|Luick-Thrams, Michael : "Creating 'New Americans': WWII-Era European Refugees' Formation of American Identities" |
When Scattergood Hostel closed its doors, refugees it helped mourned its passing. Announcing the closure via mass-mailed letter, the staff immediately received telegrams, letters, post- or greeting-cards from Iowa Friends, former staff and a few local supporters-but most of all from the refugees themselves. Director Martha Balderston excerpted some of them to indicate the program's success. The communiqués she made public consisted of various reactions ranging from disbelief to deep gratitude. Würzburg socialworker Lucy Selig exhibited the shock and denial common to those experiencing great loss:
I cannot think of the Hostel becoming closed; it seems as if a solid ground [were] giving way under my feet, as if we would lose something like home for the second time. Scattergood became a part of my life and an important one and I do feel that it became a spiritual and uniting center for all of us. No one whoever lived there close to the cornfields, the white still nights, the beauty of the moonlight, the silence of the meetinghouse-close to the eternity of nature and the love of Quakerism will ever get rid of this atmosphere. Sometimes I long for one of those moments there that are gone more than for all that the days to come hold in their close-shut hands...
Similarly, nurse Martha and doctor Alfred Adler of Frankfurt-am-Main felt
deeply concerned about the news that Scattergood cannot continue to function as a Hostel for European refugees. We are touched so much the more because we cannot believe that Scattergood has outlived its usefulness. We know too well what Scattergood meant and means for us, what Scattergood gave and gives us. We came to Scattergood nearly broken in health and spirit after the hardship of the last years in Europe. It was at Scattergood where we had the opportunity to recover from the distress we had to go through. We found there friends eager to help us in our difficulties. They showed us American way of life and taught us to speak English. With help and kindness we found ourselves again and became again self-confident. So we realize what we owe to Scattergood.
Former Vienna music-store operator Egon Mauthner regretted that Friends'
wonderful work has now found its end. But I feel with you how satisfying it must have been to have helped so many, many people in their first steps in this country... The Quaker idea will give you more and more work in these times which need so much toleration and mutual understanding. I myself shall never forget what you Friends did for a stranger.
An unnamed individual not only wished to deny Scattergood Hostel's end, but held that its essential spirit was inextinguishable:
You are right to hate to say farewell, [but] it is no reason too to say this word-why?- Scattergood isn't gone, Scattergood isn't dead, no, Scattergood exists, now as before... Scattergood surrounded by peace and freedom. Scattergood exists as the sun too, they belong always together and no one can divide them. The spirit of Scattergood exists-the spirit of Scattergood is not a merchandise, you cannot buy it, it cannot be sold, too-but you can have it, if so, then you get it forever.
Instead of subsiding, Latvian photographer Rose Eliasberg thought that the need for centers like Scattergood would increase once the war ended:
For all those enslaved, imprisoned or in concentration camps for the time being, many, many centers with the spirit of Scattergood will be a necessity when the peace is won. These refugees, like all those who went through Scattergood, will appreciate the peaceful atmosphere, the cordiality and the good will to remedy and re-adjust those persons who have suffered persecution, starvation and torture. May Scattergood soon be reopened!
Like Eliasberg, Austrian lawyer Louis Croy remembered Europe, too, but from a different perspective, for he reflected upon what had happened to him in the Old World and the person he had become since coming to a New one:
Looking back to my first year in this country I realize the decisive and beneficial r™le of Scattergood in my new life here. I got shelter and friends in the time of my greatest stress, I learned the ways of this country when I was a complete stranger, and a way for my future was paved which proved successful, in spite of my pessimism in the beginning. But Scattergood did more than this. I escaped the European nightmare with little confidence in humanity. Scattergood taught me that I was wrong. The generosity and unselfishness of Americans at Scattergood was one of the most valuable experiences I ever had.
"Scattergood" evoked different images for different people whose lives it had touched. Some saw the meetinghouse as an apt symbol for the community of souls which had gathered there. Berlin lawyer Martin Kobylinski maintained that
the symbol of love and humanity, of helpful kindness and friendship, of mutual understanding is this little, simple Meetinghouse, which united all these different people in silence and worship. These meetings have bound us together more than many words. When we left Scattergood we had got a deep love for America thanks to that wonderful work done by the Quakers. We had found friends and had learned what that means: Society of American Friends. So I am happy...to say you that my connection with Scattergood and the American Friends is not bound to building and time, [but] will last forever.
Newly married, the secretary of Dresden's banned Sozialdemokratische Partei Gertrude Hesse Liepe also spoke of the meetinghouse, but in the form of a wish of well-being for the remaining staff:
Your letter...distresses us not a little. But we hope another feeling is prevailing, that you and your staff have completed a great task. We are very anxious to know what your further plans will be, personally and for the hostel. There may come back one day new tasks for it; the Meetinghouse, we hope and think, will remain a precious meeting-place, saved by what was done during these years... When your divisions are done you will have a fire in the little stove and you will sit there, not alone. All who ever were there with you will be there -you will feel it.
The overriding image the refugees held of Scattergood, however, was- as Frankfurt-am-Main lawyer Karl Liebman and his wife Lotte described it- one of being
our home, the place you could go to for a rest, maybe the only place where you would be always welcome and where there would be always somebody who would have understanding for your troubles, difficulties and grief. I wish this feeling can remain until the day when Scattergood starts again to be a refuge for people who will need a place from which they can start all over.
Calling it "a monument to friendship in many many hearts", Viennese baker Rudolf Schreck characterized Scattergood very well, saying
Scattergood has given so much to everyone of us who went there to find a place of security in a strange, bewildering new world-as America was to many of us-a place of human understanding, help, advice. A place of peace in a world of war, a haven amidst a world of hatred.
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