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by Jeff Steinborn - 06/17/24 01:56 PM
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One Often Meets Friends in Unexpected Places
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Storms of June 1st – 3rd turn area topsy-turvy
One Often Meets Friends in Unexpected Places
The ants go marching one by one?  No way!
The ants go marching one by one? No way!
by Jeff Steinborn, May 22
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Didn't Enoch give us a moonshine at Kraut Days a few years ago?

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Part 14: June 15, 1934. Radios in and around Henderson--including the RCA console in Lay Herrmann's living room--were tuned to 8-3-0 WCCO, "Good Neighbor to the Northwest."

"Hello, this is Cedric Adams with the Noontime News..brought to you today by Wheaties...the breakfast of champions...the best breakfast food in the land.

"Our lead story today is about four Minnesotans who left this morning from New York City on the Swedish-American ocean liner Kungsholm. Among the 1500 passengers were: Ann Berkshire, of the McPhail School of Music; retired police detective Bill Ayers; and two school teachers originally from Henderson, our favorite town on the Minnesota River, Loretta and Minerva Herrmann. The Minnesotans will be spending a month in Europe capped off by a Strauss opera performance in Vienna, Austria, where Arturo Toscanini will conduct the orchestra. Ann Berkshire has told us that she would make every effort to contact us on Noontime News following the Vienna performance. Turning next to......"

Lay Herrmann turned to his wife and said: "Sounds like they're on their way." Doc Duclos, who seldom listened to Cedric's program, remarked to no one in particular..."What an exciting time for the girls." Gus Buck had the radio on in the Independent office and was listening along with reporter Win Working and commented: "I hope they bring some good stories back we can share with our readers." "Maybe more than we think," Win said.

Next: On board the ocean liner Kungsholm. Dinner with singer and screen actress Jeanette MacDonald. To be continued...

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Part 14: June 18, 1934--Somewhere out on the Atlantic.
As is the custom on ocean liners, honored guests are invited to sit at the Captain's Table for dinner each evening. Among those at Captain Carl-Otto Claesson's table this evening were the four Minnesotans. Also seated at Loretta Herrmann's left was Jeanette MacDonald, the American singer and actress best remembered for a number of films she starred in with Maurice Chevalier, and her movies and stage appearances with Nelson Eddy. On the other side of the table Minerva was seated next to Sweden's Prince Bertil and Crown Princess Louise.

MacDonald was making several performances in Europe, including the 'Merry Widow Opera' in Munich. She, too, was planning to be at the Vienna performance of Richard Strauss' opera and the private audience with Strauss and Arturo Toscanini. Prince Betil's party was on their way back to Stockholm after attending a dedication ceremony at the American-Swedish Insitute in Minneapolis. Both of the sisters had developed a teachers knack for asking artful questions and being attentive listeners. It served them well at the table this evening. They were regaled by Ms. MacDonald with stories of her many motion pictures and celebrities she knew. Asked about Chevalier's recording of "Thank heavens for little girls..." she remarked: "No one...absolutely no one...can sing a song quite like Maurice." Prince Bertil, on the other hand, was reserved, almost shy, but enjoyable table company.

Captain Claesson informed the group that the Kungsholm was making good time in seas that were remarkable calm for mid-June, and that he expected they would be in Copenhagen harbor by Wednesday. "If you have the time you must go to Tivoli, the amusement park in Copenhagen. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world."

During the dinner Bill Ayers, the retired Minneapolis police detective, was engrossed in a very interesting conversation with a British counterpart from Scotland Yards. Gordon Yardley was on official business--precisely what he would not say--but he did confide to Ayers that German espionage activity had increased considerably in the past two years, paralleling Hitler's rise to power. "A word of advice," he said to Ayers, "If for any reason you find yourself in any diplomatic difficulties, seek the assistance of your embassy or consulate. You can't deal with the German authorities on your own." Ayers filed away the thought...not thinking he'd have any cause to activate it.

To be continued...Arrival in Copenhagen and on to Berlin.

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Part 15--[Parts of the Herrmann sisters' journal are missing--notably their arrival in Copenhagen. We pick up their story in Berlin. It is June 27, 1934].

