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Louis Lochner

1887 - 1975

Louis Lochner (right) dines and quips with Josef Goebbels


           Louis Paul Lochner first went to Europe as a representative of the Ford Peace Ship before going to Berlin in 1920 as a journalist. Like many other journalists assigned to cover Europe for U.S. newspapers and services, Lochner came from the Midwest. The son of Frederick—a Lutheran minister—and Maria von Haugwitz Lochner, he was born in February 1887 in Springfield, Illinois. Lochner graduated in 1905 from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. After earning a bachelor’s degree and Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of Wisconsin in 1909, he edited the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine and the Cosmopolitan Student. In 1910 he married Emmy Hoyer, with whom he had a daughter and a son.

The eruption of world war in 1914 led the pacifistic Lochner to lecture for the University of Wisconsin extension service and the American Peace Society, a division of which he later directed. In 1915 he became secretary to Henry Ford, as well as secretary and press agent for the tycoon’s ridiculed Peace Ship. A year later Lochner traveled to Stockholm and the Hague to serve as secretary at the Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation. After 1918 he edited the International Labor News Service and reported for the Milwaukee Free Press, and in 1924 he joined the Berlin staff of the Associated Press. Fluent in German, Lochner quickly established contacts within the Weimar—and later the Nazi—governments, and became the Associated Press’ Berlin bureau chief in 1928.

As a dedicated reporter, Lochner earned access to important people and events. He covered the Pilsudski coup in Poland in 1926 and the maiden flight of the dirigible Hindenburg in 1936, as well as the Amsterdam and Berlin Olympics. Well-respected by those in power, he witnessed decisive diplomatic conferences in the major European capitals and interviewed Gustav Stresemann five days before the beleaguered Weimarer Republic’s last president died. Lochner interviewed Hitler in 1930 and 1933, and accompanied the Fuehrer to visit Mussolini in 1938. Accepted by the suspicious Nazis as a trustworthy man, they allowed Lochner to accompany the German Army into Poland, the Lowland countries, France, Yugoslavia and Greece. He also followed the Finnish Army into the Soviet Union.

A witness to the French capitulation at Compiegne, Lochner entered a deserted Paris. Afterwards he returned to Berlin determined to stay in Nazi Germany as long as possible in order to report in careful detail on the war overtaking Europe. Life magazine praised his reports, claiming “since the War started, his dispatches have been consistently the most complete and the most authoritative to reach the United States from the German side. While Lochner has had no opportunity to view the Allied side of the present War, his reports have maintained an admirable objectivity.” In 1939 he received the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished service as a foreign correspondent.

When the United States and Germany declared war on each other in December 1941, the Berlin government rounded up Lewis Lochner and all other U.S. Americans who remained in the Third Reich. Lochner was interned for almost five months at Bad Nauheim near Frankfurt am Main, then released in exchange for German diplomats and correspondents in May 1942. That August the Associated Press allowed him eight months’ leave of absence for an extended lecture tour throughout North America in which he departed from his tradition of editorial restraint and began assailing Nazism.

Besides warning of the Nazi threat and in October 1942 publishing What about Germany?, Lochner tried to lead a quiet life. He soon returned to work, however, as a news analyst and commentator for NBC from 1942 to 1944. From 1944 to 1946 he traveled to Europe, where he served as a war correspondent with the 9th, 1st, 3rd and 7th U.S. Armies. In 1959 he joined the Board of Directors of the American Council on Germany; he also served the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church and Rotary International. In his “retirement,” Lochner’s stepdaughter Rosemarie acted as his secretary, helping him write books on industrialists of the Third Reich, Hoover and Germany, as well as articles for Lutheran magazines. Lochner died in January 1975 in Wiesbaden, in what was then West Germany, where he had lived since 1971.


Adolf Hitler

Louis Lochner had worked as a reporter in Berlin since the early days of the Weimarer Republic. During that time he earned a reputation among foreign journalists in Germany as thorough, fair and slow to sensationalize. Naturally then, when the Nazis came to power in 1933, Lochner became one of the foreign journalists they trusted most. Although he could not easily be duped, the native Midwesterner could be counted on to produce factual articles dealing with diverse aspects of life in the Third Reich. A man of consistent integrity, Lochner made his way into the private quarters of Nazi headquarters as well as accompanied Hitler in a variety of settings. Because he was allowed to witness the Fuehrer in less contrived moments, not staged for public consumption, Lochner often saw sides of Adolf Hitler that revealed the German dictator’s truer nature, which the public usually did not see.

