“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.

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 »


“If a Jesuit should prove not to know Latin we’d better shut our doors!”: Catholic Clergy at the ASCSA, Pt. I

Posted by Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by recent research in the ASCSA Archives about the Summer Session program.


Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987)

Last summer, I began researching the life of Professor Gertrude Smith at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School), particularly in her role as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. (On Smith see D. Rogers, “Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene.“) Smith guided the selection process of students during the Academic Year and the Summer Session (SS) deftly for nearly 20 years (1945-1963). Delving into her correspondence with various people associated with the School, I was struck by one letter in particular, as she was discussing Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987), and his desire to be a SS Director at the School in 1961:

I wonder with him just what the Roman Catholic situation would be. Don’t think I have anything against the R.C.’s. I haven’t, but I do not want the summer session turned into an adjunct of the church, and, if he once does the school, I foresee an avalanche for that particular summer of applicants for that particular summer of applicants from people who have used his dratted Homeric Greek books and who will be urged by their priest or nun teachers to take the session when they can have it under his guidance. In the two sessions which I have done I have had each time four or five Roman Catholics, but I could usually control that and get them meatless meals when they had to have them and get them to places where they could get to church on time and so on. But we do not want the summer session dependent of the Roman Catholic church, and I think it might be if Father S. were leading around people, the majority of whom were R.C.’s. (ASCSA ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 26 October 1960)

Did this mean that the School, as a whole, had a bias against Roman Catholics? Certainly this would not be unheard of in American academic circles. Even as late as 1977, Catholic priests were still noticing a bias in academia, which stemmed from deep-roots in America against Catholics (particularly immigrants from Catholic countries of Europe, creating a so-called nativism, or bias, in society). Fr. Andrew Greeley noted that people often told him not to wear his collar, or he would not be taken as serious as his lay counterparts. Indeed, he questioned:

Is the nativism in education conscious or unconscious? I suppose the best answer is that it doesn’t matter. Those who ask, Isn’t Catholicism incompatible with independent intellectual activity? might as well be asking, Isn’t it true that blacks have a distinctive body odor? Or, Isn’t it true women are happier at home raising children? The person who asks the question is prejudiced whether or not he knows it. (Greeley 1977, 43)

Further, the School has been noted for occasionally making less-than-polite comments about religious groups outside of Protestantism, particularly Judaism. In correspondence in the early twentieth century, if an applicant was Jewish, oftentimes that was noted in their files (See J. L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”) While this did not hinder students and scholars of Jewish origin from coming to the School, it is disconcerting to a modern academic audience that such issues would indeed be brought up.

So I began to go back through the Archives to see if there were any anti-Catholic tendencies in the School’s past, as Smith’s letter of 1960 had the potential to suggest. What I did find was a fascinating history of Catholic religious figures (of both genders) coming to the School as students and scholars and flourishing. Almost from the beginning of the School’s foundation in 1881, Catholic clergy had been part of our history, with the first Catholic priest in 1887-1889, Fr. Daniel Quinn. Read the rest of this entry »


FULBRIGHTING IN POST-WW II GREECE (1952-1953)

The Surplus Property Act of 1944 was an act of the U.S. Congress which allowed the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with the governments of foreign countries for the disposal of surplus American property (mostly WW II scrap) abroad. The Fulbright Act, as it is better known today, became a pioneering platform for educational exchanges between the U.S. and a large number of countries, thanks to an amendment introduced by a young Democratic Senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, in 1945. The amendment allowed the sale of surplus property (e.g., airplanes and their spare parts, arms and ammunition) to foreign countries in exchange for “intangible benefits.” One of those benefits, at the insistence of Senator Fulbright, who had been a Rhodes Scholar as a young man, involved the international exchange of scholars. Since foreign governments did not have enough dollars to pay for the purchase of surplus material, the Act allowed them to use their local currencies to pay the expenses of American scholars studying in those countries.  Fulbright strongly believed in the transformative value of educational exchanges, that they could “play a major role in helping to break down mutual misunderstandings,” and contribute to world peace. On August 1, 1946, President Truman signed the Fulbright bill into law.

Graveyard of American jeeps after WW II

Senator Fulbright

The first European country to sign the Fulbright Agreement was Greece, on April 23, 1948.  The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School herefafter) with its superb reputation, was one of the immediate beneficiaries of the bi-national agreement. The School claimed that it was the only place of higher learning where American students could apply for research grants to carry out advanced work in classics and archaeology. “It is of course possible for Americans to enroll in the School of Liberal Arts in the University of Athens; but the lecture courses are largely theoretical, library and other facilities are sadly inadequate, and the language problem constitutes a difficult hurdle” argued archaeologist Carl W. Blegen to Gordon T. Bowles of the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils on September 15, 1948 (AdmRec 705/1, folder 1). Blegen, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati, had been appointed as Director of the American School for a year (1948-1949). Having served the interests of the School for a long time, Blegen naturally cared first and foremost for the institution’s well-being. Blegen and others, such as Homer A. Thompson, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations, saw in the Fulbright Act a new source of income to finance the School’s operations and, especially, the research that was carried out in the Athenian Agora. I have written elsewhere about the curious entanglement of the American School with the Fulbright Foundation in the early years of the program’s implementation, and I will be talking more about it on November 30th at Cotsen Hall in a joint event organized by the ASCSA and the Fulbright Foundation on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »


Dollies and Doilies: Priscilla Capps Hill and the Refugee Crisis in Athens, 1922-1941

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 contributes an essay about the (forgotten) relief efforts of Priscilla Capps Hill through Near East Industries during the great refugee crisis that followed the Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922.


In the months that followed the Asia Minor catastrophe in September 1922 and the population exchange of 1923, more than a million Orthodox Christians were ultimately compelled to desert their birth rights in Anatolia. Their influx to Greece generated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. American expatriates in Greece took immediate action. Darrell O. Hibbard of the YMCA and Jefferson Caffery, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission, created the Athens American Relief Committee, which notified Red Cross missions in Europe and America about the crisis and organized the first relief efforts. Bert H. Hill, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), was appointed Chairman of the Relief Committee, in which role he was expected to coordinate communication with the Greek government.  Harry Hill (no relation to Bert), an Englishman, head of the American Express Company in Athens, was charged with purchases and banking.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were collected by the time the Committee was disbanded on November 24, 1922, when the American Red Cross arrived in Greece to provide humanitarian aid together with Near East Relief, the latter focusing largely on Turkey.  Its work had been invaluable. (See also E. Daleziou, ” ‘Adjuster and Negotiator’: Bert Hodge Hill and the Greek Refugee Crisis, 1918-1928,” Hesperia 82, 2013, pp. 49-65.)

The ASCSA’s involvement did not stop there. In the years to come “the School continued to be a hub for Americans offering their services to a variety of refugee relief efforts such as the ARC, the American Women’s Hospital Organization, Near East Relief, the YMCA, and the Athens American Relief Committee” (Daleziou 2013, p. 58). In addition to relief work, Edward Capps, the Chair of the School’s Managing Committee and a professor of Classics at Princeton University, was asked by Greece’s former prime-minister Eleftherios Venizelos to raise awareness in America of what was happening in Greece. Without wasting time, Capps, who knew Venizelos personally from his days as U.S. Minister to Greece (1920-1921), founded The American Friends of Greece (AFG), the broader mission of which was “to promote friendly relations between Greece and the U.S.” (The AFG later published booklets in support of Greece during World War II and a monthly newsletter, “The Philhellene,” which circulated from 1942-1950.)

Priscilla’s Story

Incorporation of the AFG on October 15, 1923 marked the start of Priscilla Capps’s involvement in refugee affairs, a much less well-known story than her father’s.  Priscilla Capps (1900-1985), a graduate of Smith College, had assisted her father in Athens during his service as Minister, while she was a student at the ASCSA, as a kind of “first daughter.”

Priscilla Capps clad in a traditional Greek costume, ca. 1920s. Photo: ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

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Imagining and Reimagining Greece


Posted by Clayton Miles Lehmann

Clayton M. Lehmann, Professor of History at the University of South Dakota, here contributes an essay about American college students coming to Greece, as part of study-abroad programs. This post represents a modified and shortened version of the 63rd Annual Harrington Lecture, which he delivered 28 October 2015 to the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Dakota.  Lehmann was a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1982/3, lived in Greece while he wrote his doctoral dissertation, and has returned often, three times as the Director of the Summer Session for the American School and regularly since 2005 as one of the professor-captains of the University of South Dakota’s short-term faculty-led study-abroad program “The Isles of Greece!”.


After disappointing tourism numbers for the 2004 Olympics, the Greek National Tourism Organization launched a major campaign, “Live Your Myth in Greece,” to rekindle Greece in the world’s imagination.  When a group of my students arrived in Athens in 2005 for the study-abroad program The Isles of Greece!,[1] they saw the advertisements for this campaign on the billboards and buses on the way into the city.  At first glance, the images appeal to the typical touristic expectation of the Greek quartet of sea, sun, sand, and sex.  But the classical architecture and supernatural figures suggest a more complex imaginary mix.  The fine print on some of these posters read:

Greece: a land of mythical dimensions. Where the spirit of hospitality welcomes you as a modern god. And the siren song draws you into its deep blue waters. Where a gentle breeze through ancient ruins seems to whisper your name. And a dance until dawn can seem to take on Dionysian proportions. In Greece the myths are still very much alive. And in amongst them sits your own . . . patiently waiting for you to live it. Live your myth in Greece.  Ask your travel agent.

 

Eros and Mermaid posters for Live Your Myth in Greece, Greek National Tourism Organization campaign, 2005; designed by K. Karavellas; and creative design by McCann Erickson-BBDO-Cleverbank Joint Venture. Photographs courtesy of the GNTO.

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