The Mystery Artist: In Search of François Perilla

The American School’s haphazard art collection continues to fascinate me. It lacks any thematic cohesion and at first glance often makes no sense, because most of the works have little to do with the institution itself. Yet, it remains a source of mystery because these same works are also associated with people who were once deeply involved in the School’s affairs. Before they ended up at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter), these objects decorated the walls of private houses and were part of those households’ life history. In Janet Hoskins’s Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives (1998), six women and men from Eastern Indonesia tell the history of their lives by talking about their possessions, thus creating an identity for themselves through objects they made, bought, were given, or collected. Our people are no longer alive but many of their possessions are with us, and they have a story to tell us (if we ask them…).

The Blegen-Hill house at Ploutarchou 9, ca. 1960s. ASCSA Archives.

Most of the artwork that hangs on the walls or decorates the mantels of the various buildings of the School comes from two households. One was the residence of two couples, Carl and Elizabeth Blegen (the Blegens) and Bert and Ida Hill (the Hills), who lived together at Ploutarchou 9 (Kolonaki) in the 1930s; the other belonged to the archaeologist George Mylonas and his wife Lela who lived in Saint Louis (Missouri) in the 1930s before they moved back to Greece in the early 1970s. Although both households were set up about the same time, the Blegens/Hills, because of Elizabeth’s personal wealth, began purchasing artwork immediately, while the Mylonases, both younger and refugees from Asia Minor, did not begin acquiring art until the early 1950s. (I have written about the nature of the Mylonas collection in a post titled “The Spirit of Saint Louis Lives in Athens”; on the two couples living at Ploutarchou Street read “The End of the Quartet: The Day the Music Stopped at Ploutarchou 9,” by Jack L. Davis; and Pounder 2015.)

Lately I have been trying to identify the items from the Blegen-Hill household, which came to school almost intact after the death of the house’s last occupant, Carl Blegen, in 1971. Although we have an inventory, the fact that the objects were not photographed or tagged before they were dispersed among the various buildings of the School (including Corinth) makes it difficult to identify their origin today.  Some of the art, such Giovani Battista Piranesi’s “Vedute di Roma,” is easily identifiable, but portions of the collection remain shrouded in mystery.

In addition, we also lack indoor photos of the house, except for the one that shows the so-called “Greek Room.” (Take for comparison the interior of John Gennadius’s house in London, which was professionally photographed, making it easier to identify the artworks from it that came to the Gennadius Library.) Still we are slowly putting together a picture of the life and art at the Blegen residence. In a recent conference about Carl and Elizabeth Blegen, Vivian Florou reconstructed through archival research some of the social life of the house at Ploutarchou 9 during its peak times, before and after WW II (Florou 2015).  In “Skyromania? American Archaeologists in 1930s Skyros,” I identified some of the embroideries and pottery that were once part of it.  In “The Grecian Landscapes of Anna Richards Brewster,” I suggested that an oil by Brewster might also have once been belonged to the Blegens.

Today’s post focuses on another large painting that once hung on the walls of Ploutarchou 9 (item no. 10 in the Blegen Collection), but is now adorning the walls of my new office: a watercolor depicting the temple of Hera at Olympia, signed “F. Perilla 1930”. A quick search on the internet produced a few brief references to auction catalogs that identified him as a French art historian and artist, born in 1874, as well as to two recent translations of books he wrote about Chios (1928) and Mount Pelion (1940). A search in “Ambrosia” (the ASCSA’s online book catalogue) proved more fruitful, with several entries to publications by Perilla.

Temple of Hera at Olympia, watercolor by F. Perilla. ASCSA Archives, Art Collection.

From Nowhere

The earliest entry dates from 1927 and is titled: Le Mont Athos. Son histoire – ses monastères – ses oevres d’ art – ses bibliothèques.  It is a medium size volume (32 x 25 cm), of about 200 pages, printed in Thessaloniki by a French publisher whose name and address figure prominently on the book: J. Danguin, Éditeur, 3o, Rue Jacob, Paris. In the Preface Danguin is also identified as the owner of “Éditions Papyrus.”  The eye-catching drawings –lithographs of watercolors, or woodcuts of sketches– are by Perilla. Le Mont Athos is not a travel book but a scholarly publication to judge from Perilla’s bibliography.  In the book’s Preface, the author reveals the only biographical information we have about him: that he did not know anything about the history of Mount Athos until 1920 (when he was already 46 years old), but which he managed to master and write a book about in the next seven years by conducting extensive library research and by taking three trips to Mount Athos in 1923 and 1924. It was during these trips that he produced the twelve watercolors and the numerous sketches that are included in the publication.

 

Watercolor of the Simon Petra Monastery by F. Perilla reproduced in Le Mont Athos. ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

Within a year of the publication of Le Mont Athos, this middle-aged man, who seems to have appeared from nowhere, produced two more illustrated books: a short one, more of a travel-guide, about the Daphni Monastery and an impressive tome on Chios.  Chio: L’ ile heureuse, Editions Perilla (1928), is a lavish edition on thick paper featuring many of the author’s watercolors (15), sketches, and photographs from his time on the island. (A Greek translation of the book was published by the Coraes Library in 2009.) In the preface of this volume, Perilla thanks George Choremis, Leonis Calvocoressis, and Nicolas Paspatis for their hospitality. He must have been a guest at the Choremis mansion which he praises for its famous garden (περιβόλι) and rich library. In the Daphni book he is already advertising the appearance of three more travel books: Salonique, Mistra, and Excursions en Grèce. Not only this, but by 1928, when the Chios book appeared, Perilla had established his own publishing house, titled “Editions Perilla,” using the Nike of Samothrace as his logo (although he is still printing in Paris with “presses de A. Lahure” and Théo Brugière for the plates).

Two years later (1930) Perilla published Grèce: Croquis dè route, this time a car journey, sponsored by the newly founded (1924) Automobile and Touring Club of Greece (Ελληνική Λέσχη Περιηγήσεων και Αυτοκινήτου, aka EΛΠΑ), to promote travel to ancient and modern sites in the Peloponnese and central Greece. It’s in this b­­ook that I discovered the watercolor of the Temple of Hera at Olympia, which ended up at Ploutarchou 9. In addition to being a fine artist and scholar, Perilla could write prose with ease, thus making his books something between travelguides and travelogues:

“A une petite gare isolée au bout de la plaine d’ Argolide, un nom fameux retentit: Mycènes! … Où est Mycènes? Là-haut, cachée dans les montagnes. Montagnes arides, sombres, sinistres; asile du people sauvage et rude qui bâtit une ville, des palis, des tombeaux par l’ amoncellement titanique de blocs immenses.”

(For the production of this small book he went local, trying one of the largest and oldest printing houses in Greece, the Aspioti-Elka enterprise in Corfu).

In the meantime Perilla continued his prolific production by publishing another large volume: À travers la Macedoine (1932) which is, in terms of size and quality, equivalent to Le Mont Athos and Chio. This book was also was printed by Aspioti Elka, except for the fine heliogravures which were printed in France. The photography is particularly noteworthy.  Unlike Perilla’s previous books where photographs were sparse, this one has many of high quality, including captivating portraits of local men and women and breathtaking aerial photos (which must have required expensive equipment).

Photograph of a Macedonian shepherd by F. Perilla reproduced in À travers la Macedoine. ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

Aerial photo of Tsimiski Street (Οδός Τσιμισκή) by F. Perilla reproduced in À travers la Macedoine. ASCSA Gennadius Library.

A Sought-After Travel Writer

Through these books Perilla must have earned a fine reputation as an author, artist, and publisher. In 1936 the organizers of the Third International Congress of Comparative Pathology in Athens (IIIme Congrès International de Pathologie Comparée a la Faculté de Médecine d’Athenes, du 15 au 18 Avril 1936), under the patronage of King George II, commissioned him to enhance the conference program with a series of watercolors illustrating some of the archaeological sites that the participants and their spouses were going to visit during a two-week cruise at the end of the conference. (I was fortunate in finding this book by accident while browsing the Geography and Travel section of the Gennadius Library because it is not listed under Perilla’s publications.)

