The German Resistance in New York:

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,

Boston University,

under the advisement of Professor James Schmidt,

approved by Professors William R. Keylor and Jonathan Zatlin,

partially funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program


© 2007







Table of Contents



Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations



            Birth of der Berufsrevolutionär

            Exiled German Socialists in Prague, Paris, London


Chapter I: Friends

            Friends of German Freedom

            International Coordination Council

            Attempt to Collaborate with the US Government


Chapter II: The Politics of Rescue

            Emergency Rescue Committee

            Visas and the State Department


Chapter III: Enemies

            German Labor Delegation

            The Case of Paul Hagen

            The Accusations

            Enemies among the British

            The Stout Group


Chapter IV: Two Books

            Will Germany Crack?

            Potential for Resistance

            Was There a German Resistance?

            Inside Nazi Germany

            Germany after Hitler


Chapter V: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Paul Hagen”

            On the Radio

            Professor Hagen


Chapter VI: Finale

            Council for a Democratic Germany

            American Association for a Democratic Germany

            Visa Troubles




Selected Bibliography








I must extend my gratitude to Boston University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program which funded a significant portion of my research and cultivated the dream that one might actually be paid for work in liberal arts, if only it be called “social science.” There are many individuals to whom I owe thanks for their commentary, criticism and encouragement, but above all stands my project adviser, Professor James Schmidt. Aside from his guidance at the beginning and his eventual removal of the training wheels, if it were not for his colloquium, “Refugee Intellectuals, 1933-1950,” never would I have unearthed this subject two years ago.




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 Germany

CIIA                Canadian Institute of International Affairs

CIO                 Congress of Industrial Organizations

COI                 Office of the Coordinator of Information (later incorporated into OSS and


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 [Secret State Police]

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 Germany,


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)

OSS                 Office of Strategic Services

OWI                Office of War Information

RSÖ                Revolutionare Sozialisten Österreichs [Revolutionary Socialists of Austria]

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 America

SPD                 Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands [German Social-Democratic Party]

SPWWIII         Society for the Prevention of World War III

UDA                Union for Democratic Action

UDSO             Union deutscher sozialistischer Organisationen [Union of German Socialist

                        Organizations, London]

WWB               Writers’ War Board


Bibliographic Abbreviations


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





INTRODUCTION [back to Contents]


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.”[1] 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 Germany and Europe.’”[2]

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”?[3]

            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.”[4] 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.[5] He made multiple trips to the United States in the late 1930s, but arrived permanently (and somewhat accidentally) in January 1940. He acted in his capacity as foreign bureau chief of the socialist labor group New Beginning (Neu Beginnen), an elite and well-funded organization of young intellectuals and trade unionists that was determined to survive Hitler’s oppressive regime.

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 Weimar Republic. The New Beginners regarded it as an abstract or conceptual term; the SPD leaders regarded it as indicating a specific form of government with a contemporary historical precedent. Such disagreements over terminology led the Social-Democratic Party leadership to judge any group that was left of its own conservative line—particularly NB—as radical and undemocratic. In spite of this criticism, and perhaps because of it, the ideology of the New Beginning group focused upon the hope that socialism’s “new beginning” would finally awaken the German people’s true democratic consciousness which had lain dormant under the ineffective Weimar Republic and had been stifled by Hitler’s subsequent reaction.

In the United States, Frank rode the tide of two best-selling books: Will Germany Crack? (1942), which, as the title suggests, he published when the outcome of the war was still far from certain; and Germany after Hitler (1944), published when the Nazi defeat was assured. He made numerous radio broadcasts—even a television appearance in 1944—and launched a series of speaking tours that took him as far as Florida and Iowa. He drafted several proposals for a collaboration of the US government with the anti-Nazi underground movement in Germany, but all failed. He attempted unsuccessfully to convince Americans that democratic elements existed within Germany and that they should be given a chance to emerge after Hitler’s defeat. His grandest achievement was the formation of a coalition of the German Left in the US, known as the Council for a Democratic Germany; but even that ended in failure. Although he achieved popular recognition and won the respect of many prominent politicians and intellectuals for his knowledge and realistic attitude, his efforts had no significant effect on US policy. The judgment of Frank’s political career as success or failure, however, is not easy. Within this judgment lie a number of qualifications and assumptions about the role of political resistance in exile and the function of minority parties within hegemonic states, be they totalitarian or two-party democracies.

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 Germany’s “collective guilt.” While Germans in America were treated relatively well—in stark contrast to the internment of their Japanese counterparts—they nevertheless encountered the racist belief that all Germans were naturally inclined toward Nazism. This idea, which existed in all the Allied nations, grew in popularity as the war progressed. A second reason for Frank’s failure was perhaps the most obvious: the disparaging smear campaign mounted against him by his enemies in the exile community. In many prominent newspapers that often did not allow him an equal opportunity for defense, these fellow émigrés accused Frank of being a Stalinist agent and an ardent Communist—the death knell of Frank’s ostracism had tolled. Finally, Frank’s failure was somewhat inherent in his position. The tragic irony of “Paul Hagen” was that, as a representative of the underground resistance movement against Hitler, and later, when war severed his German connections, merely a proponent of the movement, his political mandate and raison d’être ceased to be relevant after the fall of the Third Reich. His decade-long goal of combating fascism and overthrowing the Hitler regime held within it the seed of his own obsolescence: Hagen fell with Hitler.

By 1947, Frank had completely dropped his pseudonym and had retired from active political life. Following his earliest ambitions as a student in Vienna during the 1910s, he became a psychoanalyst, speaking and publishing on the subject of modern political irrationality. He and his American wife Anna “held court” at their home in New Milford, Connecticut, where they threw “elegant parties” throughout the 1950s and 60s, enjoying hobbies like gardening, tennis and skiing.[6] Karl Frank died on May 21, 1969, at the age of 76.



Birth of der Berufsrevolutionär

Born in Vienna to middle class Catholic parents on May 31, 1893, he attended various gymnasia, including the Artillerie-Kadettenschule in Traiskirchen, where he received basic military training. At this school, oddly enough, he first became associated with the student pacifist movement—the so-called “Young Wandervogel Movement.”[7] In winter 1913, he enrolled in the University of Vienna, where he studied psychology, philosophy and biology. His studies were interrupted the following August by the outbreak of war, during which he served as a lieutenant in an artillery regiment of the Austro-Hungarian Army, fighting on the Russian and Italian fronts. After being wounded and awarded a military decoration, Frank refused to continue service on political and moral grounds. The pacifism of his youth had been confirmed by the carnage of the battlefield. In early 1916, he wrote an audacious letter to the ailing Emperor Franz Joseph demanding that he end Austria’s involvement in what he considered an imperialist war of aggression. Discharged in March as “sick,” Frank returned to the University of Vienna where he finished his studies and earned his doctorate (Ph.D.) in 1918 with the dissertation, Beiträge zur Psychologie der Lüge [Contributions to the Psychology of Lies].[8]

In 1917 he joined the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria [Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei]—the forerunner of the Social-Democratic Party of Austria—and the Free Association of Socialist Students [Freien Vereinigung sozialistischer Studenten], an organization that at one time included Max Adler and Rudolf Hilferding. The Austrian government banned this latter group in late 1918, after which Frank became chairman of the Association of Socialist Gymnasium Students [Vereinigung sozialistischer Mittelschüler], an early example of his lifelong involvement with and emphasis on youth movements. He was also affiliated with the Social-Democratic Student and Scholar Assembly [Verband der sozialdemokratischen Studenten und Akademiker]. In November he was elected the University’s delegate to the Vienna Workers’ Council [Wiener Arbeiterrat], of which he joined the Communist faction led by Paul Friedländer and the Eisler siblings, Gerhart and Elfriede (alias Ruth Fischer). During this time he published his first book, a short work on the subject of anti-Semitism, Die Parteilichkeit des Volks- und Rasse-Abergläubischen. Ein Vortrag [A Lecture on the Partisanship of the Nationally and Racially Superstitious] (Vienna: Anzengruber-Verlag, 1919).

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 Germany to work as secretary for the Berlin Communist organ, Die Internationale, the first of many German papers for which he would work throughout the 1920s. That decade saw Frank run the gamut of leftist groups, often in association with right-wing communist opposition circles. He also had several encounters with the German police, who arrested him in 1924 and 1928 for subversive political activities. In 1925 he returned home to Austria and lived with his parents, intending to go into private studies. However, an invitation to visit Moscow in 1926 brought him back into the political arena. In early 1929, he definitively left the Communist Party, dissatisfied with its dependence on the Soviet-controlled Comintern. For several years he worked as a free-lance journalist, and began to participate in discussions of the Leninist Organization centered about Walter Löwenheim (alias Miles, alias Kurt Menz). The majority faction of this group would break away in 1935 to form New Beginning under the leadership of Frank.

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.[9]


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 February 27, 1933, which Hitler blamed on the communists, provided the Führer justification for demanding extra-constitutional emergency powers. These were granted him by the Enabling Act of March 23. His first order of business was to outlaw the Communist Party (KPD). The SPD soon followed, along with all its subsidiary groups, including Frank’s New Beginning. The Nazi Party (NSDAP) became the only legal political organization in the Reich.

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.[10]

As parliamentary options waned, the underground began to take shape. Jon B. Jansen and Stefan Weyl, pseudonyms,[11] 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.[12]


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.[13]


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 Weimar leadership, of which the SPD constituted the largest part, had failed miserably and Germany’s new direction under the Nazis, if not necessarily desirable, was inevitable. But to the political and labor leaders, most of whom were known to the Nazi authorities, any form of collaboration was unacceptable: their only option, as honorable men and women, was to go into exile. Their destinations varied, but the chief location for the political groups associated with the SPD was Prague.


Exiled German Socialists in Prague, Paris, London

            Drawing on the precedent of the “heroic age” of German Social-Democracy under Bismarck’s ban in the 1880s, the SPD leadership elected an executive committee to act as its regent and steward in exile. The party had exercised the same precaution in 1914 when it sent Friedrich Ebert and Otto Braun to Switzerland fearing that it might again suffer a ban for its pacifism in the event of war. According to historian Lewis J. Edinger, who has written a quintessential account of German exile politics, SPD leader Friedrich Stampfer had pushed strongly for the establishment of a “representation abroad” for some time. Paul Löbe led the opposition against this idea. Some SPD executives (e.g. Löbe and Wilhelm Sollmann) objected to Stampfer’s call because they believed that a legal compromise with the Nazis was plausible, even likely, and others because “The working class and the rank and file must remain in Germany. They have to man the front-line trenches in the battle to preserve the party, and they want to see their leaders fighting alongside them.”[14] Kurt Schumacher, Carl Mierendorff and Wilhelm Leuschner supported this latter view—the first spent eleven years in a concentration camp, the second died in an Allied air raid in 1943, and the third was executed for his involvement in the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Hitler.[15]

            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.[16] Hertz would become an important ally for Frank and the New Beginning group in the years to come.

On May 4, 1933, a portion of the executive committee met in an emergency session and voted in favor of establishing a representation abroad. Because this meeting was not an official session and did not include the anti-exilists Schumacher and Löbe, its decision sparked a controversy within the SPD leadership over the legitimacy of the proposed exile organization. Nevertheless, on May 29, a committee formed abroad and claimed the mandate of SPD leadership from those still in Berlin. Known as the Sopade, or the SPD executive committee in exile, this group received permission from Czech authorities to found in Prague both an administrative bureau and a Party publishing house, Graphia, which would take over the production of the SPD’s primary newspaper, Vorwärts, soon renamed Neue Vorwärts. The original core of the exile committee included SPD chairman Otto Wels, and members Hans Vogel, Otto Crummenerl, Friedrich Stampfer, Paul Hertz and Erich Ollenhauer. Leftists Karl Böchel and Siegfried Aufhäuser would soon join (only to be expelled later).[17]

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 Wels.[18] As the Nazis expanded their domain, the New Beginners fled Prague alongside the Sopade, and both groups settled in Paris.

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 to Weimar democracy. By the late 1930s, the inherent weakness of Weimar democracy and of the old SPD apparatus that had supported it was obvious to nearly everyone in the Paris exile community. Furthermore, the younger, more radical groups like New Beginning seemed to hold a greater promise for collaboration with the anti-Nazi labor underground and perhaps would one day constitute the democratic revolutionary vanguard. Some of the vitriol of this conflict diminished, however, as Hitler fixed his gaze on France. The final exodus of the German political emigration from the Continent occurred toward the end of 1939 into 1940, and it split in two directions: London or New York City.

            Most of the Sopade elected to go to London, where they could monitor more closely the developments in Europe. The leaders of New Beginning acted similarly, although some, whose lives had been in more acute danger earlier in the 1930s, had already gone to the United States. The decision to go “nach Amerika” counted as a sort of political resignation for many émigrés. Frank initially went to London with his colleagues Richard Löwenthal and Erwin Schoettle. They had a few important contacts there, like the wealthy Evelyn Anderson, through whom they became associated with the left-wing Labour Party politician Stafford Cripps. But since 1935, the main fundraising arena for the group had been the US. On January 3, 1940, Frank arrived in New York for a routine visit with his American supporters and financiers. Unfortunately for him, the US would prove to be his final destination.






 [back to Contents]


Friends of German Freedom


            The first important contact between Americans and the New Beginning group came in summer 1935 when B. Charney Vladeck visited Europe as a representative of the Jewish Labor Committee. Vladeck, whose real name was simply Baruch Charney, was a Russian-born immigrant who became a leader of the Socialist Party of America (SPA), and later a sponsor of the New York-based American Labor Party. His influence within both parties grew to such an extent that New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed him member of the nascent New York City Housing Authority, where he “initiated one of the first municipal slum-clearance projects in the country.”[19] He soon became leader of the labor caucus in the New York City Council. Equally prominent in the American Jewish community, Vladeck was the general manager of the Yiddish daily newspaper Forverts, otherwise known as the Jewish Daily Forward. In 1934, he founded the Jewish Labor Committee, which was “an umbrella group of Jewish labor and fraternal organizations.”[20] He had a very good reputation within the left-leaning New York political and intellectual community, and was a close associate of Norman Thomas, leader of the SPA, and William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Always the moderate, however, he played the part of conciliator between the two warring factions of the American socialist movement: on one side, the leftist SPA under Thomas, and on the other, the conservative Social Democratic Federation, led by Louis Waldman and David Dubinsky.

            Vladeck’s purpose for visiting Europe was to explore the possibilities for American collaboration with the German underground labor movement and its centers abroad. As a young student in Russia, he had joined the Jewish labor Bund, a group that engaged in clandestine socialist activities and forced him to live the life of a fugitive. Thus, he sympathized with the current plight of exiled German socialists and must have found the atmosphere of the émigré center at Prague quite familiar. He met with members of the Sopade and sought to contact the New Beginning group, about which he had heard from Norman Thomas. Frank was on a mission in Berlin at the time and missed Vladeck’s visit to Prague, but they finally caught up with each other several weeks later in Brussels. Vladeck invited him to visit the United States, and Frank accepted.

            Arriving in the US in fall 1935, Frank stayed at the home of Norman Thomas in New York. He met a number of people in the city’s liberal political and intellectual circles, including theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Kellogg, cofounder of the American Civil Liberties Union and director of the magazine Survey Graphic. Vladeck introduced him to representatives of the American Jewish labor movement and to various trade unionists, who in turn provided him connections with the AFL and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Not limiting himself to New York City, Frank traveled to Washington D.C. and met Stephen Rauschenbush, chief investigator for the Senate munitions inquiry committee, and Ernest Gruening, journalist and official in the Department of the Interior. They met at the home of Robert Horton, who would become director of information for the National Advisory Defense Commission. Also there was Charles Yost of the US State Department, whom Frank had already met in Berlin some years earlier.[21] Frank’s purpose was not only to establish a network of American contacts, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to raise money for the New Beginning group—the two motives were complementary. In total, this first trip to the United States yielded between $7000 and 8000.[22]

            Frank’s meeting with Niebuhr while in New York led to one of his most productive partnerships in the US. Throughout most of the 1930s, Niebuhr was involved with the Socialist Party of America and agreed with its policy of pacifist nonintervention, but he radically changed his position to a more militaristic activism following the 1937 World Conference on Church, State, and Community held at Oxford.[23]  After this ideological shift, he became what one biographer has characterized as a “left-wing, anti-Communist Democrat.”[24]  By the time Frank arrived permanently in the US in January 1940, his and Niebuhr’s political views were in close correspondence, diverging from Norman Thomas’ staunchly pacifist line. Together, Niebuhr and Frank embarked upon the mission of preparing “the way for a peace which will give German democracy a new opportunity.”[25]

            The best result of Frank’s first mission to the US, from which he returned to Europe in January 1936, was the formation in his wake of the Friends of German Freedom (FGF). Several of his initial American contacts banded together to raise funds for the underground movement—which meant the New Beginning group and its associates—and to interpret that group’s “aims” in the US. Vladeck, Niebuhr, Kellogg and Thomas were joined by Max Zaritsky, a Jewish trade union leader, Mary Fox, a socialist and executive secretary of the League for Industrial Democracy, and Julius Hochman, a leader of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. They formed the nucleus of the organization. Other people within the FGF orbit were Richard Storrs Childs, a rich young Yale alumnus who ran Modern Age Books, and John Lovejoy Elliott, an old social reformer who did monumental work with Algernon D. Black. The FGF was a private fundraising operation: “The conditions of underground work made it necessary to avoid publicity and the activities of the Friends of German Freedom were carried on quietly among small groups of people who were especially interested.”[26] One additional service provided by the FGF, however, was a vital one: whenever traveling in Europe, FGF members volunteered to be couriers for the New Beginning group, relaying messages to and from the NB underground apparatus within Nazi Germany.[27]

            As his first trip to the US was so lucrative, Frank returned in April 1937. His second visit was much the same as the first, except shorter and confined to New York City. Frank spoke to groups of trade unionists and potential financiers, promoting the New Beginning cause in particular, but publicizing in general the entire German underground labor movement. This strategy helped to broaden the scope of his group’s activities for Americans who only had a cursory knowledge of German politics, but it also led to the inaccurate view that there was a united and widespread resistance movement against Hitler. The subsequent backlash in the American press against such a view would later damage Frank’s cause.

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 Europe in early summer.[28] The reason for Frank’s quick departure was that a report had reached him about some New Beginners who had volunteered for the Republican cause in Spain and had subsequently disappeared. He and Anna went there to search for them, but to no avail. Anna quickly became a collaborator in her husband’s anti-Nazi work, even adopting an alias, “Joan.” Her primary task was to edit the English edition of the New Beginning group’s Inside Germany Reports, a publication popular with interested parties in both the US and England. To a young American with progressive ideals, such a life must have been exhilarating. But one can only guess how she felt about taking her honeymoon amid the Spanish Civil War.

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.[29] 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 US in December 1938, after a year and a half in Europe, and this time Frank had obtained an immigrant visa. As he later explained to a government official who inquired about his travels, “I intended at that time . . . to keep my political contacts alive and to help the German underground movement from America.”[30] Thus, by the end of 1938, Frank had established a permanent base in the United States, although he had not yet accepted the idea of becoming a permanent resident.

The following spring he obtained a re-entry permit that was good for one year, and again traveled back to Europe. Before leaving, however, he realized that his Austrian passport had expired. In a daring move, typical of the sort of calculated brazenness bred of years of underground work, Frank went to the German consulate in New York to exchange his Austrian passport for a German one (this was after the Anschluss). He describes the incident:

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 Austria who applied to have their passports changed, namely, a temporary passport, good for one year. Apparently they checked up on this in Vienna several months later when my father was called to the police.[31]


Throughout his years of anti-Nazi activity, Frank never seemed too concerned that his family in Austria could be in danger. None of them held political affiliations; they were Catholic of “Aryan” ancestry; his brother Hans Frank, a composer, was drafted into the Luftwaffe anti-aircraft corps in 1944, and his nephew Peter Frank had likewise been drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1943.[32] Karl himself had nearly been captured twice by the Nazi police—once in Berlin when the Gestapo raided the home of a friend where he was a guest, and a second time when Czech border patrolmen found him unconscious in the middle of a snowstorm while crossing the mountains into Germany (he escaped, skiing away from the border station with frostbitten limbs).[33]

            After spending most of 1939 in Europe and Great Britain, facilitating the move of the New Beginning foreign bureau from Paris to London, Frank returned to the US on January 3, 1940. His friend and associate in the Sopade executive committee, Paul Hertz, had preceded him, arriving in the US in early November 1938. In the eyes of the Sopade, Hertz was another rogue figure, but perhaps even more dangerous than Frank because he was an elected member of the Executive. He supported smaller socialist groups such as New Beginning, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the International Socialist Fighting League. After the New Beginning group’s break with the Sopade in 1934, Hertz joined Frank and the Englishman Stafford Cripps to form the group’s new treasury committee. Immediately upon his arrival in the US in 1938, the Friends of German Freedom welcomed him as another important leader of the New Beginning organization, and thus, as a representative of the only vital connection to the German underground labor movement.

