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Carl Schurz Tour of American Professors and Students through Germany in Summer 1934

Schurz Tour
Bundesarchiv Berlin
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tags: Americans abroad propaganda

type: Documentary

The Carl Schurz Society was created in Berlin after World War I to restore friendly German-American relations.1 From its beginnings in 1926,  the organization "introduced American visitors to a Germany of high culture, economic prosperity, and republican stability."2 With the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, however, that mission changed: the organization was then transformed into an outreach agency meant to introduce the "New Germany" to Americans.

Featured here is a selection of a film documenting a month-long trip through Germany in the summer of 1934 attended by professors, students, and administrators from 26 American universities.3 The film illustrates how the German authorities presented Nazism as a national campaign of cultural and economic renewal. Although the film served as a souvenir for the trip's participants, it was also a recruiting tool for students eager to have a study abroad experience. The American group was treated to receptions hosted by dignitaries, academics, and politicians. Their hosts projected a vibrant, cultured, and technologically advanced image of Germany under National Socialism.

Upon their return to America many participants praised the "New Germany" in the press.4 This positive account of the Third Reich, however, was not always well received. Even before the group departed, a New York Times headline announced "Nazis to be Guides for American Group," explaining that "[v]isitors to Soviet Russia have long been familiar with this type of tour."5 The Jewish Daily Bulletin of New York characterized the participants as "deluded" and as unknowing participants in a Nazi-funded propaganda campaign meant to downplay the strength of antisemitism in Germany.6 Despite these criticisms, the 1934 trip become the model for a series of annual, fully funded trips for between 40 and 75 American students until 1939. By 1940, the Carl Schurz Organization became the subject of an FBI investigation for funding the activities of German spies. In the the midst of World War II, the organization was disbanded. 

The organization adopted the name of Carl Schurz, a German revolutionary who had immigrated to America in 1852, where he served as a Union general in the Civil War, Senator, and Secretary of the Interior. The German Carl Schurz Society should not be confused with the separate and independent Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation founded in Philadelphia in 1930. See Arthur L. Smith, The Deutschtum of Nazi Germany and the United States (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965): 50–60. 

Rennie W. Brantz, "German-American Friendship: The Carl Schurz Vereinigung, 1926–1942," The International History Review, vol. 11, no. 2 (2010): 229–251, 235.

Stephen H. Norwood, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 119.

For more on German attempts to shape American public opinion by sponsoring trips to Germany, see the related item Fritz Linnenbuerger: "Trip to Germany" in the collection Nazi Ideals and American Society.

"Nazis to Be Guides for American Group," New York Times, May 29, 1934.

Jewish Daily Bulletin, October 2, 1934.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv Berlin
RG Number 60.1942
Date Created
July 7, 1934 to August 9, 1934
Sound Yes
Videographer / Creator
Otto Bothmer
Language(s)
English
Location
Berlin, Germany
Bremen, Germany
Potsdam, Germany
Moving Image Type Documentary
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