “It is high time to call a Spade a Spade!” warning the public of a meeting of subversive German political exiles—in fact, a German language discussion group run by Frank—which led to a minor hysteria of reporters and police officers. In general, however, the Society for the Prevention of World War III cannot have been taken too seriously. Yet, they saturated the public with their propaganda, by both direct and underhanded means, and vigilantly opposed Frank and his supporters at every turn. Furthermore, as the leader of both organizations, Stout was able to marshal the resources of the Writers’ War Board to aid his SPWWIII campaigns—and, although the WWB was not officially sponsored by the government, it enjoyed the support of the Office of War Information. Frank’s reputation in the American government was a delicate and valuable thing. He needed official support for many of his endeavors, not the least of which was the procurement of visas for the ERC. He had several New Beginning friends who worked for the OWI, but only director Elmer Davis had enough clout to save his reputation in that office.
What you read here may not be what you are hoping for; it
is not altogether what
These words from Elmer Davis introduce Frank’s
first full-length book, Will Germany
Crack? A Factual Report on Germany from Within, written under the pseudonym
Paul Hagen, and published by Harper & Brothers in June 1942. Herein, Frank
paints a picture of
Frank and the
New Beginning group had originally supplied those Sopade reports, known as the Green Reports, during the 1930s, so the
implicit claim to exclusivity is somewhat justified, assuming that the sources
for the information remained the same. Shuster nevertheless touches upon an
unfortunate development in Frank’s work: his contacts within
It is self-evident that the type of contacts with the organized anti-Nazi movement inside Germany which “New Beginning” as a section of the Social Democratic labor movement was able to carry on prior to the war, based on a painstakingly built up [sic] system of communications between the groups inside of Germany and their representatives abroad, must have been to a large extent liquidated by the war.
The “regular courier service between
book provides a convenient summary of Frank’s position and the arguments with
which he attempted to convince potential financiers and prospective
collaborators, namely the
an introduction by Elmer Davis and endorsements by Reinhold Niebuhr and popular
newscaster Quincy Howe—all rather influential literary promoters—the book had
all the necessary qualifications for insider success. All the right people knew
about it and read it. Reviews appeared in the New York Times, the
Frank’s underlying motive was to demonstrate the potential for rebellion within
the Reich and to justify the need to aid the labor resistance movement. What
distinguishes this book from his previous articles and speeches was that it
avoided any explicit attempt to convince its audience ad nauseam of the existence of what had come to be called,
misleadingly, the “German resistance movement.” There was no similarity between
the singularity of la Resistance and the
plurality of der Widerstand. The book
demonstrates instead that if there were legitimate sources of active opposition
An indication of how terms change with time is the surprisingly open avowal of Frank and his friends that their work was “propaganda”—they were fully engaged in a propaganda war. Goebbels’ job title was likewise unambiguous: “Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda” [Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda]. The term “propaganda” has since taken on so much Orwellian baggage that it is hardly meant anymore in its literal sense. Today, the “politics of truth” has become standard fare for any democracy, but that term is oxymoronic and certainly more misleading. The historical “politics of propaganda” are comparatively honest, disillusive and somewhat cynically self-aware.
Any propaganda’s primary opponent (and perhaps its only opponent) is enemy propaganda. In Frank’s case, this enemy was, specifically, the inflated manufacturing statistics filling the Nazi papers and airwaves. The image of a prosperous Germany dissuaded one from believing in its weaknesses, a condition that hindered any appeal to aid the underground and that perpetuated the dangerous condemnation of the entire German people for the crimes of the Nazis: a population without dissent that is thriving on economic and military success appears complicit in the actions of its government. As evidenced by the success of Vansittart and his followers, the belief in collective German guilt jeopardized any hope among exiles of enlisting Allied support for the underground or for a democratic postwar reconstruction.
first item on Frank’s agenda was Hitler’s labor code. To combat the
astronomical unemployment rate in the early 1930s, Hitler enacted a
comprehensive drive to stimulate industrial production, mainly through
rearmament—more production obviously yielded more employment. The Nazi regime was
quite successful in jumpstarting Germany’s depressed economy, but according to
Frank, no one abroad wanted to acknowledge the root of this new-found
prosperity: the preparation for a new world war. Hitler had effectively created
a war economy in
The war question had figured prominently in the New Beginning debates of the mid-1930s. As historian Ursula Langkau-Alex notes, Walter Löwenheim (alias Miles) had laid out the group’s basic position on this issue in 1933:
The fall of National-Socialist power in particular, considering the atomization of the labor movement, could only be the direct or indirect result of a war in which the Nazi Reich was overthrown by democratic countries. That the war would be instigated by Nazi Germany was without a doubt.
Instead of advocating or rejecting the war on sentimental grounds, the New Beginning group simply recognized its necessity as the only means to bring about the defeat of the Nazis. In fact, this position was the primary cause of the group’s 1935 schism: the Löwenheim circle had come to adopt a defeatist attitude, whereas the Frank-Löwenthal circle chose instead to prepare for the coming world war and for the democratic revolution that they believed would follow.
however, the war question had become moot, and such a debate was not Frank’s
purpose anyhow. What he seeks in Will
Germany Crack? is to consider the sociological effects that Hitler’s labor
code was having on the German workers. He deplores the transformation of the
once model socially-conscious laborer into a “soldier of production.” This
militarization of all aspects of German life under the Nazis—from the factory,
through the kitchen to the frontline—has been analyzed by such social
historians as Detlev Peukert. Pervasive
militarization is an essential characteristic of all totalitarian regimes, from
Only travel when you must; if you do travel, don’t complain.
Limit your luggage to absolute essentials.
Say your good-byes before you come to the platform.
Make up a team in your compartment, with the traveler who has been there the longest as
Do not shove with your elbows, and if anyone shows lack of discipline, reprimand him
Don’t bother the guards and railway employees, they are always overworked.
Not only does the military transformation and
homogenization of labor destroy the traditional ways in which a worker goes
about his life and work, it also has an adverse effect on his productivity:
“The result of Hitler’s labor code has been that in taking away the
organizational rights, the liberties and the privileges of the German worker,
the Nazis have taken his initiative, his voluntary co-operation and his
the experienced workers of old were by and large replaced or supplemented with
what Frank calls unskilled ersatz
labor: workers brought in from
dependence on military victories for the continued success of Hitler’s regime
certainly seemed obvious at the time, and it seems like a commonplace now, but
perhaps the most bizarre phenomenon of the era was the ongoing success of the
Nazis even when defeat became inevitable. At a certain point, the government
elected and supported by the German people led its nation across the Rubicon of
defeat—or perhaps it was the
Of course, this does not mean a revolt is imminent. It would be an illusion to expect atomized masses to be able to resist the machine. There is also this dilemma: The Nazis themselves have made it clear to the German people that they will perish in case they are defeated.
The horrible fear of what would happen to
One thing, and one thing alone, holds [the German people] together in semblance of unity under Hitler. That thing is fear. Fear of the German Army and police apparatus, so long as the armed forces remain unbeaten and in being. But more important (and quite unnecessarily so) fear that defeat will mean unchecked vengeance, division into hopelessly uneconomic units, perpetual occupation and perhaps even extermination.
Fear was certainly a common denominator among the German masses, but so too was apathy, which grew steadily after three long years of campaigns, bombardments and food shortages. This common feeling precluded any hope of revolution.
Only in his second book, Germany after Hitler, published in January 1944, does Frank finally acknowledge the impossibility of rebellion from within. The odd paradox—the closer the Allied victory came, the farther the hopes of the German resistance—is the grander manifestation of the particular paradox which came to define the political life of Paul Hagen: his relevance would dwindle shortly after the fall of Nazism.
Potential for Resistance
cruel political fate only became clear to him in hindsight some years after the
war when his exclusion from the German reconstruction was sealed. In 1942,
despite his disintegrated contacts with the underground movement and the
dimming prospect of a labor rebellion, these thoughts were far from his mind.
The burning question of the day regarding internal resistance was the
possibility of a Generals Revolt, or a revolt “from above.” Rudolf Hess’ flight
Frank, however, there was no real difference between the aims of the military
and those of the Nazis—the two factions allied themselves to combat the Weimar
Republic and had been serving each other’s interests ever since. Even if a
clique of generals had the ability overthrow Hitler and the Nazi Party
apparatus, such an action would hardly be in its own interests. Moreover, if
such a coup succeeded and the “new” government sued the Allies for peace, thus
ending the war, nothing significant would change in
his condemnation of the idea of “revolt from above” almost to a fault. In an
apparently unpublished commentary on the recent Hess flight to
Hitler sent Hess to
Hess’ motivations remain unclear to this day, but
Frank’s account is especially unintelligible. Why would apparent dissent among
Nazi leaders demoralize Hitler’s enemies? What exactly was to come of this
Trojan horse, or “Trojan-Hess,” as he calls it? Frank tells his reader that
these questions are useless. Furthermore, some of Frank’s sources for the Will Germany Crack? chapter, “The Truth
about the ‘General’s Revolt’,” were suspect. An October 1942 letter from his
New Beginning colleague Richard Löwenthal in
where was the greatest potential for resistance and democratic ascendancy in
Frank’s social commentary is a blend of serious critiques of the Nazi exploitation of the traditional class system and playful anecdotes illustrating the often pathetic application of Nazi authoritarianism on individual Germans. For example, the following two passages:
The party which came to power as the spokesman of the middle class against the crushing millstone of the ‘plutocracies’ on the one side, and against the labor movement on the other, did not hesitate one instant to use its power for the ruthless destruction of its faithful storm battalions.
Frank here refers in part to the notorious “Night of the Long Knives” (Die Nacht der langen Messer) of June 30 – July 1, 1934, more literally a “stab in the back” than Versailles ever was, during which Hitler purged the ranks of his earliest supporters from the lower middle class, murdering Ernst Röhm and dismantling the Sturmabteilung (the “Brown Shirts”). And here is a passage shortly before this biting criticism of Hitler’s unscrupulous hypocrisy:
Farmers have been sent to prison because they were caught secretly milking their cows in the night before the inspectors came so that the cows would not seem to give much milk.