Lochner first met the leader of Nazi Germany in person in February 1930. The Associated Press sent Lochner to Basel, Switzerland to cover the Bank for International Settlements’ first annual meeting of its governing board. Returning to Berlin via Munich, he stopped in the Bavarian capital to seek out the upstart who continued to gain increased popularity among the Germans. He was eager to meet the leader of the still-small National Socialist German Workers’ Party and have a look at the man whose “meteoric political career had often engaged my journalist attention.” Hitler had not yet come to power, but already had involved himself in much intrigue.

Lochner learned that both Hitler and his only personal friend, Ernst Roehm, were staying at the Braun Haus, the newly-built Nazi headquarters. A renowned homosexual, an early head of the terroristic Sturmabteilung (“SA”) and the only person to use the familiar “Du” form of “you” with Hitler, Roehm often accompanied Hitler in the days before the latter became the dictator of greater Germany. Sitting in the Braun Haus with the SA chief, Lochner watched as Roehm’s adjutant—“a beautiful boy in his teens”—entered the room where they sat and whispered into Roehm’s ear. “The Fuehrer is ready to receive you” Roehm relayed.

Rudolf Hess met Roehm and Lochner at the door of Hitler’s office and stood behind the Nazi leader during Lochner’s short interview with him—taking thorough notes the entire time. Throughout the conversation—during which everyone stood—a Hitler not yet fully sure of himself periodically would look to Hess “as though to find support”; without exception, Hess would nod in approval. Roehm, however, soon clicked his boots in salute and left the room.

Lochner took careful notice of the appearance of the Nazi leader and of his surroundings: “Hitler in those days always wore a dark blue or black business suit, white shirt, black tie and party button. He reserved the brown uniform for party events.” Lochner found Hitler’s voice to be still hoarse from his frequent public speaking at Nazi meetings and demonstrations. “His gestures were nervous, his eyes piercing; his hair, as always, parted on the right side”; a portrait of Friedrich the Great—Hitler’s adored hero—hung behind him over the desk.

“It has often been remarked” Lochner later said, “”that Hitler’s success is due in part to his ability to ingratiate himself with visitors whom he hopes to win over, by saying what he thinks they want to hear.” During their meeting Hitler voluntarily discussed German-U.S. relations, saying “It should be easy to come to an understanding with the United States. The only thing that divides us is the problem of reparations, which I insist are political debts. Investments, loans, and so forth, are good with us. But we shall see to it that political debts are cancelled.” In addition, Hitler bantered on about his tactics toward political adversaries, his experience in the recent election campaign in Thuringen and his demand for a strong, restored German army.

Hitler’s ambitions for Germany mirrored his own desire to win attention for himself. A psychotic with an incredibly weak, volatile ego, Hitler made continual effort to reinforce his limp self-esteem. Perhaps the epitome of the efforts undertaken to glorify the man who got a willing German people to vote him into dictatorship, the annual Nuernberg Nazi Party rallies provided him each autumn with a desperately needed emotional boost. In order to publicize his power and circulate his image around the world, Hitler made sure the German and foreign press accompanied him to these rallies.

Suffering the masses which thronged Nuernberg each September to steal a glimpse of their beloved Fuehrer, Lochner would attend the rally every year it took place to report for the folks back in the far-removed, Depression-battered United States the bizarre frenzy which had overtaken civilized old Germany. Sitting in a press car sandwiched between Hitler’s open limousine and one containing his closest collaborators—Goering, Goebbels, Hess, Himmler—Lochner would watch Hitler’s beaming face as the official procession passed for five miles through Nuernberg. Placed so very close to the head car, Lochner could “study [Hitler’s] face and note with what satisfaction he heard the ecstatic cries that, in volume, reminded one of the organ notes of Niagara Falls.” The bemused journalist noted that Hitler “laps up popular adulation. He gets terrific enjoyment from driving slowly through the narrow, winding streets of the ancient city, with ‘heil’ing thousands fairly oozing from the miniature windows and hugging the quaint gables.”

