811.00 Nazi/50

The Consul at Berlin (Geist) to the Secretary of State

No. 1820

Nazi Propaganda in the United States

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a translation of an article which appeared in the issue of December 23, 1933, of Das Neue Tagebuch, published in Paris.51 I am taking the opportunity of inviting the Department’s attention to this article on account of the fact that it mentions a number of individuals whose activity in conducting Hitler propaganda in the United States has come to my personal attention. I do not know whether or not the Department is familiar with the Neue Tagebuch published in Paris. Its circulation is forbidden in Germany on account of the fact that it is anti-Hitler; but the objectivity with which the various subjects are handled, and the “inside information” which its special correspondents are able to obtain in Germany and elsewhere, deserve a certain recognition. From the personal knowledge that I have of certain individuals mentioned in the enclosed article, I am convinced that the facts narrated are not very far from the truth.

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Regarding Ernst Luedecke, the first individual mentioned in the article, I am informed from reliable sources that he is now in a concentration camp in Germany. This was confirmed several days ago by a letter I received from his wife, Mrs. Kurt G. W. Luedecke, 128 McLean Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, who states that for the last two months she has had no letters from her husband, Ernst Luedecke, who wrote to her from the concentration camp at Brandenburg during July and August, and that since then she has had no word from him. Since Mrs. Luedecke is an American citizen I have made informal inquiries of the Chief of the State Secret Police, who informed under date of December 28, 1933, as follows:

“In reply to your favor of the 16th inst. I have the honor to inform you that the writer Kurt Luedecke, born in Berlin on February 5, 1890, is at present in the State concentration camp in Brandenburg (Havel). I do not know that Mr. Luedecke has not written during the last two months. He is permitted to correspond in the same measure as all other ‘prisoners for protective purposes’.”

I desire to recall a brief report made to the Department by Mr. Messersmith,52 concerning an interview which I had with the so-called German “sea hero”, Graf Luckner. When he was the guest of honor of the American Chamber of Commerce on October 31, 1933, at the Adlon Hotel, I sat next to Graf Luckner and frankly discussed with him his forthcoming trip to America. I told him I hoped that he was not going to America to conduct “propaganda” and that he would not depart from his traditional attitude towards my country, which was one of promoting good friendship and sincere cultural relations without bringing up any political issues, either of America or of Germany. Graf Luckner said he hated politics and propaganda and had not the slightest intention of going to America for any other reason than to lecture about his experiences as a seaman and to promote the good friendship between Americans and Germans as he had ever done in the past. He took me sufficiently into his confidence at the time to show me a telegram which he had received from Colonel Emerson (also mentioned in the enclosed article) which at the time I reported to Mr. Messersmith, who wrote to the Department about this interview. The telegram said that the Nazi party in America was in confusion and offered Graf Luckner the “leadership”. He expressed to me his disdain of the offer; and I gathered from his attitude that he would not mix up in the propaganda campaign. It appears, however, from the enclosed article that Graf Luckner has also received his orders from the Propaganda Ministry.

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Professor Schoenemann is back from America, but I have not seen him since his return. Schoenemann used to be one of my instructors at Harvard University, and I have seen quite a bit of him during my last four years in Germany. That relation has almost ceased since the advent of the Hitler Government; as it disgusted me to see with what opportunism Schoenemann has thrown himself into the lap of the National-Socialists. His conduct during the early months of the regime when the Jewish persecutions and other excesses had shocked all decent people, was not only disgusting to us Americans who frequently met Schoenemann, but was also the subject of bitter comment by President Norlin of the University of Colorado, who was serving here as Theodore Roosevelt Exchange Professor at the Berlin University, and who at that time came professionally much into contact with Schoenemann. I do not care to make unfavorable comment about Schoenemann; but I consider it my duty to say that even during the years when Schoenemann was anxious to be on the best terms with Americans, and when he struggled hard to get Ambassador Sackett to use his influence to get sufficient money from America to endow his chair at the Berlin University, he was consistently unfriendly towards our country. He has never in his public lectures, delivered personally or over the radio, been particularly complimentary about our country. His attitude has always been cynical and he has repeatedly laid emphasis upon our weaknesses and delighted to preach the doctrine of our “lower standard of culture”. I must say frankly that I was filled with alarm and regret when I learned that this man had gone to the United States to give lectures on “Why I am for Hitler”. I knew that Schoenemann was fundamentally unfriendly towards us and that his mission to America would do us no good.

I may say frankly in view of the events which have taken place in America in Nazi circles during these last months, that I believe our consular officers in Germany should be authorized to exercise discretion in granting visas to persons who, we are sure, are going to the United States to conduct Nazi propaganda and whose activities may cause the same tumults and disorders as did those of Schoenemann at Boston. So far as I know none of the consular officers in Germany has received instructions from the Department regarding these suspects. I am now reliably informed that Professor Schoenemann is planning to make another “propaganda” trip to the United States in March, under instructions from the German Ministry of Propaganda; and I believe it may be opportune for the Department to consider whether or not under our regulations such agents will be entitled to receive visas when it is known that the object of their visits is to conduct propaganda in favor of a form of government inimical to our constitution and civil liberties.

Respectfully yours,

Raymond H. Geist
  1. Not printed.
  2. George S. Messersmith, Consul General at Berlin.