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Voices of Europe. Milton mair American author and broadcaster lecturer and professor of social research from the University of Frankfurt has been traveling throughout many of the countries of Western Europe recording the voices of ordinary people on a great variety of subjects. These are voices of Europeans who can speak directly and candidly of their own feelings and their own aspirations to help us to understand the basic conditions of life in Europe and to help us understand the views these people hold of their own problems in a cold water flat in the ancient university town of Marburg Germany. Milton mair found Professor and Frau Carl Herr a man entirely surrounded as Mr. Merritt describes it by an assortment of Cap's refugees children and other odd creatures. Dr. Herr Mann is Professor of Physics at Marburg university and as such an eminent personage he was not always as eminent as he is now nor was his wife always as respected as she is
now. Here is their story as told to Milton Mayer. FRAU BEERMANN. Would you say that you and your husband were anti Nazis before and during the Nazi ism as well as afterward. Certainly we were. If as you say you were always anti Nazis. Why didn't you emigrate from Germany in 1933. We considered immigration in the beginning of Nazi time but is non-Jews so called Arians. We had the possibility to live in Germany which made me in years to come had not
my husband had a good post. I had one of the industrial jobs and to go out of the country meant to take jobs in places from those who could not stay in Germany and somehow it seemed unfair to us. FRAU BEERMANN. On a strictly per centage basis how heroic would you say your decision was to remain where you are 50 percent heroic 90 percent. 10 percent. I think in this decision we were not heroic at all. We just try to do the obvious and the reasonable thing.
I perhaps we were even a little bit sentimental because we did not like the idea of going very far away from some of our friends who might need help in the time that was before us. Professor Herman. It seems to me that when you chose to remain in Germany anti Nazi as you were when the Nazis came to power that you must have made one of two choices either to obey the Nazi laws or to disobeyed them. When you chose that is not to run away from them but to choose to obey the Nazi laws.
I should suppose would mean that you had to serve the Nazi purposes and to choose to disobey the Nazi laws would seem to me to require a much greater degree of heroism than your wife s describes to you. When we went to Dick's coffee. Nazis and had just begun. It wasn't a happy days are fought off 35. No one was able to form to predict what Naziism would come to. Still we were prepared to abate their minor laws and demand a hundred new laws under the Nazi time.
As long as we were not prevented to do so by a very strong motion of our conscience. You mean that you knew when you chose to stay in Germany that you would have to compromise. We knew that we had to compromise and we were prepared that some day or other more compromise would be impossible which would mean trouble. Although it was impossible to foresee what kind of problem it would involve. Of course there may have been still another possibility and that is that you thought you could disobey the laws without being caught.
We certainly hoped we might not be found out. There are certain points on which from the start we were sure we could not compromise. For instance we never considered breaking contact with Jewish friends. And we hope not to be found out not only for our own sakes but for theirs as well. You did not then. If I understand you correctly you did not belong to that category of persons who loudly shouted out against Naziism who courted death. No we did not and
still in the end you were caught. Yes. And what were the circumstances of your being caught. Some Jewish friends of ours that I live in I decided to go underground and they need it with us for some months. When was this for our month in spring 43. The gay stopper got on that track and found our address with them and other friends with whom they were connected and so they found out this at first and more about.
Our non-Nazi attitude in the long run. And you were arrested when asked if I was arrested. And about a month later they came to get me. Were you taken to prison without a trial. Professor Herman no hiding Jews was not a crime prohibited by law but the Gestapo always tried to fix something criminal on the people they arrested. And in our case they were lucky in discovering that we had used to listen to former broadcast especially English the BBC. And that was enough of a crime to bring this into a court into into law
court and the charge that was actually made against you then was listening to the foreign radio. It was we thought about you for but you. Yes and what was the penalty demanded in your case. In my case the attorney of the state demanded it in the case of my wife who. In this crime was list's involved than I was. It was three years of hard labor. The court decided to give me only eight years of hard labor. And in the case of my wife they followed the advice of the attorney. Your wife was sentenced to three years of hard labor and you to Elite Eight. And your release came about when and how you came in 1945 after the Americans had taken the places
where. We were in prison where you held in the same prison or in separate prison. No at that time I was in Holly in middle Germany while my wife was in a small prison somewhere and you have to bet you have to go out and your children. The boy was staying with my brother and his family in Watertown and the girl had been given to friends of our household help. Of our hair man. What did your prison experience do to you. It brought me into contact with a completely new life and a completely new set of people. But it made me very dubious if not our usual treatment of creaming is a complete failure.
