The Minister in Austria (Stockton) to the Secretary of State

No. 666

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 662, of October 22, 1932, concerning the recent disturbances at the University of Vienna, during which an American student, Jakob Benjamin Glenn, was the victim of an unprovoked attack, I have the honor to inform the [Page 127] Department that about noon on Wednesday, October 26, the Consul General telephoned me that approximately forty American students had called on him and had stated that some of them had been injured in a new outbreak at the University. He went on to say that they had demanded the protection of the United States in a very insolent manner and that he had referred them to me. He added that they were already “marching on the Legation”. A copy of Mr. Harris’ memorandum on the subject is herewith enclosed.12

I asked Mr. Swift to receive the students; to request them to select a committee of three, and to bring them up to my office. Mr. Swift reported that they were much excited when they arrived and had demanded to see me at once in a body. Mr. Swift finally compromised with them by permitting the committee of three, and the three students who stated they had been injured, to see me. The members of the committee were still excited when they reached my office, and all wanted to talk at once. I managed to calm them down, and allowed each to tell his story. Only one member of the group was in any way impertinent, and he subsided quickly when I told him that I expected a gentleman to conduct himself accordingly when courteously received.

The three students injured were:—

  • Milton Landon
  • Louis J. Rosenfeld
  • Nathan Vogel

Fortunately, their injuries were negligible. All of their stories were similar. Each had apparently been singled out for assault because of his Jewish appearance. They declared that their assailants had carried whips, black jacks, steel rods, brass knuckles, and knives. The use of such lethal weapons is an innovation at the University, probably in emulation of the Nazis in Germany. Several students stated that an American girl student had also been struck, but none of them knew her name or have since been able to supply it to the Legation. One maintained that he had been hit even after he had declared he was an American citizen. I explained that I had already called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, following the attack upon Mr. Glenn on October 20, and had requested that adequate protection be extended the American students at the University. I also stated that Dr. Dollfuss had expressed his deep regret and had assured me he would take immediate steps to prevent a recurrence of such incidents. I added that I would take up the matter with Dr. Dollfuss again. I then sent for the other members of the delegation [Page 128] and explained to them what I had already done, what I proposed to do, and what I wanted them to do.

I urged them not to return to the University until Saturday, October 29, in order to give the authorities sufficient time to take whatever steps might be necessary for their protection. I repeated the admonition I had given Mr. Glenn, that when they returned to the University, to pursue their studies as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, to associate themselves with no political factions, and to avoid all encounters between Austrian students. I also advised them, even if attacked, not to fight back if they could possibly avoid it, adding that I realized how difficult it would be to exercise such restraint.

I explained that publicity would not be helpful and requested them not to discuss their difficulties with representatives, of the press. While the students were still in my room, I asked Mr. Swift to telephone the Foreign Office for an appointment with Dr. Dollfuss.

At 5:30 p.m. I called on the Chancellor and informed him I had been advised that four more American students, one of them a girl, had been attacked at the University in the morning. I invited his attention to the fact that despite my protest following the unprovoked attack upon Mr. Glenn, the University authorities had apparently failed to take the necessary steps to protect American students. I stated that the situation was fraught with more peril than possibly he realized, and requested that since the police were forbidden to enter the University premises, the authorities themselves be urged to extend protection to American students. At the close of our conversation I stated that if the University authorities were unable to extend adequate protection, in my opinion it was the duty of the State to intervene. Dr. Dollfuss was quite evidently on the defensive. He must have realized that if he had acted either promptly or forcefully when I protested concerning the attack upon Mr. Glenn, the more recent disturbances would probably not have taken place. He attempted to defend the unruly spirit displayed by the Austrian youth as being due to a lack of discipline, which could no longer be given them, as compulsory military service had been forbidden to Austria by the Treaty of St. Germain. I replied that we had no compulsory military service in the United States, but that our University authorities managed to maintain law and order on their campuses. The Chancellor again expressed his deepest regret and this time assured me emphatically that there would be no recurrence of such incidents. I left with him a copy of the enclosed note, dated October 26.13

[Page 129]

At 11:30 on Thursday, October 27th, the Rector, Professor Dr. Othenio Abel, called upon me to express his deepest regret that American students had been injured in the University disturbances. I told him I realized his difficulties, but felt that as a general invitation had been extended to American students to attend the University of Vienna, the authorities owed them adequate protection. Upon leaving, he gave me a copy of a notice he had had posted at the University, a translation of which is enclosed.14 Our conversation was very friendly, and he assured me I would have no further cause for complaint. I said I had heard that the Austrian students resented being crowded out of their own University by foreigners. I suggested that if this were true, the University should restrict the number of foreigners admitted. His reply was non-committal.