One time, however, the procession turned onto a street empty of people. Lochner saw Hitler’s face quickly turn red with rage. “Why aren’t there any people here?” the Fuehrer demanded of his chief adjutant, Wilhelm Brueckner. Evidently the adjutant’s explanation did not suffice, for the screaming Hitler ordered “You get out and report to me later.” Lochner watched as “Meekly the huge bodyguard climbed out of the car, looking sheepish, and our procession moved on,” making its way to the castle perched above Nuernberg.

Later that day Brueckner reappeared, winded after having climbed the steep approach to the castle. He clicked the heels of his spurred boots, offered Hitler a Nazi salute and reported “Mein Fuehrer, the street is so narrow at that point the wheels of the cars were on the sidewalks. It would have been dangerous for any people to stand there.” By that time, however, the infantile dictator had become so “spiritually intoxicated” by the crowds that he didn’t care. He flippantly replied “In Ordnung”—“it’s okay”—and resumed searching the crowd for its expressions of adoration and approval. Standing there in an alcove of the castle, looking out over the thousands of people below, listening “with visible emotion” to the shouting of “Heil Hitler,” the German dictator would turn to Lochner, saying “Ist das nicht wunderbar?”—“Isn’t that wonderful?”

To muster the euphoria of the masses, Hitler relied on electrifying speeches, delivered in a most animated, severely overdone manner. Lochner once heard from someone close to the Fuehrer that he wrote his thunderous, mesmerizing speeches in advance: “He walks up and down in his vast study” the source had said, “dictating torrents of words which his secretaries have difficulty in taking down. Often...he seems to be in a trance. It is the masses he sees and to whom he is speaking.” Curious about this, Lochner asked Hitler during a subsequent interview if writing speeches in advance didn’t “cramp your style?” “Not at all” Hitler quickly replied. “When I compose a speech, I visualize the people. I can see them just as though they were standing before me. I sense how they will react to this or that statement, to this or that formulation... I naturally prefer off-hand speaking, because then you can adapt every phrase and every gesture to your particular audience, but I don’t feel hampered by set addresses.”

On one occasion Lochner attempted to get a copy of one of Hitler’s prepared speeches before it had been delivered. Sympathetic to U.S. Americans in general and to U.S. journalists in specific, “Putzi” Hanfstaengl had told Lochner “I’ll take you into the Reichs Chancellory and seat you in the corridor next to the big study. By the time mein Fuehrer leaves the building for the Reichstag, I’ll be able to give you a copy of the manuscript. Then you can get an early start on your story and your translation.”

Lochner entered the chancellory at noon. At the door, along the staircases, in the coatroom and at throughout the corridor stood “grim SS guards in forbidding black uniforms...sworn to protect the life of the dictator.” Putzi sat Lochner in one of the corridor’s alcoves, “assuring the guards in his jocular Bavarian manner that I was neither a nihilist nor a bomb thrower. He then buzzed around to find a copy of the speech for me.” Periodically the tall, husky Hanfstaengl would reappear to say the speech still was not yet finished. “There was” Lochner noted, “a constant coming and going of men whom Hitler apparently summoned to go over certain sections of the speech... They nodded a surprised welcome at seeing me in this holy of holies.”

Rudolf Hess and Minister of Labor Frank Seldte stopped to shake the waiting reporter’s hand. “Both seemed amused at my insistence that every minute counted when it came to relaying a German government pronouncement. European journalism isn’t so speedy!”

Half an hour later—the crowd on the Wilhelmstrasse hoarse from screaming “We want our Leader”—Putzi reassured the increasingly impatient Lochner “The speech will be ready for you in a few minutes. Anyway, the Fuehrer must leave for the Reichstag soon.” At 1:50 PM the door of Hitler’s office opened and the corridor guards all clicked their heals in attention. Hitler rushed past, followed by several attendants. Lochner later reported “In a moment he was gone. In another moment the heils outside swelled to a deafening roar. In still another moment there was absolute silence.” Then, “Putzi emerged from the chief secretary’s room with a long face. ‘Sorry’ he said, ‘but der Fuehrer said he intended to change his manuscript in a few places while speaking. So he left word that no copy may be released now’.”