Instances of such petty arrests are comically pathetic, but also profoundly chilling if one considers the inevitable consequences: at best, release and a black mark on one’s Gestapo file; at worst, deportation to a concentration camp. Frank’s style is to juxtapose such personal accounts, which sometimes sound like rumor, with socioeconomic and political analysis—an accessible mixture of theory and praxis.
For Frank, the key to understanding the Nazi mastery of all facets of German life is the Party’s appropriation of the labor movement, its conquest of small business, and its alliance with big business—in short, the construction of a monopoly over the means of production. Hitler effectively liquidated the petite bourgeoisie of artisans, shopkeepers and tradesmen; his intention, which was largely realized with a series of decrees in 1938-1939 severely regulating independent business, was to reduce the middle class to proletarian status. The Nazis even joked with these dispossessed small businessmen, many of whom had once supported the Social-Democrats: “You wanted Socialism; well, now you’ve got it.” Frank also makes a learned observation that Hitler’s favorite opera, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, involves cobblers, goldsmiths, bakers, and tinsmiths, i.e. representatives of the burgeoning middle class: “the Meistersinger regime” eats its own. The plan of National Socialism was to completely polarize society into a feudal despotism: the Führer and Party officials would ally with big industrial cartels like Krupp, IG Farben and Thyssen on the top, and the undifferentiated and obedient proletarian masses would wallow on the bottom. Frank explains what he calls the process of “osmosis” between the State and big business: the two sectors “mutually penetrated” each other’s interests. The Nazis posed as the protectors of industry and
depict, in glowing colors, the paradise awaiting Big
Business after victory: the maintenance of
Apparently the “socialist” element of Nazism had ceased even to be vacuous rhetoric—this appeal to big business imagined by Frank is at first glance a pure capitalist-imperialist fantasy.
Frank proceeds to expose the other side of the Nazi overture: to the workers and farmers, the Nazis constantly espouse the importance of increased state control and the necessity that the industrialists relinquish their traditional powers. This apparent contradiction in Nazi policy is indicative of more than mere “politics as usual.” As Frank explains, the osmosis of State and big business is both a collusion of interest and of personnel. Essentially, the Nazi bureaucracy became coterminous with big business and vice versa:
The so-called “brown bolshevism” is nothing more than the famous osmosis. The Nazis have suppressed all other classes; atomized and deprived of their rights, they are held down by their own special elite groups and by the Nazi terror apparatus. The State controls Big Business too, but more warily, with more care and consideration, one might say. Yes, the Nazis milk this cow too, but they also tend her and feed her. The Nazis have penetrated deeply into Big Business but, on the other hand, Big Business has penetrated deeply into the party. . . . The very system of state control itself is an expression of Big Business influence.
The final sentence reveals a common sentiment
among socialists that Nazism was not the work of just one man, Hitler, but
rather, as a form of fascism, the full maturation of monopoly capitalism—the
old order advanced into old age. What Frank implies by the “democratic
revolution” is the rise of the proletariat. It is difficult to say whether his
tenure in the
confirmation of his theory of osmosis, he relies heavily on the testimony of
Fritz Thyssen, the great steel magnate and supporter-turned-opponent of the
NSDAP who fled into exile in 1939, but was later caught and sent to
great counterpart, usual enemy and sometime friend of the socialist labor
movement were the communists. Frank’s opinion of them is much in line with the
established New Beginning position: “The communist change-over to resistance
against the Nazis was quicker and more fundamental than that of other
first-hour collaborationists [i.e. the SPD leadership in 1933], but it will be
a long time before the communists learn how to cope with Nazi persecution.” The Gestapo
statistics on the number of Communist agitators arrested were not always
accurate because “the Nazis call everyone who resists a ‘communist’.” This same
tendency to group all left-wing dissidents under the name “communist” was also
prevalent in the
The failure of the Social-Democratic Party to stand up to Hitler in the early days of the regime had a great disillusioning effect on workers. As historian Allan Merson notes,
The conclusion drawn was that it would be wrong to make any serious compromise with social-democratic reformism and that the Communist Party must maintain its whole apparatus ready for the seizure of power, meanwhile seeking to exploit the basic instability of the Nazi régime by an offensive strategy.
. . .
Any recognition that the Party had suffered a defeat, and therefore any attempt to explain the causes for defeat, was denounced as defeatism or even cowardice.
Dozens of lives would be risked, and often lost, just to publish a few hundred propaganda pamphlets that really contained nothing else than the tired platitudes of Party rhetoric in use since the days of Lenin. Yet their actions were somewhat understandable. Merson speculates that “the effect of the establishment of Hitler’s dictatorship had been to confirm the German Communists in their leftist line.” Their reckless operations bordered on suicidal, and because of this any collaboration with more cautious socialist groups on a unified labor front was hopeless.
The very thing that Frank and the New Beginning group wanted was a Volksfront or Arbeitsgemeinschaft encompassing all labor ideologies for the fight against fascism, but for their own safety, it was often impossible to work with the communists. KPD representatives proposed grand collaboration schemes and criticized the socialists when they refused to participate. In December 1933, the Thirteenth Plenum of the Communist International (Comintern) decided to cease all overtures to the Social-Democratic Party leadership and instead to pursue that party’s rank-and-file members directly: all sections of the Comintern must “persistently . . . fight for the realization of a united militant front with the Social Democratic workers, in spite of and against the will of the treacherous leaders of Social Democracy.”
The composition of the SPD leadership in the years 1933-1934 was controversial. Lewis J. Edinger notes that the Nazi strategy in combating its rival political parties was to leave their upper echelons of leadership relatively intact while decimating the middle ranks and organizational elements. Six of twenty SPD executives went into exile to form the Sopade—Edinger refers to it as a “rump executive,” despite the fact that it claimed full leadership of the Party from the end of 1933 onward. While the KPD sustained near incapacitating losses in the early years, including the imprisonment of its most able leader, Ernst Thälmann, it somehow managed to retain its unity, even through 1934, when the Nazi assault on labor parties and trade unions reached its zenith. The fractioning that was basically exclusive to the Social-Democratic movement actually may have worked to the Communists’ disadvantage. Merson holds that considering the KPD’s relative unity, it would have taken “something approaching the destruction of the movement to force a radical revision of its organisation and methods of struggle.” The “mass struggle” into which
many thousands of Communists threw themselves head-on [was] a fight which was virtually certain to end in arrest, torture, imprisonment and very possibly death. It is difficult not to be impressed by the fact that so many of them—rank-and-file members as well as experienced Party officials—volunteered again and again and often returned to the struggle after being released from a concentration camp on condition of abstaining from political activity.
Blind devotion to the cause was a characteristic held
in common by Communists and Nazis. Those socialists who remained in
Communist critics often targeted Frank, at whom they could vent their frustrations, general and particular, regarding the formation of a common labor front. One such scathing review of Will Germany Crack? states:
Aside from the obvious physical danger to
socialists in accepting such a proposal for a united front was the political
danger: the Comintern, and thus
with the general New Beginning position, the real enemy was not necessarily the
KPD, but the Comintern. Historian Langkau-Alex cites a definitive “credo” from
a New Beginning publication: “The new social order [in postwar
communists and socialists in exile, the end of the war brought with it a
newfound irrelevance. Only careful political maneuvering on the part of the old
SPD leaders Hans Vogel and Erich Ollenhauer ensured some degree of continuity
in the German labor movement. The Russians, on the other hand, facilitated the
reentry of many exiled KPD leaders into
Was There a German Resistance?
Whether the communists or the socialists employed the correct strategy in combating fascism is a moot particular compared to the greater question, “Is there any opposition in Germany?” on which Frank devotes an entire chapter. This chapter is a direct response to the puzzling countercurrent of literature written by those who either chose to ignore evidence of the Widerstand or to openly deny it. What has since become an accepted area of study and has thus been accorded some degree of historical truth—i.e. the manifold, yet limited resistance movement against Hitler—was not so widely acknowledged during and immediately after the war. For example, a letter to the editor of the New York Times dated October 17, 1944, which draws on reports from Polish workers instructed to contact the German underground, states:
There is a conspicuous absence of any proof of an
anti-Nazi movement in
Another letter to the Times dated
My own experience at
This latter statement demonstrates the type of
skepticism leveled at those who spoke of a unified underground movement or any
kind of widespread but clandestine anti-Nazi sentiment. After the war, many
Germans undoubtedly claimed to have engaged in some resistance activity in
order to justify to themselves and to others whatever Nazi atrocities in which
they were complicit. German papers worldwide ran articles that recounted in
excited language the activities of various underground groups—one begins, “Es gab eine deutsche Widerstandbewegung! Daran wird heute—sei
es im Ausland wie im Inland—niemand mehr zweifeln” [There was a German resistance movement! There is no
longer anyone in
problem for public recognition of the Widerstand
was that secrecy was preserved well after the war, especially in the East, and
that when the “democratic revolution” was carried out, it was done very
quietly. Many New Beginners remained underground in the East through the late
1940s because the Soviet occupation was just as dangerous as the Nazi regime.
But slowly, the new generation of politicians and labor leaders began to emerge
in the West, with New Beginners taking prominent positions. This was their
strategy since the mid-1930s: to prepare a new caste of young leaders for the
But why exactly did the resistance groups fail in their immediate objective, that of overthrowing Hitler? Frank identifies two strands in the German public attitude toward the regime that limited the potential for active opposition. The first is the effect of stressful working conditions and, contrary to the reports of Nazi propagandists, the steadily decreasing standard of living. This is the numbing effect of suffering, an omnipresent indifference: “There is nothing that takes the mind off politics so effectively as to exist on a level of misery which consumes all a person’s time and energy and leaves nothing over for more important things,” i.e. anything more than passive resistance. A corollary to this involuntary apathy, and Frank’s second strand, is the popular cultivation of the myth of messianic salvation:
One morning we shall wake up and the whole specter will be gone. There will be placards signed by the Army Command announcing that the government has been overthrown: “Goebbels, Himmler, Ribbentrop and the gang were shot last night for treason to their country. Hitler is in an insane asylum. With our victorious troops behind us and with the consent of the German people, we have offered the world a just and honorable peace.”
