William (Wilhelm) Dickman (1900–1987) was a lawyer and later a judge in the Berlin Court of Appeals when the Nazis came to power. On September 28, 1938, he fled Berlin for Copenhagen, leaving his father and sister behind. Later that year, he arrived in the United States on a tourist visa.
In 1939, Dickman wrote this letter to his caseworker at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker rescue and relief organization that aided in the support and immigration of many European Jews during the war. Like Franz Blumenstein, the AFSC had been instrumental in helping Dickman to navigate the complicated process of establishing his citizenship in the United States.
Earlier that year, he had participated in a Works Progress Administration (WPA) English instruction program established by President Roosevelt. As part of his work in the WPA, he wrote a statement to be broadcast on the WNYC radio station on behalf of fellow refugees. His efforts were described in the The New Yorker's June 3, 1939 edition, in which the writer chronicles the experience of Dickman and other refugees in the US. On this particular occasion, Dickman offered up the following poem:
"If Irish, Chinese, or if Jew
It sounds amazing but it's true
All work together, hand in hand
Regardless from which land."2
Dickman later wrote the featured letter to Charlotte Salmon, a correspondence secretary at the AFSC, on the occasion of his first Thanksgiving in the United States. He notes the importance of the holiday, and closes his letter:
"You, American citizen, celebrate this day since this nation was organized in justice, tolerance, and respect for the dignity of every human being and, governed by these principles, has become now the last resort of the moral forces in our troublesome world. We, newcomers at this shore, for whom everyday since we set foot on this soil is a Thanksgiving day, join now in that tradition from our very heart and with profound expression of gratitude for the blessings of our new homeland."3
Dickman remained in the US, and in 1943 he graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School and married fellow refugee Dr. Ilke Deutsch. In 1944, Dickman served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of the US Army, and in that capacity he returned to Berlin in 1945. Dickman continued to work for the US government throughout his career.