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 Madison Avenue.[34] 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 Boston.[35] Its national committee of sponsors included Esther Caukin Brunauer of the American Association of University Women; Christian Gauss, the great dean of Princeton Univeristy; Quincy Howe, the CBS newscaster; Frank Kingdon, president of both the University of Newark and the New York branch of the Union for Democratic Action; Max Lerner, editor of The Nation and later of PM; the novelist Thomas Mann; and, Paul Tillich. Nothing looked better to prospective donors than a roster studded with prominent intellectual and cultural figures, but to actually run an organization such as the AFGF, one needed young and enthusiastic personnel who were willing and able to handle the administrative duties and massive amount of paperwork attendant to any large charitable enterprise, while still preserving some degree of idealistic zeal. An example of the type of young people that the AFGF began to attract was Ingrid Warburg.

Ingrid was a part of one of the leading Jewish families in Europe. Her rich and influential parents, Fritz and Anna (née Beata) Warburg, provided her with the best possible education a Jewish woman could hope for in the mid 1930s—Salem College (North Carolina), the University of Heidelberg, Somerville College of Oxford, and Hamburg University. While in England she struck up an affair with Adam von Trott zu Solz, who was studying at Balliol College of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. He would later enter into the German foreign diplomatic service, and through him Warburg learned about the German underground movement. After graduating from Hamburg University in 1936, being one of the last Jews to receive a degree, she took a six-week vacation in New York in the care of her American cousins. She briefly returned that summer to her native Hamburg, but found that the Germany of her youth had changed profoundly. She decided to return to New York in winter 1936 and was recruited by her father’s American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation (Agro-Joint) to do a speaking tour throughout the US. From the end of that year into the next, Warburg spoke in 220 cities about the Nazi atrocities in the Third Reich. The trip led to her acquaintance with Eleanor Roosevelt, and, more importantly, served to radicalize her politics.[36] When she returned to New York, she immediately became involved with the American Friends of German Freedom.

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 Germany and Europe of the menace of fascism was to facilitate a large-scale “democratic revolution,” of which the labor movement would be the vanguard. The war brought a rather abrupt end to all contacts with the underground groups. These contacts would require several more years to reestablish. But the FGF was optimistic about the new opportunities that the war would present, namely, “more definite chances for a democratic change in Germany in case of a defeat of the Nazi military machine.”[37] The newly constituted American Friends of German Freedom had to shift its focus to indirect means of support. Chief among these was a public education campaign including seminars, political discussion groups and public forums: “A systematic criticism of the Nazi regime will help to prepare more understanding about the mission of its counterpart, the democratic revolution.”[38] The Inside Germany Reports, which had relied on direct information gathered by the New Beginning group from underground sources, could no longer be sustained. In their stead, the AFGF began to publish a bibliographic circular, In re: Germany, which contained a detailed index of “all available information in the United States, from direct sources, emigrants, American contacts, diplomatic sources, press radio and book publications, and from direct Nazi sources” regarding the situation in Germany.[39] In effect, the transformation of the FGF into the AFGF meant its evolution from a private endeavor into a full-scale public enterprise.

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 Union for Democratic Action (Kingdon, James Loeb and Robert Bendiner), and his former associates in the Socialist Party of America (Mary Fox, John Herling and Joseph Lash). Niebuhr’s biographer Richard W. Fox notes that some of these members might have resented how Frank “regarded the American Friends as his personal instrument” for continuing the resistance against the Third Reich. According to Fox, a few of them became irritated with Frank’s “one-man-show” and felt that he acted irresponsibly by not always seeking the consent of the committee. [40] This alleged animosity toward Frank could be a biographer’s gloss, but at the very least it does reveal that his official title of “research director” was probably too modest.



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. New York and London had become the two main exile centers, but the latter site was “the capital of an active belligerent,” and thus,

While this increases the immediate effectiveness of the work that can be carried on from there in certain respects, it also sharply limits it in others. New York, therefore, is the only remaining large center offering the possibilities for action corresponding to that carried on from Zurich and Stockholm during the last war. Moreover, the already existing background of settled immigrant and foreign language groups, together with the longstanding prestige of the United States in Europe, makes of New York an international center offering still wider opportunities.[41]


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.”[42] 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 Europe following the war;

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 Europe and the world.[43]


The 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 US, sought to preserve the old Party apparatus, its bureaucratic hierarchy and republican ideals. Blinded by jealousy and arrogance—a condition shared by many political émigrés—those affiliated with the Sopade and its semi-official American representation, the German Labor Delegation, would prove to be some of the staunchest opponents of the initiatives undertaken by the American Friends of German Freedom.

            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)”: 

            Belgium: Omar Bécu [representative of the International Transport Workers’ Federation]

            Canada: Percy E. Corbett [international law scholar, at Yale University in 1943]

            China: Y. Y. Hsu [member of IPR]

            Czechoslovakia: L. H. Vydra [possibly affiliated with Queens College, N.Y.]

            Denmark: Gunnar Leistikow [editor]

            Germany: Dyno Löwenstein [son of Kurt Löwenstein]; Paul Hagen [i.e. Karl B. Frank]

            Italy: Carlo a’Prato [former secretary of Carlo Sforza; Geneva correspondent for the New

                        York Times; editor of the monthly Free World]; Paolo Contini [member of Mazzini

Society; Paolo Milano [literary critic; professor at Queens College, N.Y.]

            New Zealand: W. L. Holland [member of IPR]

            Norway: Fredrik Haslund [former secretary of the Norwegian Labor Party]; Finn Moe

                        [Norwegian Labor Party newspaper editor]

            Poland: Wiktor Ehrenpreis [lawyer]; George Kagan; Wladyslaw Malinowski [economist]


This 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: the Institute of Pacific Relations, Queens College, and the Mazzini Society, which was connected to the CIO and the International Ladies’ Garments Workers’ Union. It is interesting to compare this list with the proposed representatives given on the eve of the ICC’s formation; the founders had hoped to enlist Isaiah Berlin, Carl Zuckmayer, and Franz Höllering—considerably more prominent figures.[44] By mid-1942, the ICC still did not include any representatives from England, France or Spain.

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 US government remained one of Frank’s primary objectives. Apart from his public organizational approaches, like the ICC and later the CDG, he made several clandestine attempts to volunteer his individual services to the American war effort.



Attempts to Collaborate with the US Government

          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 Germany and Italy, based on material available in those countries’ news broadcasts. In actuality, the activities of the COI were often redundant and lacked authority. The US entry into war in December brought changes that further highlighted the insufficiency of the COI.[45]

In June 1942, Roosevelt tried a different strategy by dividing the COI into two separate groups: the Office of War Information (OWI) and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The former would focus chiefly on propaganda in the US and abroad. Radio commentator and Frank-supporter Elmer Davis was appointed director. The latter office, directed by Donovan, would deal with intelligence gathering and covert operations in collaboration with the military—in fact, although officially autonomous, the OSS would operate under the authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Therein lay the primary difference between the OWI and OSS: the first remained a civilian outfit, while the latter operated in conjunction with the military. In effect, the propaganda branch of the COI split off to form the OWI and the remainder—about half of the original staff—was renamed the Office of Strategic Services. A brief history of the group written by CIA historian Michael Warner makes the distinction between “black” and “white” activities. While the COI had dealt with both “black” covert operations and “white” propaganda production, the new offices would deal with these two facets of intelligence separately: “The change of name to OSS marked the loss of the ‘white’ propaganda mission, but it also fulfilled Donovan’s wish for a title that reflected his sense of the ‘strategic’ importance of intelligence and clandestine operations in modern war.”[46]

On April 10, 1942, Frank sent a memorandum to Allen W. Dulles, then New York bureau chief of the COI, titled “How to Prepare Collaboration with the Anti-Nazi Underground Movement.”[47] It begins simply, “There is an anti-Nazi potential in Germany, which up till now has not been utilized. It has hardly been recognized in its importance for political warfare.” The “hitherto neglected front” of the underground resistance movement, according to Frank, could prove to be extraordinarily helpful to an Allied military victory. Using arguments that would soon appear in his book, Will Germany Crack?, Frank outlines the debilitating effect that even a minor decrease in production would have on the German economy. Only a 10% drop through “spontaneous differentiation,” his term for anti-Nazi industrial wrecking and sabotage, would “easily out-balance the amount of lend-lease help given [per month] by the United States to its European allies.” And Frank suspects that the potential for a decrease in productivity due to anti-Nazi activity is much greater than 10%. Those factory workers who may only quietly resent the Hitler regime, or oppose it passively, need encouragement from the Allied governments and some assurance that their actions will work directly toward a Nazi defeat. It is therefore the responsibility of the American authorities to mount an effective propaganda campaign targeted at these disaffected workers, but also, and more importantly for the purpose of “collaboration,” to facilitate the rebuilding of contacts with the organized anti-Nazi underground that were cut off by the outbreak of war.

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 in Sweden, Switzerland, etc., where contacts to inside groups might possibly be reorganized.” This liaison group, or “expeditionary staff,” would draw on the support of a desk-bound research and analysis team that would “study carefully German newspapers, and above all, all of the available local [i.e. US] newspapers, reviews, books, etc.” For this second section, again only a few dozen “real experts with regional and local knowledge,” including “trustworthy refugees,” would be necessary. Such a group would be very important initially in collecting information from indirect sources, as cracking Hitler’s totalitarian blockade on direct information and reorganizing contacts with the underground would take time.

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 Germany—in another word—treated as allies and not as agents.


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 Germany,” must not be made to feel as though they were merely serving the interests of a foreign power. Frank left the German Communist Party in 1929 because he disapproved of its dependence on the Soviet Union. He would not abide a similar situation in which the US and its allies were puppet masters of a defeated Germany. Punishment of an entire nation for the crimes of a specific class—the Nazis—belonged with other archaic ideas of warfare, like the justification of spoils and plunder. His plan for collaboration with the underground thus constituted a sort of plea on behalf of a democratic Germany that existed, or was trying to exist, somewhere behind the dazzling red banners of Nuremburg.

Dulles reacted favorably to the proposal. He forwarded it along with a letter of recommendation to William Donovan in Washington, who circulated it among colleagues. Dulles also invited Frank to a meeting with him and Arthur J. Goldberg, a COI functionary who would later lead the Labor Section of the OSS.[48] Frank also met personally with Donovan.[49] Yet, despite a promising reception, Frank’s plan fell flat. The reason for its failure could have been the influence of the Foreign Nationalities Branch (FNB) of the COI, whose members sympathized with one of Frank’s rival groups in the New York émigré community, the Sopade-aligned German Labor Delegation. Chief among the FNB’s criticisms of Frank was that he was still a communist and even that “Neu Beginnen is subsidized by the Soviet Embassy in Washington.”[50]

Although the COI did not explicitly adopt Frank’s proposal, Donovan organized the OSS in June almost exactly as Frank had suggested. Not only did he establish bureaus throughout unoccupied Europe with the purpose of practicing espionage and running intelligence-gathering operations, centering on an office in Bern directed by Dulles, but he also founded a Research and Analysis Branch in Washington. This latter office, directed by William L. Langer, employed a number of so-called “trustworthy refugees,” chief among them Franz Neumann, for the study of German-language newspapers and other indirect sources. An enormous amount of correspondence between Donovan, Dulles, Langer, Roosevelt adviser Adolf A. Berle, et al. exists regarding contacts with the anti-Nazi labor resistance throughout the entire war.[51]

Although the OSS was definitely working toward the sort of collaboration envisioned by Frank, it did not include him. Obviously the US authorities did not consider him a trustworthy refugee, and if he could not even find employment with the innocuous Office of War Information under the direction of his friend Elmer Davis, then the chance of him working for the inherently covert and exclusive OSS was slim. Nevertheless, he and his associates at the AFGF continued trying to implement a plan throughout the remainder of 1942.

That summer, Frank entered into correspondence with Lt. Col. Julius Klein, an Army G-2 intelligence officer who occasionally worked for the OSS. Klein had written to the American Friends of German Freedom in praise of Frank’s book, Will Germany Crack?, which he considered “the best contribution that I have read so far in the field.” He promised to help spread the word about it.[52] In July, the two met in Washington. Klein offered to contact both his nephew Joseph Roos in Los Angeles, who worked for the News Research Service, and his brother Ernest, president of the Midwest Institute of Public Relations, in order to enlist their support for Frank and to aid the AFGF publicity campaign.

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 Europe under the auspices of the Army intelligence unit G-2. The purposes of this mission were the following:

1. To develop skilled men in the arts of underground movement and sabotage, training for particular tasks in Germany and German-occupied territory.

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 democratic Germany fit to take a place among the United Nations.[53]


This “Hagen formula,” in contrast to the Dulles memo, blatantly suggests that Frank be the one to lead such an operation, and that Klein be the officer to supervise him—his “control.” And although Donovan and the OSS were cursorily notified of this plan, its main addressees were the War Department and the General Staff. Klein explains to his Army superiors, “a group independent of all other groups, created and supervised by our own G-2, could be of great assistance (1) in obtaining up to date information and (2) in strengthening the underground and sabotage activities in Germany and German occupied territories.”[54] Furthermore, Klein writes, “After careful consideration and after various informal discussions with Hagen, this officer [Klein] has come to the conclusion that Hagen would be one of the most suitable persons to be used for such activities, which should come under the direct supervision of the War Department.”

It is not clear whether Frank himself proposed an operation independent from the OSS, or if that was purely Klein’s idea. The latter writes a rather deceptive letter to Frank on September 23:

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.[55]


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 OSS, perhaps because that office had refused to make use of Frank and his friends. “In view of the fact that many agencies in Washington are promoting similar activities without the proper coordination, it is suggested that the War Department create such a group under its own control.” Klein mentions three times in the same four-page document the necessity of operating under the auspices of Army G-2 and of that group alone. It is quite possible that Klein let some of his own bureaucratic prejudices determine his position. Why exactly he temporarily kept Frank in the dark is unclear. This proposal, too, failed. Contrary to his advice, Klein’s superiors felt it was a job best left to the OSS.[56]

            By the end of 1942, all prospects of collaboration with the US government had grown dim. The next year brought renewed hope, however, when Frank managed to raise the money to free the New Beginner Franz Bögler from a Swiss concentration camp and have it wired there by Arthur Goldberg of the OSS. Bögler would be the perfect agent to carry out an intelligence operation from Switzerland similar to the one envisioned by Frank. At the very least, thought Frank, he would be able to investigate the possibility of reorganizing the border contacts that had been broken off by the war some years before. In addition, Frank contacted several SAP members whom he knew from the Paris exile period and who happened to be in Sweden at the time: Jacob Walcher, August Enderle and Willy Brandt.[57] All of these men volunteered to work with Frank in order to reestablish a network of contacts with the anti-Nazi labor underground similar to that which had existed before the war. Unfortunately, they all encountered difficulties in finding any leads. All of their old contacts had obviously disappeared. On October 11, 1943, Frank learned that Bögler had been reinterned.[58] Despite another effort to once again free his friend from the concentration camp, Frank failed to secure the continued support of Goldberg and the OSS. The glimmer of hope for the reconstitution of the New Beginning group’s European theater of operation quickly vanished.

            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 United States, often prejudicing otherwise sympathetic Americans against any consequential association with him or his friends. His dealings with the OSS, however, represent not a chapter of his political career, but only an episode. Transcending some of his disappointing episodes are chapters of relative success. Frank’s most influential achievement of his US political career was the formation of the Emergency Rescue Committee in June 1940. Few groups in the world had such a palpable effect on the lives of Europe’s elite political and cultural émigrés.





The Politics of Rescue[59]


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Emergency Rescue Committee[60]


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 France, their last safe haven. Some tried to settle down and start new lives, but the more perceptive ones realized that it was only a matter of time before the Nazi horde would be upon them once more. In contrast to the radical changes in the European balance of power, the United States spent most of the 1930s in self-imposed isolation, focusing what little attention it had for foreign affairs on Latin and South America. The concerns of the average American revolved around employment and economic recovery, not international politics. What made the refugee crisis in Europe so acute was that apparently no one in America cared to help.

The United States government and the general American populace may have been apathetic to the plight of the refugees, but New York City was home to an intertwining network of relief agencies, refugee associations and rescue committees. By the end of the war the list of New York-based organizations devoted to helping European refugees was long. The American branch of the International Relief Association (IRA), for example, was founded in 1933 as per the directive of the international committee leader Albert Einstein, with the support of Eduard Fuchs, Helene Stöcker, and Carl von Ossietzky.  Throughout the 1930s the group would provide steady aid to the refugees of Europe and, according to The New Republic, would care for some 3,000 people.[61]  Charles A. Beard, historian and cofounder of the New School for Social Research, was chosen as honorary chairman of the new IRA branch. Raised a Quaker, Beard was devoted to the cause of peace. He came from the same generation of pacifists as Oswald Garrison Villard, owner of the New York Evening Post and The Nation, and L. Hollingsworth Wood, founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union—both of whom joined the IRA national committee. Freda Kirchwey, appointed treasurer of the group, was a former student of Beard’s at Barnard College, and she succeeded Villard as editor of The Nation in 1933 (eventually buying it in 1937).[62]  Kirchwey was an avid socialist, campaigning for Norman Thomas on several of his presidential bids, but she also held Stalinist sympathies that must have curried little favor with most New York liberals.

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 US government and relief agencies were of utmost importance. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) kept a close eye on the activities of the group. The common refrain written on several reports regarding the activities of the IRA and of its successor groups is “a little red—lots of pink.”[63]

The German conquest of France brought the refugee problem to a critical point. Under Article 19 of the June 22, 1940 armistice agreement, French authorities were required to “surrender on demand” any particular German refugee to Nazi authorities.[64]  This news came as a shocking blow to the relief agencies in New York. The sense of urgency suddenly intensified. All agreed that there was very little time left to rescue the émigrés stranded in France, many of whom were high on Hitler’s hit list. Frank acted quickly to help his friends who were in danger. He and his associate Joseph Buttinger (i.e. Gustav Richter), leader of the Revolutionary Socialists of Austria (RSÖ) and ally of the New Beginning group, wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt asking for her support in an operation to rescue anti-Nazi fighters in France who were imperiled by the armistice terms. A centralized organization drawing on American philanthropy and strong connections with the US government could facilitate the evacuation of thousands of refugees. Eleanor reacted favorably. With her aid and blessing, the AFGF called on the expertise of professional fundraiser Harold Oram and announced a large luncheon at the Hotel Commodore for June 25.[65] 

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 Cultural Freedom.[66] Frank Kingdon, a prominent New Jersey clergyman and first president of the University of Newark (which later merged with Rutgers), emceed the event. Speakers included Karl Frank and Reinhold Niebuhr. Calls for the creation of a new committee which would draw on the resources of both the AFGF and the IRA flooded the meeting hall. Mary Jayne Gold describes the proceedings:

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. [67]


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.[68] 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.[69] 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 West 54th Street, overlooking the Museum of Modern Art garden.[70] For offices, the ERC finally selected a suite in the Chanin Building at 122 East 42nd Street, right across from Grand Central Terminal, and two blocks down from the IRA headquarters. Members from both the IRA and AFGF collaborated unreservedly with the new Emergency Rescue Committee.

The problem with all of New York’s agencies was that their primary bases of operation were on the wrong side of the Atlantic. The first item of business for the ERC was to send a representative to France who would personally direct the group’s delicate rescue mission under the suspicious nose of Vichy. Before the committee decided on its agent, however, it needed a specific list of refugees to rescue. The people in the greatest danger were German political exiles, representatives of the liquidated labor unions and parties, and especially those known to the Nazi authorities as having engaged in resistance activities. Several leading New Beginning functionaries like Henry Ehrmann and also more prominent SPD leaders like Rudolf Breitscheid and Rudolf Hilferding were in this group. After the political refugees, came the thousands of cultural figures whose allegedly subversive works won them the scorn of the Nazis—the “degenerate” artists, critical intellectuals, etc. This latter group received most of the attention of American financiers, who either did not understand German political idiosyncrasies or did not care.

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 Europe, analogous to that of the Allied troops at the French port in May.[71] “Our Dunkirk, the Dunkirk of European democracy, has still to be organized,” announces Frank. This grand endeavor is “the most urgent task,” and American sympathizers must do everything in their power to procure for the refugees “visas to go somewhere, to another continent, and boats to take them away from Europe.” He continues,

The vanguard of Europe, the leaders in all progressive thought, has become a cut-off rear guard. They first! Then, there are the tens of thousands of other refugees. Some place must be found for them in the Western Hemisphere, and also for those today still in comparative safety in those corners of Europe where the totalitarian flood may come tomorrow. The goodwill, the generosity and energetic action of both Americas will be needed to provide such an asylum before it is too late. This is an emergency.