Those passively in wait for the day of deliverance, a deus ex machina, looked to the chivalrous General Staff for their Messiah. Cultivation of the myth of the Generals’ Revolt could have been a clever political maneuver on the part of Hitler had he thought of it first. The Army and State are thus put at odds in a perfectly contained “argument” over national policy: “There have been times when royal families tried to satisfy everybody by creating the impression that the king was for war but the crown prince was for peace. . . . An old Machiavellian trick.” The German people was somewhat ameliorated, or at the very least kept in submission, by this ruse. Even if it was not deliberately orchestrated, mild enmity between Army and Party could indeed satisfy everyone, the generals included; everyone needed an immediate clique or racket to which he or she could be loyal—the Party did not provide adequate individual camaraderie. Nothing more than “professional rivalry,” however, this animosity among the generals stagnated progressive action and proved to be perhaps the most formidable barrier to resistance in all sectors of society.
the masses of enthusiastic Nazi supporters, Will
early and continued foreign policy successes were the main reason for his
support among the masses. The reoccupation of the Rhineland, remilitarization,
victory in the Saarland plebiscite, the annexation of the Sudetenland and the Anschluss of Austria—in short, the
large-scale repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, plus more—all confirmed
the belief that Hitler was bettering Germany’s international position and reestablishing
its honor. The appeasement policies of Daladier and Chamberlain strengthened
Hitler’s hand. The dictator’s support came to be dependent on these foreign
policy successes, which soon became military victories. Thus, popular support
for the regime began to wane in early 1943 after the crushing defeat at
explanations could account for one’s support of some vague foreign policy or
abstract political order, but what of the everyday terror, from the horrible
Jewish pogroms to the constant instances of police intimidation and brutality? Peukert
offers a possible reason: “an aspect of consent to the Nazi regime was not so
much the often-cited fear of terror as the emotional approval of terror when it
was directed against ‘community aliens’ [Gemeinschaftsfremde]
and hence served the supposed restoration of ‘order.’” This
emotional investment in Nazi terror combined with a “longing for normality” bred
of many years under an ineffective democracy and of a global depression that
But vacuous form may not have been so impotent. Peukert cites Klaus Theweleit’s interpretation of the symbolic significance of the Nazi flag. The color White was identified with “tamed sexuality,” chastity, neutralized femininity, cleansing destruction, conformity and of course racial purity; Red with the “bleeding pulp” to which all enemies and nonconformists are beaten; and Black with the nothingness of the individual, the work-exhaustion ecstasy (in lieu of sexual orgasm) after having served the Führer to one’s physical limits. Everything about Hitler’s regime was carefully engineered to fit into a coherent network of symbols and slogans intended to mold individual wills together into the Will of the Party.
With regard to the Nazi tactics of control, Peukert quotes a Sopade pamphlet: “The essence of fascist control of the masses is compulsory organization on the one hand and atomization on the other.” Hitler welcomed and fueled internecine conflict within the Party, between departments and police organs, and without the Party, especially among his primary opponents, the remnants of the shattered labor parties. The German people, in spite of the supposed conformity preached by the propagandists, were fragmented; all of this was a deliberate atomization of German society by the Nazi oligarchy. Unfortunately for the underground resistance groups, this fragmentation corrupted their ranks as well, precluding any unified action. Furthermore, resistance and dissent were so thoroughly forced out of the public sphere into the private that the “people’s sense of concern [for] the excesses of the regime” was severely diminished. The public saw no real debate, saw no alternative presented before them, so became convinced that there was in fact no other alternative than their consciences, and fear makes people weak. Perhaps that is why the communist underground groups went to such insane lengths to distribute their propaganda—just for the sake of preserving an alternative that was visible in the public sphere, for proving its existence. Resistors and critics “came from virtually all groups within the population, but they did not manage to achieve a true collective identity as an opposition; they remained isolated from one another, held back by passivity or preoccupied by special interests.” This was precisely what Hitler wanted.
did not fail by itself. As Frank and his friends had realized long before, only
military defeat would bring down Hitler. According to Frank, the defeat of the
Nazis was not the end, but one more step in the deutscher Sonderweg, the “special German path of development,” which
significant things had changed for Frank by the time he published his second
book in January 1944. The first was that whatever trickle of information from
underground sources which had still existed in 1942 ceased entirely. Contrary
to the gradual development of resistance movements in the occupied countries,
the German underground generally started at its strongest and then decayed with
time, atrophying from inaction. The Gestapo honed its tactics as the years went
on, arresting evermore allegedly subversive people—and receiving evermore
denunciations, valid or not—and the sheer losses to the original core of men
and women forced underground by the Machtergreifung
and the subsequent abolition of independent labor groups were beyond
restoration. The second thing that had changed for Frank was the obvious
development of the war.
With the eventual fall of Nazi Germany certain—it had indeed “cracked”—talk of a revolution that would overthrow Hitler from within lost its vitality. The Roosevelt Administration pursued a consistent policy of devoting all its efforts toward winning the war, and using this aim as an excuse not to tackle any of the various subordinate concerns, such as accommodating the flood of refugees in the early 1940s, supporting financially or militarily any of the resistance groups in Germany, and most glaringly, devoting any of its resources to liberating the millions dying in the concentration camps. As cold as it might have seemed, winning the war probably was the best way to solve all of these problems as quickly as possible. Thus, Frank more or less gave up on his plans for immediate aid of the resistance and instead focused on preparing the Western world for the acceptance of German democracy after the war. This is his primary task in Germany after Hitler.
second and final full-length book was published in
controversial trends determine the tone of the book: the first is a
willingness, more than a mere admission of necessity, to collaborate with
Russian forces on the reconstruction. Frank views the grand alliance of East
and West against Hitler with an uncharacteristic naïveté, given that the Cold
War essentially started immediately after the German defeat and had its
foundation lain much earlier. Another trend is related to the first: a
thinly-veiled critique of the imperialistic tendency of Western democracies,
especially with regard to their plans for occupation. After four years of
fruitless and futile efforts to bring about an active collaboration between the
Allied governments and underground democratic elements in
adjective “militant” merely signifies “proactive” and in no way implies violent
cannot help but smile and wish that Frank had not been so wrong in his
predictions, but hindsight is unjust. His proposals stand as the testament of a
dying generation of radical Social-Democrats. In describing the form of
government to be produced by the dependent revolution, Frank writes of a
“social program” representing “a system of democratic planning, as against a
restoration of profit capitalism.” The goal of
such a program would be to serve the “public welfare and not private profits.” The target
reader of this discourse was the Wilsonian-Rooseveltian New Dealer with a
progressive interest in international affairs. This was the typical unit of
To allay the doubts of more conservative readers, and perhaps some skeptical liberals, Frank assures that a planned economy is not incompatible with democracy or individual liberties:
Democratic rights guaranteeing the dignity and the freedom of the individual are in no way irreconcilable with a planned economic society, particularly if only such a society can promise to save people from starvation. Quite the contrary, only in such an economy can they be guaranteed.
He calls for the modernization of German
agriculture, including a “a cooperative type of collectivization,” and the
“removal of privileges” that control
the means of production.  For
It is well known that the labor movement stood for all
that was progressive in the
. . .
Compared with the rest of the parties in
. . .
Only those who were able to adapt themselves and learn, and who have the strength to begin anew will be able to make a real contribution . . . [i.e.] the young militants of the underground.
A new labor organization after the war must seek “to eradicate the heritage of autocratic bureaucracy” which hampered the old movement. In keeping with the original methodology of the Leninist Organization, elements of this new movement would rise in cadre-like fashion to lead the German people toward a mutually beneficial democracy. Frank cites four forces latent among the German people that indicate their readiness for change: first, vital social forces, or class agitation; second, a “general craving for personal and political liberty”; third, “patriotic sentiments,” or “the urge for self-determination”; and fourth, the hoped for “assistance from progressive international forces.” Only Hitler’s downfall was necessary to release these forces in a positive revolution that would finally bring the German democratic revolution to a close.
program is rational but self-contained. Such an allegedly “realistic” and
“pragmatic” man could not possibly believe that the victorious Allies would
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Paul Hagen”
On the Radio
An important part of any public
figure’s itinerary in the 1940s was a steady circuit of radio appearances. Some
people, such as Elmer Davis, made their entire reputations over the airwaves.
Frank became a frequent radio commentator, usually appearing as one of several
experts on German matters on such programs as NBC’s “Wake up,
The roundtable format was the most
common for political and social discussions. Frank often appeared with one or
two of his associates from the American Friends of German Freedom. On
Lewis is the first to be questioned.
His responses revolve around domestic themes like the abolition of race
discrimination and the expansion of social security benefits, not precisely on
matters related to mass propaganda and political warfare—his justification is
that building a “more perfect democracy” in
Frank’s half of the discussion summarizes some
points made in Will Germany Crack?,
including debunking the myth of the Generals’ Revolt and emphasizing the role
of the labor movement and the common soldier in the postwar “democratic
revolution.” Political warfare will hasten the defeat of the Nazis, thus
bringing about the revolution that will finally free
Since the war
came home to
Allied nations must endeavor to support the opposition in
Frank’s solution for
One could not hope to forget about Hitler once he
was defeated and revert back to the fantasy world of
The May 21 broadcast concludes with a summary by
Seiferheld. In it, he maintains that the
It is apparent,
then, that we need not indeed must
special propaganda envisioned by Seiferheld was oxymoronic and certainly did
not accord with what Frank suggested. Americans’ aversion to the “lies” and
“deceit” of propaganda ignored the practical effects that such practices could
have. Frank sought to beat Hitler and Goebbels at their own game. Seiferheld
deemed it necessary that the American propaganda be “sincere” and that it carry
“the unmistakable ring of truth.” Fair enough, but the policy of merely letting
the relative successes of democracy in the
In the early years of the war,
spring 1940 to autumn 1942, the subjects of Frank’s radio broadcasts centered
upon the dire conditions of the German economy. Very much as in his two books,
he discussed the food shortages, the lack of consumer goods, the weariness of
the workers, and the temporary “drunken” quality of German popular excitement
about Nazi military victories, a quality that would fade quickly and disappear
entirely once Hitler’s armies suffered defeat: “You have the most marvelously
organized army, and the hungriest and weariest country behind it.”