Disgusted over wasting so much time for nothing, Lochner learned to never again ask for a preview of Hitler’s speeches. He continued, however, to report from firsthand experience, using what he saw as an indication of the Nazi regime and its fanatical leader. One recurrent scene, which plainly illustrated the Fuehrer’s innermost condition, arose out of Hitler’s obsession with pageantry. The incident Lochner found the most “grotesque” involved Hitler’s leaving the Old Chancellory to attend the gala study of the New Chancellory—“a display of pomp that was a fit epitome of the grandeur of the Nazi Third Reich.” Lochner recounted “It was all in the same building and under the same roof, but the Fuehrer did not merely stroll from one wing to another.”

Accompanied by Goering, Hitler first sent a top sergeant wearing a steel helmet marching in the fore, followed by two privates with rifles and bayonets poised for action. Then, Hitler arrived “austere, unsmiling, with knitted brows, looking neither to right or left; and at a respectful distance behind him, rotund, bemedaled Hermann Goering, slightly out of breath because of the pace at which the miniature parade was proceeding.”

Another time Lochner witnessed this same self-indulgent pageantry “at the unforgettable scene” at the Reichstag on 1 September 1939, when Hitler announced the beginning of the Second World War. Early that morning the German commander of the Wehrmacht ordered the army to “meet force with force.” German soldiers already were rushing into Poland when at seven o’clock the Propaganda Ministry called foreign journalists and asked them to attend a Reichstag session at ten that morning. Lochner later recalled: “A few minutes before the appointed hour, a strange procession filed into the crowded Kroll Opera House”—the home of the mock German assembly since the Nazis had burned the official Reichstag building in 1933. “As the solemn marchers approached...they looked like...guests from some foreign country. Though we were accustomed to all sorts of uniforms in Germany, the garb we saw below us was something distinctly new.”

Hitler and his entourage—Goering, Hess, Brueckner and Schaub—“had blossomed out in new, natty, well-fitting, excellently tailored uniforms of field gray. The garb was not military, although Hitler gave that impression in his address, by saying that he had donned “the field gray uniform” which he wouldn’t exchange for the brown party suit until victory was achieved.” Later, Lochner learned that while most rank and file assumed Hitler had put on a military uniform, he had merely ordered new Nazi Party uniforms in army gray instead of regulation brown: “Even in that detail Adolf Hitler had prepared for his war!”

The meticulousness of Hitler’s obsession with exaggerated processions which he staged for self-aggrandizement was closely matched by his preoccupation with art. Having been a dejected, obscure “artist” in Vienna, he used his office as the supreme dictator of Germany—and later of much of Europe—to rewrite his own history. As he did in so many ways, Hitler relived in adulthood many of the dynamics of his childhood. This time, however, he acted the part of the victor, not the victim. Somehow he subconsciously strove to recreate the conditions of his early life, relive them—even if vicariously—and ultimately absolve himself of bitterly painful memories.

In Lochner’s memoirs he revealed there was an aspect of Hitler’s character “which is less known in America. This is his penchant for art. Get him started on art and he forgets government cares, party worries, and international complications.” Shortly before the last Nuernberg Nazi Party rally in September of 1938, Lochner and a group of journalists had followed Hitler on his official Italian tour of Rome, Naples and Florence. They had been warned in advance of the meeting not to raise such touchy issues as the integrity of Czechoslovakia, which then was the most burning issue before the cabinets of Europe, but rather “to wait for our host himself to select his theme.”

Back in Germany in time to attend what would be the last Nazi Party rally, Hitler welcomed the journalists in the Great Hall of the Nuernberg castle. Still stimulated from his state visit to the land of Germany’s Fascist partner, he chose for his theme “his hobby, art. He spoke feelingly of the superb architecture of medieval Nuernberg, and then broke into a paean of praise for Italy’s priceless art galleries,” some of which he had been able to briefly visit during his stay.