For 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 democratic Europe . . .[and] preparing a nucleus of democratic leadership for the future” will thus contribute to history much in the same way as “the Huguenots, the forty-eighters [1848], and other exiles driven from their homes.” “These nineteen-fortyers will contribute their strong character, their useful talents, if they are permitted to find asylum in the New World.” Frank concludes with a final plea: “Rescued emigrants of today will be reorganized fighters for the European democratic revolution tomorrow.” This is clearly Frank’s own dream. Speaking in July 1940, he still stressed the terms “emigrant” and “temporary,” instead of “immigrant” and “permanent.”     

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 Europe’s elite. Although they were humanitarians, American financiers wanted ostentatious results—like an iconic photograph of Heinrich Mann, Franz Werfel and their wives being greeted on a Hoboken pier by Thomas Mann and Frank Kingdon, underscored by a dramatic caption, “Rescued by the Emergency Rescue Committee.”[72]

             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 France as soon as possible. Sometime in mid-July 1940, Ingrid Warburg hosted a joint staff meeting of the ERC and AFGF at her apartment for the purpose of choosing an agent.[73] In attendance were a number of professors, foreign correspondents and union officials, all candidates for the position. Also there was Varian Fry, a young journalist and policy analyst who was attending as a friend of the AFGF.[74] Of the candidates present, none were acceptable. But, according to Mary Jayne Gold, Fry was “deeply impressed by what he heard that night and after talking it over with his wife, Eileen, he called up the secretary of Emergency Rescue [to] let them know that he was available in case nobody else turned up.” Frank, who was the group’s final authority in selecting an agent, returned Fry’s call a few days later and invited him to an interview that evening. After briefly—probably too briefly—outlining the dangers of working against the Gestapo in Vichy France, he gave Fry the job. The ERC arranged for Fry to travel to Lisbon in August via flying boat (the “Dixie Clipper”), then by train to his destination Marseille, which after the fall of Paris had become the refugee epicenter. Fry’s subsequent work over the next thirteen months through the offices of his Centre américain de secours is well documented.[75]        





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.[76] 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 US before it would issue a visa that permitted one’s entry into the country. The main qualifications for acceptance were that the client have fought in some way for the cause of democracy, and that he or she have no affiliation with communism. The former stipulation was somewhat flexible, but the latter was rigid. Once a refugee’s political past was cleared, Fry calculated that an allotment of approximately $300 (later $350) would be sufficient to fund his or her rescue.

The ERC, through the services of Oram, made a tour of New York’s philanthropic circles and booked some of the most prestigious musicians of the time in order to raise as much money as possible for the refugees in Europe.[77] By December 1941, the group had raised over $215,000, and of that amount it used only 15% for administrative purposes.[78] On the $350 per capita plan, the ERC had the ability to rescue over 500 individuals over the course of a year and a half. That the organization actually rescued nearly twice that number by the end of 1941 is a testament to the superb work of Fry in Marseille.

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 Rome, had greatly admired Mussolini’s fascist regime. An anti-Semite, paranoid and xenophobic, he treated the immigration issue as his ‘own personal war to keep out foreign spies.’[79]  He led the prevailing contingent of immigration restrictionists within the State Department. His colleague, Assistant Secretary Wilbur J. Carr, who wielded considerable control over the Consular Service, practiced a “policy of exclusion” and was the “epitome of the bureaucrat.”[80] Carr himself was not anti-Semitic, but he was deeply skeptical of Roosevelt’s ability as President, and his first loyalty was to the bureaucracy.

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 Hoover’s ‘likely to become a public charge’ (LPC) edict of 1930. Hoover had emphasized the already existing LPC clause in order to ease the burden of the Depression; any immigrant who was deemed unlikely to find work or be able to support himself was denied entry. Restrictionists used the clause as a protectionist measure and as an excuse to keep out the Jews and the ‘foreign spies.’[81] The 1924 quotas, according to historian David S. Wyman, “formed by far the most significant bulwark against large-scale American rescue of refugees.”[82]  The refugee cause would require either a morally charged political campaign to rouse public opinion against the State Department, or some direct manipulation of the system in order to wangle the limited visas. As it happened, all of the refugees rescued by the ERC—at least those who came to the US—received special emergency visas not included in the official immigration quota. Although this method was a way around the restrictive law, it required a detour through several governmental offices, including the bureaucratic morass of the Visa Division.

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.[83] 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 United States and have taken all steps permissible under our laws to facilitate the issuance of visas to them. A procedure has been adopted under which the names of refugee intellectuals and other persons living in grave danger in occupied territories are submitted by interested persons to the President’s Advisory Committee of Political Refugees, and if approved by that organization after investigation, are forwarded to the Department of Justice for approval, and by that Department to the Department of State. The names are then forwarded by telegraph to the consular officers in the respective districts.[84]


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,”[85] 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 against Hagen.[86]


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:[87] 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 US because his contract had been “terminated.”[88] 

Fry may have had a sort of “indispensability complex,” as ERC Secretary Mildred Adams contended,[89] 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 Europe would constitute his glory days. His life would never be the same after his experiences in Marseille. Perhaps sensing this, he sought to remain at the Centre for as long as possible. When he returned to New York in autumn 1941, his wife Eileen divorced him and the ERC disowned him. He was ostracized by the New York liberal community, the bosom of his formative years, and he proceeded to cycle through a number of ungratifying editing jobs. He did eventually remarry and settled down into a comfortable life, but his days in Marseille forever haunted him, belittling any further professional experiences—perhaps for this he deserves even more respect. Although he managed to save thousands, he paid the price by forever sacrificing his happiness.

Fry’s return to New York on November 2, 1941 marked the effective end of the Emergency Rescue Committee. The operation in Marseille actually continued through May 1942 under the intermittent direction of Jay Allen, but it was not nearly as successful. Allen was actually arrested by Nazi authorities in occupied France and spent four months in custody on charges of illegal border crossing. Apart from periodic news correspondence, Allen was incommunicado with the ERC offices.[90] The United States’ entry into the war made any American in France a potential spy or enemy combatant, so any kind of relief work would have to be done under the guise of some non-partisan international group. The International Relief Agency continued to function, and its agent Karel Sternberg remained in France through 1942 until his arrest by the Gestapo. On February 5, Kingdon, much to Fry’s dismay, announced that the Emergency Rescue Committee would merge with the IRA to form the International Rescue and Relief Committee (eventually shortened to International Rescue Committee).[91] The merger actually took place several months later. The new group retained the staffs of the previous two organizations, with Charles A. Beard as honorary chairman, and L. Hollingsworth Wood as acting chairman. Reinhold Niebuhr remained on the IRC national committee, but the troublesome elements of the former ERC were eliminated—Fry and Frank no longer had any association with the group.

In the end, the ERC had accomplished a great feat. Rescuing nearly 2,000 of Europe’s leading and nascent cultural figures, including Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, André Masson, Lion Feuchtwanger, Arthur Koestler and Hannah Arendt, the group proved that even in the face of totalitarian persecution and bigoted restrictionism, humanitarian initiative could still succeed. However, despite this particular group’s accomplishments, the American policy toward refugees was appalling apathetic. As Dorothy Thompson wrote in 1938, “It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.”[92] Frank himself, who was so crucial to the group’s inception, would later experience the same frustration—albeit not as vital—as he tried to obtain a re-entry visa that would allow him to travel outside of the US. The State Department seemingly hoarded its visas in an effort to deny entry, and in some cases, to deny life to the many thousands in desperate need.

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.[93] “Even in the absence of anti-Semitism, humanitarian considerations are not easily translated into government policy,”[94] 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.’[95]

The blame has been laid on many different sides, from Roosevelt to Pope Pius XII, from the State Department bureaucracy to the general apathy of foreign powers, but the most disheartening source was the American people themselves. A poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation in March 1938 found that only 17% of Americans supported “a larger number of Jewish exiles from Germany.”[96] The poll was repeated after the shocking Kristallnacht later that year, but the support barely increased, moving to 21%. Wyman also points to perhaps a more important poll by Roper that indicated only 8.7% of Americans favored the entry of “a larger number of European refugees than now admitted under our immigration quotas.”[97] The members of the Emergency Rescue Committee faced extraordinary opposition to their task, as did many similar groups working out of New York.

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 Union for Democratic Action; apolitical pacifists like the Quaker L. Hollingsworth Wood; and communist sympathizers like Freda Kirchwey. Unlike the AFGF, the Emergency Rescue Committee could afford to shy away from any particular political affiliation. Its activities, however, were largely under the discretion of Varian Fry and his staff at the Centre américain de secours in Marseille, which was definitely anti-communist. Frank had no aversion to aiding the rescue of communists. In fact, he viewed political cooperation with them—without the intervention of Moscow—as essential for a future German government. Political differences became subordinate to the increasingly difficult task of rescue work. Unfortunately, this spirit of compromise did not extend to the business of the German émigré community in New York. The relationship between Frank and his fellow political exiles was tenuous. Their frequent quarrels presented an unflattering picture to the American public.






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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,[98] 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.”[99] 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 Chicago, in which he called Frank “an imposter,” and accused him with “blackmailing women in Los Angeles.”[100] Seger was a journalist and former SPD member of the Reichstag who had been sent by the Sopade to the US on a fundraising mission in 1936. His mission proved generally unsuccessful, and his resentment grew as he witnessed Frank and his supporters receive all of the Americans’ attention. After hearing of Seger’s remarks in Chicago, Charney Vladeck and Mary Fox met with him and persuaded him to recant. They also elicited a promise that he would “put his retraction in writing”—this is something he never did. He did however write several articles in the NVZ repeating the same defamations.

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 Congress in London. Thus, when the Austrian first visited the US in 1935, Cahan felt insulted that he should fraternize with the likes of Thomas and Vladeck. When Frank established connections with the CIO, led by David Dubinsky, another Cahan foe, the latter’s animosity toward him and the New Beginning group stiffened. The historian Claus-Dieter Krohn suggests that Cahan may have been persuaded by German émigrés aligned with the Sopade to write the articles against Frank that appeared in the JDF, pieces that were little more than summaries of articles already published by Seger in the Neue Volkszeitung. Cahan may have been a tool of foreign interests in this case, but in reality, he did not need any encouragement. [101]

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,[102] 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.”[103] 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.”[104]

By 1939, whether or not they acknowledged the fault of their hubris, the Sopade chiefs recognized the practical necessity of a stable base in America from which they could directly court the labor unions and private financiers. Frank’s supporters had already realized this necessity in 1935 with the formation of the Friends of German Freedom. In spring 1939, the Sopade sent its third delegate to the United States, Friedrich Stampfer, to seek the sponsorship of the American Federation of Labor and the Jewish Labor Committee for a permanent American delegation. Stampfer, a former SPD member of the Reichstag, was on the executive committee of Sopade: their “highest ranking” representative to the US thus far. The AFL welcomed an organization of right-wing émigré socialists to counterbalance the predominantly leftist groups that already existed in the US. [105] Thus, the German Labor Delegation (GLD) came into existence in March 1939. On February 7, 1940, the executive board of the AFL met in Miami to discuss, among other things, “The relationship of the A.F.L. to the exiled German Social Democratic Party’s Executive Committee.” The board, presided by William Green, invited Stampfer and Rudolf Katz to attend as “two representatives of the German Social Democrats (Sopade).”[106]

While Stampfer was in fact a member of Sopade, and of its exclusive inner-circle led by Otto Wels at the Prague bureau, Katz never had any such official position with the organization. He was a jurist in Germany until 1933, when he fled to Paris fearing persecution for his Jewish ethnicity and socialist politics. He then served the League of Nations briefly as ambassador to Nanjing, China. In 1934 he emigrated to New York, where he joined a Columbia University think tank and founded the German-language weekly journal, Neue Volkszeitung, which would become the chief publicity organ of the GLD. Katz also directed both the Rand School of Social Science, which was a pamphlet publisher affiliated with the American Socialist Party, and the The New Leader, a liberal anti-Communist magazine in existence since 1924.

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].”[107] This Miami Resolution, as it would come to be called, legitimated the existence of the GLD in the US and gave its members significant leverage in dealing with rival groups from the left.

The GLD’s membership consisted mainly of former SPD officials and conservative defenders of the Weimar Republic from the old labor movement. Max Brauer and Albert Grzesinski were two of its leading figures. Katz became executive secretary, probably the most powerful position in the group. The GLD disliked Karl Frank, his elite band of radical New Beginners, and their sycophantic cult of American supporters, largely from the liberal intelligentsia. It proceeded to mount a vicious slander campaign against them, which included a bevy of newspaper articles and a whispering offensive in the US and abroad led by Stampfer.

            When Frank arrived in the US in early January 1940, he took over the reins of the American Friends of German Freedom, which existed essentially for his and the New Beginning group’s benefit. Reinhold Niebuhr remained the overall director while Frank became the “research director,” but there was never any question of the latter’s being in charge. Thus, the German Labor Delegation quickly aligned itself against the AFGF in what would become a bitter rivalry that reproduced in New York a microcosm of the same conflicts that had riddled the German socialist exile community in Europe. Each side saw itself as “legitimate,” and by mid-war, each claimed a much broader mandate than either really possessed—as early as 1940, GLD members saw their organization as the American representation of the Sopade in London. At the same time, AFGF supporters considered their own group as having exclusive ties to the underground resistance movement inside Germany. Harkening back to the exile debates in Paris from 1936-1939, the German members of the AFGF saw themselves as representatives of the coalition established there between the New Beginning group, the German Socialist Workers Party and the Foreign Representation of Austrian Socialists [Auslandsvertretung der österreichischen Sozialisten]—itself a coalition of the newer Revolutionary Socialists [RSÖ] under Gustav Richter (alias Joseph Buttinger), and Otto Bauer’s older Austrian Social Democratic Party. The Americans in the AFGF viewed this coalition and its partisans now in New York as the only people truly connected with the underground resistance movement. Thus, each group—the GLD and the AFGF—to a greater or lesser extent, and perhaps even honestly, misrepresented itself to the American public.

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 US at the invitation of Vladeck and the Jewish Labor Committee, effectively beating the Sopade to the punch. In the period 1935 to 1943, Frank estimated that he raised between $90,000 to 100,000 for his group, compared to about $20,000 raised by Sopade representatives.[108] Considering the respective sizes of the two camps—New Beginning consisting of no more than 100 members, while Sopade claimed the mandate of the SPD and its hundreds of thousands of pre-1933 members—this already striking difference in funds is made all the more disproportionate.

            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.[109] 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.”[110] Once in the US, with regular speaking engagements and writing jobs—not to mention the support of his wealthy wife Anna—Frank took no salary from the AFGF. At the very least, the accounting of Frank and his friends was considerably more responsible and public than that of the Sopade in Prague.

            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,[111] 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 Columbia University, but he apparently left for a “year-long vacation” on the West Coast shortly into the committee hearings. As a replacement, the two delegations selected Serafino Romualdi, an Italian anti-fascist and member of the Social Democratic Federation. It was also agreed that Rudolf Katz could sit on the committee but not have a vote. The investigation would summon witnesses to testify on seven questions distilled from the accusations made by Stampfer, Seger, Cahan and Gaidies.


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 United States, a refugee’s last resort, the German exiles could not set aside the same petty differences that had contributed to their defeat at the hands of the Nazis seven years before.

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.’”[112] Of this rumor Frank stated simply that “Wherever I and my friends encountered false stories about the investigation we rectified them.”[113] 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.[114]


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.”[115] 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.[116]


The GLD faction received copies of this correspondence and reacted with two rather vicious pieces published simultaneously in the Neue Volkszeitung.

On June 28, 1941, one of the first things to catch a reader’s eye in the Neue Volkszeitung was a rather ominous-looking article titled Der Fall Paul Hagen [“The Case of Paul Hagen”].[117] Authored by Brauer, Grzesinski and Karlin, this piece gives a brief summary of the formation of the investigative committee and lists the seven main accusations against Frank in the form of the questions that had been asked of witnesses at the hearings. The authors then voice their shock and indignation at having learned that the “accused” man, Frank, had gone over their heads with his “demand” to the chairman that he conclude the proceedings. Furthermore, they decry the conspiracy between the accused and the committee’s AFGF faction, citing the fact that the two letters to Romualdi were dated the same day. The GLD faction felt as if it had been the victim of a sort of coup de cour. Taking the statement of the AFGF faction as precedent, the authors finish with a tripartite statement of their own:

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”].[118] 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 “newcomer” to America who made “false inferences” from the situation in Germany and thus duped well-meaning Americans into supporting him: “It is often due to the extraordinary circumstances of our wild times that such improbabilities [i.e. Americans supporting such a controversial figure as “Paul Hagen”] are generally made possible.” A series of “unequivocal” statements follow:

He fought keenly against the Weimar Republic during the entire time of its existence with all legal and even some illegal means.

. . .

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.”[119] 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.”



The Accusations

            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?[120]


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”[121]—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.[122] Despite the break with the Sopade, Frank managed to stay informed of the activity within its bureau in Prague.

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 Germany. Such a document was profoundly dangerous should it fall into enemy hands, and, moreover, it was completely unnecessary for the Sopade to have such a centralized registry of people over whom it exercised no direct control. Frank felt that he must somehow acquire this memo before it fell into the wrong hands. His suspicions focused upon a certain Reinhold Schwabe, a Sopade office assistant whom many believed to be a Gestapo agent. Their suspicions were soon confirmed. The bureau fired him, and after his return to Berlin in 1935, a wave of arrests followed that Hertz believes were the result of information from the memo given by Schwabe to his Gestapo superiors.

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 Hagen investigation question refers, but he offered his information voluntarily, never persuaded by bribery. Once Frank knew of the memo, he informed the Labour and Socialist International (LSI) secretary Friedrich Adler. Neither Frank nor Adler ever had possession of the document. Adler was in Prague at the time to investigate the dispute between the Sopade majority and the renegade members Aufhäuser and Böchel. He confronted the assembled Sopade executive committee—among them Hertz—with the knowledge of the dangerous memorandum and asked for confirmation that the document did in fact exist. All claimed ignorance. According to Hertz, after Adler left, Wels and Hans Vogel admitted to him that they had lied, and that the memo was real. Nothing further came of the incident. Regarding its reappearance in the case of Paul Hagen, Hertz remarks: “Six years later a dangerous action committed by the executive committee is distorted into a slander against Paul Hagen.” He left the Sopade in 1938 after facing a hostile investigative committee quite similar to the one brought against Frank two years later.[123]

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?


Again, Hertz answers no. The basis of this question is Vladeck’s testimony upon returning from Europe to his JLC comrades that he had attended such a conference and had met, on a separate occasion, a charismatic German labor leader, Paul Hagen. Apparently the confusion arose either in Vladeck’s camp or among GLD critics over the connection between these two events. Frank never met Vladeck in Karlsbad, nor did he invite him to a conference of delegates from “a great German underground movement.” Whether Vladeck actually attended an event unbeknownst to Frank is irrelevant: the latter bore no association with it. The problem with such a conference for GLD critics was of course that it had no sanction from the Sopade, and therefore misrepresented the “underground movement.”

The third question also seems to rest upon a fictitious accusation; however, it leans a bit closer to the truth:

Question C: Is it true that some time around 1937 Hagen sent letters to various American Socialists denouncing Wilhelm Sollmann as anti-Semitic?


Sollmann was a Social-Democrat journalist and labor leader in Cologne who served briefly in the cabinet of Stresemann. In April 1933 he joined the executive committee of the SPD, only to be forced shortly thereafter to emigrate to Saarland, where he edited the anti-Nazi paper Deutsche Freiheit. Hertz carried on correspondence with him during the years 1935-1936 regarding the latter’s “notions on nationalism, race and the Jewish question,” and after the Neue Volkszeitung published an interview in which Sollmann “boasted about his political friendship with Otto Strasser”—the notorious radical Nazi who opposed Hitler and had recently confirmed his anti-Semitism—Hertz sent copies of his correspondence to some American friends “in order to avoid the impression that the underground movement endorsed these ideas.” According to Hertz, Frank never wrote any letters denouncing Sollmann as an anti-Semite. Hertz himself takes responsibility for such letters, although he hardly characterizes them as “denunciations.”

            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.”[124] 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?


The 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 Prague bureau with hopes of becoming an official in the socialist exile community. Hertz describes him as “unreliable” and “a nuisance.” He tried repeatedly to be elected to the “Board of the Social Democratic Émigré Association” (it is unclear to what exactly Hertz refers here, perhaps some coalition of Prague exiles) but he never succeeded. On one such attempt, Gaidies became convinced that Frank had denounced him as a Gestapo agent and had thus further tarnished his reputation in the Sopade. A 1936 investigative committee, or “arbitration court,” cleared both Frank and Gaidies. Like the memorandum incident, this too had little effect on the exile community—it only fueled the general distrust of Gaidies and prompted the latter to slander Frank a few years later. This example clearly shows the personal, vindictive nature of many of the attacks on Frank, and, in general, the power of even the most insignificant rival to damage an émigré’s reputation.

            Frank was certainly not the sole object of the New York émigrés’ chagrin. His organization, the New Beginning group, garnered suspicion in equal measure.

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?