He also insisted on the existence of small cells of resistance, mainly constituted
by the nearly 10% of the pre-1933 labor movement that had remained “faithful
even in this terrible period of oppression.”
Yet in these years, Frank was evasive when asked what he thought the
On Thanksgiving Day, 1942, Frank
delivered an address to the American public on WNYC, the city’s public radio
station and the first in the nation, a year before, to announce the Japanese
Other radio appearances were more
confrontational. He debated a number of his public enemies, including members
of the Society for the Prevention of World War III, like Emil Ludwig and Louis
The Nizer debate took place in March 1944 on NBC’s program “Wake Up, America!”
moderated by Fred G. Clark, founder and chairman of the American Economic
Each debater read an opening statement and gave two alternating rebuttals.
Nizer, author of the book What to Do with
Germany (New York: Readers Book Service, 1944), expounded the Vansittartist
view that Germany alone was responsible for the five wars fought over the past
eighty years, while Frank held that the recent manifestations of German
aggression had social and economic roots that extended far back into history
and across national borders: “Aggressive periods of nations are the product of
historical circumstances and not of inherent racial or national wickedness. . .
. Kaiser imperialism and Hitlerlism in twentieth century
Dismemberment of nations or long-term occupation has never been successful. The strongest peace is the peace which makes the aggressor nation of today a voluntary cooperator in the peaceful world of tomorrow. The weakest one is the one which takes responsibility away from the defeated and provides a breeding ground for bitterness and irredentism.
When Frank chides his opponent, “Mr. Nizer needs legendary history to back his legendary solution,” he just as easily could apply the criticism to Vansittart himself, who reveled in broad historical strokes and forays into mythology.
Nizer’s solution centers on a vigorous and
long-term reform of the German educational system, and only after an entire
generation had been raised in such a reformed system could the United Nations
even consider granting
The effect of his radio broadcasts
is difficult to gauge. Sometimes they were quite the physical ordeal. At the
bottom of the script of a rapid-fire “interrogation” by Maurice Joachim—of
“Majestic Master of Mystery” fame—Frank writes, “May I say that in the nearly
18 years I’ve spoken on a microphone, I leave this one wet.”
If anything, the mere publicity aided his book sales. To supplement these New
York-bound broadcasts, Frank traveled extensively to deliver lectures,
participate in discussion forums, and otherwise present the face and voice of
In the years prior to 1944, after
which they hired an agent, Frank and Anna Caples managed and booked the
majority of his speaking engagements. The venues and hosts varied, but most of
them were affiliated with a university or social club, like the YMCA or Rotary
Club. From 1940 to 1945, he made over 100 documented appearances, but doubtless
had many more of which no record remains. He earned on average $75 per
appearance, and a total of nearly $2,000 from events booked by his agent, Open
Forum Speakers Bureau (
The reasons for his extended range were
multifarious. First, he always sought to reach a broader American audience for
the purpose of spreading a better understanding of democratic forces in
He had applied for lectureships and
professorships at many American universities throughout the 1940s, but only received
one favorable response. In August 1944, he was notified by Carter
Davidson, president of
These opinions are in direct contrast to those I held at the beginning of the year. I now feel I understand the Germans rather than condemn them. Thank you.
. . .
I want to tell you how much I have enjoyed your course; it has certainly proved very worthwhile and I feel that many ideas which you have expressed are attitudes which are needed to secure a lasting peace.
. . .
Dr. Hagen—I have
enjoyed your lectures very much, and this course has given me the much needed
chance to think more clearly about
. . .
Thank you for a better understanding of the German people. I hope there are more like you.
anybody “like” Frank had fled
Council for a Democratic
The culmination of Karl Frank’s
political activities in the
It failed for several reasons. The most obvious
was the oppressive weight of the irreconcilable political and personal
differences within the German exile community. Yet another perhaps less obvious
reason was the exclusive orientation of American foreign policy and the
The idea for a council of German representatives
came in reaction to the establishment in
The person who provided the initial impetus for
the council was Thomas Mann, whose prestige in the
Doucette cites correspondence between two
There would be
great displeasure in the government if refugees began discussing post-War
In addition, Doucette speculates that his daughter Erika may have played some role in convincing her father to dissociate himself from the council—apparently she had contacted the OSS “asking for help to get her father to quit the Committee as she felt that Frank was controlling her father and that her father was not able to compete with his wiles.” By all accounts, Frank was certainly a magnetic man; however, the likelihood that he would have been able to seduce Thomas Mann, a supremely intelligent and world-wise man—or that he would have dared to try—is remote. Nevertheless, many people, including Erika, had that impression of him.
Frank and his friends’ disappointment did not last
very long, because they soon received word from renowned Protestant theologian
Paul Tillich saying that he agreed to take Mann’s place as chairman. Some groups
remained hesitant to join, particularly the German Labor Delegation, but Frank
and the organizing committee took definite steps toward the formal
establishment of what thereafter became known as the Council for a Democratic
Germany. Not until
1. The study of
practical measures for post-war political reconstruction of a democratic
2. [The study of] Practical measures for purging German educational institutions, libraries, theaters and movies of Nazi and racist teachers and teachings for guiding future German education within democratic channels.
formulation of] a program of political unity to which all anti-Nazi forces in
CDG announced further that it would place its services at the disposal of the
Allied nations’ propaganda organs. It also hoped to influence the Allied
governments toward a reconstruction plan that would allow “political leeway” in
the selection of truly democratic leaders from among the German people. It
warned against partitioning the German state, as that would “create fertile
soil for new Pan-Germanist movements”—i.e. a partitioned
temptation increases to look for purely repressive solutions of the problem of
the CDG suggested the creation of a new organization of
The membership of the CDG was as diverse as it was selective. Tillich was of course the chairman. The initial board consisted of 19 members, here broken down by political persuasion (not necessarily by party affiliation):
Left-Wing Socialists: Siegfried Aufhäuser (SPD/RSD); Hermann Budzislawski (SPD);
Kurt Gläser (SPD/RSD); Karl B. Frank (NB); Paul Hertz (SPD); Jacob
Right-Wing Socialists: Horst W. Baerensprung; Albert Grzesinksi (SPD); Hans
Communists: Felix Boenheim (KPD), Bertolt Brecht; Albert Schreiner (KPD)
Centrists: Friedrich Baerwald (Zentrum)
No Persuasion: Alfons A. Nehring; Joseph Kaskell; Frederick J. Forell; Julius Lips;
The membership leans heavily to the left. The predominance of “left-wing socialists,” as characterized here, led to criticism from representatives of the Sopade. Aufhäuser had joined the council against the wishes of the German Labor Delegation. He, along with Hertz, was always a rebel within the Sopade. Another GLD member, Hedwig Wachenheim, initially agreed to participate, but stepped down under pressure from Katz and Seger. While the left-leaning arrangement may have suited their initial purposes, the balance would prove unsustainable.
Of course, the inclusion of communists brought criticism from many sides, even from delegates in the council itself. Frank’s old comrade-turned-foe Ruth Fischer devotes her entire May issue of The Network to demonstrating how the CDG is Soviet puppet organization no different from the Moscow-based NKFD—“They hope to fool the American public by the fact that the connection of the organizers and the signers of the Council’s declaration with the German communist apparatus is little known and well-hidden.” She speaks of “democratic camouflage” used to deceive the American sponsors. Of the 64 German signers of the declaration, she somehow casts suspicion of communism on 58, classifying them into nine categories:
Communists under the Discipline of the C. P. of
II. Important Contact Men, Non-Party Members
III. Isolated Former Communists
IV. Members of So-Called Independent Groups [Frank and Hertz are placed here]
V. Communist Literati, Artists and Theatrical Folk
Democrats, Converted to the
of the German-American Movement outside
IX. A Class in Itself
As for the six that did not make the list, who did not even qualify for “a class in itself”: “The remaining people are negligible. They will be allowed to express their philosophy and in return will be manipulated by the trained politicians.” She is rather talented at sniffing out “fellow travelers and the fellows of the fellow-travelers.” At one point she even surprises herself: “It is surprising to what extent the German Communists have been able to rig up a clear-cut majority.” Fischer’s criticism may have been extreme, and it certainly seems ridiculous now, but hers was only the radical manifestation of the constant undercurrent of anti-communism that permeated much of the émigré community, American public and even the highest levels of government. Frank himself was never called before the Dies Committee, but his American associates Frank Kingdon and James Wechsler were. It was very dangerous for Americans to be working with former and current Communists, especially those engaged in political and organizational activity.
But the CDG objectives regarding communism and the
Leniency was an unacceptable attitude to many
Americans. After all, the war had claimed thousands of American lives and
4. [The US and the UK] will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;
5. They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;
6. After the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.
Atlantic Charter was the secret agreement signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and
Winston Churchill aboard the USS Augusta
Another argument for a reasonable
The theme common to all of the CDG’s arguments was simply this: “The solution of the German problem is a part of the solution of the European problem.” War ravaged the world twice in three decades not because of problems specific to one particular nation, Germany, but rather because the European system was outdated and incapable of handling the diverse objective forces of the modern age: the breakdown of imperialism, the rise in proletarian mass movements, the threat of totalitarianism, and generally, the collapse of fin-de-siècle political and moral values. Or so the CDG members saw it. They were certainly correct in many respects, but they nevertheless had the ulterior motive of ensuring the continued existence of their homeland.