“The greatest wish I have” Hitler had pined, “is that I might go incognito to Florence and, at leisure, study the unparalleled masterpieces of the Uffizi and Pitti galleries.” The Fuehrer continued “but unfortunately that cannot be done. Suppose I were to wear a false beard. In some accidental way this fact might be revealed, and of course all Europe would say I came to Italy with some deep-laid, sinister plot. And if I were to go as I am, too many people, having seen pictures of me, would recognize me and I couldn’t wander through the galleries all by myself.”

More than all other arts, Hitler loved architecture. Albert Heilmann, an architect in Munich who fought in the trenches with Hitler in the First World War, once told Lochner a revealing story. As they enlisted in the army, soldiers of that war had to complete a questionnaire. Where the form asked the enlistee to “State your profession,” Hitler answered, “I wanted to be an architect.” Being invited to inspect the completed New Chancellory, Lochner said he was not surprised to learn that several halls in the upper story had been set aside for architectural models of stadiums, city halls, administration buildings, and “even whole municipal layouts.” In his leisure hours Hitler would come to these rooms and design Practbauten, “structures of splendor”—what Lochner described as “buildings calculated to bear testimony to Nazi Germany’s greatness.”

Being a master of theatrics himself, Hitler often sought the company of notables from the German stage and screen. Lochner observed this in 1935, when he and his wife attended an evening reception hosted by Propaganda Minister and Frau Goebbels following the annual automobile show. “About ten o’clock that evening” Lochner remembered, “there was the usual commotion that heralds the arrival of Germany’s dictator and an adjutant hastily requested that the guests form an aisle.” Hitler functionarily passed the diplomatic corps. “He came to where we were standing—opera singers, actresses, stars of the screen, newspaper folk. His face brightened. Here and there he stopped to grasp the hand of some stage beauty or to greet a well-known actor.”

Dorothea Wieck, the star of Maedchen in Uniform—“Maidens in Uniform”—had never attended a reception where among the guests appeared the Fuehrer. Somewhat shy and nervous, she asked to stand between Lochner and his German-born wife, Hilda de Terra Steinberger. When Hitler reached the Lochners he “took one sharp look at our movie friend and said, ‘You are Dorothea Wieck, are you not?’ She nodded, blushing. He shook her hand firmly and passed on.” Shortly, one of Hitler’s adjutants returned and told Wieck “Der Fuehrer requests that you sit at his table.” When Lochner looked at the collection of guests at Hitler’s table, he noticed that there was not “a diplomat among them; not a captain of industry, nor a savant, nor a representative of the press. Only men and women from the theatrical world were seated around the Teuton autocrat.” Thought Lochner: “They formed a jolly, hilarious group”; he had never seen Hitler “so carefree. He laughed, told stories, slapped his thigh. He seemed more at home with the theatrical people then with anyone else. He appeared to enjoy telling them jokes and stories.”

At that same reception Lochner looked for indications of Hitler’s alleged personal magnetism. “Again and again I had heard women say, ‘Once you look into Hitler’s eyes, you are his devoted follower forever after’. I was curious to know how my German-born but American naturalized wife would take to this strange man. To my relief I did not see the gleam of that peculiar something in her eyes of a woman who had succumbed to the Hitler charm.” Instead, Hilda Lochner reported to her husband: “I looked for that hypnotic gaze so many women rave about, but he didn’t impress me. Did you notice, though, the unusually fine quality of his uniform. And yet they say he is such a simple man!” As a journalist repeatedly allowed into the private world of the German Fuehrer, however, Louis Lochner knew that Hitler was anything but “simple.”


Parting Glances

By the end of the summer of 1941, U.S. entry into the Second World War seemed imminent, yet as Louis Lochner remembered “nobody, either among my foreign or my German friends, dated the breach of diplomatic relations or the outbreak of war earlier than the spring of 1942.” It came as a surprise when the Hitler regime—expecting a state of war with the United States to begin soon—began excluding U.S. journalists from press conferences “staged in honor of pro-Axis statesmen.” Lochner also recalled “More and more we had to listen to vulgar diatribes against America and the American chief of state at the daily press pow-wows. Had we been accredited diplomats” he maintained, “we should have had to leave in protest. As correspondents charged with getting the news, even the unwelcome or the unsavory, we had to remain, boiling inwardly.”