Watercolor of the Tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae reproduced by F. Perilla in the Congrès program. ASCSA Gennadius Library.

About this time –it is unclear exactly when because it is sine datum—Perilla published another volume, also rare today, about the Greek islands. Sponsored by “la compagnie de cabotage de Grèce,” as a means to promote cruise travelling, Les iles de la Grèce featured text, watercolors, and aerial photos of the Cyclades. (Another copy of this rare book can be found in the Dimitris Kondominas Collection at the Benaki Museum.)

Just before the outbreak of WW II in Greece, in June 1940, Perilla published a pocket size, tour book about Mount Pelion (Au pays des centaures. Le Pélion (1940), printed in Athens by “Pyrsos Editions”). We have no idea if he stayed in Greece throughout the War or if he went back to France or elsewhere. Perilla is, however, in Athens by 1942 when he republished Daphni. A year later he republished Grèce: Croquis dè route under a new title, Aquarelles de Grèce. In a brief preface he explained that he did it because the 1930 edition had been exhausted, but also because he wanted to pay tribute to Greece, the land of his happy wanderings (“vagabondages heureux”). There is a gripping detail in this book: the announcement of a publication about Romania (“en préparation: Roumanie”) which makes me wonder if he spent the early years of the War in the northern Balkans. (A bibliographic search for the Romanian book did not produce any results, most likely because it was never published.)

Watercolor of the Temple of Hera at Olympia by F. Perilla reproduced in Aquarelles de Grèce. The original watercolor is now part of the ASCSA Art Collection.

A Neighbor of the Blegens?

In 1944 Perilla published two more books: Vieille Athènes and Promenades Attiques. Both included new watercolors and photography, especially Vieille Athènes where for the first time the photos surpass in number the watercolors.  Promenades Attiques features more impressive aerial photography (see the spectacular photo of Piraeus), which he must have taken before the War.

Aerial photo of Piraeus by F. Perilla reproduced in Promenades Attiques. ASCSA Gennadius Library.

In the preface, we learn one more biographical detail about Perilla, that he lived on Ploutarchou Street (“la rue Plutarque où j’ habite, l’une des plus sympathiques de la ville…), which means he was also a neighbor of the Blegens and the Hills, although the Blegens and Mrs. Hill were in America during the War. (Elizabeth Blegen who also painted watercolors must have known Perilla’s work and him personally.) Still he must have bumped into Bert Hodge Hill, who was the only member of the Blegen-Hill household, who continued to live in Greece during the War. Although Perilla’s choice of words in the preface is careful, he does not hesitate to refer to the gloomy atmosphere of the city, with the “death engines” flying over the famous Attic sky (… “d’invisibles engins de mort voguent dans la stratosphere”), as well as to reminisce about prewar, carefree days. I wonder, however, how he managed to finance three new editions during the German occupation, when most printing houses had been shut down or were under close surveillance (none of his war publications provide any information about the printer). In 1945 Perilla issued Loisirs d’ Athènes which is described as “édition de luxe,” but, unfortunately, we do not have a copy at the Gennadius Library.

Photograph of an Athenian house on Hadrian Street (Οδός Αδριανού) by F. Perilla reproduced in Vieille Athènes. ASCSA Gennadius Library.

Watercolor depicting an Athenian street by F. Perilla reproduced in Vieille Athènes. ASCSA Gennadius Library.

Publishing the Makriyannis Paintings…

His next book came as a surprise to me. In 1949 Perilla published the twenty-four paintings of General Makriyannis in a noteworthy edition which featured both color and black- and-white lithographs of the paintings (Fragments de la vie heroïque de Makryjannis suivis des ses images de l’ époque grecque). In Chapter III, where Perilla writes about the history of the paintings and their rediscovery by John Gennadius, he mentions the American School and the Gennadius Library where the paintings reside; yet, I found it strange that he does not thank either the Librarian of the Gennadius Library or the Director of the American School for permission to publish the works or for their facilitating his research. No less interesting, the Gennadius Library had to buy the book from Kauffmann’s bookstore in 1954. You would think that Perilla would have given a copy to the Library (unless it was lost for some reason). Whatever is the story, we are grateful to Perilla for producing an illuminated initial with the Gennadius Library in it.

The Vanishing Intellectual

One of his last publications, most likely the final one, is a book about the three heroic islands of the Greek War of Independence: Hydra, Spetsae, Psara… (1950), also printed, as the Makriyannis book, by Pyrsos Editions. As usual, the book features many of his watercolors as well as pencil drawings –a novelty–but no photographs. The text is informative and recounts the history of these islands, especially in connection with Greece’s independence.  By the time Hydra came out Perilla was 76 years old, but he remained a good storyteller.  We lose track of him after 1950 (and there is no death date in the bibliographic entries of his books in libraries).

For a man who was so intellectually productive, it is strange (not to mention sad) that he remains so forgotten. Of course, history is full of examples of vanishing artists and authors, who were once extremely popular and then faded into oblivion. Who remembers Hans Makart, except for a few scholars, who was a contemporary of Manet and Monet, or George du Maurier, Henry James’s friend and rival? (There is a nice short essay “How do Artists Vanish” in the Spectator by art critic Martin Gayford, who is contemplating the future of Damien Hirst; and for the rival friendship between Du Maurier and James, I recommend a favorite novel, Author, Author by David Lodge.) Some are rediscovered, others not…

But back to Perilla.  I am particularly curious to know what happened to his watercolors, sketches, and his vast photographic collection. Iole Vingopoulou, a connoisseur of travel authors and travelogues, comments about how little we know regarding Perilla: only that he lived in Athens for a few years, around 1930, and wrote illustrated travel books (Vingopoulou 2005, p. 128). Eleni Beliyanni in her introduction for the Greek edition of Χίος: Ευτυχισμένο Νησί (2009), was also not able to contribute any new information about Perilla’s life. The Teloglion Arts Foundation in Thessaloniki may be in possession of some of Perilla’s artwork because his name appears in the list of paintings exhibited in one of their shows in 2013, titled Η Θεσσαλονίκη των Τέλλογλου. ΖωγραφικήΧαρακτικήΓλυπτική. But other than that and the School’s watercolor of the Temple of Hera at Olympia, where is the rest of what must have once been a substantial art collection?

Note: After I had written this post I received a note from Jack Davis informing me about another book by Perilla, published in 1954 (at the age of 80) titled Delphes (unfortunately we don’t have a copy at the Gennadius Library).


References

Florou, V. 2015. “The House at 9 Ploutarchou Street: A Grape Arbor and a Dense Shadow of Beautiful Meanings,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J.L.Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta, pp. 121-146.

Pounder, R. L. 2015, “The Blegens and the Hills: A Family Affair,” in Carl Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives,” ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015, pp. 85-98.

Staikos, K. and I. Vingopoulou, 2005. Ο Ελληνικός κόσμος μέσα από το βλέμμα των περιηγητών, 15ος-20ός αιώνας : ανθολόγιο από τη συλλογή του Δημητρίου Κοντομηνά, Athens.

 


Professors to the Rescue: Americans in the Aegean at the End of the Great War, 1918-1919.

Islands and coast Asia Minor still crowded with refugees. Stop. Number there still to be repatriated estimated three hundred thousand. Stop. We are maintaining three stations in Mytilene district clothing alone being available, but food urgently needed.  Stop. Above statements based on personal inspection this Commission. Stop. We recommend that work in Aegean be immediately extended to other islands like Chios, Samos and to opposite coast which can be reached by sea transport which can be secured by Greek governments. Stop.”

The text quoted above is a small portion of a long telegram (47 lines) that Colonel Edward Capps sent to Harvey D. Gibson, member of the American Red Cross War Council in Paris, on December 12, 1918 (NACP, Greece, ARC Commission to, 964.62/08). The telegram reported the activities of the American Red Cross (ARC hereafter) since arrival of its Greek Commission in Athens on October 23rd.