The final section of the
Frank and the CDG were fortunate enough to work
with sympathetic liberals and progressives in
The CDG lasted until October 1945 when it voluntarily disbanded. Long before then, however, a significant number of members left the group because they believed it was increasingly controlled by the communist representatives, who sought to align the council properly with the Moscow Free Germany movement. These seceders also had an eye toward saving their reputations. Fischer appeared to be proven correct; she was only mistaken with regard to her allegation of a conspiracy of the council’s non-communist members—it was precisely the non-communist members who resigned, whether outmaneuvered or disillusioned, and Frank and Hertz were among them. The CDG failed both as a sustainable coalition of German democratic forces and at its mission to influence Allied reconstruction policy.
American Association for a Democratic
In spring 1944 the American Friends of German Freedom underwent a transformation. The establishment of the CDG and its subsequent operation had become of chief importance to the AFGF circle. A deliberate realignment toward the Council for a Democratic Germany led the group to change its name to the American Association for a Democratic Germany (AADG). This new group advertised itself as an official sponsor of the CDG. Not only a change in name, but also a modulation of personnel and a relocation of offices marked this new phase in Frank’s political career. In fact, he no longer sat on the group’s committee.
Christian Gauss, dean of
Although the AADG seemingly concentrated its
efforts on promoting the CDG—to a much greater extent than the AFGF ever
supported the ICC—it actually expanded its operational base: more personnel,
bigger budget, presumably bigger office, etc. The effect for Frank of this
concentration, however, was something akin to having all his eggs in one
basket. He staked much on the success of the CDG. Some former AFGF sponsors
were put off by this new alignment. Journalist and foreign correspondent Louis
P. Lochner asked Niebuhr what exactly were “the reasons for limiting support of
the proposed American Association for a Democratic Germany to that particular
group [the CDG].” Moreover, he worried about continuing his sponsorship of the
AADG because he had been “questioned by well-meaning friends . . . as to what
made me support what they believe to be a communist outfit.” He asks whether
the CDG is in fact a “counter-part to the Moscow Committee for a Free Germany
and will be dominated from
The situation is
that we supported the Council for [a] Democratic Germany for it was the only
over-all group which worked out a program in terms acceptable to all the
representatives of the democratic parties of
correspondence dates from July 1944. By then a faction of dissatisfied
Social-Democrats had already withdrawn from the CDG in protest to what they
interpreted as the growing influence of the council’s communist members.
Niebuhr, Frank and Hertz defended their positions and the independence of the
A constant source of vexation for
Frank, echoing the trouble encountered by Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue
Committee, was his attempt to obtain a re-entry visa from the US State
Department. The first interdict on his travel came in January 1940 when he
sought to return to
In early January, national secretary
of the CIIA John W. Holmes contacted Frank about making a two-week lecture tour
of the CIIA’s various branches. He was to speak about the underground anti-Nazi
movement, the various means of political warfare against Hitler, and the
postwar makeup of
Frank had met Currie in September through the
introduction of Edward C. Carter, secretary of the Institute of Pacific
Relations and vice-president of the International Coordination Council, at the
Conference on North Atlantic Relations in Prout’s Neck, Maine. Since then,
Frank had been to see him a couple of times, always leaving him literature on
the German underground.
When Frank met with him in
On April 14, Frank received a letter from the CIIA
informing him that the organization’s chairman had personally contacted the
Canadian Department of External Affairs and received “assurance that immediate
action would be taken by them to intervene on your behalf.”
What it meant to intervene in a
The board asked Lauchlin Currie to appear as a witness. According to an FBI investigation report, the board questioned Currie about Frank’s past affiliation with the Communist Party. Frank was indeed a past member of the KPD, but Currie “did not feel that there would be any danger to the country through the admission [i.e. the readmission] of Frank.” The board went on to ask whether Currie “would advocate the policy of granting a visa to an individual who admittedly is of the opinion that if there happens to be a conflict between his decisions” and those of the government to which “he owes allegiance, that he would follow his own decision.” A bizarre question, but at bottom it revealed the review board’s premium on national loyalty, apparently even if that nation was a totalitarian regime. Currie answered that he generally would not advocate such a policy, but his position would have to depend on “the specific case”—in this instance, a worthy defender of democracy and valuable ally in the fight against the Nazis. The hearing concluded by losing itself in a silly ideological debate on the difference (or “distinction”) between “Socialism” and “Communism.”
Several years later, when questioned about the hearing by FBI investigators—amid McCarthy’s communist witch hunts—Currie admitted that he “now feels that he was rather indiscreet in sponsoring the visa application of Carl Borromeaus Josev Frank [sic], better known as Paul Hagen,” and that he only sponsored Frank because the latter “was a friend of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.” It is worth noting that the FBI investigator refered to the American Friends of German Freedom as a “Communist infiltrated organization.” At which point the AFGF became considered as such, and by how many people in the government, is an important question because its answer could provide a definite reason for the failure of the group and its subsidiaries to secure any government support.
The second episode in Frank’s visa saga was much
longer and more frustrating than the
He had always held the position that political
émigrés could claim no right to lead those who had remained within
He entered into correspondence with his New
Beginning colleague in London Evelyn Anderson to see about arranging a British
visa should he decide to go to Germany, knowing full well that he would
probably not be able to get back into the US. This attempt came to nothing. In
1946, Frank filed citizenship papers with the US Immigration and Naturalization
Service, hoping that becoming an American citizen might help his chances of
receiving a reentry permit. Again, this was to no avail. Several of Frank’s
friends in the
After repeated attempts, Frank finally quit. By
1948, he had progressed in his studies of social psychology and had established
a psychoanalysis practice in
Karl O. Paetel, an early chronicler of both the German emigration and the anti-Nazi resistance, who was also an acquaintance of Frank, writes:
A peculiar world, exile: a microcosm of German virtues and vices. Those who were permanently on the run lived in the alembic of a preexisting schism between individualism and “community of fate” [Schicksalsgemeinschaft], between hopeful schemers for a future Germany and those fatalists who resigned themselves to the fate of Xerxes [i.e. to remain powerless in exile].
Hagen,” as one example of the thousands of European political émigrés during
the Hitler era, demonstrates the sort of business that often took place within
the exile community, particularly with respect to the climate of denunciations
and accusations in which he worked. He was an individualist insofar as he
fought against the common destiny that Hitler had determined for all German
progressives in 1933: death, exile, irrelevance. On the other hand, he and his
friends shunned limited and selfish individualism by envisioning a new “community
of fate” for all democratic-minded people in
“Paul Hagen”—his exploits, friends
and enemies, successes and failures—is somewhat larger than life. He, Hagen, is
the hypostasized, or fossilized, manifestation of Karl Frank’s political ego.
But more generally, he serves as an example of the chaotic and arbitrary genesis of human events. For, history is not a course upon which humans walk, steadily, silently, lifelessly into the unknown. History is alive. It blooms perennially into dark and brilliant fractal patterns that obey certain rules but are nevertheless unpredictable and infinitely mutable. The “case” brought against Frank in 1940 by his fellow Social-Democrats in exile, and the tedious investigation that ensued, was in accord with SPD traditions. It commenced according to convention, following rules established by a long Party past, but it spiraled out of control into a fortuitous and irrational battle of human passions, jealousies and arrogance, occasionally tempered by equally irrational compassion, and eventually abandoned out of bitterness or apathy. In hindsight—that dreaded saboteur of historical understanding—one might consider the outcome of der Fall Paul Hagen to have been inevitable, taking into account the composition of the investigative committee and the old quarrels that pervaded the exile community. But Frank requested the investigation because he believed that it was the only assured way to clear his name. One cannot blame him for poor judgment simply because it ended in failure, when it just as easily could have been a success. The caprice of history makes heroes out of fools and failures out of worthier men.
The bitterness that Frank felt about
not having been able to collaborate with the
Hagen and his friends are the kind of Germans with whom the world could get along; but it could cost us heavily if we too hastily assume that they have much honest support, or that the people who come out smiling to greet the army of occupation are, in any large number, animated by any emotion but a desire to get off as lightly as they can.
I have never been a consultant of the O.W.I. My Christian name, by the way[,] is spelled Karl, not with a C. I have never been asked to be a consultant by the O.W.I. I have never written or spoken a word for the O.W.I., as much as I regret not to have had a chance, but I did not make the slightest effort, knowing the complications. If there is a Carl Frank on the books, it is a different one, if the whole thing is not a frame-up. But even that is very possible. It would be boring to you to tell you more, but I can only say I have been in a hell of an attack for over two years, in which the most incredible denunciations and accusations have come up, some of them traceable, others not yet cleared up even today.
. . .
I do not need to tell you that I have been utterly disgusted all the
time to think that your own important job was always made more difficult
through the ridiculous
One of these later accusers was Guenther Reinhardt, who was an associate of Kamp and a an employee of the FBI, and who went so far as to claim that the OWI was entirely ‘subservient’ to Frank, ‘either by a conspiratorial leadership in an imaginary group [he led] . . . or indirectly by being under the fascinating influence of some ladies [such as Ingrid Warburg], whom [he] . . . fascinated in turn.’
into the last decades of his life, he continued to feel the sting of slander. In
1953 he received an anonymous postcard, which certainly was a joke, reading,
“Comrade Paul Hagen: We would like to see you back in the Soviet. It is just
across the ocean. Drop in sometime.”