Even more surprising and unexpected than the climatic changes in Nazi behavior toward the few remaining U.S. Americans in the Third Reich, the start of direct U.S. involvement happened suddenly. “So little did even my best sources of information anticipate Pearl Harbor and the events which followed” Lochner later explained, “that I decided to get out of the poisoned atmosphere of Berlin and away from politics and war, to attend the Mozart Festival in Vienna. It was the happiest week I had spent since the beginning of the war” he said. “Operas, masses, symphonies, chamber music—it was a far cry from the hymns of hate on the Wilhelmstrasse.”

When Lochner returned to Berlin, his “enthusiastic description” of the festival was “rudely interrupted” by a telephone call by his compatriot Ed Shanke, who announced that “our country had been invaded by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor” and that “The German newsmen in America have been arrested by the FBI.” Lochner pointed out “We didn’t need to tell each other that, under the German system of reprisal, we were slated for similar treatment.” Immediately, Lochner set off to attend news conferences at the U.S. embassy and at the German Foreign Office to learn what would happen next.

At the Foreign Office daily press conference Lochner found “a tense atmosphere. Little groups getting into huddles in various parts of the hall. Many a European correspondent with whom I had worked shoulder to shoulder for years” he recounted, “came to say goodbye and to express the hope that America would bring freedom to a sorely tried European continent.” At about one o’clock—when such press conferences usually began—a Herr Schmidt entered the room. Unlike other times, however, instead of taking his customary place at the end of a large rectangular table, Schmidt barked “One moment please! The German correspondents in the United States have, contrary to custom and a gentleman’s agreement, been arrested by the American authorities. I must therefore ask the American correspondents here present” he went on, “to leave the conference and proceed forthwith to their homes.” This, in effect, meant a house arrest.

In an act of defiant support, the other reporters present cheered the U.S. journalists. Lochner retold hold “Silently and with dignity the American correspondents tried to file out. But it was impossible. As though by a common impulse, our colleagues from Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Argentina, even Japan, and from virtually all the subjugated countries of Europe formed an aisle and insisted upon shaking our hands, often adding in a subdued voice, ‘Good luck,’ ‘Auf Wiedershen,’ or ‘Our sympathies are with you.’ Dr. Schmidt” he continued, “had remained standing at the exit door, and as we filed by, he solemnly seized the hand of each departing American and shook it.” Lochner later learned that after they left, Schmidt remarked that “there was nothing personal about his ejection of the Americans,” but that as per orders his official relations with them had ceased and they had been “blotted out” as accredited reporters.

Stopping at his former office to pack his belongings and to try to issue one last dispatch, Lochner left the Foreign Office and returned to his home. There, he conferred with his wife as they both tried to anticipate the possible fates that might await them. As Lochner later reported, “It was a queer feeling, after recent days of excitement, late hours, nerve-racking probing into the possibilities of the political situation, suddenly to have time on one’s hands. I found myself” he admitted, “wandering about our apartment rather aimlessly, following my wife from room to room like a faithful dog. Then, I pulled myself together and agreed with Mrs. Lochner that we had better begin in earnest to pack. But what” he wondered, “could we pack?” Lochner did not know whether or not he would be allowed to take personal belongings such as papers or if, as rumor had it, “every departing American would be permitted to take but one piece of baggage with him.” He also questioned if perhaps the rather benign “house arrest” imposed on U.S. Americans would be followed by “a real arrest through the Gestapo.”

First the Lochners packed an overnight bag for him in case he was detained separately. Although he did not smoke, they included in it several packs of cigarettes as “They do wonders with guards and minor officials.” Before they could pack anything else, however, the phone began endlessly ringing with calls of concern from foreign friends: “One of us seemed to be at the receiver continuously. And, hardly had we had our first quiet supper in weeks” Lochner griped, “before more friends called, this time in person.” Not knowing how the Gestapo might view their visiting “the enemy,” they came after dark. Finally—after midnight—the last of the well-wishers departed and the Lochners went to bed, “dead tired.”

Within an hour the doorbell rang three times. “There they are” Lochner said he and his wife exclaimed almost simultaneously. From his room Lochner heard a man inquire “Is Mr. Lochner at home?”