This is not the first time I am writing about the activities of the ARC in Greece. In 2011, together with Jack L. Davis, then Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), we organized and subsequently published the proceedings of a conference titled Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece (Princeton 2013). Davis’s paper, “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism,” discussed the involvement of members of the ASCSA, through enlistment in the Greek Commission of the ARC, in humanitarian aid in eastern Macedonia, as well as in the repatriation of Greek citizens who had been taken as hostages to Bulgaria. Later in 2015, on the occasion of the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli, I was invited to participate in a conference about The First World War in the Mediterranean and the Role of Lemnos, with a paper that discussed the humanitarian activities of the ARC Greek Commission in the eastern Aegean at the end of the Great War.

My paper, titled “Professors to the Rescue: Americans in the Aegean at the End of the Great War, 1918-1919,” was published in the proceedings of the conference in 2018. Since the publication, because of its modern historical focus, will hardly reach the archaeological community, I decided to post a version of my paper, enhanced with more images, here. The story to be told is another, unknown chapter in the history of the American School; it also tells the story of a number of people, such as A. Winsor Weld and Horace S. Oakley, who, strangers at first to Greece, turned into philhellenes and life-long supporters of the American School.

The Greek Commission

The ARC’s mission to Greece was organized in June and July of 1918 in response to an appeal from the Greek Red Cross. From the time that America entered the war in 1917, the ARC, with the endorsement of President Wilson’s government, had sent several commissions to Europe to provide military and civilian relief in England, France, Italy, Belgium, and Serbia.  The Greek Commission was headed by Edward Capps (1866-1950), professor of Classics at Princeton University and newly appointed chairman of the School’s Managing Committee, a position he would hold for twenty years (1918-1939).

“There came from America to do the work 103 persons (60 men and 43 women), and several others were recruited in Europe. They enlisted in the service of the American Red Cross from all parts of the United States, and represented all manner of occupations and professions. There were business men, lawyers, bankers, physicians, preachers, teachers, farmers and mechanics, and among the women, trained nurses, stenographers and social workers. The authority of the Commission was vested in the Commissioner, who held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and seven Deputy Commissioners with the rank of Major.” Thus Capps described the composition of his team in his final report at the conclusion of their mission (Capps 1919, p. 11).

The front image from Julia Irwin’s book, The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (Oxford2013).

Henry B. Dewing (1882-1956), assistant professor of Classics at Princeton, most likely Capps’s personal choice, was appointed Secretary of the Commission. It is not clear when and how it was decided that Edward Capps would lead the ARC Greek Commission. The fact that he had been a colleague of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University must have played some role. But it was not the only reason. The ARC had created a separate department, the Insular and Foreign Division (IFD), to reach out to the thousands of Americans who resided abroad, either as employees of the State Department or working for various American corporations, institutions, and organizations (Irwin 2013, p. 76). (For information about the activities of the ARC during Wilson’s presidency I have relied on Julia Irwin’s excellent book, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening, [Oxford 2013].)

That Capps had access to an operating base in Greece (i.e., the American School) must have given him a leg up in the selection process. In addition, the staff of the School in Athens, Bert Hodge Hill, director since 1906, and Carl Blegen, secretary since 1912, shared a deep knowledge of Greece (its geography, language, customs) and, above all, they were well connected. “An essential depository of local experience,” the School could (and would) act as a buffer to a group of newcomers ignorant of Greek realities (Hatzivassiliou 2013, p. 18).

The Greek Commission, in addition to Capps and Dewing, also included seven deputy commissioners:

Clifford W. Barnes, Chicago. Minister (1864-1944)
Carl E. Black, Jacksonville, Illinois. Surgeon (1862-1944)
Cyril G. Hopkins, Urbana, Illinois. Professor of Agronomy (1866-1919)
Alfred F. James, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Businessman (1870-1959)
Horace S. Oakley, Chicago, Illinois. Lawyer (1861-1929)
Samuel J. Walker, Chicago, Illinois. Physician (unknown dates)
A. Winsor Weld, Boston, Massachusetts. Businessman (1869-1956)

The Greek Commission at the ARC Headquarters at 19 Kephissias Street. First row, left to right: Clifford Barnes, Samuel Walker, Edward Capps, ?, Winsor Weld, and Carl Black. Clifford W. Barnes Papers, Chicago History Museum. 

We do not know the selection criteria for the deputy commissioners and how much say Capps had in the selection process.  That the majority of them had some connection with the state of Illinois, Capps’s home state, makes me suspect that he was involved in the selection of the deputy commissioners, and probably already knew some of them personally. Capps had been born in Jacksonville, Illinois in 1866, received his B.A. from Illinois College (1887), his Ph.D. from Yale (1891), and had taught at the University of Chicago before he moved on to Princeton. With the exception of Dewing, who was in his mid 30s, the rest of the officers were mature men in their early 50s with families and established careers. Each commission must have had representatives from a number of professions. Naturally, doctors and nurses, but also ministers, bankers, and lawyers were highly desirable members, as this telegram to Horace Oakley reads: “… this commission should include lawyer and you have been suggested as eminently fitted for this position” (Newberry Library, Horace S. Oakley Papers, Alfred James to Oakley, Sept. 3, 1918).

ARC Commissioner Edward Capps posing on the balcony of the ARC head quarters. What do the Greek letters stand for? Find the answer below.

A New Elite Emerges

While for the younger people personal development and career opportunities might have been an additional motivation for joining the different missions of the ARC in Europe, it is not entirely clear why older and established people would leave their homes to subject themselves to hardships and suffering. There are several reasons to consider. First of all, a strong sense of patriotic duty must have influenced their decisions. Although service in the ARC was not a substitute for combat, the militarization of the ARC after 1917 was viewed as an alternative form of service by many men who were beyond draft age. Businessmen, doctors, and professors, including Edward Capps, became majors and lieutenant colonels overnight (Irwin 2013, pp. 119-121).

One also has to acknowledge the cosmopolitan nature of American society during the Progressive Era, a prospective that encouraged international activities. But most of all, by being part of the ARC in the first two decades of the 20th century, one belonged to a new professional elite, “drawn from the ranks of the U.S. government and corporate America” (Irwin 2013, p. 7). These men and women were similarly minded and well-educated people who had embraced the scientific management theory for economic efficiency and labor productivity.

The new elite, proud to manage philanthropic foundations and organizations such as the ARC, also shared President Wilson’s larger vision for global peace and international order. In addition to substituting “dollars for bullets,” America had found another way to reach out to the world by offering a new type of civilian aid: non-sectarian, preventive, and constructive. By trusting its humanitarian mission to an army of professionals, the ARC conferred “a greater sense of cultural prestige” to the international work of the organization (Irwin 2013, p. 36).

The ARC Greek Commission at Work

With the preceding discussion as a background, I now come to the main part of my post: that is, the work of the ARC in the Aegean. The members of the Greek Commission arrived in Greece, via Paris, on October 23rd, 1918.  Upon their arrival in Athens, Commissioner Capps and his deputies were taken to the ASCSA, which had been rented by the ARC to be used by the deputy commissioners as sleeping quarters. The rest of the commission boarded in Athenian hotels. For its headquarters, the Commission rented a large private mansion at 19, Kephissias Street.

By December the Commission had already dispatched three missions: one to Eastern Macedonia to facilitate the repatriation of more than a hundred thousand Greeks who had been taken as hostages to Bulgaria during the war; a second to Southern Epirus to investigate reports of extreme starvation, and a third to Mytilene and the adjoining islands to offer civilian relief to Greek refugees from Asia Minor. (For the ARC mission to the Eastern Macedonia, Davis 2013; and Hatzivassiliou, 2014.)

ARC Deputy Commissioner A. Winsor Weld. ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers.

I have consulted three types of sources for the mission to the islands: a) ARC’s published reports; b) professional correspondence and unpublished reports in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C.; and c) personal papers of members of the Greek Commission housed in various U.S. libraries and archives. In one case, I was fortunate to locate and buy from an antiquarian bookseller a rare privately circulated volume reproducing letters that A. Winsor Weld, one of the deputy commissioners, sent to his family from Greece in 1918-1919 (Aegean islands: Dec. 10-24 and Febr. 15-25). Weld, an investment broker from Boston, was placed in charge of civilian relief in the Aegean, and is also the author of a long report about the activities of his mission. (For Weld’s first impressions of Athens and Greece, read “Athens 1918: “In Every Way a Much More Attractive City than Rome.”)