Later, in 1961, Frank’s former New Beginning colleague Waldemar von Knoeringen,
who had become an important figure in the postwar reconstitution of the SPD,
wrote him a letter in which he referred to Anna Caples by her old underground
alias. Frank responds: “There is no Joan anymore as there is no
An onset of weariness, a growing sense of
impotence and a realistic recognition of his irrelevance all led Frank to
resign from active political life. One might date his exact abdication as of
Frank’s letter of
I feel doubly urged . . . to explain to you why I should be released from further active cooperation [with the American Association for a Democratic Germany]. Believe me, it is neither lack of interest nor lack of responsibility for the cause.
I do, however,
feel strongly that I would be of little use in the board or National Committee.
My German (New Beginning) mandate, the only one I ever had, has long expired.
American mandate, I have none. I am not even a letterhead figure as an
ex-expert. My merits in this capacity, known to few, are questioned by some
people in the
The German phrase is a line from the biblical book of Daniel (). The great Babylonian king Balshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, is proud and immoderate; to humble him, God sends a vision in the form of a floating hand which writes on a wall three Aramaic words, one of which, “Tekel,” the prophet Daniel interprets to mean, “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting” [man hat dich auf der Waage gewogen und zu leicht befunden]. Frank uses the phrase as an expression of his humility, as a resignation of his “kingdom,” of his importance, and of whatever political ambitions he might have had in the past, because they are no longer viable. The more popular idiom derived from this passage is “read the writing on the wall.” Balshazzar is slain the night after the vision. Frank’s allusion probably does not extend that far. His letter to Goldbloom concludes with a definitive gesture of farewell to the AADG, the descendant of that first group of supporters, the Friends of German Freedom:
I am thinking
back to the days of the founding fathers and mothers, and feel a deep gratitude
to Reinhold Niebuhr, Norman Thomas, Mary Fox and the late Charney Vladeck and
others, who then gave me and my friends the greatest encouragement of our
lives. It is impossible to thank them, but they helped some of the best people
account of all those American supporters who had made his career in the
The regret he experienced in the immediate postwar years was not that he had necessarily done the wrong things, and certainly not that he had believed the wrong things, but something closer to that fabled sentiment of the American martyr Nathan Hale, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” He spent his later years happily among family and friends, which was in direct contrast to the troubled middle age of Varian Fry, who was unable to lead a satisfying life after his days in Marseille. But like Fry, Frank must have felt as though he could have done more.
Shortly before his abdication letter to Bingham in
April 1946, Frank wrote a treatise on the situation in occupied
But he quickly moves on to his purpose, which is to criticize the handling of the occupation. Lamenting the horrible situation of the millions of starving and destitute workers who had been forcibly displaced by Hitler, and who now were stranded in the East, Frank describes the “German catastrophe” that has followed her military defeat. Chaos in a defeated nation is understandable, but according to him, the policies of the Allied governments—defined unofficially by the Teheran Conference of late November 1943, but definitively by the Potsdam Conference of July-August 1945—did little to facilitate the reconstruction of Germany, and were woefully inadequate to meet even the most basic needs of the country’s millions of refugees.
For a solution to the problem, Frank
considers many possibilities, the most radical of which is that of democratic
resistance against the Allied occupiers. Obviously, admits Frank, militant
opposition would not be tolerated by the AMG, nor would it be possible
considering the desolation of the country and the upheaval in all sectors of
society, including the wartime cells of anti-Nazi resistance. Nevertheless,
that Frank could conceive of this possibility and would dare publish it reveals
both the changed nature of his attitude toward the United States and the
undiminished radicalism of his politics, which for a time, especially while
courting American financiers and the US government, seemed conciliatory or even
moderate. German Social-Democrats had always accused him of hypocrisy, based on
his multifarious and colorful—mostly red—political past. But his seemingly
fickle political allegiances were only expressions of his indomitable
practicality, or realism, which was subservient to his progressive ideals and
to his clinical interest in social psychology. He aligned himself with whichever
party or group held the greatest potential for effecting a socialist-inspired
democratic revolution in
Yet, his realist approach often
worked against his interests. The major political parties of the interwar years
placed a premium on loyalty, as all parties have always done. Frank may have
been justified in limiting his allegiance to smaller organizations, not wanting
to have his actions limited by a Party line, but he also needed a broader base
of support than those organizations could provide. Only through the auspices of
a major political party could Frank ever hope to institutionalize the sort of
democratic reforms he had in mind. His method during the Nazi rule of
developing a core of young leaders for a postwar
In some sense, he knew that he was
sacrificing himself for the benefit of the future democratic movement. To
remain active during the war in a role he had developed as foreign representative
of the New Beginning group—while the majority of that group in
The refugees of
1848 remained here [in the
for many German exiles in the
From 1941 to 1942, the
The latest pre-election figures released by the public opinion polls call for the greatest attention on the part of all responsible citizens of the Fifty-One States at this grave, critical, indeed decisive moment of our history.
. . .
This is not the first three-cornered election in our history. But forty years ago, neither Taft, [nor] Theodore Roosevelt, nor Woodrow Wilson were open advocates of the overthrow of our form of government. [None] of them had preached publicly such un-American abstractions as Atheism, Collective Enterprise, the scrapping of the Constitution, and this deceptive slogan: Social Planning, which the Espeeists [Social Planning Party supporters] have taken as their symbol, even above Economic Security. Today, American traditions, American ways of life, American civilization hang in the balance. Let not one believe that there is no danger, that President [Edward] Stettinius will be re-elected on the sixth of November and that we can go about our business as usual. This is a vital struggle going on, and unless we apply radical methods to cope with the deadly Espeeist peril, our democracy as we have known it shall be wiped off the face of the earth.
Let us imagine but for one moment what the effects of an Espeeist victory would be. The S.P. party, created after the Democratic collapse following the death of President Roosevelt and the [Henry A.] Wallace-Stettinius quarrel, has grown with astonishing rapidity. . . . The Espeeists, through sheer deceit and utopian promise have succeeded in enrolling in their ranks the politically immature Southern Negroes, the scum of the New Dealers of bygone days, the mass of Federated Union workers, and have dangerously gained prestige among Veterans and decadent College Professors. . . . The Espeeists . . . would substitute the dictatorship of the bureaucracy of the worst type [with an] efficient managerially controlled economy. . . . The Espeeists claim that the progress has been too slow, that the Republicans cling desperately to privileges already worn thin, and that our social program is obsolete. . . . The truth is that a victory of Espeeism would spell the doom of American democracy. . . . [It] would be folly to let a minority among ourselves plunge the world back into disorder and anarchy by throwing our country into a social experiment more deadly to our standard of living than has been the war itself.
. . .
Our constitution did not foresee a three party system.
clearly had fun writing this piece. But behind its deliberately contrived
conservatism and satirical tone lies a vision of a future for which he and
particularly his American supporters ardently hoped. The “Espeeists” represent
an alliance of all American progressives: the liberal New Dealers, the
college-affiliated intellectuals, former Socialists and trade unionists, and
the recently mobilized Southern black vote. With the exception of the last
group, this coalition encompasses the same sort of people who formed the
Friends of German Freedom in the late 1930s, and who supported Frank and his
organizations for the duration of the war. The liberal-progressive base of
Theodor W. Adorno wrote in 1945 of the importance of recounting the history of the defeated, not only people but ideas:
If [Walter] Benjamin said that history had hitherto been written from the standpoint of the victor, and needed to be written from that of the vanquished, we might add that knowledge must indeed present the fatally rectilinear succession of victory and defeat, but should also address itself to those things which were not embraced by this dynamic, which fell by the wayside—what might be called the waste products and blind spots that have escaped the dialectic.
the subject of Karl Frank and the ideas he brought to the
Our gaze into the past, that totalitarian
hindsight, glosses mistakes, explains away accidents and detours around the
dead ends. Only events that seem to have “led” to the ends that we know to be
true, that we in fact have predetermined anachronistically in an act of
careless prolepsis, receive attention. The historiography of the defeated is
more than “telling the story of the loser.” It is rather the avowal that there
never really was a story, nor is there ever any story. Yet, historians are by
definition storytellers. A narrative is always contrived, always artificial,
but it is also meaningful, instructive and often interesting. It is in the
nature of a book or essay—the physical volume, the actual pages—that it be a
selective molding of the chaos that constitutes reality. For, the totality of
chaos is meaningless, nothingness; humans need form. In a letter of
If there is any justice in this
story, it is that while Frank became the loser, his comrades from the New
Beginning group, especially those in
In his 1982 memoir, Links und Frei. Mein Weg 1930-1950 [On the Left and Free: My Way], Willy Brandt writes of Frank:
He gave off the
aura of a handsome, sharp-witted, brave man not entirely indisposed to
adventurous exploits, whose bearing had been instilled at a Kadettenschule and, in a particular way,
probably also by his later revolutionary life. I was mistrustful of him, and
not without reason: with practical motives, he had let himself be elected to
the SAP [Brandt’s group] executive committee; in fall 1932 he pushed for the
group to join the SPD. He had the idea of impressing young people. Yet, when
one saw through his tricks, he reacted realistically. I surprised him in
Brandt’s account is simple and honest. Karl Frank earned the genuine respect of a man who attained the very pinnacle of West German politics, a man who always fought for the reconciliation of East and West, for European democracy, and for peace—a man who did what Frank himself might have done if given the chance. The respect was undoubtedly mutual.
The contours of Frank’s rugged face strike an
unsuspecting observer: his strong chin, sharp jawline, broad forehead—but
especially his eyes, deep-set and heavy-lidded. These eyes gaze wearily out
from two dark caves, punctuating a visage bound feebly by the portrait page.
Perhaps the most revealing fact of his personality was that in an age of
demagogues, he voluntarily accepted obscurity, even when the ultimate triumph
of his ideals was uncertain. Rather than unleash a bitter stream of criticism
from a position of irrelevance against the new leadership of
“Emergency Rescue Committee Records, 1936-1957.” German and Jewish Intellectual
Émigré Collection, M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and
Archives, University at
“Karl Boromäus Frank Papers, 1937-1961.” Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and
“Karl M. Otto Paetel Papers, 1907-1984.” German and Jewish Intellectual Émigré
Collection, M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives,
“Maurice J. Goldbloom
“Varian Fry Papers, 1938-1999.”
Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
Primary Source Books
“Resistance: Recollections from the Nazi Years.”
Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand [
Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseille 1940. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.
Hagen, Paul [i.e. Karl B.
Frank]. Erobert, nicht befreit.
--- Will Germany Crack? A Factual Report on
Heideking, Jürgen and Christof Mauch (Eds.). American Intelligence and the German Resistance to
A Documentary History.
Jansen, Jon B. and Stefan Weyl [i.e. Bernard Taurer and George Eliasberg]. The Silent War:
Underground Movement in
Loewenheim, Walter. Geschichte der Org (Neu Beginnen) 1929-1935: Eine zeitgenössische Analyse.
1935. Ed. J. Foitzik.
Matthias, Erich and Werner Link (Eds.). Mit dem Gesicht nach Deutschland. Eine Dokumentation
über die sozialdemokratische Emigration. Aus dem Nachlaß von Friedrich Stampfer ergänzt durch
andere Überlieferungen. Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1968.
Miles (i.e. Walter Loewenheim). Socialism’s New Beginning: A Manifesto from Underground
Vansittart, Robert. Black Record: Germans Past and Present.
--- Lessons of My Life.
Secondary Source Books
Benz, Wolfgang and Walter H. Pehle (Eds.). Encyclopedia of German Resistance to the Nazi
Movement. 1994. Trans. L. W. Garmer.
Breitman, Richard and Alan M. Kraut. American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933-1945.
Brown, Charles C. Niebuhr and His Age: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prophetic Role in the Twentieth Century.
Buttinger, Joseph [i.e. Gustav Richter]. In the Twilight of Socialism: A History of the Revolutionary
Chernow, Ron. The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family. New
Doucette, Siobhan. “The
Political Activities of Karl Frank (a.k.a. Paul Hagen) in
during World War II,”
Edinger, Lewis J. German Exile Politics: The Social Democratic Executive Committee in the Nazi Era.
Feingold, Henry L. The Politics of Rescue: The
Fox, Richard W. Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography.
Glees, Anthony. Exile Politics during the Second World War: The German Social Democrats in Great
Grunewald, Michel and Frithjof Trapp (Eds.). Autour du « Front populaire allemande ».
Hirschfeld, Gerhard (Ed.). Exile in Great Britain: Refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Warwickshire,
Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry.
Kliem, Kurt. “Der sozialistische Widerstand gegen das Dritten Reich dargestellt an der
Gruppe ‘Neu Beginnen’.”
Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian
Merkley, Paul. Reinhold Niebuhr: A Political Account.
Morse, Arthur D. While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of
Peukert, Detlev. Inside Nazi
Trans. R. Deveson.
Ragg, Albrecht. “The
German Socialist Emigration in the United States, 1933-1945,”
Rothfels, Hans. The German Opposition to Hitler: An Assessment. 1958. Trans. L. Wilson.
Wyman, David S. Paper Walls:
 Wechsler, “The Man We Lost,”
 “‘This Was a Man,’”
 Qtd. in Joseph Buttinger [i.e. Gustav Richter], In the Twilight of Socialism: A History of the Revolutionary Socialists of Austria (New York: Praeger, 1953), epigraph.
 Paul Hagen [i.e. Karl Frank], Will Germany Crack? A Factual Report on
 Letter Elizabeth A. Weston (Frank’s
granddaughter) to the author,
 Reinhard Müller, “Karl B. Frank alias Paul Hagen,” Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreichs Newsletter, No. 12, November 1995 (Graz, Austria), p. 11.
 Müller, ibid.
 Bry, “Resistance: Recollections from the Nazi Years” (West Orange, N.J.: self-pub., 1979), pp. 220-1.
 Edinger, German Exile Politics: The Social Democratic Executive Committee in the Nazi Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), pp. 25ff.
 Respectively, Bernard Taurer and George Eliasberg.
 The Silent
War: The Underground Movement in
 Jansen and Weyl, pp. 110-1.
Information, periodical of the Labour and Socialist International,
 Edinger, p. 271n68.
 Edinger, p. 41.
 Ibid., pp. 26ff.
 Edinger, pp. 215ff.
 Historical/Biographical note, Baruch Charney Vladeck Papers, 1906-1958
 “Autobiographical Data,” Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in
 First number given by Frank in “Answers to Questions posed by Dr. [Walter] Dorn,” May 1943, p. 9. KBF Papers, Box 1. The second number appears in a memorandum “Autobiographical Data,” supra cit., which may have been sent to the US State Department.
 The Protestant conference was highly
self-critical in nature and the prevailing consensus afterward among attendees
was that the church leaders were as much to blame as their congregations for
the worldwide deterioration of Christian values. Niebuhr’s new political
activism corresponded with this self-avowal. Charles W. Hurd, “
 John C. Bennett, “Niebuhr, Reinhold,” Encyclopædia Britannica (2007).
 Charles C. Brown, Niebuhr and His Age: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prophetic Role in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: Trinity International Press, 1992), p. 110.
 “Confidential Memorandum” on the history of the AFGF, ca. 1941, p. 1. MJG Papers, Box 1.
 Jansen and Weyl, supra cit., p. 169.
 Caples was Frank’s second wife. The actress and
writer Alice von Herdan was the first, in 1919, with whom he had a child,
Michaela. They divorced during Frank’s three-month long political imprisonment
in 1924. While imprisoned, he carried out a near life-threatening hunger
strike, stopped only by order of the KPD, of which he was then still a member.
Herdan married the writer Carl Zuckmayer in 1925. The Zuckmayers emigrated to
 As an indication of how well Vladeck was received
in the general
 Paul Hagen to Calvin Hoover (
 Peter Frank was deployed in defense on the
Tyrrhenian coast of
 Cf. account in an article by James A. Wechsler, “An Early Anti-Nazi,” PM, ca. 1944. KBF Papers, Box 3.
 Offices would move to
 The description given by Rudolf Katz in a letter
to Friedrich Stampfer (
 Ron Chernow, The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family (New York: Random House, 1993), pp. 426-8, 493-6.
 “Confidential Memorandum,” supra cit., p. 2. MJG Papers, Box 1.
 “Plan for Action of the American Friends of German Freedom,” ca. 1940, p. 3. KBF Papers, Box 1.
 Richard W. Fox, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 201.
 “Memorandum on an International Coordination
Council in the
 Memo on the ICC, ibid.
 Memo on the ICC, supra cit.
 Warner, “The Office of Strategic Services:
 KBF Papers, Box 7.
 Letter A. W. Dulles to Frank,
 Letter A. W. Dulles to Hugh Wilson,
 Cf. Doucette, pp. 48-9.
 Cf. American Intelligence and the German Resistance to Hitler: A Documentary History, Ed. J. Heideking and C. Mauch (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996), passim.
 Klein (
 Klein, Confidential “Explanation” of the “Hagen Formula,”ca. August 1942. KBF Papers, Box 7.
 “Explanation” of the “Hagen Formula,” ibid.
 Klein to
 Letter Col. Sexton to Klein,
 Letter Mortimer Kollender to A. J. Goldberg,
 Letter Carl Devoe to Mortimer Kollender,
 Title of seminal work on the refugee crisis:
Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of
 Portions of this section are co-opted from an earlier work of mine, “The Genesis of the Emergency Rescue Committee, 1933-1942,” written in spring 2005 for a colloquium given by Prof. James Schmidt, “Refugee Intellectuals, 1933-1950.”
 “Friend of the Refugee,” The New Republic,
 “Kirchwey, Freda,” Encyclopædia Britannica (2007).
 “Re: International Rescue and Relief Committee, Incorporated,” FBI Files, FOIA Request for “Emergency Rescue Committee,” passim.
 Qtd. in Varian Fry, Surrender on Demand,
 M. J. Gold, Crossroads Marseille 1940 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980), pp. xi-iii.
 American Guild for German Cultural Freedom, Inc., letterhead from October 1940. ERC Records.
 Gold, pp. xi-ii.
 In 1939 he founded the firm Consultants in Fund Raising, soon to be called Harold L. Oram, Inc., or the Oram Group.
 The position of “treasurer” in these groups often corresponded to the chief representative of the bank at which the group had its account. Of all the positions on the executive board, the treasurer was the least likely to bear any political or subjective affiliation—this is the case with Held, who withheld open allegiance to the group. But Seiferheld was treasurer of so many groups associated with the AFGF that he could justifiably be considered a supporter.
 Gold, supra cit., pp. xvi-xv. Also cf. Chernow, supra cit., p. 497.
 The following quoted from a prepared radio broadcast
 Cf. NYT,
 This and the following account of the meeting, Gold, p. xv. M.J. Gold bases her descriptions of the committee’s early days on her personal interviews with Anna Caples sometime in the 1970s.
 He was an editor of Common Sense, The Living Age, The New Republic, and for the Foreign Policy Association.
 Fry’s book Surrender on Demand is the authoritative source, but M. J. Gold
provides an interesting alternate perspective. Also cf. two biographies: Sheila
Isenberg, A Hero of Our Own: The Story of
Varian Fry (
 ERC Records, passim, subject files.
 A luncheon on August 14 was the first of many
similar events over the course of the next year, and in March 1941 the ERC put
on a large benefit concert with performers Lotte Lehmann, Karin Branzell,
Emanuel Feuermann, Mack Harrell, Moritz Rosenthal, and Armand Tokatyan.
“Concert to Aid Relief,” NYT,
 “Sing It and Mean It,” The New Republic,
 Cf. Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of Rescue: The
 Paraphrased in Richard Breitman and A. M. Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933-1945 (Bloomingdale, Ind.: Indiana UP, 1987), p. 28.
Wyman, Paper Walls:
 Paul Merkley, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Political Account (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1975), p. 156.
 Welles to
 Fox, p. 201.
 Merkley, p. 157.
 “I hope that if the State Department again
attempts to bring pressure on me with a view to obtaining my immediate return
 VF Papers, passim.
 Letter Eileen Fry to Varian Fry,
 Cf. “
 “Anti-Nazi Relief Groups Merge,” NYT,
 Qtd. in Wyman, frontispiece.
 Ibid., pp. 211, 221.
 Breitman and Kraut, p. 10.
 Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 32ff.
 Qtd. in Wyman, p. 210.
 Wyman, ibid.
 This small
 Qtd. in Claus-Dieter Krohn, “L’exil politique allemand aux États-Unis après 1933,” Matériaux pour l'histoire de notre temps, Vol. 60, No. 60 (2000), p. 13. Krohn’s source is an anonymous Sopade memorandum on the New Beginning group (ca. 1939) that summarizes the contents of the earliest articles.
 “Autobiographical Data.” Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in
 Cf. Krohn, “Exilierte Sozialdemokraten in
 “German Exile Here: Wilhelm Sollmann,” NYT,
 Letter from Seger to Sollmann,
 Ragg, “The German Socialist Emigration in the United States, 1933-1945,” Ph.D. (Loyola University of Chicago, 1977), p. 129.
 Ursula Langkau-Alex, “The International Socialist Labor Movement and the Elimination of the ‘German Problem’: A Comparative View on Ideas, Politics and Policy of the French, English, Swedish and US Labor Movement,” Research Paper (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, 1997), p. 9. Langkau-Alex’s source is a collection of the Friedrich Stampfer Papers edited by Erich Matthias and Werner Link, Mit dem Gesicht nach Deutschland. Eine Dokumentation über die sozialdemokratische Emigration, supra cit.
 “United with the German Workers: The American Unions and German Social Democracy,” Sozialistische Mitteilungen, Supplement to No. 7, April 1940, p. 1.
 “United with the German Workers,” p. 2.
 Frank’s estimate in memorandum “Answers to questions posed by Dr. [Walter] Dorn,” supra cit., p. 9. Estimate of Sopade’s amount in Krohn, “L’exil politique,” p. 12.
 It is ironic that such accusations came against
Frank, considering that the Sopade closely hid its own spending of the SPD
funds it had inherited during the move into exile. No clear accounting record
of Sopade expenditures in
 “Autobiographical Data.” Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in
 In 1937, Herling had married AFGF co-founder Mary Fox. The two had met while working together for the League for Industrial Democracy, 1928-1934.
 Paraphrased in letter Paul Hagen to Serafino
 Ibid., pp. 13-14.
 Richter, Hirschberg and Herling to Romualdi,
 Richter, Hirschberg and Herling to Romualdi,
 It is unclear exactly to which ERC event this refers. Some “well-known American political personalities” who regularly spoke at these dinners were Eleanor Roosevelt, Reinhold Niebuhr and Norman Thomas. The author of the NVZ article probably translated “leader” into “Führer”—the speaker would not have used such a term.
 Paul Hertz, “Declaration on the Case of Paul
Hagen,” ca. July 1941. KBF Papers,
Box 2. All following questions from the investigative committee on the case of
Paul Hagen are quoted from the same source. In some cases, I have made minor
corrections for spelling and clarity; e.g. “
 Cf. Lewis J. Edinger, supra cit., pp. 71, 75ff, passim.
 Although the group went by many names prior to
the schism—including “New Beginning” [Neu Beginnen]—for clarity’s sake,
I use either “Leninist Organization” or “Org.” to refer to the pre-1935 group,
and “New Beginning” to refer to the post-1935 group. Frank cites a conference
 Cf. Gruber, “The German Socialist Executive in Exile, 1933-1939: Democracy as Internal Contradiction,” supra cit., p. 223. Gruber describes the Hertz trial as “an inquisitorial setting.”
 Qtd. in Gruber, p. 212.
 “History of the American Friends of German
Freedom,” memo to the JLC, n.d., MJG
 “Confidential Memorandum: History of the American Friends of German Freedom,” sent to Col. Donovan (OSS), March 1942. MJG Papers, Box 1.
 Qtd. in Hertz, “Declaration on the Case of Paul Hagen,” supra cit., p. 6.
 Bry, supra cit., p. 217.
 Ibid., p. 220.
 Frank to members of the Council for a Democratic
 Vansittart, Black Record: Germans Past and Present (Toronto: Musson Book Company, 1941).
 Black Record, p. iv.
 Ibid., p. v.
 Lessons of My Life (New York: Knopf, 1943), p. 8.
 Ibid., p. vi. He was fond of such dramatic
modesty: he writes in his unfinished autobiography, “This book is no story of
me, but an aspect of
 Black Record, p. 17.
 Ibid., p. 5.
 From war posters collected at the
 Black Record,
p. 7. He clarifies somewhat in Lessons of
My Life, supra cit.: “How many people have taken the trouble to count up
the German prophets who throughout the nineteenth century were declaring that
 Black Record, p. 18.
 Lessons, p. 88.
 Ibid., p. 87.
 Ibid., p. 85.
 Lessons, p. 86.
 Ibid., p. 88.
 Ibid., p. 89.
 Lessons, p. 5.
 Paul Hagen (Karl Frank),
 Cf. “Erklärung der ‘Fight for Freedom’-Gruppe (
 Letter Paul Sering (i.e. Richard Löwenthal) to
 Ibid., pp. 239-40.
 His publishing house released the British edition of Frank’s Will Germany Crack? in early 1943.
 “Decency in Socialist Controversies,” article
reprinted in New Beginning Auslandsbüro circular,
 Sering to Frank, supra cit.
 “New Masses
vs. The Nation,” Time,
 In an ironic coincidence, the WWB office suite
was located in the same building as the Emergency Rescue Committee office:
 “The Position of the Writers’ War Board on the
 Gannett to Stout,
 Caples to Karl Frank,
 Published in Luzern. A significantly edited
English translation appeared in 1940, published by Sheed and Ward (
 Frank, “Memorandum on Mr. Isidore Lipschutz’s Activities” to Roger Baldwin, Feb. 7 (or July 2), 1945. KBF Papers, Box 5.
 In a similar instance, according to Frank, Rex Stout called Farrar & Rinehart shortly before Frank’s book Germany after Hitler was to be released and tried persuading them not to publish it. Ibid.
 SPWWIII pamphlet, n.d. KBF Papers,
 Letter Sabra Holbrook, executive director of
Youthbuilders, Inc., to
 Foerster address to the Society for the
Prevention of World War III,
 Lessons of My Life, p. 187.
 Transcribed in “Germany Prepares for War: The
 “Two Lectures by Eric Mann,” p. 8.
 Ibid., p. 13.
 Ibid., p. 14.
 Advertisement, n. p.,
 Elmer Davis, Introduction, Will Germany Crack?, p. x.
 “What of Hitler’s Home Front? Mr. Hagen Studies
the Destructive Forces within
 Bendix, Review of Will Germany Crack?, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Nov. 1942), p. 426.
 Percival R. Knauth, “The Suction Factor in
 “Memorandum,” MJG Papers, Box 1.
 Pollock, Review of Will Germany Crack?, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 36, No. 6 (Dec. 1942), pp. 1168-9.
 Langkau-Alex, “Paris-Madrid-Moskau: Revolution, Krieg und Konterrevolution im Spiegel der Exilpubliziskt von Neu Beginnen,” Autour du « Front populaire allemand », supra cit., p. 59.
 Cf. Peukert, Inside
 Ibid., p. 32.
 Ibid., p. 46.
 Paul Hagen, “Hess’ Flight Seen as Move for
 Paul Hagen, “Our Allies Inside Germany,” Common Sense, September 1942 [no day], p. 297. KBF Papers, Box 1.
 Paul Hagen, “Trojan-Hess Sent by Hitler!,”
article submitted on behalf of the American Friends of German Freedom to the
Fight for Freedom Committee (New York), c/o David Wallace, n.d. KBF Papers,
 Löwenthal to Frank,
 Ibid., p. 118.
 Ibid., p. 122.
 Ibid., p. 125.
 Ibid., p. 132.
 Ibid., p. 134.
 Ibid., p. 128.
 Ibid., p. 130.
 Ibid., p. 191.
 According to Allan Merson, the KPD had 360,000
members in 1933. He also cites the account of a leader of the underground
 Merson, p. 72.
 Ibid., p. 76.
 A limited Arbeitsgemeinschaft
was actually formed in
 Qtd. in Merson, p. 78.
 Merson, p. 84.
 Ibid., p. 93.
 Andreas Niebuhr, Review, PM,
 The book contains several interesting comments on
the resistance movement in
 Alex-Langkau, supra cit., p. 74.
 Paul Hagen, “A
 W. R. Malinowski, “No German Underground? Poles
Fail to Discover Any Organized Anti-Nazi Movement,” NYT,
 Morris Amchan, “No German Resistance: Evidence
Adduced at Trials Said to Disprove Its Existence,” NYT,
 H. W., “Der deutsche Widerstand,” Die Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung,
 This latter column was a temporary part of a regular section, “Die Verschwörung des 20. Juli” [The July 20th Conspiracy].
 Ibid., p. 145.
 Ibid., p. 154.
 Translated by R. Deveson from Volksgenossen und Gemeinschaftsfremde. Anpassung, Ausmerze und Aufbegehren unter dem Nationalsozialismus (Cologne: Bund Verlag, 1982) for Yale UP (1987).
 Peukert, p. 75.
 Peukert, p. 76.
 Ibid., p. 105.
 Cf. Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Ed. H. Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1968), pp. 241-2.
 Peukert, p. 188.
 Peukert, n. p.
 Ibid., p. 240.
 Ibid., p. 64.
 Ibid., p. 172.
 Ibid., p. 146.
 Ibid., p. 147.
 Ibid., p. 146.
 Ibid., p. 21.
 Ibid., p. 200.
 Ibid., p. 208. Emphasis mine.
 Ibid., p. 209.