Although I had told the Chancellor I felt the situation could best be handled without publicity, the Press Bureau, on the night of October 26, released the story that a Minister had called at the Foreign Office to request protection for his nationals at the University. The foreign correspondents immediately found that I was the Minister referred to, and I was deluged with telephone calls. I admitted I had protested at the Foreign Office, but declined to make any statement.

The Tagblatt of October 27, quoted the Rector as having addressed a group of students on the preceding afternoon in part as follows:

“The Minister of Education, Dr. Rintelen, asked me how I proposed to prevent a recurrence of such excesses. I declared that I would assume the responsibility. I shall call on the American Minister tomorrow and express to him my deepest regret with regard to these incidents. Do you know what it means for the Rector of such an old University to take a journey to Canossa in this manner? This is what irresponsible individuals force me to do. However, if I were the Minister of a foreign power, I, too, would certainly demand satisfaction from Austria. Can’t you imagine what an impression a foreign Minister must get. I regret to say that there are students who apparently do not realize what harm they have done to the University today and what damage they have caused. By guaranteeing peace and order, I have today with the greatest difficulty been able to save the privileges of the university.”

and also the new Secretary of State for Public Safety, Major Fey, as stating:

“During the conversation yesterday between the Minister of Education and the Rector, the possibility of the police having to interfere on academic soil was considered. The Government is determined to preserve law and order everywhere, including in the University and colleges. Should this be impossible in view of the University’s [Page 130] present privileges, more comprehensive measures will have to be considered for the protection of students should further disorders occur.”

In an unbiased editorial, it declared:

“The events which took place yesterday at the assembly of Austrian and German students in the Great Hall of the University are probably unique in the history of universities. The Rector informed his students that he would apologize to the American Minister for the assault on four American citizens on academic premises. ‘Do you know’, he said, ‘what it means for the Rector of the second oldest German University to take such a Journey to Canossa?’

If the energetic diplomatic intervention of the American Minister will have the salutary effect of uprooting the intolerant spirit in Austrian universities so that they can return again undisturbed to their real mission of acquiring and spreading knowledge, then he deserves the gratitude of all Austrians who love their country. But couldn’t the right thing have been done without foreign compulsion?”

The Neue Freie Presse commented:

“The University disturbances were not taken seriously as long as only Austrian students were injured, but when Americans became involved, the Rector had to take a Journey to Canossa to apologize for a regrettable violation of hospitality.”

It went on to say it hoped the American people would realize that nobody regretted the unpleasant incident more than the vast majority of Austrian people.

My intervention at the Foreign Office resulted in press attacks upon the Dollfuss Government from the Left and the extreme Right. However, the Government brought these attacks upon itself by giving the story of my protest to the press. As a result of a conversation with Baron Löwenthal, Chief of the President’s Cabinet, I am convinced that the Government has long regarded the situation at the University with concern and was eager to take advantage of such an opportunity to put an end to these disgraceful disturbances.

The Freiheit, a National Socialist paper of bad repute, in an editorial on October 27, declared that if Austria had had a patriotic press, the story of my protest to the Foreign Office would have been printed with a black border. It went on to say that if Austria had had a strong government, the Chancellor would have told me politely but emphatically that I had no right to intervene in such a matter. The Freiheit also claimed that American students had repeatedly acted in a provocative manner and that instead of my protesting, the Austrian students should protest against the behavior of the Americans. It accuses the Vienna Tag, which it reproaches with being under Czechoslovak control, of having expressed satisfaction that [Page 131] the Rector of the University had to apologize to the American Minister. A translation in full of this editorial is enclosed.15

The Arbeiterzeitung, of October 28, taunted Dr. Rintelen, the Minister of Education, with being against terrorism at the University when foreign students are assaulted, but complacent at all other times. It went on to say that the Government only became aroused and the Rector only recognized the National Socialist students as “irresponsible” when the American Minister complained, but that when Austrians or “undesirable” students from the East were beaten up, the Government was not interested. In conclusion, it labeled Austrian reactionaries as terrorists at home and lackeys abroad. A translation of the whole editorial is enclosed.15 In my opinion, the manner in which the Arbeiterzeitung gloats over the Government’s awkward position is extremely unfortunate, although it must be admitted that the Government has been callously indifferent in the past to anti-Jewish disturbances at the University.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am hopeful that my representations to the Foreign Office will result not only in putting an end to attacks upon American students, but also in the cessation of the disgraceful anti-Jewish disorders which, in the past, have so frequently disturbed the peace of the University.

I have reported this incident in detail so that the Department will be in a position to answer directly any enquiries that may be made concerning it.

Respectfully yours,

G. B. Stockton
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