The Aegean Expedition

On November 6, 1918, Weld dispatched to Mytilene an expedition accompanied by a shipload of supplies to provide civilian relief to thousands of refugees from Asia Minor. Dewing, the Secretary of the Commission, headed the mission; he was no stranger in the Aegean. From 1910 until 1916 he had served as dean of Robert College in Istanbul. Capps must have included Dewing in his party for his familiarity with the region and the language. The problem of language communication is not mentioned in the official reports but appears frequently in Weld’s letters to his family. Once outside Athens the members of the Commission could hardly find any Greek who could speak more than a few words of French. Dewing would do most of the talking when members of the Commission conducted business with Greek officials in the islands (Weld, Letters, p. 94).

Using Mytilene as a base, relief was also distributed to the islands of Tenedos, Imbros, and Samothrace, as well as to the city of Aivali in Asia Minor. Two more stations were established on Chios and Samos. Each station maintained a residence for personnel, a warehouse for supplies, and suitable quarters for its various activities (Weld, “Relief Work”, p. 4).  In the official and unofficial reports it is repeatedly mentioned that transportation of supplies and people from Piraeus to the islands but also from one island to the other was “exceedingly difficult.”  To facilitate island communication in January 1919, the U.S. navy placed at the disposal of the Greek Commission six submarine chasers (Weld, Letters, p. 117).

The Greek Commission heading to Chios with one of the U.S. submarine chasers.

A Wretched Situation

The Commission found the refugees underfed and clad in rags. “Very few children have shoes and stockings,” Weld described in his report (Relief Work, p. 9). The soup kitchens that the Greek state ran in Mytilene allowed for one dish of soup or vegetable each day and such kitchens did not exist outside the town (Weld, Relief Work, p. 18). In addition, a large epidemic of influenza had stripped the hospitals of medicines. The refugees lived like squatters in abandoned and half-destroyed Turkish houses, in deplorable sanitary conditions. In the towns, because of lack of space, families of 8-10 people were forced to live in one room. On the island of Mytilene alone, the Greek Commission reported “a refugee population of 52,000 quartered on a native population of 180,000)” (Weld, Relief Work, p. 19). How wretched the situation was on the islands is best described by Weld who, while attending a funeral, was shocked to see that “the beautiful burying clothes and everything is taken off before the body is covered, clothing too valuable to lose” (Weld, Letters, p. 105).

The ARC organized its civilian relief on these islands along three lines: a) it opened workshops for making clothes (ouvroirs); b) it distributed food and clothes; and c) medicines were dispensed by trained nurses. Since the Greek authorities had established Refugee Bureaus, distribution of relief was done in an organized and fair manner.

Putting Refugees to Work

Opening workshops to make clothes was an intelligent way to occupy women refugees, and to teach them a skill; by earning some income to support their families these women avoided prostitution.  On the island of Samos, the workshop occupied 65 women, who worked from 8.30 to 5.30 and produced from 200 to 300 garments daily. The nurse supervising the Samos workshop reported that “no work was too great for them, and each was paid according to the number of garments made and the quality of her work. The rivalry kept a sharp edge on the results” reported nurse Ethel G. Hazlewood (Weld, Relief Work, p. 40).

Paid work was part of the ARC’s overall philosophy, which did not focus only on temporary relief, but strongly emphasized creating foundations for “orderly, industrious postwar societies,” where people remained productive and self-supporting, and children were well-fed and educated (Irwin 2013, p. 71). Clothing was distributed in small parcels. Getting these parcels to the population that lived outside the large towns on the islands was a real trial for the members of the Commission. Travelling by donkeys and mules, sometimes it would take a full day to reach an isolated village.

“Chios. Investigation party on the Chios Rapid Transit” (written on the back of the photo). Horace S. Oakley Papers, Newberry Library.

The ARC had a tradition of distributing farm equipment and seeds to encourage agricultural work. In fact, when the Greek Commission was being formed, the Greek government asked “if we should include in our mission an expert in soil fertility,” Capps wrote in his report (Capps 1919, p. 27). It is no surprise, therefore, that one of the seven deputy commissioners, Cyril Hopkins (1866-1919), a professor of agronomy at the University of Illinois, came to Greece to study the soil and suggest ways of improving its efficiency. His report was the only one of the Greek Commission’s reports that was published in Greek.  His report also explains the mystery of the capital Greek letters appearing on the photos of the Greek Commission. What originally looked like fraternity letters but did not make any sense in the context of an ARC photo were, in fact, the symbols for chemical elements. During his time in Greece, Hopkins had collected and analyzed hundreds of samples of soil, in an effort to make Greek soil more productive. Unfortunately, Hopkins died of malaria at Gibraltar in October 1919 on his way back to America.

Hopkins believed that the addition of phosphorus (Φ) and other fertilizers to the Greek soils would double the size of the crops.  He also used his fellow commissioners (e.g., see the photo of Capps above) as scale in his photos, to show the different results of his experiments. ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

Food Distribution

Aiming at better nourishment for the starving refugees, the Commission added rations of beans twice a week. As a complement to the rice that the Greek government had sent, the ARC added milk and sugar to transform it into a nutritious ρυζόγαλο. Finally, the ARC supplied the kitchens with flour in order to add macaroni to their sparse menu (Weld, Relief Work, p. 28).  The Commission also made sure that supplies of food and clothing were distributed to the orphanages.

Distribution warehouse. Source: Horace S. Oakley Papers, Newberry Library.

Weld makes another important point in his report. The distribution of the supplies was done directly by members of the Commission, “in order that our help should not be merely of the physical kind but should also bring into it something of a personal element and thereby help to cement a friendly feeling and to show that the American people were directly interested in their lives and comfort” (p. 15).  Chester H. Aldrich, an American architect and head of the Italian Commission, had blatantly reminded his delegates that all relief needed to possess “an American character pronounced enough to constantly remind everyone connected with it that this help comes from America” (Irwin, p. 119, and n. 48).

By creating an environment of lasting appreciation of the United States, knowingly or unknowingly, the ARC workers of the Greek Commission (and the other Commissions) were spreading the seeds for Wilson’s peacetime visions of a safe and well-ordered world, evoking his famous Fourteen Point speech of January 1918 (Irwin 2013, p. 125). Dewing in his report exalted the friendly reception of his team by the habitants of Mytilene. “The streets resounded, during the progress through the city, with cheers for the American people and for President Wilson. The name and fame of Wilson is familiar in every household on the Island of Mytilene as, indeed, it is through the length and breadth of Greece” (Weld, Relief Work, p. 17).

The issue of U.S. propaganda surfaces also in Weld’s report: first, the ARC workers were initially suspected by locals of being agents of political propaganda by the local inhabitants but, when they went about their business not favoring any parties, that idea soon ended. Then they were suspected of religious propaganda but “the number of priests who came to watch our work, and frequently to share in its benefits, proved that was wrong” (Weld, Relief Work, p. 36).

Teaching Preventive Care

While the European Red Cross societies limited their aid to the battlefield, the American Red Cross from the beginning embraced a broader mission by investing heavily in preventive, long-term care. As soon as America entered the war in 1917, the ARC, with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, undertook a large anti-tuberculosis campaign in France to fight the resurgence of tuberculosis during the Great War. The French campaign initiated a series of other public health initiatives which included educating women in the principles of public health and nursing (Irwin 2013, pp. 129-130). The Greek Commission included two experienced doctors from Chicago: surgeon Carl E. Black (1862-1944) and physician Samuel Walker. After surveying 47 military and 49 civilian hospitals Black produced a report about their needs and, accordingly, the ARC distributed aid (Black 1919).

In the papers of deputy commissioner Horace S. Oakley (Newberry Library, Chicago) I found a snapshot taken at the ARC dispensary on the island of Chios. The head nurse is demonstrating to expectant mothers how to bathe and clothe babies properly. At the end of each of these demonstrations the future mothers would receive a layette containing a blanket, soap, and clothes for the infant. Weld recorded in one of his letters that the layettes were so eagerly sought after by the refugees that it led to “attempts to obtain them by false pretenses, through the use of padding to give the necessary appearance” (Weld, Letters, p. 90).

