“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.

The Toynbee Connection

While in England, Robert attended Balliol College following a family tradition. Although without a Wikipedia entry (unlike his father), Robert’s name appears in searches that connect him with the famous British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975). It was at Balliol College that Robert met and became close friends with the slightly younger Toynbee. Together they travelled to Italy and Greece in 1911-1912. Since researchers are more interested in studying the life and work of Toynbee, it is he, who is quoted in the excerpts of the Toynbee-Darbishire correspondence.

We don’t know anything about Robert’s first experience of Greece, but Toynbee’s was negative. He referred to the Greeks and the Italians as “dagos,” dreaded his encounters with them and offensively described modern folk in his letters, while continuously asking himself: “Were the Ancient Greeks like them”? Toynbee visited Greece as a philhellene and left the country as a mis-hellene. “Well, I shall religiously preach mis-hellenism to any philhellene I come across…” he wrote in one of his letters (W. H. McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life, New York 1989).  Toynbee in old age would retract most of the comments he had made about the Greek folk as a young man, blaming himself for his inability to understand them. Whether Robert shared his friend’s feelings, one could only learn from Robert’s letters to his mother in the Kentucky University Special Collections. Also, unlike his friend Arnold who avoided Greece, Robert would live in Greece for many years.

In the School’s Archives there is only one, but an important, letter from Toynbee. Addressed to Director Bert Hodge Hill from Smyrna on February 10, 1921, he alerts American archaeologists to the destruction of the excavation site of Sardis by the Turks during the Greek-Turkish War of 1919-1922.

“I am afraid my news… is bad. The house was smashed up by the Kemalists before the Greeks drove them out… I am afraid the damage is very great. Roofs mostly gone, except the roof of a big building at the back of the courtyard which I take to have been the museum; staircases, floors, window frames etc ripped away; safe lying on its side with big hole punctuated in it.. The statues in the central court have been badly defaced – arms, faces, etc mutilated; the pottery in the big shed at the back smashed… but luckily the Lydian inscriptions , which I suppose are the most valuable objects there, are intact, and mostly under cover…” (Bert H. Hill Papers, box 4, folder 4).

Toynbee and his wife Rosalind were engaged in relief work in the Gemlic-Yalova peninsula near Constantinople in the summer of 1921. Their photographic archive of about 160 photos has been recently discussed by G. Giannakopoulos in “Once Upon a Time in Asia Minor: Arnold and Rosalind Toynbee’s Frames of the Greco-Turkish War in Anatolia (1919-1922),” Camera Graeca: Photographs, Narratives, Materialities, ed. P. Carabott, Y. Hamilakis, E. Papargyriou, 2015.

Most of the information about Toynbee’s and Darbishire’s journey to Greece in 1911-12 comes from a biography about Toynbee written by another historian, William McNeill, a giant in the field of macro-history, his most famous book being The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community” (1963). (McNeill was also the first editor of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies.) McNeill came to know Toynbee personally when he married Robert Darbishire’s daughter Elizabeth (1921-2006). To Elizabeth, Toynbee was known as “Uncle Toynbee” (McNeill, The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian’s Memoir, 2005). McNeill and Toynbee met for the first time in 1947 in Darbishire’s Kentucky farm. During that meeting Toynbee invited McNeill to work for him and contribute essays to a series titled War Time Survey published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs that Toynbee was directing.  Later McNeill would become friends with Toynbee’s second wife, Veronica, and it was through her that he gained access to the personal papers needed to write Toynbee’s biography.

The Greek Years of R.S. Darbishire

Returning to Darbishire, his life can be sketched only in broad strokes. Not much is known about his time in the U.S. after he returned to Kentucky in 1912. According to the biographical note in the finding-aid of the family’s papers in the Special Collections of the University of Kentucky, Robert joined the Near East Relief in 1919-1921, where he met his future wife Ruth Whiting; by 1920 the couple was in charge of the Brusa section.  In 1926, at the age of 40, Darbishire applied to attend the School’s year-long program. In his application, in answering “What ultimate purpose have you in view in seeking membership in the American School” Darbishire answered: “Grasp of historical background of possible work in or for Near East, educational or literary, as preferable to previous Relief work.” And indeed, soon after his year at the School, he would get a teaching job at the newly-founded Athens College in Psychiko.