Every clause of this question betrays the sort of sentiment prevalent in the German political emigration, especially those in the United States. According to the adherents of the German Labor Delegation, the Sopade was the only legitimate body representing the German labor movement. They were convinced that it had been mandated to preserve the SPD organizational hierarchy in exile until the Hitler storm blew over—much like the old SPD’s legendary period of illegality under Bismarck. The thought of some elite group of young intellectuals and revolutionaries claiming to have connections with underground resistance fighters in the German labor movement was dangerous to the Sopade’s self-declared hegemony. Thus, they branded any such group as subversive and opportunistic. The group’s leaders were imposters, swindlers, or perhaps merely ambitious or delusional—but never worthy of support. Many of the Sopade’s prejudices, which were sometimes justified, survived in New York’s émigré circles.

            The question’s last clause which dismisses the New Beginners for never having “played an important political role under the Weimar Republic” reveals the backward-looking perspective of émigrés in general, but especially of those as far away as the US. The unfortunate and baffling fact of the Nazi era emigration is that it was not only these émigrés so far adrift but also those as close to Germany as the Sopade bureau chiefs in Prague until 1938, and Paris until 1940, who cultivated the obtuse and unrealistic belief in the sanctity of the Weimar Republic. According to Frank and his friends, Germany’s first attempt at democracy was only admirable in its intentions. The Weimar government was simply incapable of managing its country’s adjustment to the conditions of postwar Europe. Its weak political apparatus, a nascent coalition government unprepared for the unified and decisive leadership necessary to guide Germany through the world economic depression, consisted of an SPD majority until 1932. For Frank, Weimar was in many ways the SPD’s government. The Social-Democratic émigrés later blamed the failure of that government on a “betrayal” by conservatives in the coalition and on communist subversion. They never considered the possibility that defeat was their own fault, because such an admission would mean that a complete revision of German socialist ideology and organization would be necessary. This sort of “new beginning” advocated by Frank and his friends was something the Sopade bureau chiefs—i.e. the Prague-based majority of the executive committee—wanted to avoid.

            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 Hagen uses the funds collected by his organization, the American Friends German Freedom, chiefly for the purpose of maintaining the aforementioned tiny group of political émigrés, “Neu Beginnen”?


Frank’s mission in the US, or at least his self-appointed task after having been refused a visa in January 1940, was to ensure the financial security of the New Beginners in London, which was the group’s official headquarters after leaving Paris. These twenty or thirty men and women in London, led by Richard Löwenthal (alias Paul Sering) and Erwin Schoettle, lacked the pre-arranged organization upon arrival there like Frank had in the US thanks to the Friends of German Freedom.

The FGF (later AFGF) money was sent to England “where a fund was set up, administered by Sir Stafford Cripps,” and its distribution to NB’s various European centers was managed by “a committee of German Social Democrats under the chairmanship of Dr. Paul Hertz,” who was in London until 1938. [125] One account claims that the American group raised nearly $40,000 to this effect, 80% of which “was spent inside Germany and form the expenses of couriers who maintained connections with those working inside, to keep alive a carefully selected democratic staff movement on German soil.”[126] The New Beginning group was never too painstakingly concealed as the beneficiary.

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 Germany, it has no authority there.” [127] The publication of these claims in the late 1930s did little to bridge the divide between the New Beginning group and the Sopade bureau executives, and by proxy, between the AFGF and the GLD.

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.[128]

. . .

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.[129]


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:

It pleases 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 in Germany.[130]


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.[131] 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.[132]

. . .

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.[133]


In 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.”[134] “A working diplomatist with his coat off,” making “a plain statement of truth,”[135] 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 France, poor Belgium, poor England, he laments—for centuries they only desired peaceful coexistence with their fellow Europeans. “Germans, male and female, are content with servitude, on condition that they are provided with enough of their blindly idolized efficiency to inflict servitude on others,” he writes.[136] Furthermore, for Germany, “please note that the enemy is always England. That is because the British Empire stirs Germany to envy. It is very important to recognize this.”[137]

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”[138]—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: “France, of course, is now being devoured. If you study the butcher-bird and his larder you will soon be convinced that you cannot possibly make honourable terms with a butcher-bird. It will always insist on eating you.”[139] Absurdities stand side by side with wanton gossip and haphazard quotations of Tacitus, his 2nd century authority on 20th century Germans. If he were not so serious, the work would make a fine parody.

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.[140] At one point he makes a clever analysis of the foundational German myth of the Nibelungen, portraying the ambitious regicide Hagen as the “hero” of modern Germany. While not explicitly alluding to Karl Frank (alias Paul Hagen), he certainly knew the man as an important leader of German émigrés in the US who would have the world believe that not all Germans are bad, and that if given another chance, Germany might arise a democratic nation. No more chances for Germany, chides Vansittart.

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.[141] 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.”[142] 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.”[143]

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:

[The German 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 Germany but Europe, the world.[144]

. . .

I speak for all the oppressed peoples of Europe when I declare that none of them will for a moment tolerate being tied to any Germany in any form after the war. . . . We and they will resist uncompromisingly any attempt to federalize Europe with Germany to suit Herr Hagen’s book. . . . We will have no more headers into philanthropy; she [Germany] cannot expect them. All these pleas and devices will be rejected.[145]


And, for good measure, he concludes with a racial pun in describing the caution and many years of German penance that will be required before Europe can again step foot upon the “bridge” of trust with that country: “We shall have to test the bridge cautiously, before we can put much weight on it. Last time [after WWI] the German end was indeed jerry-built.”[146]

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 Toronto, from where it easily could reach the American public. It is unclear precisely why he chose Thompson as his dedicatee—they were acquaintances from the time she was Berlin foreign correspondent for the New York Post—but one possible reason was to focus his propagandistic aim on one prominent American who often supported and sympathized with German exiles, including Karl Frank. Vansittart’s goal in Great Britain and the United States was to shatter the legitimacy of representative German émigré groups and to disrupt the supposed comfortable existence that these groups enjoyed in the bosom of English and American patronage. He observes that,

The German refugees in the United States and here [England] continue to sit pretty, and I do not blame them. They could not anyhow flock back to nothing: the underground movement in Germany has produced no substantial evidence of its existence. Those who endeavour to multiply the just men of the modern Sodom are reduced to concocting bogus lists of names [the ERC?] drawn partly from the inhabitants of the overrun countries.[147]


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 Weimar Republic—superimposed on a large swastika. This simple image conveys Vansittart’s meaning directly and in its entirety, and certainly as it applied to the exiles hopeful for a chance to redeem the mistakes of Weimar: failed German democracy and Nazism are synonymous, merely different faces of the same decrepit German coin, and thus should be treated equally as dubious, unwanted and worthy of nothing else than condemnation. The back cover is a description written perhaps by the publisher, perhaps by Vansittart himself: it concludes, “His indictment is not merely propaganda: it is based upon wide scholarship, first-hand experience and the conviction of many years. No man living was better qualified to say these things. They needed saying. They cannot be ignored.” Indeed, they were not ignored—neither by the disenfranchised émigrés nor by a number of Americans eager to join the campaign against the “brazen horde” within their borders.

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.”[148] 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 England centered about the Labour Party international secretary William Gillies and the “Fight for Freedom” committee (FFC). Its German members were former SPD functionary Walter Loeb, former editor of the Sopade’s Neue Vorwärts Curt Geyer, former editor of the social-democratic Leipziger Volkszeitung Fritz Bieligk, former mayor of Berlin-Kreuzberg Carl Herz, and former editor of the Schlesischen Arbeiterzeitung Bernhard Menne.[149] Through Gillies, they were able to obtain the tacit support of the Labour Party’s international subcommittee, as well as the explicit support of Camille Huysmans, Luis Araquistain and Konrad Nordahl of the Labour and Socialist International.[150] The group published a number of pamphlets, like Rennie Smith’s Peace Verboten (1943), and an annotated English translation of New Beginning’s Der kommende Weltkrieg in 1942, abridging it in much the same way as Vansittart had done in Lessons of My Life, i.e. inaccurately. This document, which one could barely call a translation, circulated among Allied government officials, and as Frank remarks, “In peacetime literary political falsifications are confusing and disturbing. In wartime, they are pure poison.”[151] He cites an article of May 23, 1943, in the New York Journal-American, a Hearst paper, which was inspired by the FFC translation, and “devoted primarily to castigation of the Office of War Information [for which several New Beginners worked] to accuse me, without mentioning my name, of wanting to oust Hitler so that I could occupy his seat.”[152]

The response by German socialist émigrés and their supporters in Great Britain was rather strong. Victor Gollancz, a British publisher[153] and founder of Left News, wrote a book in 1942, Shall Our Children Live or Die? A Reply to Lord Vansittart on the German Problem (London: Gollancz). In it, he charges that Vansittart and his followers seek to sterilize the German race. Combating the FFC’s influence in the Labour and Socialist International was the Belgian Louis de Brouckère, who wrote a brief statement in response to the republication of Der kommende Weltkrieg, “Decency in Socialist Controversies,” condemning the work as a gross misrepresentation of the ideas of New Beginning, a worthy group of democratic anti-Nazis. With a hint of sarcasm, he criticizes the FFC slanderers: “I admire those who feel that they are pure enough to throw the first stone. But I shall not have the effrontery to join their little firing squad!”[154] Brouckère managed to rally a large group of New Beginning supporters in the International to oppose the Huysmans faction—the former group became known as the “internationalists.” The conflict played itself out in the London Tribune. Richard Löwenthal writes to Frank, “This sort of paranoiac exaggeration of our importance is probably familiar to you from over there. For Loeb [and the FFC], N. B. [the New Beginning group] has ceased to be a special group and simply become a symbol for [our] pernicious belief in a German revolution.”[155]

Criticism of the New Beginning group in London found fertile ground in the United States. Some Americans were eager to participate in this Vansittartist anti-German campaign. Chief among them was Rex Stout.



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 US in support of an immediate declaration of war on Japan and Germany; this group distinguished itself in the use of smear tactics against its critics. His example, when set in opposition to that of Frank’s supporters, is proof that American liberalism was hardly a unified ideology, and that support of the New Deal did not imply adherence to any specific set of political principles—this is in stark contrast to later American conceptions of liberalism and conservatism, two terms which have become nearly synonymous with Democratic and Republican party lines. A 1929 article in Time magazine wryly remarks, “Being liberal these days is simply a matter of being more liberal than the next man.”[156]

On December 9, 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war, Stout oversaw the formation of the Writers’ War Board (WWB) at the request of Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. The group consisted of thousands of authors and journalists nationwide with the purpose of fostering American patriotism and supporting the war effort. An early example of a civilian-run propaganda agency semi-employed by the government—a model that underwent only slight modification with the establishment of the Office of War Information the following June—the Writers’ War Board followed the direction of a New York-based executive board chaired by Stout.[157] The board’s other members included author and Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck, and Pulitzer Prize winners Margaret Leech and John P. Marquand. The WWB’s advisory council, a selected group of about fifty prominent writers from among the thousands affiliated with the group, included Langston Hughes, Edward R. Murrow, Eugene O’Neill, Dorothy Thompson, Oscar Hammerstein and Thornton Wilder: an impressive roster with an ambitious task.

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 June 7, 1944, D-Day plus one, the board signed a statement outlining its position on “the German problem.”[158] The first section of this document, labeled “The Record”—possibly drawing on Vansittart’s term, “Germany’s black record”—states the following:

Nazism is merely a recent manifestation of Pan-Germanism, which for a century has been the prevailing political doctrine in Germany and has determined the attitude and purpose of German foreign policy. The two basic characteristics of Pan-Germanism have been and are (a) the belief that the Germans are a master race, and (b) the conviction that the master race [of] Germans should and will dominate the world.


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 US, “Mere lip service to the democratic ideal is not sufficient.” And, almost a charitable observation, “Some of the more articulate of these exiles are eloquent apologists for Germany. They attempt to appeal to the American love of justice and fair play in order to prevent the complete victory of the United Nations [i.e. the Allies].” Frank was undoubtedly one of these “eloquent apologists.” A particular object of the WWB contempt was the Council for a Democratic Germany, an exile coalition cofounded by Frank, and the board believed “it is regrettable that certain prominent American liberals are lending this organization their support.”

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.[159] While agreeing with the document’s conclusions on how to deal with Germany after the war, Gannett declares that “the details reek of emotion rather than of thought; part of it seems to me an utterly unwarranted and inconsistent attack on those very Germans whom . . . you say you wish to support.” The statement comments on the so-called innocent minority of Germans: “Some Germans have not accepted Pan-Germanism and do not now. We hope that the day will come when they will be numerous enough to control the policies of their nation.” Gannett continues with a criticism of the list of books on Germany recommended by the WWB, “some of the worst recently written.” He threatens to resign from the WWB advisory council if it does not revise some of its positions regarding pan-Germanism, especially the equation with Nazism, and regarding the Council for a Democratic Germany, which he considers to be a realistic and truly democratic organization. He concludes with a recapitulation of his desire to leave the group if changes are not made, and chides, “a responsible body like the Writers’ War Board should choose its words more carefully.”

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.”[160] 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 United States. This new group pandered to the widespread fear among Americans that Germany would rise again, even after defeat in the current war, to initiate yet another, a third world war. Stout, as president, was the group’s driving force. Joining him as vice-chairman was Lyle Evans Mahan, son of the great American naval historian Alfred Thayer Mahan. The remaining nine directors were all emigrants from Europe, most having arrived in the US before the 1930s. Two of these men were considerably wealthy: Rudolf Fluegge was a New York banker and Isidore Lipschutz was a Belgian diamond merchant whom Frank considered one of the group’s “chief financiers.” Lipschutz had developed a close relationship with Frederick W. Foerster, another SPWWIII director who had come from London after working with the Fight for Freedom committee.

Foerster was one of Frank’s most eloquent and effusive critics. Incidentally, they might have known each other briefly at the University of Vienna in 1914, when Frank was a first-year student and Foerster was a professor of ethics and social science. He was a philosopher, educator and pacifist who published a book, Europa und die deutsche Frage [Europe and the German Question], in 1937, which anticipated many of the pan-Germanism arguments used by Vansittart.[161] After learning of certain accusations made against him by Lipschutz, who cited Foerster as his authority, Frank wrote a series of letters to Foerster to broker a peace. As he put it, “considering Professor Foerster a doctrinaire but an honest man, I tried to stop the nonsensical attacks,” like Foerster’s speech to the Free World Club in September 1942, “by entering into a long correspondence with [him], but I was mistaken in thinking that he would be fair enough to retract [his attacks].”[162]

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.[163]

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 United States, study their effects, report on them, and combat them.”[164] Frank and the American Friends of German Freedom were the archetypal targets. Tactics like Lipschutz’ were standard. Another instance occurred at the United Auto Workers (UAW) headquarters in Detroit. Someone from the Society had delivered a batch of Friedrich T. Tetens’ pamphlet, “Know Your Enemy,” to the UAW mail room, and had the staff start packing UAW mailing envelopes with the intention of sending them to the union’s 400 international representatives. The pamphlet was a SPWWIII publication and contained the standard pan-Germanism arguments, as well as some direct attacks on Frank and his friends. Luckily for Frank, some of his supporters at the UAW office stopped the mailing at the last minute. This sort of intimidation and donor pirating was the Stout group’s modus operandi.

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.”[165] Stout voiced his approval of men like Foerster and Tetens, in other words, for those who had renounced Germany completely. He went on to criticize the Council for a Democratic Germany, an organization that Frank had cofounded, saying of its American sponsors that “it was the most unforgivable performance of a group of American liberals in the history of our country. . . . The Germans who wrote it ought to be shot.”

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.

. . .

Without the political, economic and ideological backing given to her in America, Germany would never have been able to prepare so thoroughly for World War II.[166]


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.”[167] 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 US in 1926 and lectured extensively throughout the Midwest on European cultural and political topics. Catholicism played an important role in his conception of pan-Germanism and in his no-surprise attitude toward Nazism, as it did with Foerster. In a speech of August 9, 1944, to the Kiwanis Club of Des Moines, Iowa,[168] Mann embarks upon the same historical odyssey favored by Vansittart, demonstrating that Frederick the Great was not a great liberal, but a great tyrant. The Prussian monarch’s persecution of Catholics colors Mann’s displeasure. And as for Frederick’s renowned intellect, he could not have been that smart “because he denied a position to the greatest genius of his time, Bach.”[169] Further evidence of his religious sensibility and narrow perspective comes when he thus begins paragraphs: “When Germans under Hitler[’s] command began to kill Jews and Catholics . . .”[170]—Catholics were only a small minority among Hitler’s victims, far smaller in number than Gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, and later, Poles.

Somehow Mann’s speech wanders into even murkier waters when he explicates the ways in which Germany “has already begun preparation for World War III.”[171] The conclusion of this section is an entreaty to future occupying powers to beware of the postwar “Nazi underground,” which will undoubtedly smolder like a coal fire beneath the ruins of the Reich. Mann invokes the bogey of continued Nazi survival even after a German defeat, and his kicker:

Twenty-five 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 Germany.[172]


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.[173] 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.





Two Books

 [back to Contents]


Will Germany Crack?

What you read here may not be what you are hoping for; it is not altogether what Hagen is hoping for either.[174]


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 Germany with blood, grease and soil—the front, factories and farms finally appear in a realistic light uninfluenced by the pervasive Nazi propaganda. Or so we are led to believe. Hunter College president George N. Shuster notes in a review that Frank’s claim to exclusive information from within Germany is “probably too ambitious, since most of the documents quoted have been available to every inquirer . . . notably the excellent reports of the German Social Democratic party [which] antedate the fall of France.”[175]

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 Germany were vanishing. And the book’s advertisement as a “factual report” perhaps glosses over its obvious propagandistic purpose. As with any contemporary report, however, an alleged “factual” basis is always selective, always subjective. Frank was picking at objective scraps. His sympathetic reviewer and colleague Reinhard Bendix writes, “This treatment affords a rather neat illustration of how much can be derived from unco-ordinated, incomplete, and distorted information, if one’s interpretation is based on a sound knowledge of the history and the present developments of a country.”[176] Whatever first-hand accounts managed to escape Fortress Europe and whatever one could glean from the evasive state-controlled German media were quickly snatched up by hungry observers eager to satisfy their starving agendas. But it is natural for any expert to exaggerate the scope and depth of the information available to him. Another review is somewhat more convinced than Shuster, stating that “Mr. Hagen has his ‘pipelines.’”[177] In a memorandum drafted by the American Friends of German Freedom to the Jewish Labor Committee in September 1941, the unvarnished account of the group’s contacts is bleak:

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.[178]


The “regular courier service between Germany and headquarters abroad” that had formed the primary conduit of information to outsiders had ceased to exist. With this lack of direct reports, the work of Frank and his supporters became very difficult—no longer were they merely a mouthpiece for sources within, simply letting the information speak for itself with little to interpret. Rather, the exclusivity claimed by Frank was now solely the product of the assiduity and comprehensiveness of his staff at the American Friends of German Freedom.

            The 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 US government and military. It is difficult to imagine a general public audience reading this book. It is sufficiently clear and self-explanatory to have been understood by the layman unacquainted with German history, political or social, but why anyone outside of certain interested parties would have wanted to know the percentage of Germans engaged in domestic service in 1933 (2%), or the total tonnage of freight transport in 1917 (408 million tons) is unclear, even if reviewer James K. Pollock finds the “chapters on labor and agriculture [and presumably industry] particularly good, probably because the author is more at home in discussing the social effects of Nazi rule than when he deals with governmental and administrative matters.”[179] Despite the knowledge that his readership would mostly consist of left-leaning New Dealers, Frank still watered down many of his socialist-charged stances that could have offended a more conservative audience. This was of course his American modus operandi. But Will Germany Crack? was something more than diluted New Beginning propaganda. Whatever the assessment of its political radicalism, the book was one of the most widely-circulated publications by any German émigré written at the time. Its success is a testament to Frank’s importance in the émigré community and to the prominence of the New York political Left at the time.

            With 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 New York Herald-Tribune, The New Republic, The Nation, and the Saturday Review of Literature, among others. This much-touted “pragmatic” or “realistic” account of conditions within Germany satisfied a certain learned curiosity among Americans whose country was only a few months into the war—in spring 1942 the Pacific theater occupied most of the attention, and the war in the West still seemed rather strange and distant. Operation Torch, the US landing in North Africa, was the first engagement of American ground troops in the Western theater, and it would not take place until November. Thus, in June, the Third Reich appeared virtually impregnable and its armies unstoppable. The question “Will Germany crack?” was a serious one. The purpose of Frank’s book was to establish a reasonable argument for Germany’s inherent weakness, to highlight the corruption of its major industries, and to shatter the glittering façade of power that had shocked and seduced much of the Western world.