“Chios. Miss Johnson giving layette demonstration to 30 expectant mothers” (written on the back). Horace S. Oakley Papers, Newberry Library.

The Aftermath

With the repatriation of the Greeks from Bulgaria and the return of the refugees to Asia Minor, the Greek Commission concluded its relief work in May 1919. Capps and some of the deputy commissioners, including Weld, stayed throughout the summer to write their reports.

Presenting final reports to the ARC administration in Washington was part of the organization’s concept of scientific management. In addition to describing past activities, the reports also included plans for constructive work of more permanent character.  Capps was pursuing appropriations from the ARC to support a training school for nurses, child welfare stations, and orphanages for a period of five years. Instead, Greece received funding for one year only.

Financial reversals had forced the ARC to suspend most of its European long-term programs by June 1st, 1920.  The American people not only had limited their contributions to the ARC, but they were also expressing serious concerns about its plans for international expansion during peacetime. Wilsonian internationalism and the public support for the ARC, once kindred spirits, waned completely after Wilson retired from the U.S. presidency in 1921.  From now on the ARC would only respond to emergency calls.

When in the early fall of 1922 Greece placed another emergency call to the ARC, there was a robust American community already in Athens to take immediate action. The Athens American Relief Committee included Harry Hill, the manager of the American Express Company, and W.S. Taylor, the representative of Standard Oil. The person who organized the actions of this temporary committee was none other than Bert Hodge Hill, the director of the American School.  And it was Edward Capps to whom Eleftherios Venizelos wrote in January 1923 asking for his support in the organization of refugee settlements after the departure of the ARC. From 1923 to 1928 Bert Hodge Hill would take time off from his director’s duties (which ended in 1926) to work diligently for the Refugee Settlement Commission, personally inspecting refugee settlements in all parts of Greece, including the Aegean islands (Daleziou 2013, pp. 54-57).

The School through its involvement with ARC would also gain the life-long support of deputy commissioners Weld and Oakley. Both served on the Board of Trustees of the School. Weld would also become the Treasurer of the Board from 1946 until his death in 1956. Both followed the School’s affairs with great interest. In the Newberry Library at Chicago where the Oakley papers have been deposited, there is extensive correspondence between Oakley and Capps about the progress of the School’s negotiations with the Greek government concerning the concession of the Athenian Agora excavations. Furthermore, in 1926-1927, Oakley donated $5,000 to the School for the erection of an excavation house at Corinth (the so-called “Oakley House”). Oakley’s sudden death in 1929 deprived the School of a committed friend.

 

 

ARC Deputy Commissioner Horace Oakley. Newberry Library.

The Oakley House at Corinth. ASCSA, Corinth Excavations.


Primary Sources
NACP = National Archives at College Park, College Park, Md.
Newberry Library (Chicago), Horace S. Oakley Papers
Weld, Letters = A. Winsor Weld, Letters from Greece, 1918-1919 (privately published).

Publications
–Carl E. Black, Survey of the Hospitals in Greece (Athens 1919).
–Edward Capps, The American Red Cross in Greece (Athens 1919).
–Louis P. Cassimatis, American Influence in Greece, 1917-1929 (Kent 1988).
–Eleftheria Daleziou, “ ‘Adjuster and Negotiator’: Bert Hodge Hill and the Greek Refugee Crisis, 1918-1928”, in J. L. Davis and N. Vogeikoff-Brogan (eds.), Philhellenism, Philanthropy or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece, Hesperia (Special Issue) 82:1 (2013), pp. 49-65.
–Jack L. Davis, “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism”, in Jack L. Davis and Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan (eds.), Philhellenism, Philanthropy or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece, Hesperia (Special Issue) 82:1 (2013), pp. 15-48.
–Dimitra Giannuli, “American Philanthropy in Action: The American Red Cross in Greece, 1918-1923,” East European Politics and Societies 10 (1995), pp. 108-132.
–Evanthis Hatzivassiliou, Βιώματα του Μακεδονικού Ζητήματος. Δοξάτο Δράμας, 1912-1946 (Athens 2014).
–Cyril G. Hopkins, Πώς η Ελλάς μπορεί να παράγη περισσότερη τροφή (Athens1919).
–Julia F. Irwin, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (Oxford 2013).
–A. Winsor Weld, Relief Work among the Aegean Islands (Athens 1919).


“The haughty arrogance of the Nordic people”: A Scandal in the German Colony of Athens on the 20th of April 1935.

Posted by Alexandra Kankeleit

Alexandra Kankeleit here contributes an essay about an unknown episode, almost a scandal, which took place in 1935 in the German community of Athens and involved the local Catholic church and members of the German Archaeological Institute.  Alexandra, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of Roman mosaics, has also since 2016 been part of an extensive project of the German Archaeological Institute (Athens and Berlin), titled The History of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens during the National Socialist Era. As part of the project, she has examined a host of bibliographic and archival sources in both countries that document the activities of the German archaeologists in Greece from 1933 until 1944. A list of her most recent publications can be found on Alexandra’s own website.


A recently discovered episode from 1935 offers a striking picture of the predominant mood in the so-called “German Colony” in Athens following the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany. (“Deutsche Kolonie” was the official name of the German-speaking Community in Greece until the end of WWII.)  It illustrates in dramatic fashion what battlefronts were being drawn up at the time and what the representatives of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens (DAI Athen hereafter) saw as their role in this critical period.

I stumbled more or less by chance upon this incident while carrying out research at the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office). The relevant documents are to be found in a folder that deals with the “Schwarze Front” (“Black Front”) in Greece, an underground organisation that was opposed to Hitler and his policies, and which was founded in 1930 by Otto Strasser (1897-1974), brother of the infamous Gregor Strasser (1892-1934). From 1934-1937 members of the “Schwarze Front” were based in Greece publishing illegal flyers and articles, and encouraging Germans living in Greece to turn away from Hitler.

It seemed unlikely that information about German cultural policy in Greece, and in particular the DAI Athen, would be hidden amongst such material, but I was in luck and a search in the proverbial haystack yielded a small but successful result. A short time later I discovered supplementary material in the archives of the DAI, the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche (German Evangelical Church) in Athens, and the Bundesarchiv (Federal Archives) at Koblenz. These materials round out the picture and allow me to report on this interesting story here.

This episode is naturally embedded in a broader context, titled History of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens during the National Socialist Era. This project was created in 2016 on the initiative of Professor Katja Sporn, Director of the DAI Athen. (I am immensely grateful to both her and the staff in charge of the above-mentioned archive ‒ Lucia van der Linde, Johanna Müller von der Haegen and Hilde Hülsenbeck. I also want to thank Neil Bristow, who is responsible for the English translation of this article, and Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan for presenting it in her blog.)

Fig. 1: City map of Athens from around 1908 showing the German Archaeological Institute and the “Philadelphia.” Source: single sheet, probably taken from the Baedeker Guide to Greece; The map was acquired by the author for a small fee on an online auction site in 2016. The document itself contains no indication of its date of creation.

A Casual (?) Evening Lecture

On 20 April 1935 there was something of a scandal among the German community in Athens: to mark Hitler‘s birthday the German prehistorian Peter Paulsen (1902-1985) gave a talk in the Gesellschaft Philadelphia (a German-Greek Association named “Philadelphia”) on the topic “Cultural Policy in the New Germany.” Unfortunately the text has not survived (or at least it has not been discovered in the relevant archives), but fortunately there are testimonia concerning the varied reactions of the audience. All Germans living in Athens were invited to attend the event (as part of a so-called “comradeship evening”). It is not clear exactly how many people turned up. At this time approximately 600 Germans lived in Athens (out of a total of 1,000 in Greece), while Greeks with an interest in Germany also often attended the community evenings in the “Philadelphia” association. The talk dealt with, among other topics, the reintroduction of German cults and neo-heathen rituals to supplant Christianity. The response of the attendees appears to have been mixed: some offered wild applause, others were shocked by and rejected Paulsen’s theses. Reports on the evening offer no consistent picture.