One of his classmates at the School in 1926-27 was Oscar Broneer with whom Darbishire kept in touch throughout his life. (Darbishire’s daughter Elizabeth McNeill would also correspond with Broneer for many years.) A prolific writer, Darbishire is the only student who submitted at the end of the program, not one, but seven papers, one of which is a long poem (“Prologue for the Prometheus Revival at Delphi”) inspired by the Delphic Games of 1927. I suspect that the Darbishires must have known the Sikelianos couple, and possibly helped in the organization of the games, but I don’t have any written proof of it. Putting in use the little Turkish he knew from his time with the Near East Relief, Robert also helped, in the spring of 1927, with the arrangement of the Turkish section of the newly acquired library of John Gennadius. He excavated at Nemea, Corinth and Prosymna where Blegen entrusted him with one of the excavation notebooks.  Darbishire is briefly mentioned in the introductory note of the preliminary report of David Robinson’s 1928 campaign at Olynthus. Then I lose track of him until 1937 when he communicated to Broneer his permanent address in Hartford Connecticut.

Imagine then my surprise when, last spring, while packing the School’s archival collections for our transfer to the East Wing of the Gennadius Library, we found in a box of unprocessed material from the Blegen House on Ploutarchou, a set of seven blueprints in perfect condition showing floor plans and elevations of the “Residence of Mr. + Mrs. R. S. Darbishire. Psychiko Greece, on Lot #11.” The plans of this exquisite, two-story house had been drafted on May 26, 1931 by Konstantinos Sgoutas (1897-1983), a well-known architect of the Interwar period with many signature buildings in his name. Sgoutas was also the architect of the Athens College at Psychiko. It is also interesting that Sgoutas co-signs the Darbishire plans with the architectural firm of Thompson & Churchill of New York City. My readers will recognize in Thompson’s name, Stuart Thompson, the architect of the Gennadius Library (1926) and of Loring Hall (1929).

Blueprint of the Darbishire House in Psychiko, now part of Athens College. ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers.

At first, I thought that these were plans of a house that was never built, but after I began looking at the buildings on the campus map of Athens College, I discovered the Darbishire House (Κτίριο Darbishire) tucked in between the Ioannis Karas Kindergarden and the President’s House. And the only explanation for why the plans of the Darbishire House had been saved in the Blegen/Hill house on Ploutarchou 9 is Bert Hodge Hill’s connection with Athens College, as a member of its Board of Directors. What I don’t know yet is why the Darbishires left Athens soon after the erection of this magnificent house in Psychiko. Darbishire’s spirit would return to Athens College four decades later: his grandson, John Robert (named after his grandfather) McNeill would teach for a year in 1975-76.

The Campus of Athens College. The Darbishire House is on the far left, between the Kindergarden and the President’s House.


Picturing R. S. Darbishire

I spent many hours on the web trying to find a photo of Darbishire. I found a photo of his father Godfrey (the rugby player), but not of Robert. In the end several incidental pieces of evidence gave me clues to identifying not only Darbishire but his entire family in a wonderful photo from 1926-1927, or around that time.  After he was accepted to the School program in 1926, Darbishire inquired about housing. “I shall have my wife and three small children with me” he informed Blegen in August 1926. Blegen suggested that they lodge in the “Tourist Pension” near Syndagma Square, but in his “Membership Form” of October 3, 1926, Darbishire listed Academy 18 as his address. This was the newly “acquired” Annex of the School, the Palace of Prince George (about which I have written a separate essay, “Living Like Kings: When the Palace of Prince George was the Annex of the American School of Classical Studies”). In the Broneer papers, there is a set of beautiful photos from a costume party in the Annex with several people, of whom I have been able to identify only a few (Priscilla Capps and George Mylonas). The photo of the couple with the three small children had been a mystery to me for years. I then checked the photos in a volume dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Athens College. There, in one of the photos, that of the 1929 class, I recognized the man from the costume party.

Robert and Ruth Darbishire with their three children, ca. 1927. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

Athens College, Class of 1929. Darbishire, third from right standing. Photo: Κολλέγιο Αθηνών 1925-2000. Σταθμοί και Ορόσημα (2001).

Enamored of the Near East  

By 1937, as I noted above, the Darbishires had settled in Connecticut. The family’s new house “is just opposite the Seminary which has a good library, not so much for Greece but anything you want for Asia. I am reading Islamic history and even bit of Arabic, so as to get inside the skin of it… Hope you are not disturbed by wars or rumors of wars…  We keep the farm to retreat to when everything explodes – but perhaps we’ll be caught as absentee landlords,” scribbled Robert to his old friend Broneer (Oscar Broneer Papers, Box 10, folder 1, Jan. 3, 1937). To which, Broneer answered a few months later (May 14, 1937): “I was glad… to see that you are still enamored of the Near East. Have you already mastered Turkish to such an extent that you are ready to embark on a new linguistic venture in Asia Minor? Your letter is already out of date, for the ‘wars and rumors of wars” of which you spoke seem less likely to spread to our part of the world than they did at the outbreak. When the greatest empire in the world can take time off for a coronation spree, international complications must seem to them distant,” alluding with a touch of irony to the coronation of King George VI on May 12, 1937.