Of course, 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 within Germany, then, due to the enumerated weaknesses of the regime, they would actually have a great chance of success should there be a rebellion. Thus, American authorities should attempt to induce the German masses to rebellion through any available ideological and financial means. Frank’s assumption was that outsiders, be they Allied governments or political émigrés, could not accomplish this task directly, but needed to count on the leadership of the socialist labor movement within. Other AFGF publications held the same view, namely the Inside Germany Reports, which were basically the former Green Reports of the Sopade, but now run entirely by the New Beginning group and its affiliates. Another AFGF publication was In re: Germany, a regularly-updated bibliographic index of primary and secondary source material on the resistance movement and conditions within Germany. The method throughout all, that of “here’s the information, see for yourself,” must have had a self-evident and unpresumptuous quality that appealed to Americans, but it was still undoubtedly propagandistic, a quality not necessarily concealed by the authors.

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.

            The 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 Germany before there was actually a war. Also, many Germans, not just Nazis, hoped their country might through war achieve its rightful place as chief among European nations and avenge the perceived betrayal of Versailles.

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.[180]


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.

By 1942, 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.”[181] 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.[182] Pervasive militarization is an essential characteristic of all totalitarian regimes, from Stalin’s Russia to Mao’s China. Regardless of the political agenda, fascist or communist, or even democratic at times, the “citizen soldier” (to perhaps misappropriate a term) is the basic unit of society. Discipline, conformity and determination are the required characteristics of the totalitarian wasteland. As an example of this martial atmosphere, Frank cites “six commandments” posted at a German railway station in 1940:

            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.[183]


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 enthusiasm.”[184] Furthermore, the experienced workers of old were by and large replaced or supplemented with what Frank calls unskilled ersatz labor: workers brought in from Eastern Europe who were little more than slaves. What appeared in Nazi ledger books and what dominated the airwaves were inflated figures of the productivity potential of German labor; what was presented as a labor surplus was really a skilled labor shortage shored up by essentially useless bodies from conquered territories, some indication of which was that “skilled workers are courted more assiduously in Germany than the most beautiful girls.”[185] According to Frank’s estimate, production per man-hour had actually decreased significantly since the war started. Overwork, fatigue, and losses to the military were the causes. Fatigue “interferes with ‘accuracy.’ It leads to a decrease in efficiency, even of the old stock of workers. Later it will develop into passive resistance, and one day, when Hitler doesn’t win his final victory, it will become rebellion.”[186]

            The 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 Rhine—where dissent became rare and rebellion became unthinkable. In Frank’s view, contrary to Allied hopes, the growing fear of ultimate and devastating defeat among Germans, which was intensified by the 1943 Casablanca mandate for unconditional surrender, served not to strengthen any opposition within the Reich but to severely weaken it. In a May 1941 article published in the Baltimore Evening Sun, Frank remarks à propos of a reported loss of enthusiasm for the regime among younger workers,

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.[187]


The horrible fear of what would happen to Germany should the Allies win emboldened the Nazi cause and only confirmed the people’s resolve to devote themselves entirely to achieving an impossible victory. Goebbels used this fear as an effective propaganda device. Frank articulates this idea more clearly in a September 1942 piece in Common Sense:

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.[188]


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

            Frank’s 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 to Scotland in May 1941 and constant rumors of coup plots in the General Staff engendered a certainty bordering on mania among observers in Allied nations that an overthrow of Hitler by a dissident military junta was imminent. This strange fascination with high treason and powerful men of honor acting on their consciences to rid the world of a terrible dictator gripped the public mind at the time and has continued to hold the attention of resistance scholars since—easily more than half of the books and articles written about the Widerstand in the past half-century have centered upon Admiral W. F. Canaris, Adam von Trott zu Solz, and above all, the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler in his East Prussian headquarters, which involved members of the aristocracy, the General Staff and various other collaborators: Carl Goerdeler, Wilhelm Leuschner, Julius Leber, et al. The romantic appeal of gallant men defending their Fatherland was and still is enchanting.

According to 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 Germany. Unless the Allies were to forcibly dismantle the bureaucracy, infrastructure and ideology of the Nazi State so completely as to essentially destroy Germany itself, a Generals Revolt would only perpetuate the system of totalitarian oppression and racial hatred that had methodically snuffed out every flame of democracy for the past decade. The only way to destroy the Nazi system was through a crushing military defeat.

Frank carried his condemnation of the idea of “revolt from above” almost to a fault. In an apparently unpublished commentary on the recent Hess flight to Britain, Frank writes,

Hitler sent Hess to England. . . . Hess had no brainstorm. He didn’t escape. There is no hopeful split among groups at the top of Hitler’s party. . . . Hess flew to Scotland in a situation in which it would be of decisive importance if English perseverance, although strengthened by the prospect of increased American aid, could be demoralized with the help of an unusual ambassador . . . [This would] make it possible for a British appeaser group to believe that they could check-mate Churchill. . . . It is useless to speculate about the exact nature of this plan. . . . Anything that Hess may say in the future to explain his escape and attest to his love for humanity is no longer of any importance.[189]


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 London mentions a certain “silly” and “doubtful” source that the latter had noticed while skimming through the book—something that Victor Gollancz would cut out of the London edition, published in early 1943.[190] Despite its occasional lapses in analytical rigor, Frank’s judgment regarding a Generals Revolt is nevertheless consistent and in accord with the established New Beginning position. The “democratic revolution” in Germany that had started in 1918 with the deposition of the Kaiser, had struggled through Weimar, and had nearly been extinguished by Hitler, had to complete itself. The so-called completion of the democratic revolution was Frank’s chief hope in 1942 and would be the theme of his second book.

            But where was the greatest potential for resistance and democratic ascendancy in Germany? Not in the bureaucracy, not in the churches, not with the businessmen and certainly not with the military—it was instead, naturally, with the socialist labor movement. These were Frank’s people, the workers formerly aligned with the SPD, and upon them he placed his greatest hope. Thus, the book Will Germany Crack? had two main strands: first, the demonstration of the distressed and fatigued state of Hitler’s labor legions, a perfect condition for revolt; and second, the argument discrediting all sectors of German society supposedly in opposition to the regime other than the labor movement, with particular contempt for the fabled Generals Revolt. Frank’s conclusion, his attempt to answer the book’s eponymous question, is hedging and rather uninspiring, but perhaps that is only because it is honest: Germany might crack, and if it does, this book has shown you where. To extend the metaphor, one might liken Frank to a cautious antiques appraiser examining an old piece of porcelain—distress marks here; might break; be sure to take extra care—except he wanted the item to break.

            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.[191]


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.[192]


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,[193] 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.”[194] 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.[195] 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.[196] The Nazis posed as the protectors of industry and

depict, in glowing colors, the paradise awaiting Big Business after victory: the maintenance of Germany’s military power, the increasing production, industrialization of colonies, old-age pensions and new housing. Investments of astronomical proportions await business: industry is to be reorganized according to peace purposes [i.e. after the war], backward agriculture to be rationalized, great cities to be rebuilt and a commercial center reaching out over whole continents and across the oceans of the world to be established. . . . Wages will be kept low and credit high, economic regimentation will be largely reduced and state supervision made less bureaucratic.[197]


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.[198]


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 United States altered merely his terminology or his actual ideology. Taking into account his radical background and his immediate political purposes, the change was likely of the former type: the adjective “democratic,” while perfectly compatible with socialism, became in his lexicon a term of convenience.

For 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 Sachsenhausen and Dachau, to be liberated by US troops in 1945. Thyssen’s “autobiography” I Paid Hitler, purportedly written by him while imprisoned (but actually written by publicist Emery Reves), appeared in the US in 1941. It recounts the “marriage” between these two sectors of German society, state and industry. To be fair, some of the industrialists initially resisted the Nazi takeover—Gustav Krupp warned Hindenburg against appointing Hitler Chancellor—but any sympathy must stop there. In accord with his argument against the viability (i.e. against the desirability) of a Generals’ Revolt, Frank decries the collaborative exploitation of the masses practiced by the Nazis and the industrialists, thus placing them together in the camp of Germany’s truly undesirable elements. Nor does he have any sympathy for the dispossessed small businessmen who “look back with nostalgia to the days when their worst problems were trade unions and collective bargaining.” “But it is too late,” he continues, “They wanted to be ‘master in the house’ and that is why they supported and financed Hitler, voted for him and pushed him ahead.” [199] These men witnessed the Jewish pogroms and began to fear for their own well-being: “We’ll come next; we’ll be the ‘white’ Jews. . . . The French and Russian revolutions will look like target practice in comparison with what we can expect after the hatred that is being piled up against us [erupts].”[200] Despite his criticisms, Frank sees more potential resistors in this sector—“some for conservative reasons, others for progressive ones”[201]—than among the Communists.

            The 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.”[202] The Gestapo statistics on the number of Communist agitators arrested were not always accurate because “the Nazis call everyone who resists a ‘communist’.”[203] This same tendency to group all left-wing dissidents under the name “communist” was also prevalent in the US for most of the twentieth century. But the majority of labor underground resistors who were caught was most likely Communist-affiliated, due to the KPD’s large membership[204] and to the stupidity and carelessness of its tactics. What was inexplicable was why its members persisted in obviously futile activities destined to lead to exposure. The German Communist Party (KPD) was extremely lax in its recruitment and admissions; Gestapo infiltration was almost ubiquitous.

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.[205]


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.”[206] 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,[207] 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.”[208]

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.”[209] 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.[210]


Blind devotion to the cause was a characteristic held in common by Communists and Nazis. Those socialists who remained in Germany preferred limited clandestine survival to the sort of mass action pursued by the communists. The KPD characteristically ignored its own failures and interpreted the fall of the SPD as part of the long overdue collapse of the decrepit Weimar Republic; thus, with the SPD seemingly destroyed by its collapse in 1933, the KPD saw itself as the sole remaining heir to leadership of the German labor movement.

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:

Hagen gives no picture of the struggle of the German opposition because he knows nothing about it despite boasts about connections and his trips in Germany. He ignores or falsifies the activity of the most vigorous German anti-Nazis, the Communists. . . . Some day the German opposition will be amazed to learn of Paul Hagen’s existence.[211]     


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 Moscow, completely controlled the activities and policies of the KPD, limiting any national autonomy or attempt to adapt to particular German circumstances. The result was a mass of young Party members floundering in a fascist abyss, subject to the whims of Stalin’s fickle foreign policy. In fact, this situation was precisely the reason that Frank had quit the KPD in 1929. He makes the same criticism of the French Communist Party.[212]

In accord 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 Germany] will only be established if it is the free work of the revolutionary people’s movement, not the product of the armed intervention of a degenerate dictator”—i.e. not the product of Stalin and his agent, the Comintern.[213] But it is not in Frank’s interest to criticize any element of the labor movement too harshly. In an article published in November 1942 by The Nation, he writes one of his more egregious bits of propaganda: “Party lines of course no longer exist in underground Germany, though the old traditions are still strong; people simply work together, try to hold out, and prepare for a new movement.”[214] Of course party lines still existed. While not as vicious as, say, the fight between Chang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and the Chinese Communist Party as their country was ravaged by the Japanese, the antagonism between socialists and communists underground in Germany was not attenuated much by their common struggle against Hitler. Granted, after the war many socialists who had remained inside Germany called for unity with the communists, but this was likely an attempt to coax the radical elements of the labor movement away from an alliance with the Soviet Union. In any case, it should be noted that the respective development of groups within Germany and those in exile proceeded independently.

For both 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 Germany, including Walter Ulbricht, and imposed their puppet authority over those who had remained inside. The result in the Russian zone of occupation was the Soviet-oriented Socialist Unity Party.



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 Germany on the part of those in this country who believe in its existence, while such proof has been provided in abundance to the democratic world by the undergrounds of the various occupied countries. . . . The recent information on the volume of arrests and executions of Germans may attest to the growing disillusionment among the population of the Nazi leadership in these days of impending German disaster, and perhaps of the entire regime. It may not, however, be construed as proof of the existence of an anti-fascist resistance movement.[215]


Another letter to the Times dated August 4, 1949, holds the same view, but this time drawing on the testimonies heard at Nuremberg:

My own experience at Nuremberg has convinced me that the German people refuse to admit or recognize any guilt, even in a moral sense, for what happened during this tragic period. Rather, they are eager to find someone to blame and so exonerate themselves from all responsibility. It is fashionable to place the entire blame on the Nazi leaders now dead. And to place their own minds at rest as to their own guilt, the nature of the resistance movement is being distorted for the purpose of fostering a belief that there was widespread active opposition to Hitler, and that the majority of Germans were members of that resistance. . . . The evidence disclosed at Nuremberg negatives [sic] any claim of the existence of a general resistance movement to Hitler based on democratic principles.[216]


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 Germany or abroad who doubts it].[217] Ambitious claims such as this emanate a profound sense of relief; even for those who had nothing to hide, the knowledge of a resistance movement provided a great deal of consolation and restored some of their confidence in their fellow Germans. A few regular columns were devoted entirely to the subject, such as Paul Schwarz’s “Diplomaticus sagt . . .” and “Deutsche Untergrund-Bewegung” in the New Yorker Staatszeitung und Herold and Curt Bley’s “Sozialistischer Widerstand” in Die Welt (Hamburg).[218]

            The 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 guidance of Germany’s postwar democracy. Despite the predominantly passive and unsuccessful resistance, both the Social-Democrats and the Communist labor parties were able to reconstitute themselves after the war—the former with much more autonomy—and both participated in the formation of the two new governments, East and West.

            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.[219] 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.”[220]


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.”[221] 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.



Inside Nazi Germany

            Regarding the masses of enthusiastic Nazi supporters, Will Germany Crack? remains conspicuously silent. The book’s main flaw is its refusal to acknowledge this, the darkest aspect of the Nazi rise to power: the willing participation of the majority of the German people. The omission is perfectly understandable. Frank genuinely believed in the distinction between “Germans” and “Nazis,” and in the existence of das Andere Deutschland [the Other Germany], a term which originated in Berlin in 1925 as the title of a republican and pacifist weekly journal. He was correct to make such a distinction, as all Germans were certainly not Nazis, but the popular collaboration with the Party was extensive. Only those at the extremes could be evaluated in black and white terms. The moral line was otherwise obscure. Frank does write of “every-day matters in a totalitarian despotism, unintelligible as they may seem in a democracy,”[222] but he does not take that ugly and necessary next step: the “insidious machinations of Fuehrer politics,” as he phrases it, were perfectly intelligible to many Germans. Detlev Peukert, in his book Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life (1987),[223] is unafraid to confront this troubling issue of the German past. Without wading into the treacherous moral waters of laying blame, Peukert makes a well-documented assessment of everyday life under the Nazis, how the people coped with their totalitarian regime, and more often than not, how they actively supported it.

            Hitler’s 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 Stalingrad—“For most Germans, the Führer myth was dead before Hitler physically took his own life.”[224] From 1943 onward, the only thing keeping the German people in submission was the overwhelming fear of defeat and the resulting peace treaty that would likely destroy Germany for good. In other words, all bets were in.

            Many 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.’”[225] 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 hit Germany worse than all, a normality brought about by “regimentation and subservience” and “the overt use of force.”[226] The twin desires of socioeconomic stability and objectless revenge against “community aliens”—Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, et al.—were gladly fulfilled by the Nazi State. Yet even the fulfillment of the mob’s irrational desires could go too far: “The Nazis’ use of terror in the working-class districts and the continuous pressure to conform combined to generate a ubiquitous sense of persecution and insecurity, as in a city occupied by foreign troops.”[227] The Nazi monster rallies and propaganda campaigns began to lose their initial power as time went on: the “‘aestheticisation of politics’ (to quote Walter Benjamin[228]), in which specious form did duty for lack of content, merged all existing styles . . . into an amalgam that in practice aroused enthusiasm only under exceptional circumstances.”[229]

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.[230] 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.”[231] 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.”[232] This was precisely what Hitler wanted.

            Nazism 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 brought Germany closer to the “completion of the democratic revolution.” All Marxist ideologies are teleological—all center upon a necessary end or goal, or upon an inescapable dialectic. Frank held that the democratic revolution must come to fruition could not be stopped. The focus of his second book, Germany after Hitler, bears on the postwar situation in Germany and outlines ways by which the Allied Powers could ensure the creation of a peaceful and democratic new government.



Germany after Hitler

            Two 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. Stalingrad was the turning point for the Allies, and as Hitler’s troops began the devastating retreat from Russia, any experienced analyst recognized that the outcome of the war was set.

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.

            His second and final full-length book was published in New York and Toronto by Farrar & Rinehart. In it he acknowledges that a democratic revolution is unlikely to occur before the Allied military victory. Granted, Frank, the perpetual realist, had realized this unfortunate situation earlier, but here he marks the change with altered terminology; no longer is it just the “democratic revolution” that must occur, but the “dependent revolution”—the success of democratic forces in Germany will depend on the license and assistance of the Allied occupiers. The book elaborates on the plan for postwar reconstruction already laid down in Will Germany Crack? and in numerous AFGF publications. Its book jacket bears the epithet: “A hard-headed and workable way to a democratic postwar Germany.”

A few 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 Germany, Frank is understandably upset with the indifference of his supposed benefactors. This feeling of betrayal combined with his inerasable socialism, which by definition made him hostile to the aristocracy and to capitalist private interests. The key to a peaceful and free postwar Germany, writes Frank, is the elimination of the privileged class and the increase of federal control over big business—the classic socialist program. Well and good, but terms like “dependent revolution” and “militant democracy” cannot have made a very good impression on some American readers.

            The adjective “militant” merely signifies “proactive” and in no way implies violent action within Germany or abroad; Frank was always a pacifist. His most important point about reconstruction is that there should be no partition of the German state: “dividing Germany into two halves . . . is a bad omen for the final solution! [sic] Germany, divided in two pieces, would become the seat of the greatest irredentist movement of all times.”[233] He obviously regarded the various partitions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles as having created the exact geopolitical circumstances that prompt mass revisionism—that was Hitler’s killing floor. Occupation would of course be the immediate consequence of military defeat, but it must only be temporary. A showdown between an East Germany dominated by the Soviet Union and a West dominated by a British-American coalition would be the worst possible outcome of the war. Rather, an “agreement on non-occupation of Germany” between the two power blocs would be the most mutually beneficial, and thus believes Frank, the most likely outcome. “Incorporation in a larger unit, and not dismemberment [into] smaller pieces, is the only democratic solution,”[234] and furthermore, “When privileged and underprivileged nations are created, the poison of revisionism spreads in the latter and the poison of foreign policing in the former.”[235]

The historian 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.”[236] The goal of such a program would be to serve the “public welfare and not private profits.”[237] 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 Frank’s New York milieu, but by the mid-1940s this mindset was already becoming passée. The impending shift in American politics would set the world’s only true superpower on the very same imperialist course condemned by Frank as a root of global discord: the privileged nation becoming the foreign policeman.

            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.[238]


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. [239] For Frank, Germany could very well represent the bridge between the Western and Eastern styles of government: the ideal socialist democracy. German democracy would be unique because, while other Western democracies favored the middle class, it would favor the working class. As had become his refrain, the greatest democratic potential in Germany lay in the labor movement. This of course raises the question of who were to be the stewards of this new government. The answer is clear:

It is well known that the labor movement stood for all that was progressive in the Weimar Republic.[240]

. . .

Compared with the rest of the parties in Germany, with the Catholic Center party, for example, which is so often praised today, the Social Democratic party was like a one-eyed man among the totally blind.[241]

. . .

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.[242]


A new labor organization after the war must seek “to eradicate the heritage of autocratic bureaucracy”[243] 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.”[244] 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.

            Frank’s program is rational but self-contained. Such an allegedly “realistic” and “pragmatic” man could not possibly believe that the victorious Allies would leave Germany comparably or even more intact than they did in 1919. That the Allied commanders would ever dream of risking a nationalistic resurgence by allowing the German people to determine their own postwar government through a “militant revolution” is pure fantasy. Frank treats Germany as if it was to become a liberated nation, not a defeated one. Perhaps we could modify Elmer Davis’ introduction to Will Germany Crack?: what you read here may not be what you are hoping for; but it is indeed what Hagen is hoping for.






“Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Paul Hagen”

 [back to Contents]


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, America!” He actually made a television appearance on May 19, 1944—Helen J. Sioussat’s pioneer roundtable talk show on CBS, “Table Talk.” Obviously, television had yet to become a mass medium. Radio was still the only way to reach a large percentage of the American public. Frank made dozens of appearances on at least ten different networks during the years 1940 to 1945.

            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 May 21, 1942, Alfred Baker Lewis joined Frank on WEVD, a station owned and operated by the Socialist Party of America, to discuss the subject “How to Beat Hitler Politically.”[245] David F. Seiferheld, the moderator opens with an overview of how the landscape of political warfare had changed since WWI. No longer are graphic posters, propagandistic newspaper releases or atrocity stories sufficient, he says. The leaps in broadcast technology and the proliferation of personal transistor radios have made the airwaves the most potent vehicle of propaganda. But the change in the means of propaganda has changed also changed its content, its manner and style. The Nazis have already used radio to devastating effect. “It is psychological warfare calculated to instill fanatic courage in [Germany’s] own enslaved people while it spreads hate, fear, and dissention in other lands.” Modern psychological warfare has thus been established as “a fundamental branch of military science.” Its primary weapon, the radio, figures into every offensive, “no longer [as] a hastily improvised advertising campaign initiated after the war has begun,” but “the subtle, softening barrage which in Axis technique precedes and accompanies every phase of aggression.” Seiferheld concludes his introduction by considering the term “propaganda” and what it has come to mean in the United States. It has become a hateful term since the last war, representative of lies, hate, and ignobility, and for that reason the US has yet to make use of “this frightening weapon.” The purpose for the ensuing discussion was to clarify exactly what modern propaganda means, and how it could be a productive asset to the war effort.