Fig. 2: Photographs of the “Philadelphia” building at Omirou 16 (thanks to Kostas Galanis and Marilena Kassimatis for drawing my attention to the images). Left: origin unknown. Right: from the newspaper “Εθνικός Κήρυξ” dated 17 December 1961 with the title, Γερμανική Λέσχη “Φιλαδέλφεια” ‒ Ομήρου 16.

Only three persons in attendance voiced criticism and demonstratively left the hall before the end of the talk. According to the sources, the persons in question were Father Richard Liebl, Dean Gödicke, and Ms. Sörgel. For Ms. Sörgel, this action was to have consequences: Johann Friedrich Crome (1906-1962), researcher at the DAI Athen and regional group leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP hereafter), threateningly reminded her “that her case […] in relation to the party has not yet been settled.” The exact repercussions for Sörgel are unfortunately not known.

In the case of Father Richard the situation was more complicated, as his position and personality made him a respected person in the “Germany Colony.” It was not so easy for over-eager party members to attack and silence him. A few weeks later, on 1 June 1935, he published an article in the Catholic community newspaper “Der Rufer” (“The Caller”) that was to provoke more consternation among National Socialist sympathisers in the community.

Fig. 3: Catholic community newspaper “Der Rufer” from 1935. Source: PAAA, RAV Athen, 38: Schwarze Front.

The topic of “Germanness versus Christianity” seems to have also occupied the Evangelical priest Carl Kindermann (1896-1936?). In January 1935 he gave a talk on the topic entitled “Does Christ still have something to say to the Germans?”. In his case, too, the text has not survived, and so we are left in the dark concerning Kindermann’s precise intention and aim.

Fig. 4: Evangelical newsletter “Glaube und Heimat” from 1935. Source: Evangelische Kirche Deutscher Sprache in Griechenland (German Evangelical Church in Greece).

In this era of high tensions, Georg Karo (1872-1963), First Secretary of the DAI Athen, tried to play a mediating role. Two letters survive that show how he tried to soften the increasingly bitter opposition between the two camps of Germans based abroad. One letter was addressed to Peter Paulsen, who as recipient of a DAI scholarship in the spring of 1935 enjoyed the hospitality of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. Karo thus felt responsible for him, and it is plausible to assume that the DAI Athen provided the original impetus for Paulsen’s talk at the “Philadelphia.” The second letter was addressed to Father Richard Liebl. It is not known whether Karo’s letters were ever answered, but this one-sided correspondence nevertheless offers a window into the prevailing atmosphere in Athens at the time. Karo’s involvement is particularly noteworthy when one bears in mind that, although he was christened as a Protestant, in the eyes of the National Socialists he was classified as “Volljude” (fully Jewish). His Jewish roots led him to flee Germany in 1939 and spend thirteen years in exile in the United States. (About Karo’s escape to America, the help he received from his American friends, especially Carl W. Blegen, and his life thereafter, read  Jack L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens,” published on November 1, 2014 in this blog.)

In 1935, however, Karo still felt safe and the extracts from the correspondence that are presented here illustrate the degree to which he identified with the National Socialist regime. Karo expressed understanding and solidarity towards Peter Paulsen, while Father Richard was subject to his criticism, a fact that both the German Embassy in Athens and Peter Paulsen were made aware of. But now we will let the participants speak for themselves.

Fig. 5: “Die Deutsche Revolution”, newspaper of the “Schwarze Front.” Source: PAAA, RAV Athen, 37: Schwarze Front.

The “Schwarze Front’s” Reaction

In May 1935 an article appeared in the “Deutsche Revolution” (German Revolution) newspaper entitled “Zerfall der NSDAP in Griechenland. Hitlersystem sprengt Auslandsdeutschtum” (“Collapse of the NSDAP in Greece. Hitler System Destroys German Culture Abroad”). It was written by the “Schwarze Front” organisation, which was opposed to the regime. Here is an excerpt:

“In his talk Dr. Paulsen contends that the revolution is not yet complete, and that the bloody final reckoning still lies ahead. The main battles will be against reactionaries and the church. […] In an impassioned manner Dr. Paulsen attacked the Catholic Church and the thoroughly corrosive influence of the Pope. The reckoning with the church, which is both an enemy of the German race and alien to the German people, will soon take place and will be bloody.

The contents of the talk were coolly received by the modest audience, which reacted in amazement and silence. There was no applause. The oppressive atmosphere was only heightened when Father Richard, head of the Catholic community here for many years, and Dean Gödicke, who has quickly made himself very popular among all strands of the Christian faith in the German Colony thanks to his selfless acts, left the event in protest. Father Richard described Dr. Paulsen’s arguments as “nonsense,” and both departed while the talk was still in progress. As soon as the Deutschlandlied [German national anthem] had been sung, the old party fighters also departed. As is known, this group has become increasingly resentful and angry about the antics of the “neo-Hitlerites” over the last few months.

This event led to much lively debate. The courage of the Catholic priest was praised and compared to the cowardly behaviour of Father Kindermann, who, apparently more concerned with holding onto the privileges of his position, remained until the event was over; in recent months this individual had fought against National Socialist ideas in a caustic yet clandestine way in his newsletter “Glaube und Heimat” [Faith and the Fatherland], but is now grovelling before the new rulers.”

Fig. 6: Article by Father Richard Liebl in the Catholic newsletter “Der Rufer.” Source: PAAA, RAV Athen, 63: Kulturpolitik.

The Catholic Church’s Reaction

On June 1, 1935 Father Richard Liebl offered his perspective in “Der Rufer,” the newsletter of the Catholic Church in Athens:

Among us today there are circles that reject Christianity because it came from the East. There is talk of how Christianity represents a betrayal of the Nordic-Germanic spirit, and that, instead, a faith or rather relationship to God should be pursued that is born of blood and soil. Christianity, they say, did not spring from the German race. It is a Semitic offshoot that the Nordic people must shake off if its noble qualities are not to perish. The argument continues in the same vein, its representatives convinced that they are tapping into, God only knows, what sources of wisdom.

On Good Saturday 20 April 1935 we had the pleasure of hearing one of these individuals give a talk in the large hall at the Philadelphia. The speaker was Dr. Peter Paulsen, lecturer at Kiel University. From the very beginning of the talk the promise of the material was evident: Cardinal Faulhaber had the temerity to claim that prior to its adoption of Christianity, the Germans had no culture or civilization.… The 12 minutes of the young man’s talk that I managed to force myself to listen through displayed nothing but contempt towards Christianity, priests and monks in general and the Catholic Church in particular. These 12 minutes offered ample opportunity for me to admire the paltriness of historical knowledge, the ignorance concerning the essence of the Christian religion, the prejudice towards the Christian priesthood, the deep aversion towards the Catholic Church and the haughty arrogance of the Nordic people.

Holding such talks abroad is most certainly no way to improve the world’s opinion of Germany. I would go as far as to say that if these are the characters our universities are now producing then the good reputation of German universities will soon be a thing of the past. We are already the subject of enough animosity and envy in the world without having to go and make ourselves look ridiculous as well. We will not be deprived of Christianity. Christianity alone is the religion that belongs to our race, because God Himself gave it to us. Whoever claims the opposite was either never a Christian and has never understood the essence of Christianity, or has a personal interest, due to the high demands Christianity makes, in rejecting and negating it. Such speakers, far from fostering a much-needed unity in the German nation, rather heighten and deepen what are already grave divisions. Is this man still unaware of just how much damage the lack of unity since the 16th century has done to us?

A “Volljude” as Mediator

Georg Karo, First Secretary of the DAI Athen, reacted immediately by writing, the same day (June 1, 1935), a long letter to Father Richard:

Most Esteemed Father,

When we parted this morning I had not yet properly read your article in “Der Rufer”, but only skimmed the first couple of paragraphs. […]

While I am not in a position to get involved in affairs of the Church or the Party, this article does concern me directly, as it deals with a young scholar who was sent to the south as a recipient of a scholarship from our institution [the scholarship in question is the DAI’s Reisestipendium, or travel grant]. These recipients are selected annually, based upon them being the best of the respective year. It would truly be a sad sign for German academia if your comments were valid.

