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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, June 10-13, 1975. Interview A-0311-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Editorializing Hitler's rise to power

Dabney describes his early knowledge of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany. While in Germany on a fellowship, Dabney studied the political changes occurring in order to write editorials.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, June 10-13, 1975. Interview A-0311-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DANIEL JORDAN:
I believe that we've covered the major topics and unless there are some other afterthoughts, we are going to get all of this on transcripts later, so this might be a good place to stop.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm trying to think if there's something else.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I have a question about another point. I understand that there was sort of a literary circle in Richmond in the '20s with Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell and the Reviewer. Were you involved in any of that or impressed by any of it or influenced in any way by it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was a novice at that time. The Reviewer was started at just about the time that I went on the paper. I read it and I knew Miss Glasgow and Mr. Cabell and was entertained by both of them from time to time in their homes, but I didn't know either of them well. They were both very nice to me and very helpful. The New York Herald Tribune asked Cabell to write an article for their magazine about Miss Glasgow, and he asked me to do it, which I did. She read my Liberalism in the South and gave me a very nice quote on it for advertising. She had a party for Gertrude Stein, and my wife and I attended. I have a unique autograph of Gertrude which you might like to see. It's on the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which of course, was actually by Gertrude Stein. I met both of them at Miss Glasgow's and took the book over to the Jefferson Hotel, and she autographed it in typical Steinesque style. Notice that she says, "Mrs. and Mr. Virginius Dabney." (laughter)
DANIEL JORDAN:
Will you read that into the tape. I keep forgetting that we've got to keep the machine in mind.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
This is what time period, Mr. Dabney?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
1935, approximately. Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein were here and Ellen Glasgow had this party and I got her autograph on the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and the autograph says, "To Mrs. and Mr. Virginius Dabney in memory of a pleasant meeting, in memory of a pleasant Richmond Times-Dispatch, in memory of a charming Virginia, and in memory of a charming visit to Virginia. Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas." One other thing that you might want me to mention was the six months that I spent in Europe; I was a reporter when I went over.
DANIEL JORDAN:
This is 1934?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
1934, on a fellowship from one of these German foundations. It has two different names . . .
DANIEL JORDAN:
I believe that it's the Oberlaender Trust. I can't pronounce the German, though.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation and there was another name, the name of the man . . . Gustaf Oberlaender who founded the Oberlaender Trust. This was a fellowship to the German-speaking countries for six months. They didn't want me to get into the Hitler propaganda swirl, so they didn't say what I was coming over there for, which was actually to study the Nazis. They announced that I was coming over to "study periodical literature," which was complete nonsense. I went to the Berlin library once and looked at a magazine and that was my study of periodical literature. They didn't expect me actually to study that subject. [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A] [TAPE 2, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They allowed me to go to Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Paris in addition to pretty much every part of Germany. So, it was a wonderful six months and my wife and 4-year-old daughter were with me. It was enormously helpful to me in my subsequent journalistic work, particularly with the Nazi issue, which was becoming more and more acute. When I got there, Hitler had been in office one year, the Blood Purge occurred while I was there, as well as the assassination of Chancellor Dolfuss of Austria. When I got back, I was all steamed up to write about Hitler, and I was just as sure as anyone could be that he was getting ready to start a European war. People in '34 and '35 were saying, "It isn't going to happen." A lot of them were fooled, and said "He is just trying to rebuild Germany; and he is going to be satisfied with Danzig and the Sudentenland" etc. I never had any idea that he would be. I wrote a series of editorials at the time of the Austrian Anchluss and the seizure of Czechoslovakia that caused a lot of comment, not only here but in other parts of the country. I think that it was probably the best series of editorials that I ever wrote on anything.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
There were a number of newspaper editorialists in this country who took the other side and were sympathetic to Hitler during this time. I presume that you were not sympathetic to the Nazis.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I should say not. True, we didn't see much overt persecution of the Jews in '34. What the Nazis were doing then was smashing store windows of Jews. We didn't see that, but it had happened before we got there. Some of the Jews were wearing the Star of David by compulsion and we saw only one sign the whole time that we were there that was blatantly anti-Semitic. It said, "Jews not wanted. City Council of Dinkelsbuehl." That is a little town near Nuremberg—a most charming place except for that sign. (tape turned off. End of first session of interview.)