            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 America through social reforms and letting the world see it is the best propaganda. Frank agrees, but points out that the means of propaganda—i.e. how we “show” Germany this perfect democracy—is just as important as the content. He cites the example of one Johann Wildt, a resistance fighter who had been caught by the Gestapo and recently sentenced to death for treason. The Nazi judge proclaimed that Wildt “allied himself with the enemies of the German people and listened regularly to their provocative lying radio programs. Using the material that he heard, he wrote a leaflet slandering the Führer and other leading personalities of the state and army.” But the death of resistance fighters is not the only result of radio propaganda. Just the simple act of listening to foreign broadcasts, says Frank, strengthens the wide base of passive resistance among the German people and represents a form of mass disobedience.

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 Germany from the chains of fascism. And, “Nothing is more important, if Americans want to weaken morale in Germany, than that they should treat the opposition inside Germany as an ally.” In direct response to the adherents of the pan-Germanism thesis, Frank argues,

Since the war came home to Germany last year and the myth of easy victories vanished, Hitler has definitely lost the Messianic influence he had. Therefore it seems to me against the interest of the Allied Nations if now, when extensive differentiation has begun within Germany, people outside, influenced by Nazi racial philosophy try to prove that Germany is a political unit. Goebbels wants to present Germany as a unit and we should be careful not to fall for his lie.


The Allied nations must endeavor to support the opposition in Germany, the “other” Germany, in order to accelerate the process of fragmentation within Hitler’s body politic. Detlev Peukert describes the Nazi strategy of simultaneous organization and atomization. What is happening and what should be fostered in Germany, Frank might say, is a regrouping of the atoms into organizations apart from the monolithic Party apparatus. Fragmentation, meaning positive reformation, is a third term for Peukert’s scheme. The underground phenomenon represents a reactionary synthesis of Hitler’s radical dual method of control.

            Frank’s solution for Germany is itself quite radical. It is up to the Allied nations, he says, to differentiate between its enemies: “A modern political warfare would have to envisage the liberation not only of the United Nations but also of the people in the fascist countries.” This manner of thinking anticipates the shift in the concept of national warfare that would occur within the following decade: war no longer as conquest, but as liberation. In pursuing this strategy, the Allies “would take the weapon of pseudo-revolutionary propaganda out of the hands of the fascists”—this would “out-New Order [Hitler’s] New Order.” Herein lay a core tenet of Frank and the New Beginning group’s ideology. The solution to the German problem was not a return to Weimar democracy, but a radical new democracy.

One could not hope to forget about Hitler once he was defeated and revert back to the fantasy world of Weimar, as if it were ever that ideal in the first place. New Beginners abhorred talk of the status quo. Revolutionary ideology, like that of the New Beginning group, rests upon a framework of dialectics, and thus advocates a perpetual process. The only error committed by Frank with regard to pure revolutionary ideology was in his conception of the “delayed” democratic revolution, which, according to him, only needed the support of the Allies and a military defeat of the Nazis to complete itself. After that, the mission was for the most part accomplished. He thus set a definite goal, a deadline of sorts, within a perpetual dialectic. But then, he was never a pure ideologue, and if it was an error, it was only one of practicality. The German forces for democracy and their Allied supporters could not be expected to pursue an ill-defined goal, or devote themselves to an infinite dialectic.

The May 21 broadcast concludes with a summary by Seiferheld. In it, he maintains that the United States must not engage in the same sort of propaganda employed by the Nazis. The American propaganda must be the propaganda of truth:

It is apparent, then, that we need not indeed must not adopt Germany’s propaganda techniques. Hitler, to be persuasive, must be all things to all men. He must bombard his own people and his prospective victims with lies and false assurances. He cannot tell the truth because in his case the truth is appalling.  


The 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 US speak for themselves was probably a naïve one.

            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.”[246] 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.”[247] Yet in these years, Frank was evasive when asked what he thought the US could do to aid oppositional forces. When asked that question by his colleague from the AFGF, John Herling, he responds: “It is not my business to say what Americans could do,” but nevertheless goes on to suggest a “policy of encouragement of Hitler’s enemies and a policy of encouragement of the opposition to Hitler inside Germany.”[248] It was certainly possible that Frank only felt free to elaborate on his recommendations for American support of the underground once the US had entered the war in December 1941.

            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 attack on Pearl Harbor.[249] He speaks through the lens of a popular Nazi slogan, “We have our Leader to thank,” and proceeds to enumerate what the German people have to be thankful for: a fourth winter of war, the loss of a father or son in every family, and the nightmare of cold, hunger and defeat that surely awaits them when Hitler’s armies fail—and they were failing in Stalingrad. “If there were a Thanksgiving in Germany today, those among the German people who have always hated Hitler would be grateful to the United Nations [for] holding out against Hitler’s onslaught,” and also “to the heroic resistance, to the silent struggle of German, Italian and Japanese people behind the Axis lines”—“the underground movement is growing.” He concludes: “The Nazi leaders know that their days are numbered. That is what Thanksgiving means to us this year.” By “us” Frank means the Allies—the United Nations, as well as the legions of anti-Nazis within German and abroad.

            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 Nizer.[250] 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 Foundation.[251] 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 Germany are not so different from the two Napoleonic dictatorships of nineteenth-century France.” Countering Nizer’s harsh plan for Germany after the war—as that was the main subject of debate—he states:

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 Germany autonomy. “I do not intend to gamble the lives of the next generation on sudden reform,” he says. “The acid test is this: If the Pan-Germans were given a choice of how to get out from under defeat, they would like Mr. Hagen’s proposal.” Frank criticizes this response, which itself is a logical fallacy, as indicative of the same sort of “security fallacy” adopted by Poincaré’s France after the First World War. Nizer: “Hagen blames Hitler on Versailles. So do I. It was too lenient. . . . A preposition separates Mr. Hagen and myself. He is talking about What To Do For Germany. My book is What To Do With Germany.” Such sentiments angered Frank, who would later write in 1946 a pamphlet critical of the Allied occupation, Erobert, nicht befreit [Conquered, Not Free].

            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.”[252] 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 America’s most prominent figure of the German anti-Nazi opposition.



Professor Hagen

            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 (Boston), from 1944-1945. Until 1944, the majority of his appearances were in New York City or at universities in the Northeast. After that, he expanded his tours to the Midwest and the Southeast, doing a series in Florida during February 1945.

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 Germany. This task was even more important to him after his failure to collaborate with the US government. And of course, the success of his first book and the release of his second, Germany after Hitler, brought him some national recognition—not to mention the buzz created by his friends who lobbied for his various organizations, particularly the Council for a Democratic Germany, in cities like Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles. The commission of the Open Forum Speakers Bureau certainly provided him more opportunities than his New York-based publishers were able to offer. But perhaps the most important reason for his willingness to leave the city was the declining reputation of his organizations in the face of multiple and continual accusations of pan-Germanism and pro-Communism. In spring 1945, Frank made an even more definitive withdrawal from the treacherous political waters of New York.

            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 Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, that he had been appointed to the school’s Honnold Lectureship and Visiting Professorship for the following spring semester. For the six-week duration of the position, Frank was to present a series of public lectures, and to teach two courses, “Reconstruction of Europe” and “Psycho-analysis.” His remuneration would be $1,200, a decent sum at the time. He accepted the post enthusiastically.

            Departing for Galesburg in March 1945, Frank booked a number of speaking engagements in the Midwest to coincide with his stay. He spoke in Altona and Rockford, Ill., St. Louis and Chicago, and several towns in Missouri and Iowa—usually under the auspices of a Rotary Club or State Teachers College. But more importantly, at Knox College he had the opportunity to work with young American students for the first time. Now known as “Professor Hagen,” Frank became the most popular man on campus, particularly among the female students. The Knox Student, the college’s student newspaper, reported that “A good half of Knox’s feminine population sits in one or the other of his classes. The other half will before the end of the quarter, some running to meet him, no doubt. If not, it [wouldn’t be] because they [hadn’t] heard of that ‘wonderful, wonderful man.’”[253] Aside from his handsome looks, charm and captivating past, the content of Frank’s courses and lectures met with great success. Judging by the comments of some of his students at the end of the term—hopefully, for the historian, written after the grades were in—he was an engaging and effective teacher:

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 Germany.

. . .

Thank you for a better understanding of the German people. I hope there are more like you.[254]


Unfortunately, anybody “like” Frank had fled Germany long ago. He and his friends nevertheless always assumed that the democratic forces still within Germany were worth supporting. By 1943, however, after the tide had turned against Hitler, their gaze had shifted from how to facilitate the immediate success of the underground to how one could solve the problems standing in the way of a democratic postwar reconstruction.







 [back to Contents]


Council for a Democratic Germany

            The culmination of Karl Frank’s political activities in the US was the formation of the Council for a Democratic Germany in November 1943. Established in the same spirit as the International Coordination Council, this group was an attempt to centralize the efforts of all pro-democracy German exiles for the purposes of influencing Allied reconstruction policy. In contrast to the ICC, however, the Council for a Democratic Germany (CDG) was not merely a “socialist concentration” group. Instead, it included elements of the entire German political spectrum—the religious and conservative center, the SPD, socialist and communist opposition groups, the KPD—all except for the extreme right. That Frank and the other CDG organizers were able to sit Social-Democrats and communists at the same table was in it of itself an accomplishment, but compared to the relative success of Frank’s other groups like the AFGF and certainly the ERC, the Council for a Democratic Germany was a complete failure.

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 US government’s attitude toward émigré groups, which was considerably less sympathetic than that of the British government. A third reason was the American fear of and animosity toward any group that included communist members of any sort, a fear that certainly had a long history but grew to unmatched proportions as a prelude to the Cold War. The most telling manifestations of this fear were the House Un-American Activities Committee—known during the war as the Dies Committee, after its chairman Martin Dies—and also private groups such as the Writers’ War Board and the Society for the Prevention of World War III. A pettier example of the sort of “red-baiting” often aimed at the CDG was that of Ruth Fischer, Frank’s old colleague in the Vienna Workers’ Council. Her monthly mimeographed journal, The Network, whose title refers to an alleged worldwide “network” of Stalinist agents of which “Paul Hagen” was undoubtedly a member,[255] mounted numerous attacks on the group. The same groups and individuals that had consistently criticized and slandered Karl Frank since his arrival in the US now marshaled their efforts to bring down his grandest endeavor.

The idea for a council of German representatives came in reaction to the establishment in Moscow of the National Committee for a Free Germany (NKFD). This group, formed in July 1943, consisted of captured German military officers and exiled KPD leaders, including Walter Ulbricht and Wilhelm Pieck, and it operated under the supervision of Soviet authorities. Communist-inspired “Free Germany” committees began to follow the Moscow group’s lead, appearing all over the world, particularly in Mexico and Argentina. It was clear to everyone that the NKFD merely acted as proxy for Stalin’s plans to dominate postwar Germany. Émigrés in Great Britain had successfully formed the Union of German Socialist Organizations (UDSO), but this group was only a socialist concentration and made no claims to any broader representation. It fell to émigrés in the United States to found a counterpart to the Moscow group, partly to combat the spread of Stalinism, but also to fight the growing sentiment among the Allied authorities that progressive German émigré organizations only had communist aims and therefore should be suppressed or simply ignored.

The person who provided the initial impetus for the council was Thomas Mann, whose prestige in the United States and Europe led many to speculate that he might even become president of a newly constituted Germany. According to Siobhan Doucette, who draws on various OSS memoranda, on October 27 Frank met with Mann, who was in New York for a rally of the Free World Association,[256] and asked “if he would be willing to head up an unofficial committee of the German émigré left.” While the US government would not officially sponsor such a committee, “it might be a good idea to establish one unofficially, without for the time being producing a manifesto or holding public meetings.”[257] Mann would lead the committee, which would consist of prominent delegates from all the major democratic exile groups, as well as various American sponsors like Dorothy Thompson, Reinhold Niebuhr and Alvin Johnson—i.e. the AFGF gang. Furthermore, representatives from the AFL and CIO should attend because, as the US government officially recognized their organizations, they could give the group some vestige of legitimacy.

Doucette cites correspondence between two OSS officials, Emmy C. Rado and DeWitt C. Poole, who were supporters of the German Labor Delegation. The expressed their dismay at the knowledge that Frank had “won over” Mann, and thus finally had “the strings [of the German émigré community] in his hands.”[258] Rado went so far as to complain directly to William Donovan, who gave his “endorsement for trying to quash it.”[259] Poole proceeded to contact Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle to enlist his support in convincing Mann to resign his chairmanship.[260] Berle agreed and met with Mann on November 26. Mann followed his advice, stepping down shortly thereafter.[261]  His reason for quitting the post, according to Doucette, was that Berle had told him that

There would be great displeasure in the government if refugees began discussing post-War Germany, since in all likelihood Germany would be occupied for at least fifty years and would be quarantined so that “for 30 years no Allied child would be permitted contact with a German child.”[262]


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.”[263] 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 May 2, 1944, did the group officially announce its formation. A piece in the New York Times the following day explains that the purpose of the CDG “will be to help promote the establishment of a democratic order in Germany and facilitate constructive relations between the renovated German Reich and the world.”[264] The council disclaimed any intentions to “play the role of a German government-in-exile.” Its three main goals would be the following:

1. The study of practical measures for post-war political reconstruction of a democratic Germany.

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.

3. [The formulation of] a program of political unity to which all anti-Nazi forces in Germany can eventually adhere.


The 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 Germany would only open the door once more for revisionists or “irredentists” like Hitler. The statement of the American endorsers declares, “Neither a soft peace nor a hard peace, neither sentimentality nor vindictiveness, will create the conditions for an abiding peace.” Moreover,

Since the temptation increases to look for purely repressive solutions of the problem of Europe, we [the American signers] believe that this statement of German democrats will strengthen the hands [sic] of those who seek a creative solution for our total [world] problem.[265]

Finally, the CDG suggested the creation of a new organization of Europe as a whole, a sort of federation along the lines of the European Union envisioned by Aristide Briand in 1930.

            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

            Walcher (SAP)

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;

            Otto Pfeifenberger[266]


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[267] 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:

I. German Communists under the Discipline of the C. P. of Germany [i.e. the KPD]

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

VI. Fellow-Travelers

VII. Social Democrats, Converted to the Moscow Cause

VIII. Organizers of the German-American Movement outside New York[268]

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 Soviet Union were clear and realistic. According to the official declaration of the council, “Only through cooperation between the Western powers and Russia will it be possible to achieve the reconstruction of Europe which must follow the necessary and certain defeat of Hitler Germany”—therefore, cooperation with German communists was essential.[269] A unilateral peace imposed on Germany by either the West or the East would have disastrous consequences, only leading to further worldwide conflicts. While claiming no official mandate from the German people, the CDG nevertheless felt that it was “in the interest of the United States and the United Nations to express our conviction about the future of Germany at a time when the German people cannot speak for themselves.” A “destructive” policy in dealing with Germany after the war would only hurt Europe as a whole. The only people and institutions that should be destroyed are those aligned with and built by the Nazis, including the Prussian military elite, the industrial barons and the large landholders who aided and abetted the Nazi rise to power—the so-called “bulwarks of German imperialism.”

Leniency was an unacceptable attitude to many Americans. After all, the war had claimed thousands of American lives and Germany was the undisputed aggressor. But the members of the CDG took pains to remind the public—just as Frank and the AFGF had been doing for over three years—that not all Germans supported Hitler. Whether active in the underground resistance movement or not, many Germans had been “victimized” and “enslaved” by the Nazis just had been the citizens of Poland, Belgium, France, Denmark, et al. A pamphlet in support of this sentiment appeared later in 1944, showing a cartoon on its cover: several emaciated men in rags stand and lie down opposite another man wearing a suit and bowler who has just read a newspaper with the headline, “Concentration Camp Horrors;” the bowlered man indignantly remarks, “The whole German people should be wiped out for this!” One of the men in rags, obviously a concentration camp inmate, replies, “Don’t forget some of us are Germans, friend.”[270] If graphic persuasion did not work, the CDG invoked the Atlantic Charter in justifying the reasonable treatment of Germans after the war, particularly the document’s fourth, fifth and sixth points which state:

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.


The Atlantic Charter was the secret agreement signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill aboard the USS Augusta on August 9, 1941, and announced publicly on August 14, after which several more nations signed. It was a controversial measure because, on the one hand, the US had yet to enter the war, and the other, it implied an alliance between the signatories that was not officially approved by either government. Moreover, it set conditions for postwar Europe as if the US, a non-belligerent, would play a role. Perhaps due to this lack of legitimacy, the document served only a symbolic function—a mutual gesture of goodwill. Thus, the belief on the part of the CDG that it could invoke the charter and hold the Allied governments accountable was wishful thinking.

            Another argument for a reasonable peace in Germany, and against calls for its partition, was an economic one: “It is essential for the economic future of Europe and the world that Germany’s productive power be conserved. If it were destroyed, the economic conditions would become hopelessly depressed in all countries of Europe.” The mass unemployment and economic hardship on the German workers themselves would yield a “constant source of unrest . . . in the very center of Europe.” An alternative to dismemberment would be to incorporate Germany into “an international system of production and consumption,” a European economic union. This would allow Germany to pay the significant material reparations that were to be required of it and also would protect the world from the “threat of economic chaos.”

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 May 3, 1944, article in the Times was a prepared rebuttal by Rex Stout, who wrote in his capacity as leader of the Society for the Prevention of World War III. He sarcastically warns, “Believe it or not, the ‘Salvage Germany’ campaign is in full swing,” but in all seriousness, he is “deeply concerned with preventing the American people from falling into another trap.” He is shocked to the point of alliteration that the declaration of the CDG contains not one sentence of “regret, or remorse, or intention of expiation for the innumerable atrocities, misdeeds and mass murders brought upon the civilized world by the German people in arms.” The members of the CDG are propagandists and opportunists who have “not the faintest idea about American concepts of justice and morale” when they speak of a lenient peace policy for Germany. Stout is correct in noting that these Germans had a rather skewed idea of what Americans would support or permit.[271]

Frank and the CDG were fortunate enough to work with sympathetic liberals and progressives in New York, and to find like-minded individuals in various cities across the US, but they severely misjudged the reception they would have in the American government. The Union of German Socialist Organizations in Great Britain enjoyed the implicit support of the British government, and many of the group’s members were actually employed in the British war effort. It certainly had different objectives than the CDG—namely, it had no explicit intention to influence British postwar policy—but one can still compare the relative success of both groups. The UDSO’s mission was to help Great Britain win the war in Europe then, with British approval, send leaders back to Germany to rebuild the labor movement. It succeeded in this task, its members playing a significant role in the reconstitution of the SPD in the Federal Republic. And yet, the UDSO faced the same degree of public criticism and slander courtesy of the Vansittartists that the CDG did in the US at the hands of Stout and his compatriots. The factor which determined their differing degrees of success was chiefly their contrasting receptions by their respective host governments.

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 Germany

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[272] marked this new phase in Frank’s political career. In fact, he no longer sat on the group’s committee.

Christian Gauss, dean of Princeton University and national committee member of the AFGF, became honorary chairman of the reconstituted group. The three vice-chairman were labor arbitrator John A. Lapp, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dorothy Thompson. Seiferheld remained treasurer and Anna Caples became executive secretary. An interesting addition to the staff was a “publicity chairman,” Hiram Motherwell, former Rome correspondent for the Chicago Daily News and member of the postwar planning department of the Columbia Broadcasting System. The revamped executive committee included Mary Jayne Gold, the young heiress who had assisted Varian Fry and the ERC, American Jewish Committee member Mortimer Hays, American Jewish Congress cofounder Horace M. Kallen, and statistician Walter F. Wilcox. The new roster, which of course included many of the former AFGF members, represented a somewhat broader spectrum of American social activism.

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 Moscow.”[273] Niebuhr explains the decision of the AFGF/AADG:

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 Germany in this country. The Council did include three communists and fellow-travellers because it felt that a program of accord with Russia would be unrealistic without doing this.[274]


This 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 council from Moscow, but they too would withdraw active support within a couple months. Whether or not the CDG actually started to veer closer to the Moscow line, the public criticism it garnered placed a great deal of pressure on its socialist and centrist members. The gradual decision by individual members to throw in the towel came, on the one hand, as a response to this pressure, but on the other, from the realization that the CDG could no longer succeed in its mission. Once the CDG failed, the members of the AADG had to reorient themselves back into the sort of work that had characterized the AFGF: the continued publication of the bibliographic review, In re: Germany, the organization of discussion forums, and in general, the promotion of democratic elements in Germany, including the publication of whatever news trickled out from underground.



Visa Troubles

            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 Europe and continue with his duties as chief of New Beginning’s foreign bureau, then still in Paris. His disappointment was not great, however, because he expected restrictions on international travel after the outbreak of war. Also, he quickly occupied himself with establishing the AFGF. The first real disappointment, an ominous prelude, came in early 1942 when he organized a lecture tour in Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA).[275]

            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 Germany—i.e. subjects of his book-in-progress, Will Germany Crack?, and of his standard speaking repertoire in 1941 and early 1942. Frank agreed and began to plan for his trip. First, it was necessary for him to obtain a re-entry permit, or visa, from the US government with which to return from Canada at the conclusion of the tour. He immediately encountered difficulties, to such a degree that he was obliged to travel to Washington, D.C., and speak there personally with his contacts in the government. One such contact was very helpful: Lauchlin Currie, administrative assistant to the President.

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.[276] When Frank met with him in Washington in January regarding the visa question, Currie “felt confident that the arrangements could be completed” and advised him to speak to Harold B. Hoskins, special emissary and adviser to the President.[277] By February, despite both Currie and Hoskins’ recommendations, Frank’s visa application had made no progress. Anna Caples wrote to Holmes at the CIIA and asked him if he could persuade someone in the Canadian government to write a letter to the US Visa Division on Frank’s behalf.[278] Holmes complied, enlisting the support of Hugh Keenleyside of the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa.[279] Again, the gesture was ineffective. And to perhaps add salt to the wound, the CIIA secretary wrote to Frank asking if he would like to expand his itinerary by another two weeks, as their original speaker Oswald Halecki had cancelled.[280] Frank accepted the additional dates, and set his departure date for April 21, pending the approval and receipt of his visa. The tour was to take him to Fredericton, Saint John, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, Hamilton, London, Windsor, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and finally Victoria—a rather arduous four-week schedule.[281] But still no visa.

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.”[282] What it meant to intervene in a US bureaucratic application process during wartime is not exactly clear—a phone call, a letter? Nevertheless, the CIIA felt this action was sufficient and believed “it would not be prudent for the Institute to write to the Department of State or to the Department of Justice as you suggested” inasmuch as an “official intervention is being made.” The date for Frank’s intended departure arrived, and still no good news had come from Washington. Holmes shared his disappointment but glibly pointed out, “c’est la guerre ! ” He informed Frank that Keenleyside called to say that “further intervention would be useless.”[283] Another condolatory letter arrived from E. J. Tarr, banker and affiliate of the Winnipeg CIIA branch: “When in the East, I heard of the difficulty you were having in getting a re-entry permit, but I didn’t seem to be able to get any satisfying explanation as to why the difficulty had arisen. It all seems rather silly to me, and is certainly most aggravating.”[284] Undoubtedly very aggravated, Frank was summoned to Washington on April 30 to appear before a Visa Division review board.

The board asked Lauchlin Currie to appear as a witness. According to an FBI investigation report,[285] 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 Canada fiasco. Sometimes referred to by his friends as “the trip which never came off,” Frank’s failed attempt to return to Germany after the war was indicative of the abrupt and definitive end to his active political life.

He had always held the position that political émigrés could claim no right to lead those who had remained within Germany, whether before or after the war. Instead it was their task, he believed, to do whatever they could for the cause from abroad and return to Germany only if the new democratic labor movement that had emerged from the ruins invited them. Indeed, Frank received several invitations. Many of his New Beginning colleagues in London returned as British functionaries in the earliest days of the occupation in autumn 1945. Chief among them were Waldemar von Knoeringen and Fritz Erler, both of whom would play fundamental roles in rebuilding the SPD. But perhaps the most prominent supporter of Frank’s return to Germany was Willy Brandt, who had been a member of the SAP before the war and collaborated with the New Beginning group in Paris in 1939 to produce Der kommende Weltkrieg, the manifesto of the unified New Left. Brandt had also offered to participate in Frank’s 1943 scheme to reestablish contact with the German underground—a failed operation that included Jacob Walcher and Franz Bögler. Unlike his friends in London exile, however, Frank did not want to return as a representative or agent of a foreign government.

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 US, particularly Niebuhr, pledged money to finance his trip. Now a citizen, he filed an application for a US passport, which was predictably denied by the Visa Division in September 1946.[286] The main obstacle, as it always had been when dealing with the US government, was his past membership in the Communist Party. But also, petty bureaucratic hang-ups played a role. William C. Gausmann, a friend and foreign correspondent for a British socialist journal, who had extensive contacts in Washington, wrote to Frank in 1947 regarding a Visa Division official: “In re Shipley, I am told on all sides that she is a very nauseous bitch who derives sadistic pleasure from denying every request that she possibly can.”[287]

After repeated attempts, Frank finally quit. By 1948, he had progressed in his studies of social psychology and had established a psychoanalysis practice in New York. As a student in Vienna, he had always considered becoming a scholar instead of an activist. Even in 1925, after returning to Austria from a German prison, where he had served time for subversive activities, he had resigned himself to private studies. Nevertheless, the end of his political life must have been nothing else than a bitter disappointment.





CONCLUSIONS [back to Contents]


            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].[288]


“Paul 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 Germany, one that could embrace peacefully all people of Europe. This was their alleged “pan-Germanism”—not the barbarism of Teutonic hordes, but the universal ideal of democracy, which had the opportunity to emerge first from the shattered ruins of Germany. And this socialist-inspired democracy had to emerge from rubble, from destruction, because it represented everything that bourgeois Europe was not. One could not reform that temple. It needed simply to be wrecked to clear the way.

            “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. Hagen is a curious artifact. Not only did he represent the partially realized political potential of Karl Frank’s life, but also an almost entirely unrealized potential of modern German history. Whether his impact would have been great or small had he been given a chance to return, his vision of a Germany left intact by the victorious Allies and renewed by a free democratic revolution—if realized—surely would have produced a very different Europe in the decades that followed. To him, Germany was always a bridge between East and West, never a wall.

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 US government in any productive way was acute. He was unable to surmount the justifiable skepticism of even his most sympathetic supporters, like OWI director Elmer Davis:

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.[289]


Davis wrote to Frank in late 1945 about some accusations that continued to plague the OWI regarding Frank’s past association with the office. In fact, Frank never tried to collaborate with the OWI—his object was the OSS—but according to Davis, a person by the name of Joseph P. Kamp, a rightist whom he describes as a “near Fascist,” “triumphantly dragged out a report of 1943 showing a Carl Frank as one of our consultants.”[290] Frank’s response betrays his exhaustion,

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 Hagen campaign.[291]


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.’[292]

            Even 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.”[293] 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 Hagen anymore, as there is no New Beginning anymore. All there is left of it are occasional troubles as the waves of suspicions in investigations turn against me.”[294] What possibly could have motivated these attacks on and investigations of a retired psychoanalyst in Connecticut? Perhaps old animosities die hard, but the real answer is impossible to discover.

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 April 9, 1946. On this day, he wrote a letter approved by Reinhold Niebuhr to Alfred M. Bingham, a young lawyer and writer who edited Common Sense until 1943, offering him directorship of the American Association for a Democratic Germany.[295] Bingham accepted, and would go on in this capacity to urge President Truman to authorize the famous 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift, which supplied “democratic forces” behind the Soviet blockade and maintained the Western foothold in the city.[296] One account credits the initiatives of some former New Beginners who emerged in postwar Berlin by the grace of their American supporters as the chief reason for the survival of independent German Social-Democracy—i.e. for the successful resistance to assimilation into the Soviet-dominated Socialist Unity Party.[297]

Frank’s letter of March 9, 1948, to his long-time American assistant and New Beginning colleague, Maurice J. Goldbloom, is only an afterthought:

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 U.S. government, in some of the more important trade unions, and last, not least, among some such important partners of future efforts as the German Social Democrats. If I had not decided some time ago to retire from political activities to study—to gain a better understanding of some of the reasons for the lack of success of such good causes as ours, for instance—I would have to withdraw simply according to the rules of the game: Gewogen und zu leicht befunden.[298]


The German phrase is a line from the biblical book of Daniel (5:27). 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].[299] 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 in Germany survive politically; it may still be important in this new world crisis of today. They and other friends have through more than a decade given untiringly and unselfishly of their time, their advice, their money and their reputations.


This account of all those American supporters who had made his career in the US possible reveals a great modesty in Frank, and perhaps even guilt for having asked for and received so much. But the guilt did not outweigh his conviction that he had pursued the right course.

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 Germany. In it, he is very critical of the early efforts of the Allied Military Government (AMG). Titled Erobert, nicht befreit, or “Conquered, Not Free,” and published by the AADG, the book presents a bleak picture of Germany and lacks even the understated hope found in his two full-length works. He reflects on his efforts of the previous decade:

The war authorities in America, where I had emigrated, gave little importance to an alliance with the German underground. . . . My activities brought me an accusation from Vansittartists and the Moscow journal Krieg und Arbeiterklasse of “pan-German propaganda,” but from progressive English, Americans and affiliates of the other United Nations support and approval.[300]


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 Germany. This revolution would bust the shackles of capitalist imperialism and oppression that had hindered German progress for centuries. In addition, he sought to conquer the grossest manifestations of political irrationality and anti-democracy: jingoism and racism, particularly anti-Semitism.

            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 Germany, rather than attempting to preserve the SPD in exile, was the most effective means of ensuring the survival of democratic traditions under the totalitarian regime. When the war ended, these elements integrated themselves into the reorganized SPD and thus went about facilitating a democratic reconstruction, no doubt exerting a unique influence on German politics and the reconstitution of the labor movement. Frank was unable to do the same. Too many enemies within and without the labor movement countered the support of his few, yet prominent friends—like Willy Brandt, Fritz Erler, Erwin Schoettle, Waldemar von Knoeringen, et al. The prejudice against him that had been instilled in the US government by rival émigré groups and paranoid anti-communists combined with this ill will of some in the SPD to ensure that he would never hold an important political place in Germany.

            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 London discontinued its activity in favor of supporting the British war effort—was to accept the inevitable consequence of exclusion. He admitted in 1941 that “exiled emigrant groups and individuals in this country represent nothing beyond their own capacities and a promise for the future.”[301] For the most part, however, those capacities did not actually apply to the future; exiles in America could only cultivate the “promise” of a democratic postwar Germany, but never hope to participate in it. But in another sense, Frank still hoped to participate, at least in the early days. On July 3, 1940, he made the following statement on the radio:

The refugees of 1848 remained here [in the United States]. In our time, with distances reduced, time-tables accelerated, the refugees of 1940 may again see the lands which they now are forced to leave and inspire all of the old World with the democratic ideals of their temporary asylum.[302]


Unfortunately, for many German exiles in the United States the fate of 1848 was the same as that of 1940. Frank had yet to “read the writing on the wall.” His naïve hope to help rebuild a democratic Germany, and even to carry the “democratic ideals” of the US back to Europe, found sympathy in the progressive New York intellectual community. This sector of American society was a dying breed.

            From 1941 to 1942, the Princeton professor and public opinion researcher Hadley Cantrill compiled a volume of anonymous predictions by various political and academic figures on the state of world affairs in 1952, ten years into the future. Under the pen name “Mr. U,” Frank contributed “An Editorial in the New York Times, October 19, 1952à propos of that year’s projected presidential election, and from a conservative perspective:

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.[303]


Frank 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 support in New York was conducive to Frank’s efforts, and in a bit of wishful thinking, he and they envisioned a time in the near future when they would be able to assume leadership of the country. But the “third” party never arose. The forces of conservative reaction in the face of a developing Cold War disenfranchised the would-be “Espeeists.” In addition to his exclusion from the reconstituted German labor movement, Frank lost the foundation of support that had sustained him in the US for a decade.

            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.[304]


Does the subject of Karl Frank and the ideas he brought to the United States fit into the historical dialect of the mid-twentieth century? Or is he simply a “waste product,” a “blind spot,” or historical slag? His successes and failures are not inexplicable. But neither are they typical. Historical dead ends are of the utmost importance. Karl Frank was a dual product of both the radical period of German and Austrian politics in the early 1920s and the liberal progressivism of American politics in the 1930s and 1940s. Both of these trends died over time and Frank’s relevance along with them.

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 March 4, 1947, Anna dubs Karl “a student of human beings [whose] lives aren’t crowned with successes.”[305] For any comprehensive history, the historian must be exactly the same student.

            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 London, emerged as victors in the postwar German political landscape. While not a “new beginning” for German socialism per se, it certainly was a new beginning for Germany in toto. Several of the group’s members became chief architects of democracy in the West (e.g. Fritz Erler), and fighters for human rights in the East (Robert Havemann).[306] In spring 1979, Richard Löwenthal met Jerry Jeremias and Gerhard Bry in New York and the three organized a sort of New Beginning group reunion. “Rix” Löwenthal gave a speech in which he reviewed some of the history of the group, and according to Bry, he concluded by “reminding us of the Org’s founder’s [Walter Löwenheim] remark that we were destined either to make real history or end up as a mere footnote to the same. Rix thought that although it turned out to be a footnote, it was a footnote we can be proud of.”[307]

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 Prague by advising him not to continue hiding from me the fact that he had placed one of his people in my Oslo group. He did not dispute it, but rather remained silent and set the matter aright at the next opportunity. . . . Karl Frank did not find any place for himself in postwar events. He established himself as a psychoanalyst in New York, where I saw him again on my first trip to America in 1954.[308]


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 Germany—or of the US—he nobly resigned from public life, and abdicated his place in the history books. Frank does not require an elegy. Nor would he want an encomium.







Selected Bibliography [back to Contents]



Archival Sources


“Emergency Rescue Committee Records, 1936-1957.” German and Jewish Intellectual

            Émigré Collection, M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and

            Archives, University at Albany (Albany, N.Y.).


“Karl Boromäus Frank Papers, 1937-1961.” Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and

            Peace, Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)


“Karl M. Otto Paetel Papers, 1907-1984.” German and Jewish Intellectual Émigré

            Collection, M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives,

            University at Albany (Albany, N.Y.).


“Maurice J. Goldbloom Papers, 1911-1977.” University of Oregon Library, Special

            Collections (Eugene, Ore.).


“Varian Fry Papers, 1938-1999.” Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University

            (New York, N.Y.).




Primary Source Books


Bry, Gerhard. “Resistance: Recollections from the Nazi Years.” West Orange, N. J.: self-

            published, 1979.


Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand [New York, 1945]. Boulder, Colo.: Johnson Books, 1977.


Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseille 1940. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.


Hagen, Paul [i.e. Karl B. Frank]. Erobert, nicht befreit. New York: American Association for a

            Democratic Germany, 1946.


    ---     Germany after Hitler. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1944.


    ---     Will Germany Crack? A Factual Report on Germany from Within.

            New York: Harper & Brothers, 1942.


Heideking, Jürgen and Christof Mauch (Eds.). American Intelligence and the German Resistance to

            Hitler: A Documentary History. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996.



Jansen, Jon B. and Stefan Weyl [i.e. Bernard Taurer and George Eliasberg]. The Silent War:

            The Underground Movement in Germany. New York: Lippincott, 1943.


Loewenheim, Walter. Geschichte der Org (Neu Beginnen) 1929-1935: Eine zeitgenössische Analyse.

            1935. Ed. J. Foitzik. Berlin: Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand und Edition

            Hentrich, 1995.


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

            Germany. New York: Rand School Press, 1934.


Vansittart, Robert. Black Record: Germans Past and Present. Toronto: Musson Book Company,



    ---     Lessons of My Life. New York: Knopf, 1943.




Secondary Source Books


Benz, Wolfgang and Walter H. Pehle (Eds.). Encyclopedia of German Resistance to the Nazi

            Movement. 1994. Trans. L. W. Garmer. New York: Continuum, 1997.


Breitman, Richard and Alan M. Kraut. American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933-1945.

 Bloomingdale, Ind.: Indiana UP, 1987.


Brown, Charles C. Niebuhr and His Age: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prophetic Role in the Twentieth Century.

            Philadelphia: Trinity International Press, 1992.


Buttinger, Joseph [i.e. Gustav Richter]. In the Twilight of Socialism: A History of the Revolutionary

            Socialists of Austria. New York: Praeger, 1953.


Chernow, Ron. The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family. New

            York: Random House, 1993.


Doucette, Siobhan. “The Political Activities of Karl Frank (a.k.a. Paul Hagen) in America

            during World War II,” M.A. American University, 2003.


Edinger, Lewis J. German Exile Politics: The Social Democratic Executive Committee in the Nazi Era.

            Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956.


Feingold, Henry L. The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust, 1938-

            1945. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1970.


Fox, Richard W. Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.



Glees, Anthony. Exile Politics during the Second World War: The German Social Democrats in Great

            Britain. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.


Grunewald, Michel and Frithjof Trapp (Eds.). Autour du « Front populaire allemande ».

            Einheitsfront – Volksfront. Bern: Peter Lang, 1990.


Hirschfeld, Gerhard (Ed.). Exile in Great Britain: Refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Warwickshire,

            England: Berg, 1984.


Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. New York: Random House,



Kliem, Kurt. “Der sozialistische Widerstand gegen das Dritten Reich dargestellt an der

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[1] Wechsler, “The Man We Lost,” New York Post, Dec. 1, 1966, p. 36.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “‘This Was a Man,’” New York Post, June 3, 1969, p. 57.

[4] 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.

[5] Paul Hagen [i.e. Karl Frank], Will Germany Crack? A Factual Report on Germany from Within (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1942), p. 167.

[6] Letter Elizabeth A. Weston (Frank’s granddaughter) to the author, April 2, 2007.

[7] 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.

[8] Müller, ibid.

[9] Bry, “Resistance: Recollections from the Nazi Years” (West Orange, N.J.: self-pub., 1979), pp. 220-1.

[10] Edinger, German Exile Politics: The Social Democratic Executive Committee in the Nazi Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), pp. 25ff.

[11] Respectively, Bernard Taurer and George Eliasberg.

[12] The Silent War: The Underground Movement in Germany (New York: Lippincott, 1943), pp. 128-9.

[13] Jansen and Weyl, pp. 110-1.

[14] International Information, periodical of the Labour and Socialist International, March 31, 1933. Qtd. in Edinger, supra cit., p. 26.

[15] Edinger, p. 271n68.

[16] Edinger, p. 41.

[17] Ibid., pp. 26ff.

[18] Edinger, pp. 215ff.

[19] Historical/Biographical note, Baruch Charney Vladeck Papers, 1906-1958 (New York University). <http://dlib.

nyu.edu/eadapp/transform?source=tamwag/vladeck.xml&style=tamwag/tamwag.xsl> (2003).

[20] Ibid.

[21] “Autobiographical Data,” Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreichs, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria), Signatur 29/8.

[22] 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.

[23] 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, “Bids Church Serves as Economic Guide,” NYT, July 14, 1937, p. 12. Cf. Niebuhr’s earlier non-interventionist statements as quoted in “Nation is Warned on Danger of War, Strict Neutrality Urged,” NYT, April 23, 1935, p. 5.

[24] John C. Bennett, “Niebuhr, Reinhold,” Encyclopædia Britannica (2007).

[25] Charles C. Brown, Niebuhr and His Age: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prophetic Role in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: Trinity International Press, 1992), p. 110.

[26] “Confidential Memorandum” on the history of the AFGF, ca. 1941, p. 1. MJG Papers, Box 1.

[27] Jansen and Weyl, supra cit., p. 169.

[28] 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 the US in 1939, living on a farm in Vermont during the war years. Michaela attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., graduating in April 1945.

[29] As an indication of how well Vladeck was received in the general New York community, nearly 20,000 “filed past his bier” at a wake held in the auditorium of the Jewish Daily Forward building. The following day a ceremony was held in Rutgers Square, just opposite the JDF building, at which Governor Herbert Lehman, Mayor LaGuardia and Senator Robert F. Wagner delivered eulogies. The New York Times estimated 50,000 people in attendance. “Half Million [sic] See Vladeck Funeral,” NYT, Nov. 3, 1938, p. 23.

[30] Paul Hagen to Calvin Hoover (OSS, Washington D.C.), July 31, 1942, p. 5. KBF Papers, Box 7.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Peter Frank was deployed in defense on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy in January 1944. In June, he was captured in Nettuno by American parachutists, who kept him with their unit for some time as a “first aid man”—Peter spoke fluent English. As a POW, he boarded a troop ship bound for the US and arrived in November. He was imprisoned at Camp Custer in Hart, Michigan. Cf. passim correspondence between Karl Frank and Peter, Hans, KBF Papers, Box 8.

[33] Cf. account in an article by James A. Wechsler, “An Early Anti-Nazi,” PM, ca. 1944. KBF Papers, Box 3.

[34] Offices would move to 120 East 16th St. in January 1943.