Dr. Paulsen’s specialty is that branch of German prehistory that deals with the German and Nordic Middle Ages. Of course, such research cannot bypass the religious side of the Middle Ages, and so Dr. Paulsen engaged with these matters under the guidance of his teacher, the renowned church historian Professor Scheel in Kiel, with whom he also published a comprehensive work about the sources, I refer you to the 22nd “Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission” [Report of the Roman-Germanic Commission] 1933, published by our institute. Opinions in this field are, of course, very diverse and often stand in sharp contrast to one another. However, Dr. Paulsen, who was made aware of your article before his departure this afternoon, assured me that his religious outlook is indeed rooted in Christianity, albeit not in the Church. He added that he had made it known that, following his talk, he was open to discussion regarding all relevant points, including with persons such as yourself and others who left the Philadelphia and who doubtless hold very different views to his own. He is therefore understandably hurt that nobody availed of the opportunity to talk to him at the time, and that this attack has now followed more than one month later. On a personal level, as head of the DAI Athen, I have to express my displeasure that a young specialist in my field, one whom, as recipient of a scholarship, it is my duty to protect, has been subject to attacks in the press that go well beyond the disputed religious topics in question and threaten to damage his reputation and academic career. This damage is in no way offset by the explanation you plan to give in your sermon tomorrow, but rather remains undiminished in scope and is very likely to be further exploited by the anti-German publication Prags [author’s note: the »Schwarze Front« is meant here].

German regards,

Most respectfully yours,
Georg Karo

Fig. 7: Georg Karo (1872-1963). Source: DAI Berlin, Archiv der Zentrale.

The following day, 2 June 1935, Georg Karo composed a somewhat shorter letter to Peter Paulsen:

Dear Mr Paulsen,

I deeply regret that your stay in Greece ended in such an unfortunate manner; however, I am certain that this will in no way overshadow the pleasant memories of the weeks you spent here.

I am including here a copy of a letter to Father Richard. It resulted in a detailed talk between the two of us, which concluded with the following points:

  • Father Richard was never aware of your offer to discuss the relevant questions with you. He assured me that, if he had been aware, he would have availed of the opportunity, as such a discussion would have interested him greatly.
  • He thought that you were a historian, and was unaware that you were a prehistorian and recipient of a scholarship from our institute.
  • He deeply regrets the incident, asked me in no uncertain terms to communicate that to you, and added that he was grateful to me for providing him with an opportunity to make up for his error in as far as it is possible. He also sent a letter to this effect to Crome.

I am under the impression that Father Richard acted impulsively in a fit of indignation – which one can understand in the case of a priest who sees all that he holds most sacred being attacked – but that he bore no personal animosity towards you. At the same time, his obliging expression of immense regret is, in light of his age and status, surely impressive evidence of his desire to achieve reconciliation.

I will not write any more today, as I want to post the letter quickly, though I just wish to add what a pleasure it is to think back on the shared weeks of travel and exchanges concerning our field.

I wish you all the best for your onward journey, regards to Lullies and Bittels and Heil Hitler

Yours Sincerely

signed: Georg Karo

Fig. 8: Letter from Georg Karo to Peter Paulsen dated 02 June 1935 (source: PAAA, RAV Athen, 63: Kulturpolitik).

If there was ever a “letter of apology” from Father Richard, it has not survived. In fact, a letter from the Reichsverband für die katholischen Auslandsdeutschen e.V. (Reich Association for German Catholics Abroad) to the Foreign Office in Berlin dated 25 June 1935 suggests that Father Richard did not revise his original opinion, but rather found support within his church:

“It would be a sensible step if the Reichs- und Preussische Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung [Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture] were advised to instruct speakers who have obtained permission to give talks abroad to conduct themselves in such a manner that similar mistakes are avoided as much as possible in future.”

Fig. 9: Peter Paulsen (1902-1985). Source: Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte der Universität Kiel.

Afterlives and Afterthoughts

The center piece from the Veit-Stoß altarpiece from St. Mary’s Church in Krakow. Source: Public domain.

Peter Paulsen’s biography has been relatively well researched. He was a member of the NSDAP from as early as 1928. His scholarship in 1935 preceded a rapid rise in the ranks of the SS. From 1937 Paulsen worked as SS-Untersturmführer at the Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt (Race and Settlement Main Office) in Berlin. In 1939 he became active in the SS-Ahnenerbe, a National Socialist think tank focused on racial doctrines. In Poland he led the Reichssicherheitshauptamt’s (Reich Main Security Office’s) »Sonderkommando Paulsen«, a special unit named after Paulsen himself. While holding this post he stole the Veit-Stoß altarpiece from St. Mary’s Church in Krakow, as well as many other art works from Polish collections and libraries. (On the recovery of the Veit-Stoß altarpiece, read entry for Karol Estreicher, Jr. here.) 1941 Paulsen was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer, and as of 1944 he led the “Germanische Führerschule” (Germanic Führer School) in Hildesheim. After the war he went through a denazification process (BArch Z 42-II/1269). He then became a teacher and in 1958 was employed at the Wissenschaftliche Forschungsgesellschaft Syriens (Scientific Research Association of Syria). In 1961 he was appointed curator for the Early Middle Ages department at the Landesmuseum Württemberg in Stuttgart.

Very little is known, however, about Father Richard Liebl. According to individual eyewitness reports, he provided assistance to the starving population of Greece during the occupation and was held in equally high regard among both Germans and Greeks. No photographs, letters or other documents that indicate his subsequent path have been found in the relevant archives. If anyone is aware of such documentation at other locations I would be very grateful for information.

The documents that have been presented here for the first time offer us a picture of a society characterized by great uncertainty, conflicting aspirations and feelings, but still hopeful that the situation could be defused. While it is apparent that Georg Karo went out of his way to serve the new regime in Germany, behind the scenes he also tried to assist German-Jewish archaeologists who had sought refuge in Greece in the inter-war period – a topic that will be treated in a different context.


Sources

  • BArch Koblenz, Spruchgerichte in der Britischen Besatzungszone Z 42-II/1269
  • PAAA, RAV Athen, 37 (Schwarze Front, Band 1).
  • PAAA, RAV Athen, 38 (Schwarze Front, Band 2).
  • PAAA, RAV Athen, 63 (Kulturpolitik: Schulen, Presse, Wissenschaft, Verschiedenes).
  • DAI Berlin, Archiv der Zentrale, Biographica-Mappe Peter Paulsen.
  • Evangelische Kirche Deutscher Sprache in Griechenland:
    »Glaube und Heimat«. Monatsblatt für die Deutschen Evangelischen Gemeinden in Griechenland: Athen, Saloniki, Patras, Volo, Cavalla, Corfu, Kreta, Jahrgang 7, 1935, Nr. 4 Seite 6 und Nr. 6 Seite 5.

Further Reading

  • Barth W. and G. Auernheimer, Geschichte der Deutschen Gesellschaft Philadelphia in Athen (Athens 2001)
  • Fleischer, H. “Der Neubeginn in den deutsch-griechischen Beziehungen nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und die ‘Bewältigung’ der jüngsten Vergangenheit,” Thetis 10, 2003, 191-204.
  • Kankeleit, A. “Η ιστορία του Γερμανικού Αρχαιολογικού Ινστιτούτου Αθηνών κατά τη διάρκεια της ναζιστικής περιόδου,” Θέματα Αρχαιολογίας 2018, 64-87 (https://www.themata-archaiologias.gr/?p=6937).
  • Kius, E. Heureka. Auch eine Odyssee, Norderstedt 2006, 230-231.
  • Klein, J. “Hans Schleif. Stationen der Biographie eines Bauforschers im Nationalsozialismus,” Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 131, 2016, 317-322.
  • Krumme, M. “Walther Wrede (1893–1990),” in Lebensbilder. Klassische Archäologen und der Nationalsozialismus I, ed. G. Brands and M. Maischberger, Rahden 2012, 159-176.
  • Leube, A. “Die Ur- und Frühgeschichte an der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin,” in Die Berliner Universität in der NS-Zeit II, ed. R. vom Bruch and R. Schaarschmidt, Stuttgart 2005, 161.
  • Leube, A. Zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte an der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität 1933-1945, Online publication: https://www.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/en/forschung-und-projekte-en-old/foundmed/dokumente/forschung-und-projekte/ns-zeit/ringvorlesung/teilIIordner/4februar (November 2018).
  • Lindenlauf, A. “Georg Heinrich Karo: Gelehrter und Verteidiger deutschen Geistes,” Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 130, 2015, 259-354.
  • Mezynski, A. Kommando Paulsen. Organisierter Kunstraub in Polen 1942–1945, Berlin 2000.
  • Müller, K. “Die ‘Kieler Schule’ – Archäologie zwischen 1927 und 1945,” Das Altertum 55, 2010, 105-126.