I couldn't agree to what my wife just said. I found the wonderful comradeship the most on our prisoners both politically and criminals. The question of whether someone is a good comrade or not is not going to do with how he got into prison. What was his crime against society. Professor Harriman as an anti nerd say. You know looking back feel that you should have done more than you did by way of opposition. Do you feel that you should have acted differently than you did. Do you feel that you failed as an anti-Nazi.
If I look at my life with a holy I should say yes to your question if I think of the time when all these things happen. I dare say. Trying to be more heroic than I was wouldn't have worked at all. I ought to have been prepared to follow my conscience much better than I was at the critical moment. But I was not. And you are our man. What I regret most and have regretted ever since is that I let myself be intimidated far too quickly by the good stuff go at my first into rogue ations. If I had been more confident IMO courageous I could have avoided much trouble for myself and for others.
Where Professor Hammond do you think you might have been more heroic than you were. I remember an instance when I was called upon to take the military oath of allegiance. When first the rubbing of petals was read to me. I felt it was quite impossible to take the oath and I said so. Later on I compromised by writing down to the middle military authorities what I should understand by the words of the oath which began. If we were by God and I swear by God that by this oath I should never acknowledge to any human being the right of overriding my conscience
after I declare that I gave way and took the oath as it was demanded. You took the oath of allegiance to Hitler. Yes I did. You compromised. Yes what happened between the instant in which you said you would not take the oath and your decision to take it with shall we say reservations. I think that people like heroes all the time of their life are very rare. While many of us are given the grace of the certain hour of their heroic decision which doesn't last long as long as this force from outward is upon us we can
do things we could never dream of on other days of our life. And so this first day when I was able to say no was one of the days. I'm very thankful for. Later on I came to think of my circle of possible consequences. And I found that this compromise of taking the oath with certain reservations that I had written down to the authorities would be a possible solution of the difficulty. FRAU BEERMANN Bijou to make what now seem to you to be compromises. Oh yes certainly. We all compromised on what we thought mine up on. I put
out the Hitler flag though with reluctance if I could not avoid it I gave the clothes to you. There were many points where we compromised. Were there Professor Harriman were there what we might call fanatical heroes in your acquaintance. I shouldn't like to call the fanatical their way heroes. I remember a friend of ours a Jewish woman who used to live in Munich. She got an opening to go to England as a household help just a quarter of a year before her forty forty fifth birthday which at that time was the outer limit for the English to
let people come in for this purpose. She decided to stay on in Germany because she knew there were so many Jews still in Munich for whom she might be some kind of a help. So he let the moment of opportunity pass. And later on was laid to a Jewish concentration camp in Munich later on. She was transported with her countrymen over to Poland and exterminated. From here man where there are many such persons in Germany. There were some but I wouldn't say there were many were there. Disappointingly few. Unfortunately I think I have to say yes. Would you say from here man that the German people as a
whole. Speaking as a German would you say that the German people as a whole were peculiarly and heroic in the struggle against Nazi ism. Would you say they were guilty of May us timidity. I'm afraid so. But no one outside Germany can quite understand how hard it was to resist a Nazi ism to receive just mass enthusiasm and the promise of a new world. I remember standing I stood out straight on one of the Nazi festival days and feeling these mass and he was just me coming like a wave which threaten deuce for even me of my feet.
I remember sitting in a cinema with a Jewish mother and a Jewish girl of thirteen. My weekly parade went over the screen and had caught the arm of my mother and whispered Oh mother mother if I wasn't a Jew I think I'd be a Nazi. Professor Herman do you agree with your wife that the German people as a whole failed in a peculiarly German way to resist Nazi ism. Is there something inherent in the Germans that made them susceptible to it. I'm afraid so. You see for centuries the virtue praised most in Germany was the virtue of a Bedient abatements to your superiors.
We have had some instances in our history where the conscience of the individual became powerful say in the time of formation. Or say at the Revolution of 1848. But all these experiences indeed by the triumph of the state of the authorities and those peoples with consciences wide awake shows the. Easy solution of immigrating to for your country is first perhaps to England later on to America. Just this. Easy immigration may have been because of the German character being what it is now for our here man.
What should the Americans or the French or the English or the Russians what should they have done about this German character pattern. What should they have done or what should they do what should anybody do. I. Think democratic nations should give us a good illustration of real democracy by their own example. But they have to be aware that too long training will be necessary for Germany which cannot be done within a few years. And I'm afraid not even within a few generations. Do you think then that they allied occupation was less successful than it was hoped it would be.
Yes I'm afraid that is so. Why. Because the last ration of the example was not always as clear as many of us would have wished. Professor Harriman. Perhaps I may put in a piece of negative advice. I think it's very dangerous to encourage that German quality of blind obedience when it seems to be of transitory use to victorious nations. German militarism in Germany. But being Indians may easily become the new danger to the whole world. I think it's not sound policy to make use of it. Why do you think you might use it against a possible American
enemy of your nation. What would you say Professor Ehrman that you had learned in your experience in Germany between 1933 and 1945 that the American people should hear and he'd. First of all I should say that in 33 Naziism came to us quite unexpected during the 20s when they had a very similar kind of state over it today. We thought of the Italians with the pity and contempt and thought that. In a nation like Germany
never would such blind some machine tool that it Tator be possible. It was quite surprised to learn that we could do the same thing and could do even more highly than the Italian school. On the other hand I should say that the individual under that kind of system has to be ready to compromise. It won't get through any anyhow or else. But the essential thing is that if we compromise we acknowledge that we are not up to our to the highest standards. That might be demanded of us. We are not always called upon to do the or only act
we can do that only if we get some outward strength at the source of that strength are not always available. But it is very important. To know when one is fatal and to have at least the garbage to live with one's own shame for our hairline. What have you learned that you think Americans ought to know. I would like to advise the everyone of them who wants to stand up against you will be taught to attack in the SM or whatever. Make your stand early enough because that is the easier way.
If for instance you are opposed to racial discrimination I say so in your everyday life. Make friends with your negro or your neighbor. Don't wait till lynching is going on. For then it is usually too late and something else. If you consider living dangerously. Be sure you strike your roots down deep enough. Don't think you can rely on your own strength because you may be surprised how little of that you persists. Whose strength is a man to rely on. A man should be connected to something bigger than himself. What that is depends on the individual.
With many I think it is religion. It was amazing to me to see how much religious people could stand or do in prison. I should like to give you one instance for the me that I remember. I shall never forget my present coming right from Jehovah's Witnesses who after a prison of three years was caught again and asked if she had not had enough and calmly oncet. I've sworn allegiance to grow old for all my life. Thank you Professor and Frau Herr I'm on the program you have just heard is made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation voices of Europe is prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters.
Voices of Europe
Professor Carl Hermann and Eva Hermann
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
An interview with Professor Carl Hermann and Eva Hermann about life in Germany under the Nazis.
Other Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
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Interviewee: Hermann, C. (Carl), 1898-1961
Interviewee: Hermann, Eva
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:16?
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Professor Carl Hermann and Eva Hermann,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Professor Carl Hermann and Eva Hermann.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Professor Carl Hermann and Eva Hermann. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from