The tour group is staying at the historic Kampinski Hotel in Berlin...just a short, walking distance from the Reichsmusikkammer [the State Music Bureau]. On this Thursday morning the group had breakfast and a government representative suggested they leave their belongings in their hotel rooms. "It will be a fairly long day and it will just be easier." A fifteen minute walk brought them to Music Bureau building and during the course of the day--including wonderful German buffet lunch--various staff members of the Reichmusikkammer reviewed with them highlihts of a cultural Renaissance going on under the Third Reich. It was a very impressive day. Most interesting was the entertainment planned for the Summer Olympic games scheduled in Berlin in 1936. Toward the end of the program an attache in charge announced that they would be meeting with a special high government official. The doors opened and a decorated military officer entered the room and strod to the podium with great authority...

"Good afternoon...I am Joseph Goebbels...welcome to Berlin." He spoke in somewhat halting English. "So...how many of you speak German? If I sometimes search for the right words in English...I might resort to German to make a point." A spattering of hands went up including both the Herrmann sisters and Bill Ayers. They had grown up in German-speaking homes and communities, and both of the girls had studied German at the University. Goebbels surveyed the group, noting the showing of hands. "Good, so let us proceed." For more than a half-hour he ranged over a variety of topics, charming the group with his stories and easy informality. Then at what seemed like a purposeful pause...he suddenly lapsed into German...directed his outstretched hand toward Loretta and Minerva and said, "Some of you I know have friends in Europe...you two...you know, of course...[pausing again for effect] Professor Dr. August Heidelburg...in Vienna, I believe, yes? I'm sure you will enjoy your visit there." Rapidly switching back to English Goebbels continued on. The Herrmann sisters sat stunned! Had they heard Goebbels correctly? How could he possibly know...? Bill Ayers also had caught Goebbels off-hand comments to the sisters and noted the startled reaction it produced. Why, he did not understand. What's going on here? the detective thought to himself.

To be continued...

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Part 16: Immediately following...back at the Kampinski Hotel. The Herrmann sisters are in their room talking with Bill Ayers, the retired Minneapolis police detective

"Can you tell me what's going on?" Ayers says. Loretta: "I hardly know where to start"...but she launched into the story related to them by Dr. Duclos back in Henderson. Ayers listened carefully without saying a word. At some length Loretta took a deep breath and said, "And that's the whole story as we heard it...." then adding, "But how in the world could that officer...that Goebbels fellow...know aything about it?...he even knew Heidelburgs name?"

Ayers was quiet for a time, finally saying, "Well, it's clear...they were in your room while you were away. You said you had letters that this Duclos man in Henderson gave you. Where are they? Are they still here?" Loretta quickly searched through her suitcase. "Yes, they're still here." "I assure you, someone was in here, went through your belongs and came across those letters." Minerva joined in excitedly, "They can't do that! Can't we report them to the authorties?" "They are the authorities, Minerva, they decide what they can do and not do."

"Fine," Loretta went on, "but now what?" Ayers replied, "This is just a shot across the bow, so to speak. They're telling you, 'We know you're up to something...we don't know what...but whatever it is...stop it!'" Ayers continued,
"Unless there's something about this August Heidelburg we don't know. Maybe he's more important...a bigger fish...then we know." Ayers was quiet for a long time, finally saying, "I had a conversation on the Kungsholm coming over with a Scotland Yard investigator; he told me if I ever ran into diffulties in Germany I should check with the U.S. Embassy. We might be into something over our heads. I'll go to the Embassy, tell them about our meeting Ambassador Dodd in Washington, D.C. and ask their advice."

Next: Ayers trip to the U.S. Embassy To be continued...