Dr. Alexandra Kankeleit
Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
Abteilung Athen
Fidiou 1 | GR-10678 Athen

https://www.dainst.org/project/2356126

kontakt@alexandra-kankeleit.de


Connecting the Dots: Peripheral Figures in the History of the American School of Classical Studies. The Case of R. S. Darbishire.

Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Archives is all about connecting the dots. When processing archival material, you often come across documents, photos, or notes that don’t connect in any obvious way with the rest. For this reason all finding-aids have a “Miscellaneous” section.  And such is the case of R. S. Darbishire (1886-1949), a name I came upon in the Carl W. Blegen Papers several years ago, in a booklet of poems; and more recently, while going through a small box of unprocessed material from the Blegen/Hill household on Ploutarchou 9, in a set of architectural blueprints. It took me a while to connect the dots in the Darbishire puzzle.

The Elusive Mr. Darbishire

ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers

In the Blegen Papers, there is a small booklet with a collection of handwritten poems titled “Poems to Order. Thera, June 17-21, 1928. Robert Shelby Darbishire.”  The short poem on the first page is dedicated to CB:

Εξ αδοκήτο [Unforeseen]
You, when I asked, “What shall I do in Thera?”
Unexpectedly in my empty mind
Casually dropped this: “Write pretty!”
Here (unexpectedly) nought else I find.

Darbishire appears in the student list of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA, or School hereafter) for the year 1926-27; he is also thanked in the preliminary reports or final publications of a number of excavations conducted in 1927-1928: Prosymna, the Odeum at Corinth, and Olynthus.

There is very little information about Robert Shelby Darbishire on the web, and one has to type his name in various ways in order to retrieve a few scraps. Born in 1886 at Fort Meade, Florida, he was the son of Godfrey Darbishire (1853-1889) -a British surveyor and a famous rugby player, who immigrated to the States in 1883– and Ann Shelby of Chicago. Robert was unfortunate in losing his father at an early age.  Mother and son lived for a while on a farm they owned in Danville, Kentucky before they moved back to England to be near the paternal side of the family. (Darbishire’s grandfather was Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, a well-known philanthropist and biologist from Manchester.) Nevertheless, the Kentucky farm remained in the Darbishire family’s possession for a long time; mother and son would move back to it after the death of Robert Dukinfield in 1910; and Robert Shelby would retreat to the farm in various periods of his life. In fact, the family papers are deposited at the University of Kentucky Special Collections, and it is from their finding-aid that I managed to obtain good and reliable information about the Darbishires.

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“They returned… but stay I did”: Doreen Canaday’s Experience of Interwar Greece

I first encountered the name “Canaday” in the mid-1980s when I went to Bryn Mawr College for graduate school. Although we did most of our work in the seminar rooms above the Art and Archaeology Library (now the Rhys Carpenter Library), for books and periodicals about history or classics we had to go to the “big library,” which was none other than the Mariam Coffin Canaday Library.

A few years later when I returned to Greece to participate in the regular program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, or the School hereafter), I heard people referring to Canaday House.  One of the two marble houses flanking the Gennadius Library at 61 Souidias, it housed temporarily the family of the then Director of the School William (Willy) D. E. Coulson. (The big earthquake of 1986 in Kalamata had caused damages to the Director’s residence across the street.)

An ink drawing of the Canaday House at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. ASCSA Archives, Doreen Canaday Spitzer Photographic Collection.

Finally, in the summer of 1990, while digging at Mochlos on Crete, I met Doreen Spitzer on one of the “On-Site with The American School of Classical Studies at Athens” trips that she had been organizing for years, but without realizing that Doreen Spitzer’s maiden name was Canaday. It was only after I started working as the School’s Archivist that I became aware of Canaday Spitzer’s long legacy at the American School.  Doreen Canaday Spitzer (1914-2010) served as a Trustee 1978-1996, President of the Board of Trustees 1983-1988, Trustee Emerita from 1996 and President of the Friends from 1988 until her death in 2010.  (There is a thorough biographical essay about Doreen Spitzer by Catherine de Grazia Vanderpool in AKOUE 63, Fall 2010.) Her father, Ward Canaday (1885-1976), had also served as a Trustee of the School for almost four decades starting in 1937.

Doreen Canaday Spitzer listening to Manolis Andronikos, excavator of the royal tombs at Vergina, 1981. (Between them, barely visible, Machteld Mellink.) Source: ASCSA Archives.

Spitzer also cared deeply about preserving the School’s history and supported wholeheartedly the creation of an Archives Department during her term as President of the Board. Furthermore, she would contact School members, many of whom she knew personally from her time as a student of the School in 1936-1938, to solicit their personal papers.  No wonder why my formal title is the Doreen Canaday Spitzer Archivist. Needless to say that it would have pleased her immensely to see our new and enlarged facilities at the East Wing of the Gennadius Library. Read the rest of this entry »


Touring the Balkans with the Ladies of Ploutarchou 9

Posted by Jack L. Davis

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here writes about women travelling alone through the western Balkans in the late 1930s, on the eve of WW II.


The second half of the 19th century saw the advent of mass tourism in the Mediterranean and Balkans. Despite a few blips (e.g., the Dilessi Murders in 1870 that resulted in the death of three Englishmen and an Italian at the hands of brigands; J. Gennadius, Notes on the Recent Murders by Brigands in Greece), travellers could be reasonably certain of their personal safety. Their passage was also facilitated by travel brokers and books of advice for tourists.  Thomas Cook tours began in Greece in 1868. The Baedeker guide for Greece was published in 1889 while and Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Greece was already in its 7th edition by 1880.

Group and individual tourism became ever more common and secure.  American students in Greece experienced violence only on three occasions. In 1872 John Williams White, first chairman of the Managing Committee of the ASCSA, was the target of an attempted kidnapping. In 1886 University of Michigan student Walter Miller was commissioned a captain in the Greek army, so that he could hunt down his assailants. Only once did lawlessness end in death, in 1925 when John Logan was shot in Aitolia by attackers who fired on members of the American and British schools, in an apparent case of misidentification (http://www.ascsa.edu.gr/pdf/uploads/ASCSA-1882-1942.pdf, p. 179).

Since the late 19th century trips for the students of the ASCSA had been institutionalized, with a Peloponnese and an island trip led by Wilhelm Dörpfeld.  The Peloponnese trip was considered too rough for women, although the first woman member of the School (1885-86), Annie Smith Peck, travelled extensively there with friends. Several of the School’s female students would also hire Angelis Kosmopoulos (foreman for many excavations, including Olympia and Corinth) and his son George (later the husband of Alice Leslie Walker), as guides for their travels throughout Greece.

The more northern reaches of the Balkans began to attract tourists, including women travellers, a bit later than Greece, and there was an explosion of women travel writers there and elsewhere in the late Victorian period (http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/essay-07-07.html).

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Rediscovering the American Pioneer Spirit in Greece, 1928: The Letters of Robert Stroock

In the Main Reading Room of the Carl and Elizabeth Blegen Library in Athens, on the narrow side of one of the old bookcases, hangs a heavy bronze plaque inscribed: “In Memory of Robert L. Stroock: A Lover of Ancient Greece. MCMXXX”.

Unlike other commemorative plaques at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) which have often changed locations or even have been withdrawn from public view over the years, this one has remained in the same spot since it was dedicated shortly after Stroock’s death in 1930.

On display in the Carl and Elizabeth Blegen Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

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