[35] The description given by Rudolf Katz in a letter to Friedrich Stampfer (Paris), June 1939, in Mit dem Gesicht nach Deutschland. Eine Dokumentation über die sozialdemokratische Emigration. Aus dem Nachlaß von Friedrich Stampfer ergänzt durch andere Überlieferungen, Ed. E. Matthias and W. Link (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1968), p. 65.

[36] Ron Chernow, The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family (New York: Random House, 1993), pp. 426-8, 493-6.

[37] “Confidential Memorandum,” supra cit., p. 2. MJG Papers, Box 1.

[38] “Plan for Action of the American Friends of German Freedom,” ca. 1940, p. 3. KBF Papers, Box 1.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Richard W. Fox, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 201.

[41] “Memorandum on an International Coordination Council in the United States,” ca. 1941, p. 1. KBF Papers, Box 1.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Memo on the ICC, ibid.

[44] Memo on the ICC, supra cit.

[45] Warner, “The Office of Strategic Services: America’s First Intelligence Agency” (Central Intelligence Agency, 2000), <https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/oss/index.htm> (2006).

[46] Ibid.

[47] KBF Papers, Box 7.

[48] Letter A. W. Dulles to Frank, April 24, 1942. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) II, Record Group 226, Entry 210, Box 78, Folder “Paul Hagen Group.” Cited by Siobhan Doucette, “The Political Activities of Karl Frank (a.k.a. Paul Hagen) in America during World War II,” M.A. (American University, 2003), p. 46.

[49] Letter A. W. Dulles to Hugh Wilson, May 23, 1942. NARA II, Record Group 226, Entry 92, Box 4, Folder 7540. Ibid.

[50] Cf. Doucette, pp. 48-9.

[51] Cf. American Intelligence and the German Resistance to Hitler: A Documentary History, Ed. J. Heideking and C. Mauch (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996), passim.

[52] Klein (School of Military Government, Charlottesville, Va.) to AFGF, June 30, 1942. KBF Papers, Box 2.

[53] Klein, Confidential “Explanation” of the “Hagen Formula,”ca. August 1942. KBF Papers, Box 7.

[54] “Explanation” of the “Hagen Formula,” ibid.

[55] Klein to Hagen, Sept. 29, 1943. KBF Papers, Box 7.

[56] Letter Col. Sexton to Klein, Sept. 13 1942. KBF Papers, Box 6.

[57] Letter Mortimer Kollender to A. J. Goldberg, May 8, 1943. NARA II, Record Group 226, Entry 210, Box 78, Folder “Paul Hagen Group.” Cited by Doucette, supra cit., p. 57.

[58] Letter Carl Devoe to Mortimer Kollender, Oct. 11, 1943. Ibid.

[59] Title of seminal work on the refugee crisis: Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust, 1938-1945 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1970).

[60] 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.”

[61] “Friend of the Refugee,” The New Republic, December 8, 1941, p. 749.

[62] “Kirchwey, Freda,” Encyclopædia Britannica (2007).

[63] “Re: International Rescue and Relief Committee, Incorporated,” FBI Files, FOIA Request for “Emergency Rescue Committee,” passim.

[64] Qtd. in Varian Fry, Surrender on Demand, New York, 1945 (Boulder, Colo.: Johnson Books, 1977), pp. xi-ii.

[65] M. J. Gold, Crossroads Marseille 1940 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980), pp. xi-iii.

[66] American Guild for German Cultural Freedom, Inc., letterhead from October 1940. ERC Records.

[67] Gold, pp. xi-ii.

[68] In 1939 he founded the firm Consultants in Fund Raising, soon to be called Harold L. Oram, Inc., or the Oram Group.

[69] 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.

[70] Gold, supra cit., pp. xvi-xv. Also cf. Chernow, supra cit., p. 497.

[71] The following quoted from a prepared radio broadcast script, July 3, 1940. KBF Papers, Box 3.

[72] Cf. NYT, Oct. 14, 1940, p. 16. Also cf. ERC pamphlet “Wanted by the Gestapo,” ca. May 1941. FBI Files, FOIA Request for “Emergency Rescue Committee.”

[73] 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.

[74] He was an editor of Common Sense, The Living Age, The New Republic, and for the Foreign Policy Association.

[75] 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 (New York: Random House, 2001) and Andy Marino, A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999). The television network Showtime produced a movie in 2001 called Varian’s War, written and directed by Lionel Chetwynd, which purportedly tells the “true” story of Fry—it falls far short of the mark. Chetwynd: “There was a lot of sexual ambiguity to him [Fry]. He was married to a much older woman. His behavior in Marseille is a little opaque, but he was probably bisexual. [!] William Hurt and I spent hours talking about whether he was gay. We decided when he got to Marseille he was for the first time liberated from all kinds of strictures that inhibit the Harvard intelligentsia and started experiencing life, experimenting with bisexuality in the process.” Writers Guild of America, <http://www.wga.org/craft/interviews/chetwynd.html> (2005). For a full list of charges brought against the validity of this film from Pierre Sauvage and a number of surviving refugees, visit the Chambon Foundation Web site at <http://www.chambon.org/varians_war_

en.htm> (2006).

[76] ERC Records, passim, subject files.

[77] 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, March 2, 1941, p. 41.

[78] “Sing It and Mean It,” The New Republic, Dec. 1, 1941, pp. 717-8.

[79] Cf. Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust, 1938-1945 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1970).

[80] Paraphrased in Richard Breitman and A. M. Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933-1945 (Bloomingdale, Ind.: Indiana UP, 1987), p. 28.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Wyman, Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis 1938-1941 (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1968), p. 210.

[83] Paul Merkley, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Political Account (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1975), p. 156.

[84] Welles to Roosevelt, September 12, 1940. Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreichs, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria), Signatur 29/8.

[85] Fox, p. 201.

[86] Merkley, p. 157.

[87] “I hope that if the State Department again attempts to bring pressure on me with a view to obtaining my immediate return to the United States, you will resist the Department’s pressure to the utmost.” Letter Fry to Kingdon, June 24, 1941, VF Papers, MN# 2000-2024.

[88] VF Papers, passim.

[89] Letter Eileen Fry to Varian Fry, Jan. 5, 1941. VF Papers. Qtd. by Isenberg, supra cit., p. 157.

[90] Cf. “U.S. Writer Seized By Nazis in France,” NYT,, March 18, 1941, p. 6. Also cf. “Defeat of Germany Viewed as U.S. Task,” NYT, Nov. 20, 1941, p. 8.

[91] “Anti-Nazi Relief Groups Merge,” NYT, Feb. 6, 1942, p. 4.

[92] Qtd. in Wyman, frontispiece.

[93] Ibid., pp. 211, 221.

[94] Breitman and Kraut, p. 10.

[95] Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 32ff.

[96] Qtd. in Wyman, p. 210.

[97] Wyman, ibid.

[98] This small New York paper was the descendant of an original Bavarian version founded and edited by the anarchist Robert Bek-Gran.

[99] 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.

[100] “Autobiographical Data.” Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreichs, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria), Signatur 29/8.

[101] Cf. Krohn, “Exilierte Sozialdemokraten in New York. Der Konflikt der German Labor Delegation mit der Gruppe Neu Beginnen,” Autour du «Front populaire allemand» Einheitsfront – Volksfront, Ed. M. Grunewald, F. Trapp (Bern: P. Lang, 1990), p. 89ff.

[102] “German Exile Here: Wilhelm Sollmann,” NYT, Jan. 21, 1937, p. 13.

[103] Letter from Seger to Sollmann, Dec. 19, 1936, qtd. in Krohn, p. 126

[104] Ragg, “The German Socialist Emigration in the United States, 1933-1945,” Ph.D. (Loyola University of Chicago, 1977), p. 129.

[105] 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.

[106] “United with the German Workers: The American Unions and German Social Democracy,” Sozialistische Mitteilungen, Supplement to No. 7, April 1940, p. 1.

[107] “United with the German Workers,” p. 2.

[108] 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.

[109] 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 Prague exists. The “extravagant” lifestyles of Bureau officials in the face of starving émigrés was widely rumored. When they ousted the leftist critics Siegfried Aufhäuser and Karl Böchel from the Executive committee in 1935, some speculated that their reasons were less political and more in response to the “threatening demand” from these critics that the Executive openly account for its finances. Cf. Helmut Gruber, “The German Socialist Executive in Exile, 1933-1939: Democracy as Internal Contradiction,” Chance und Illusion. Studien zur Krise der westeuropäischen Gesellschaft in den dreißiger Jahren/Labor in Retreat: Studies on the Social Crisis in Interwar Western Europe, Ed. H. Gruber and W. Maderthaner (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1988), pp. 205n117, 209, 225.

[110] “Autobiographical Data.” Nachlaß Karl B. Frank (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreichs, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria), Signatur 29/8.

[111] 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.

[112] Paraphrased in letter Paul Hagen to Serafino Romualdi, April 25, 1941, reprinted in Replies to the Attacks on Paul Hagen: What the Neue Volkszeitung Refused to Publish (New York: Friends of Paul Hagen, 1941), p. 13.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid., pp. 13-14.

[115] Richter, Hirschberg and Herling to Romualdi, April 25, 1941, in Replies to the Attacks on Paul Hagen, supra cit., p. 14.

[116] Richter, Hirschberg and Herling to Romualdi, April 25, 1941, Replies, p. 15, 16.

[117] Neue Volkszeitung, June 28, 1941.

[118] Neue Volkszeitung, June 28, 1941. Translation mine.

[119] 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.

[120] 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. “German Republic” becomes “Weimar Republic.”

[121] Cf. Lewis J. Edinger, supra cit., pp. 71, 75ff, passim.

[122] 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 in Berlin in June 1935 at which “the final majority decision against Miles’ views” was articulated, and after which “the majority of the former Miles group [or, Leninist Organization] . . . now constituted an independent underground organization, and decided to take its place abroad within the remnants of the Social Democratic party in exile.” And furthermore, “The group chose the name New Beginning as a symbol if its intentions, not because of agreement with the pamphlet [Miles’ Neu Beginnen, 1934] which it rejected.” The group asked for and received official recognition by the Labour and Socialist International the following month. “Answers to Questions posed by Dr. [Walter] Dorn,” ca. April 1942, pp. 2-3. KBF Papers, Box 1.

[123] 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.”

[124] Qtd. in Gruber, p. 212.

[125] “History of the American Friends of German Freedom,” memo to the JLC, n.d., MJG Papers, Box 1, p. 1.

[126] “Confidential Memorandum: History of the American Friends of German Freedom,” sent to Col. Donovan (OSS), March 1942. MJG Papers, Box 1.

[127] Qtd. in Hertz, “Declaration on the Case of Paul Hagen,” supra cit., p. 6.

[128] Bry, supra cit., p. 217.

[129] Ibid., p. 220.

[130] Frank to members of the Council for a Democratic Germany, Feb. 2, 1945. KBF Papers, Box 1.

[131] Vansittart, Black Record: Germans Past and Present (Toronto: Musson Book Company, 1941).

[132] Black Record, p. iv.

[133] Ibid., p. v.

[134] Lessons of My Life (New York: Knopf, 1943), p. 8.

[135] 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 Man.The Mist Procession: The Autobiography of Lord Vansittart (London: Hutchinson, 1958), p. 479.

[136] Black Record, p. 17.

[137] Ibid., p. 5.

[138] From war posters collected at the Imperial War Museum, London, reproduced on a deck of playing cards, “First World War Poster Playing Cards.” They make for a potentially awkward flop.

[139] 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 Germany really must eat all the small countries as hors d’œuvres? I have made a study of German political menus for the last hundred years. They are always the same and include everything and everybody—with the same sauce. German policy has been in fact nothing more than monotonous cannibalism” (14).

[140] Black Record, p. 18.

[141] Lessons, p. 88.

[142] Ibid., p. 87.

[143] Ibid., p. 85.

[144] Lessons, p. 86.

[145] Ibid., p. 88.

[146] Ibid., p. 89.

[147] Lessons, p. 5.

[148] Paul Hagen (Karl Frank), Germany after Hitler (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1944), p. 230.

[149] Cf. “Erklärung der ‘Fight for Freedom’-Gruppe (London),” March 2, 1942. Mit dem Gesicht nach Deutschland, supra cit., pp. 538-42.

[150] Letter Paul Sering (i.e. Richard Löwenthal) to Karl Frank, Oct. 28, 1942. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[151] Germany after Hitler, p. 239.

[152] Ibid., pp. 239-40.

[153] His publishing house released the British edition of Frank’s Will Germany Crack? in early 1943.

[154] “Decency in Socialist Controversies,” article reprinted in New Beginning Auslandsbüro circular, Oct. 14, 1942. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[155] Sering to Frank, supra cit.

[156]New Masses vs. The Nation,” Time, Feb. 11, 1929, n. pag.

[157] In an ironic coincidence, the WWB office suite was located in the same building as the Emergency Rescue Committee office: 122 East 42nd Street, the Chanin Building.

[158] “The Position of the Writers’ War Board on the German Problem,” June 7, 1944. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[159] Gannett to Stout, June 19, 1944. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[160] Caples to Karl Frank, June 30, 1944. KBF Papers, Box 3.

[161] Published in Luzern. A significantly edited English translation appeared in 1940, published by Sheed and Ward (New York). Gerhard Ritter wrote a book of the same title several years after the war expressing the exact opposite ideology to Foerster’s—i.e. Nazism was the result of a general European shift toward totalitarianism that had its roots in Napoleonic France, and therefore Germans should not be blamed in isolation for the Hitler phenomenon.

[162] Frank, “Memorandum on Mr. Isidore Lipschutz’s Activities” to Roger Baldwin, Feb. 7 (or July 2), 1945. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[163] 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.

[164] SPWWIII pamphlet, n.d. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[165] Letter Sabra Holbrook, executive director of Youthbuilders, Inc., to Hagen, May 31, 1944. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[166] Foerster address to the Society for the Prevention of World War III, Nov. 23, 1943. Quoted in SPWWIII pamphlet, n. d. KBF Papers, Box 5.

[167] Lessons of My Life, p. 187.

[168] Transcribed in “Germany Prepares for War: The Case against Germany—Two Lectures by Eric Mann” (Des Moines, Iowa: Advertisers Press, 1944), distributed by the SPWWIII.

[169] “Two Lectures by Eric Mann,” p. 8.

[170]Germany Prepares for War,” p. 12.

[171] Ibid., p. 13.

[172] Ibid., p. 14.

[173] Advertisement, n. p., April 22, 1945. KBF Papers, Box 5. Also cf. “Memorandum on the Activities of Isidore Lipschutz,” supra cit.

[174] Elmer Davis, Introduction, Will Germany Crack?, p. x.

[175] “What of Hitler’s Home Front? Mr. Hagen Studies the Destructive Forces within Germany Itself,” NYT, June 14, 1942, p. BR1.

[176] Bendix, Review of Will Germany Crack?, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Nov. 1942), p. 426.

[177] Percival R. Knauth, “The Suction Factor in Germany,” Saturday Review of Literature, June 20, 1942, p. 5. The cover of this issue features a large photograph of Frank.

[178] “Memorandum,” MJG Papers, Box 1.

[179] Pollock, Review of Will Germany Crack?, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 36, No. 6 (Dec. 1942), pp. 1168-9.

[180] 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.

[181] Will Germany Crack?, p. 27.

[182] Cf. Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life, Trans. R. Deveson (New Haven: Yale UP, 1987).

[183] Will Germany Crack?, pp. 78-9.

[184] Will Germany Crack?, p. 33.

[185] Ibid., p. 32.

[186] Ibid., p. 46.

[187] Paul Hagen, “Hess’ Flight Seen as Move for Peace,” Baltimore Evening Sun, May 20, 1941.

[188] Paul Hagen, “Our Allies Inside Germany,” Common Sense, September 1942 [no day], p. 297. KBF Papers, Box 1.

[189] 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, Box 1.

[190] Löwenthal to Frank, Oct. 28, 1942, addendum Nov. 21. KBF Papers, Box 5. Apparently the doubtful source was the anonymous German radio personality known as “the Chief,” who, according to Frank, “represents an intransigent, ultra-nationalistic opposition to the Nazis” (xii), and whose attacks were usually aimed at the SS and Gestapo. Löwenthal predicted that the book’s English edition would likely have a circulation of 12,000-15,000 copies.

[191] Will Germany Crack?, pp. 121-2.

[192] Ibid., p. 118.

[193] Will Germany Crack?, p. 122ff.

[194] Ibid., p. 122.

[195] Ibid., p. 125.

[196] Ibid., p. 132.

[197] Will Germany Crack?, p. 133.

[198] Ibid., p. 134.

[199] Will Germany Crack?, p. 129.

[200] Ibid., p. 128.

[201] Ibid., p. 130.

[202] Will Germany Crack?, p. 190.

[203] Ibid., p. 191.

[204] According to Allan Merson, the KPD had 360,000 members in 1933. He also cites the account of a leader of the underground organization in Berlin who estimated that as of 1935 there were some 5000 stable members in that city alone. Cf. Communist Resistance in Nazi Germany (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1985), p. 89.

[205] Merson, p. 72.

[206] Ibid., p. 76.

[207] A limited Arbeitsgemeinschaft was actually formed in Paris in 1938 as a coalition of the New Beginning group, the Revolutionary Socialists of Austria (RSÖ) and the German Socialist Workers Party (SAP). The group published the pamphlet Der kommende Weltkrieg. Aufgaben und Ziele des deutschen Sozialismus [The Coming World War: Tasks and Goals of German Socialism] in 1939, distributing it in mimeographed form inside Germany. The same desire for a united front prompted Frank to found the ICC in 1941, and the Council for a Democratic Germany in 1943.

[208] Qtd. in Merson, p. 78.

[209] Merson, p. 84.

[210] Ibid., p. 93.

[211] Andreas Niebuhr, Review, PM, Oct. 27, 1942. This author has no relation to theologian and Frank-supporter Reinhold Niebuhr.

[212] The book contains several interesting comments on the resistance movement in France: “De Gaulle’s influence in occupied France may be weaker than people think. His contacts with the labor movement [a prerequisite for any insurgency, according to Frank] are weak because his social program is rather vague. Until recently his influence was limited to circles of the middle class, medium and small business men, students, civil servants and the army. [a rather wide circle of influence] However, labor became more interested in de Gaulle after the propaganda from London began to concern itself more with the problems of the French worker. . . . What French patriots hope is that de Gaulle will develop close association with representatives of the French democratic labor movement” (191-2). Emphasis mine. Frank also (rightly) predicts the liquidation of the French trade unions by the Nazis. And he considers Vichy to be “a buffer state between the world of human beings and the world occupied by Nazi barbarians” (195). Vichy employs the “Latin brand of fascism,” presumably alla Mussolini (196). On Pétain: “Militarily, politically and socially he is living in another century” (195). “Having been unsuccessful so far in selling collaboration with Germany [unsuccessful?], the Nazis now try to frighten the French into it by drawing gruesome pictures of Europe under the heel of bolshevism” (197).

[213] Alex-Langkau, supra cit., p. 74.

[214] Paul Hagen, “A Gallup Poll of Blood,” The Nation, Nov. 12, 1942, p. 541.

[215] W. R. Malinowski, “No German Underground? Poles Fail to Discover Any Organized Anti-Nazi Movement,” NYT, Oct. 19, 1944, p. 22. Malinowski was a sometime supporter of Frank, but he often sided with the Polish faction of the Labour and Socialist International, which tended to sympathize with the Vansittartists.

[216] Morris Amchan, “No German Resistance: Evidence Adduced at Trials Said to Disprove Its Existence,” NYT, Aug. 7, 1949, p. E8.

[217] H. W., “Der deutsche Widerstand,” Die Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, July 19, 1947.

[218] This latter column was a temporary part of a regular section, “Die Verschwörung des 20. Juli” [The July 20th Conspiracy].

[219] Will Germany Crack?, p. 188.

[220] Ibid., p. 145.

[221] Will Germany Crack?, pp. 145-6.

[222] Ibid., p. 154.

[223] Translated by R. Deveson from Volksgenossen und Gemeinschaftsfremde. Anpassung, Ausmerze und Aufbegehren unter dem Nationalsozialismus (Cologne: Bund Verlag, 1982) for Yale UP (1987).

[224] Peukert, p. 75.

[225] Peukert, p. 76.

[226] Ibid.

[227] Ibid., p. 105.

[228] 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.

[229] Peukert, p. 188.

[230] Peukert, n. p.

[231] Ibid., p. 240.

[232] Ibid., p. 64.

[233] Germany after Hitler, p. 119.

[234] Germany after Hitler, p. 173.

[235] Ibid., p. 172.

[236] Ibid., p. 146.

[237] Ibid., p. 147.

[238] Germany after Hitler, p. 149.

[239] Ibid., p. 146.

[240] Ibid., p. 21.

[241] Ibid., p. 200.

[242] Ibid., p. 208. Emphasis mine.

[243] Ibid., p. 209.

[244] Germany after Hitler, pp. 104-7.