Darbishire’s immersion in the study of the Near East produced several essays, all published in the Muslim World, including: “The Christian Idea of Islam in the Middle Ages, according to the ‘Chanson d’ Antioch’” (vol. 28:2, 1938, pp. 114-124); “The Moslem Antagonist” (vol. 28:3, 1938, pp. 258-271); “Mutual Trust in International Relations of the Recent Past” (29:3, 1939, 285-291); and “The Social Principle of Equality in the Qur’an” (vol. 31:1, 1941, pp, 61-68).

I lose track of him again after 1941. His wife Ruth died in 1946 at the age of 60. Through McNeil’s memoir we know that he was in touch with his college friend, Arnold Toynbee, in 1947. It wasn’t, however, in the genes of the Darbishires to live long. Robert Shelby died in 1949, at 63. Broneer lived to be 98. When Elizabeth Darbishire McNeill announced to Broneer in 1982 that she and her husband Bill had become grandparents, he responded by telling her that:

“… all such news are reminders to me that I am everybody’s Grandfather, including your own. You may have forgotten but I belong to the generation of your parents” (Oscar Broneer Papers, box 17, folder 2, April 14, 1982).


“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).

Read the rest of this entry »


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

Read the rest of this entry »


Hetty Goldman: The Potentate of American Archaeology in Greece

In 1924, Hetty Goldman (1881-1972), who was directing an excavation at the site of Eutresis in Boeotia, hired architect Piet de Jong to draw some of the finds she had unearthed during the season.  To beat the dullness of the evenings, De Jong, who worked for American and British excavations in Greece, made pencil caricatures of his fellow archaeologists which he later turned into striking Art Deco watercolors. The majority of these caricatures once in the possession of Sinclair and Rachel Hood, are now in the care of the Ashmolean Museum. Published by Rachel in Faces of Archaeology in 1998, they constitute visual biographies of American and British archaeologists working in Greece in the 1920s and 1930s.

Hetty Goldman’s caricature by Piet de Jong, 1924. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

De Jong’s caricature of Goldman depicts her “holding a Neolithic pot of which she was particularly proud. The object behind Hetty’s head is a seated archaic statue found up in a Roman villa which was excavated at some distance from the mound [of Eutresis]… There is the mound itself surmounted by the shelter to protect the diggers from the heat of the sun… The horse, Kappa, on the road below the hill to the right draws the cart containing Hetty herself, Hazel [Hansen], Dorothy [Thompson] and Mitso the driver, on their way to work… a sailing boat or caique refers to the expedition organized by the foreman, George Deleas, to try and row across the Gulf of Corinth from Creusis, the harbor settlement of Eutresis.  On the left of the picture at the foot of the mound two village girls with long plaits carry on their heads baskets of washing… Below them is a temple which probably refers to classical architectural findings at Hetty’s previous dig at Halae…” (Hood 1998, p.51). Read the rest of this entry »


Blending Two Cultures: The Gennadius Library Dedication in 1926


Posted by Maria Georgopoulou

Inspired by the recent inauguration of the new Makriyannis Wing, Maria Georgopoulou, Director of the Gennadius Library, here contributes an essay about the festivities that took place during the dedication of the Library in April 1926.


The new Ioannis Makriyannis Wing at the Gennadius Library

On June 2, 2018 the American School inaugurated the new Makriyannis Wing of the Gennadius Library. During the preparations for the opening, I was tempted to look back at the festivities for the inauguration of the Gennadius Library itself in 1926. As with other momentous moments in his life, John Gennadius was keen to keep in his scrapbooks as much information as possible about the events (Opening Exercises of the Gennadius Library, preserved in Scrapbook Φ38, p. 36).

The dedication ceremony of the Gennadeion took place on April 23, 1926 at 4.30 pm, after extensive preparations in America and Athens. The letters exchanged between John Gennadius and Bert Hodge Hill, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), in November and December 1925 deal not only with significant matters, such as guest lists, but also with smaller details like the duration of the blessing (αγιασμός). Read the rest of this entry »