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Part 17--June 28, 1934. Bill Ayers is at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin shortly after it opens. To the receptionist he explains he has a matter concerning intimidation of U.S. citizens by German authorities. He further explains he is traveling with a group from the National Geographic Society. He is ushered into a conference room and presently an embassy officer comes in. Ayers mentions his group meeting with Ambassador Dodd two weeks earlier in Washington D.C. The detective then went on to describe the incident that occured the previous day at the Reichsmusikkammer offices. The officer listened patiently and at length answered. "I can believe what you've described. Yes, things like this are happening. Among some in the German government there is a sort of paranoia with security. At this point there is little we can do about it without provoking retaliation." Ayers, trained in investigative procedures, pressed forward with another question: "What can you tell me about William Heidelburg?" The embassy officer disappeared for several minutes and returned with a single file folder. Paging through it he stopped and said, "We know of him. There's little I can tell you. He's an Austrian citizen and--where are you traveling from here?" "Vienna," Ayers replied. "Yes...let me suggest this, I'm going to give you a letter of introduction to my counterpart at the Embassy in Vienna. If you'll present that to him when you arrive there he can pick up this trail and perhaps help you." A secretary entered the room and the man proceeded to dictate a short letter for Ayers to take with him. "One other bit of advice," the man continued, "When you get to Austria I would NOT go to the University of Vienna and make inquiries about this fellow...Heidelburg. It will just open up Pandora's box. There are some zealots there who are better off not riled up. My guess is that Heidelburg succeeded in doing that...perhaps to his own detriment."

As the man walked with Ayers to the door he offered some parting words, "This is a beautiful country, Mr. Ayers, enjoy your stay here. There are some overly ambitious people here but, for the most part, the Germans--and the Austrians--are wonderful people. Try not to let this incident distract you from that."

[The Society members departed Berlin two days later. During a two day stop in Munich they had a chance encounter with singer/actress Jeanette MacDonald one evening at the Bavaria Hus restaurant. "I will see you all in Vienna next week," she told them.

Next--Vienna: Strauss, Toscanini and others.

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Part 18: July 2, 1934--Vienna, Austria.

Early on the first morning of the Society tour groups first day in Vienna, Bill Ayers made his way to the U.S. Embassy, where he presented the letter he was carrying from the attache in Berlin. The meeting he had was cordial but guarded. "Tell me what you're trying to learn and why you need to know it?" he was asked. Finally convinced of Ayers authenticity, the Embassy staffer called for some files and after a few minutes study said, "We have a file on Professor Heidelburg but there's little light I can shed on him. It appears he was removed from his teaching duties at the University, later charged with plots against the government...[pause as he read further]...the evidence against him appears to be largely circumstantial...and...he is currently in jail pending charges; here's one other entry: pro-democratic position, and has made anti-Nazi statements. It appears the professor has irritated some high ranking people in the wrong places."

Ayers thought for a moment. "What would you suggest if you wanted to contact this person, help him in some way?" "I'd stay out of it, Mr. Ayers. Things are rather stable here in Austria right now but longer term the the worst case scenario is "anchluss," or annexation. If Germany ever moves to annex Austria the professor could be out of circulation for a long time. If you're really bent on helping him I'd suggest working through diplomatic channels starting back in Washington; and doing so while Austria is a still a somewhat free and independent country." Ayers offered his thanks and made his way back to the hotel where he filled in the Herrmann sisters with what little he had learned. The next evening they would be attending the performance at the Vienna Opera House.

The relationship between Richard Strauss, the composser, and Arturo Toscanini, the director, was a complicated one. Strauss was believed by some to be too cozy with the Third Reich and the Nazi Party. He was president of the Reichsmusikkammer (appointed by Joseph Goebbels) and was instrumental in setting up the private audience that would follow tomorrow's opera performance. Toscanini was skeptical Strauss politics and was reported to have said, "To Strauss the composer I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put it on again."

Such were the times in Germany-Austria when the Herrmann sisters visited there in the summer of 1934.

The opera and back stage. To be continued...

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Part 19--July 5, 1934.
The Strauss opera was a resounding success. Despite high ticket prices ($10.00 U.S. currency equivalent) it was a sellout. Following the performance the National Geographic tour group was escorted back stage to meet with Richard Strauss, Arturo Toscanini, and members of the cast. For music lovers it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because the Herrmann sisters--and Bill Ayers--were so fluent in the German language it was easy for them to converse their way around the room. At one point the sisters were talking with a cast member, a young Austrian woman, perhaps in her late 20s, who introduced herself as Anna Karol. Ms. Karol, a mezzo-soprano and new to the Vienna Opera Company, nonetheless had a major role in the opera. As they visited comfortable in German, Ms. Karol asked the sisters where in America they were from. When the town Henderson in Minnesota came up Anna Karol reacted in a startled manner. "Is that a small community...located on a river?" she asked. "Yes, do you know it?" Minerva responded.
Ms. Karol did not answer directly but moved the conversation to another subject. Still, the sisters noticed a change in her composure. Presently Ms. Karol said, "Could we meet again tomorrow? I would love talking with you more. In the morning maybe?" Loretta answered, "We would enjoy that." "There is a coffee house across the street from here, by the stairway entrance to the subway...Otto's Coffee House, it is. You can't miss it. Could you be there at say, nine o'clock?" "Fine," Loretta said, "We'd like to bring a friend with us, Mr. Ayers...the gentleman right over there," she said pointing at Ayers. "That would be fine...I'll see you then."

