The Bulletin’s Day Book
Menu JTA Search

The Bulletin’s Day Book

Download PDF for this date

Dear Doctor “Putzy” Hanfstaengl, there are several questions I would like to put to you that couldn’t very well have been asked when you were surrounded by some thirty reporters on board the S.S. Europa Saturday afternoon while that beautiful liner was anchored at quarantine.

Perhaps, as you cavort this afternoon on the campus of Haryard University, “just a college boy again,” after twenty-five years of tough sledding on the hills of life, you may feel differently about the Jewish situation in Germany which you casually described as “fairly normal,” a description that seemed to slip off your tongue in a moment of carelessness after you had time and again informed the reporters that you would not discuss the Jewish question.

But the question I had in mind to ask you was of a much more intimate, personal nature. Simply, it is this:

Why, “Putzy,” did you find it necessary to be such a liar when faced by the inquiring reporters? You, who towered above all the rest of them with your six feet-four of Nordic brawn, why did you find it necessary to answer straightforward questions with such cowardly evasiveness?

A hulking brute of a man, with the framework of a truckdriver before the timid reporters who seemed bent on sparing your tender feelings, you acted as craven as a pup.

When you were asked about the ritual murder myths being spread by your noted colleague Julius Streicher in his Der Stuermer, you said, “Ach, if you only knew the role I have played in that business you would all be surprised” and then you shut up like a clam as if to create the impression that you had played a saintly role in that stench-ridden affair.

If you had played such a role why didn’t you come out flatly and say so? If you have been condoning the horrible mess of inflammatory tripe peddled by Streicher, why not be man enough to admit it?

Why, Putzy, did you find it necessary to lie about such an obvious matter as the economic condition of Germany? If, as you more than broadly hinted, Germany is enjoying an industrial boom (you said everyone was so busy that you couldn’t get a small sailboat made for yourself) then you have practically accused your superiors of being liars and hypocrites. For while you were en route to this country to renew your college days at Harvard, your superiors who are evidently much better informed about the conditions of Germany than you seem to be, declared a six-months’ moratorium on all foreign debts, pleading poverty and inability to pay. Prospering countries don’t welch on their debts, or do they, Putzy?

Perhaps “liar” is too strong a word to apply to you. Perhaps you were so busy being Paderewski for Hitler that you didn’t have the time to look around and see what was going on in your own Germany under your very nose. The milder word for you, then, might be “ignoramus.”

Why, Putzy, did you refuse to grant the representatives of the Jewish press a few minutes to explain your attitude on the Jewish question? Were you afraid they’d ask you embarrasing questions? Chances are if you had granted them the few minutes they asked for they’d have been so surprised, so flabbergasted and so thrown off balance that they’d have been unable to question you at all. In which case you could have gone back to Papa Hitler and have gloated over the triumph yo# scored over the members of the Jewish press?

You know, Putzy, you’re really quite a bright fellow. You made several witty remarks during the course of the interview with the press. They made the boys laugh. The boys laughed when, after being informed by one of them that Heywood Broun, a Harvard graduate of your day, had attacked you bitterly in his column in the World-Telegram and demanded that you be excluded from this country, you chuckled good-naturedly and said to put it down to “class jealousy.” Later, on deck, you again demonstrated your wit. Photographers asked you to give the Nazi salute. You did, but waved your hand as you gave it. When a photographer asked you to keep the hand still, you cracked that that would be “political.”

Such wit somehow doesn’t sit well with the cowardice you displayed in answering questions.

When they tried to pin you down on the Jewish question you said it was “political” and you just couldn’t discuss it. So, whenever the question was mentioned you smiled a pained sort of smile and said you hoped to have a good time here celebrating the twenty-fifth reunion of your class, perhaps playing some baseball, perhaps visiting a few old friends (and you didn’t say whether you would visit some of your old Jewish friends here who helped you when you needed help) and other trivia.

Once, a reporter politely suggested that if you had your way, being a great big fellow, you’d just walk off the ship when she docked and face the antagonistic crowd you knew was awaiting you there, without even a bodyguard, and you said “yes.” But when the ship docked and you heard the crowd of Communists a block away, hemmed in by scores of police, bellowing “Down with Hitler” and “Down with Hanfstaengl,” you evidently changed your mind and, escorted by a squad of husky cops (one of those nearest you, by the way, was a Jew, and the whole squad was in charge of a Jew), you made a beeline for a tug at the other end of the pier and skipped up the Hudson. Such bravery, such courage of his convictions, such daring is unheard of even in the glorious annals of the Nordic Nazis. Hitler will undoubtedly pin a medal upon your manly chest for that bit of bravery when you return to your pianistic duties over there.

H. W.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund