Monday, January 30, 2017

German Instruction at State Normal during World War I, part two

In last week's blog post, we looked at the history of German language instruction at State Normal (now UNCG) as well as the growing anti-German sentiment in Greensboro and across the United States after the U.S. officially entered World War I in April 1917. This week, we will look more closely at how the war impacted a German-born member of the State Normal faculty.

As mentioned last week, Christine Reincken was hired in Fall 1913 to head the German department at State Normal. Reincken was born in Germany but had spent most of her adult life in the United States as a student and instructor. On February 13, 1918, she wrote State Normal President Julius Foust after a German-born faculty member was fired from his teaching position at Greensboro College, asking if she should resign her position. After a face-to-face discussion, Foust persuaded Reincken to stay on campus.

State Normal President Julius Foust
Sadly, no photos of Reincken could be located.
When the Spring semester concluded, Reincken wrote Foust again -- this time with a request. In a letter dated June 1, 1918, she asked that Foust "write a few lines for me, just stating how long I am at the College. I thought it might simplify matters if I had it to show since I as a foreign born will have to register soon." Foust quickly responded and provided her with a statement, which read:
To whom it may interest: I write to say that Miss Christine R. A. Reincken has been teaching German in this College for the past four years. We have found Miss Reincken a most satisfactory member of our faculty in every way, and she has gained and maintained the highest respect and admiration both of our faculty and students. This has been due to the thoroughness of her work, and also to her fine character and wholesome influence.
Reincken also formally offered her resignation for Foust's consideration. Foust presented her resignation to the college's Board of Directors, who, "after a thorough discussion," chose not to accept it. Foust did note, however, in a letter dated June 22, that "it is impossible for us at this time to know what may happen. So far as I am able to judge, there has been no criticism of you or the Board on account of your connection to the College, but ... we can never know what may happen."

Reincken reported back to Foust in a letter dated July 4, 1918, that she had indeed registered in Milwaukee, where she was visiting at the time. She thanked him for his letter of support, adding that, while the information he provided was helpful, she doubted that it would prevent him from having to answer more questions about her employment. Reincken also stated that his "reassuring words" helped her decide to return to the college in the Fall semester. She once again mentions, though, that she "fully understand(s) that conditions may change and demand different decisions at any time."

Eleven days later, on July 15, German troops launched their final offensive of the war with the Second Battle of the Marne. And on July 25, Foust wrote Reincken to let her know that the conditions changed and that he feels it would be best for her not to return to the college in the Fall. Foust stated:
I am not writing this letter to you as an official of the College, but wish it to be considered simply a personal one. I have endeavored to think about this whole matter not simply from the standpoint of the College, but also from the standpoint of what is best for you. I have come to the conclusion that it is doubtless best, if you can make satisfactory arrangements, not to hold any public position during the war ... The suggestion that I have to make, as indicated above not as an official of the College but as one who feels a very cordial friendship for you, is that you withdraw from the College from the present at least ... Your service to the College has always been manifestly satisfactory, and I regret to think of losing it even for a short time, but I believe the suggestion I have made is the best from every standpoint.
Caroline Schoch
At the same time, Foust was in conversation with Caroline Schoch to join the German Department in Reincken's place. Born in northeastern Iowa, Schoch was the granddaughter of self-exiled liberals who had fled the German state during the revolutions of 1848. Unlike Reincken, she was not subject to the registration requirements and other public critiques that came with being German-born.

Understandably, Reincken was upset by this outcome. In a three-page response to Foust dated August 5, she described her feelings of hurt and fear -- but she also noted that she "must accept it at present as an outgrowth of the conditions that develop daily now." But she continued:
I have been over 30 years in this country, have 5 nephews now in the service - one in France, one in Italy, one as officer on a U.S. steamer, 2 soon going over. Yes, I am a German born, stamped an Alien Enemy, and must take the consequences. One cannot forget and lose the deep affection for ones old home, but one would not help them do wrong - on the contrary, help to destroy it ... I have quietly done what I thought right with all the sympathy and feeling and compassion for those who go and for those who sent their loved ones over for the cause. Gladly would I do and give anything to help humanity, where I can and I probably shall find the place. ... I, as an Alien Enemy, must be utterly silent and express no opinion ... But I have felt and acted loyal in every respect for and towards this country, thinking it only right to do so, and I thought you and others there knew. 
Reincken never did return to State Normal. Schoch accepted the position of department head and served as the lone professor in the department until her retirement in 1948. When Schoch passed away in 1961, the memorial statement issued by Woman's College began, "In the fall of 1918, when American patriotism expressed itself oddly but decisively by banning the study of German from high schools, Dr. Foust, president of this college, had sufficient faith in the eventual wisdom and sanity of the College and the people of North Carolina to bring to its faculty Miss Carolina P. B. Schoch, a dynamic teacher of German."

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