"Did you notice an unusual reaction from her when we mentioned Henderson?" Minerva asked. "I certainly did and I have no idea what it's all about," Loretta said.

Next: Coffee at Otto's and a surprise.

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Part 19--July 6, 1934: Otto's Coffee House in Vienna.
When the Herrmann sisters and Bill Ayers arrived at the Coffee House Anna Karol was waiting. The new arrivals order coffee Americano--the European coffee blend being too stout for their tastes. Ms. Karol begins the conversation. "I'm sorry if I was abrupt or mysterious last night but I did not want to discuss this subject with you at the Opera House. When you mentioned last night that you are from Henderson...it is such a coincidence...you see I was there once, many years ago, perhaps fifteen, with my father." The sisters, though surprised, said nothing. Ms. Karol continued. "My having been in Henderson, however, is not what I want to talk about. I can later...but I am here to ask for your help. My father, William Heidelburg, a university political science professor, is in jail now; he is a political prisoner. He has done nothing wrong except to speak his mind, and for that the government has arrested him." Ayers spoke, "And how might we help?" "I believe that your government is one of the few that can put pressure on the Austrian government... human rights pressure. That is the only way they might listen here in Vienna."

Ayers went on: "Your last name is Karol, your father is Heidelburg?" Ms. Karol said, "Oh, that. When I begin to perform professionally I took my mother's maiden name believing it was a better, softer name on the stage. I was Emily Rose Heidelburg for the first twenty years of my life." Now Loretta spoke up. "We must be open with you, my dear, we know something about you and your father." Karols set down her coffee cup, "How? What...?" she stammered. Loretta proceeded to tell her about Dr. Jacques Duclos and the letters he had exchanged over the years with her father. Anna Karol: "This is astonishing...absolutely unbelieveable! Yes, I remember my father talking about this Doctor...Duclos...he called him his American Doctor friend. I cannot believe you are connected to the time years ago we were in America."
Next: A plan begins to take shape...and more about what occured that night years ago at Devil's Jump-off.

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Part 20--July 7, 1934

The following morning Ayers was back at the U.S. Embassy and after a brief discussion with his contact of two days earlier he was ushered into the office of the American Ambassador to Austria, George Messersmith. The ambassador expressed keen interest in the Heidelburg story and Ayers' involvement in it. "There's no question but what his arrest is a pure-and-simple political matter," the ambassador said. "He's a brilliant scholar and all of us would be better off if he were a free man. The question is: what can we do to facilitate that?"
Ayers waited for Messersmith to continue. "Here's one idea: If his daughter were to emigrate to America and become a U.S. citizen we could could apply pressure for his release. It's a plan not without risk but if Austria continues to be sucked further into Germany's sphere of influence it will become even more difficult." Ayers spoke up: "I believe my group would be interested in trying to accomdate his daughters move to the U.S." He paused then continued, "We are leaving for home in two weeks...too soon for us to do anything directly...but there is a woman--Jeanette MacDonald, the actress, you would know of her, certainly--who will be returning in September. Since Anna Karol/Emily Rose Heidelburg is an opera performer, it would make perfect sense for her to travel with Ms. MacDonald." Messersmith answered, "I know Jeanette, she is here in Vienna now, and we are having dinner with her tomorrow evening. I'll float this thought with her. With Anna/Emily Rose in New York we could begin to work diplomatically on William's release. Excellent idea...Mr. Ay---...Bill. We will get word back to you."

Back at the hotel Ayers proceeded to fill the Herrmann sisters in on his meeting with Ambassador Messersmith. Minerva's reaction was, "My goodness, I hope we aren't getting ourselves into a real pickle. All because of an innocent conversation last Christmas with Dr. Duclos. What will happen next."

What indeed. To be continued...

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