Before his wife could answer he shouted “Here I am.” He recounted: “The corridor was but imperfectly lit on account of the daily blackout; so suddenly two flash-lights were turned on me. Two Gestapo officials in plain clothes “ he retold, “revealed their badges.” The older of the two “curtly but very politely” ordered “Come along.” When Lochner asked why, the agent replied “Sorry, we can’t tell you.”

The agents followed Lochner to his room while he dressed. When he muttered “Guess I’d better take this along” one of the perplexed agents asked “But how did you know that we were coming?” to which Lochner responded “Why do you think I’m a newsman?” The agent said the bag was unnecessary and assured Lochner’s wife “It’s a mere formality—in a few hours your husband will be back.” Lochner insisted anyway and left with the bag in hand. Before the agents led him out the door, the wily reporter pleaded use of the toilet and scribbled on a note his wife would find “Inform the Embassy, our AP office, and the Foreign Press Association.” With that, he was gone.

The Gestapo took Lochner to their headquarters on the Alexanderplatz. On the third floor Lochner entered a section marked “Secret State Police” where iron gratings and “a door with steel bars and an enormous lock offered an ominous welcome.” Once locked inside the door Lochner had to write his name and date of birth—leaving him to presume “this was a method of obtaining specimens of our handwriting.” Passing through a long corridor and past questioning tables, he next found himself in the company of several other U.S. American reporters. Together, the men waited under “a particularly stern and grim picture of Der Fuehrer—one of the most forbidding among the thousand I have seen” and another portrait from which “the glaring eyes of SS chief Heinrich Himmler glared piercingly down upon us.”

Within a couple hours several other U.S. journalists arrived and were “given a hearty cheer.” One of the men, Ed Shanke, had been pushed into a “miniature car, so, after good American fashion, he tried to put his feet on a table, being careful, however, to spread out a newspaper under them.” Instantly a guard demanded “We still have Kultur in Germany. Take down your feet. You can do that” he derided, “when you get to America, but such manners aren’t tolerated in a civilized country like ours. Here we are still human.”

Already severely fatigued from weeks of unrelieved rigorous work, the men grew increasingly tired as the hours passed. Finally Hugo Speck, one of the bolder of them “decided to take matter into his own hands by spreading his overcoat on the floor and quickly falling asleep on it.” It did not take long before a guard jerked him awake, screaming “Look here, you can’t do that. Get up!” As Lochner recounted, “Before the nonplussed official knew it, Hugo had seized his arm and was raising himself on it.” Surprised by the U.S. American reporter’s nonchalance, the guard offered “There, there. You may sit in that chair and lay your head on the table, but you mustn’t lie on the floor.”

The guard’s schizophrenic behavior only betrayed the confusion on the part of the Gestapo concerning what to do with their docile prisoners. Lochner wrote later that “No one seemed to know what to do with us, either the guards or the dozens of officials who peered at us as they came on duty. We felt like monkeys” he said. “We learned only much later that there had been a mix-up between the Foreign Office and the Gestapo.” Apparently von Ribbentrop had ordered those U.S. Americans still in Germany to remain in their homes until 11 December, at which time they would be taken to police stations for identification before being interred. “The Gestapo” Lochner explained, “had decided to grab us in the middle of the night, as they were wont to grab Jews, republicans, and nonconformism clergymen.”

Stranded without obvious ideas of what would become of them, the imprisoned journalists simply waited. “So here we were” Lochner retold, “fifteen marooned and forgotten newsmen, without the faintest idea of what was likely to happen to us next. The breakfast hour had come and gone” he complained, “but nobody had brought us anything to eat or drink. We refrained from mentioning to each other that we were getting ravenously hungry.”

At about noon the Gestapo’s guards led the men into a room, where one of them found a radio. He just got it to work as the one o’clock news ended with the announcer closing with “Thereupon the American correspondents in Germany were arrested.” After the broadcast the men became “so insistent upon food that one guard finally said timidly he would supply it if we were willing to pay for it.” Soon “a buxom lass appeared with huge pots containing two meat balls for each and plenty of boiled potatoes, and a bottle of mineral water a piece.” The fastidious Lochner noted “Price (including generous tip) sixty cents.”

The clandestine commercial transaction was worth it, for Lochner reported “The morale of the group rose perceptibly once we had food in our stomachs, and we were all set to hear the broadcast of Hitler’s address to the Reichstag when, just as suddenly as everything else had happened thus far, an official came to order us to put on our coats and get our baggage.” When the men left the Gestapo headquarters they found a van waiting for them. It took them to Gruenau, the Berlin suburb where the 1936 Olympic’s world rowing championships had been hosted.

At Gruenau the Nazis filed the men into an unheated summer resort, the Hotel Riviera. “The hot water heating will be turned on soon” one of the guards promised, seeing the men’s disappointment at the cold rooms. Although they were assigned a couple men to each room, all fifteen huddled into one of rooms that boasted a working stove. One of the men, Ernie Fischer, disappeared briefly; when he returned he brought a “priceless utensil: a tea kettle. It was a life saver” Lochner swore. “During the three days of our confinement it was almost constantly in use.”

The next day brought the men welcome good news. Just as several SS men from Berlin demanded the keys “of such bachelors as had their own private apartments,” the Foreign Office’s sympathetic Dr. Emil Rasche—“who had already proven himself as a friend of the press people”—and Dr. Froehlich of the U.S. American section of the Propaganda Ministry arrived. Rasche announced that the U.S. State Department had agreed to grant German journalists diplomatic status concerning their treatment and the Germans were considering allowing the press to remove their belongings with them when they left the Third Reich. As Lochner realized, “that too would depend upon reciprocity.”

Later that same afternoon a guard came for Lochner, saying “Somebody has come to see you, but you must not tell anybody, especially not our superiors, and you can talk with her only on the veranda.” When he reached the hotel’s terrace Lochner found his wife, who had been informed by an anonymous caller of her husband’s whereabouts. Besides bringing apples and cigarettes for the imprisoned men, she delivered “some canned goods to relive the monotony of our daily prison fair, and American magazines galore.” As they spoke Lochner’s wife explained how once she had learned of their internment, made her way to Gruenau and how then “a combat of wits and eloquence had ensued until she finally broke down the resistance of the good-natured but responsibility-laden guards sufficiently for them to permit our brief meeting.”

Within a day of obtaining relief supplies, the men listened as a SS official relayed the latest instructions: “The internees are to consider themselves free and return to their homes as quickly as possible. By nine o’clock tomorrow, Sunday morning, they are to be at the American Embassy with their luggage.” Lochner soon returned to his wife, yet theirs was a tense reunion. “A night followed” he remembered, “during which few Americans in Berlin slept. The German government declined to allow the American diplomats and journalists more than twenty-four hours for their departure from the capital. That meant, at least for us internees” Lochner explained, “that during the night personal affairs had to be straightened out, messages left, powers of attorney signed, farewells made and baggage checked”.

The Lochners went to the “occupied” U.S. embassy on Sunday morning to find a hectic, maddening scene. While the courtyard swarmed with German soldiers, the Gestapo “was in evidence everywhere.” Swiss diplomats who were assuming U.S. diplomatic responsibilities were moving into the embassy in the midst of this melee and the embassy corridors “were messed up with baggage of every shape and description. Friends of departing Americans” Lochner reported, “were seated in every reception room, awaiting their turn to say good-bye. Heavy-set teamsters were incessantly passing in and out of the building to fill three huge vans with baggage and official records.”

In the late forenoon three large buses arrived to transport the one-hundred and twelve U.S. Americans in Berlin to the Potsdamer Bahnhof. As the buses made their way through the German capital, Lochner noted “With a curious glance we took in the familiar sights of Goebbels’ swanky palace, the Tiergarten, the super-spacious Reichs Chancellory, the busy Leipziger Platz. There were no demonstrations” he found to his surprise. Lochner reasoned “The German PEOPLE have no quarrel with us.”

Loaded onto a special train with six sleepers, one dining car and two baggage cars, the U.S. Americans traveled until ten o’clock that evening, when they reached “the internationally famous spa Bad Nauheim. Here” they were told, “we were to be interned until all the details of the exchange of American and German diplomats and newsmen had been arranged.” Lochner recalled bitterly “We were virtual prisoners for five full months!”  \

about Lochner's internment

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