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Information bulletin
(September 1950)

Grohe, Friedrich G. K.
America is different,   pp. 25-29 PDF (2.9 MB)


Page 27


experiences I had in the United States.
Never before in my life had I had the
opportunity to talk to people from China,
India, Iraq and South America, for instance,
and to learn firsthand about their culture,
economic and political background.
Of special importance, however, was the
meeting with Jews and citizens of those
European countries that were occupied by
the German army during the war. Although
I never approved of, or excused, the hor-
rible crimes committed by the Nazi regime,
I was no friend to the conception of collec-
tive German guilt.
But here, facing those who had been
directly or indirectly discriminated against
and persecuted Dby the Germans, I recog-  Friedrich G
nized the full extent of those crimes more  this article,
clearly than ever before and I could not  his engine(
help having a personal feeling of guilt - or,  nDoalomstadnt i
at least, a truly deep feeling of shame.
The atmosphere of good will and understanding which
prevailed in the college 'was particularly beneficial for
social intercourse with those people who had suffered
under the Nazis and who had every reasons to hate the
Germans. Hostilities were avoided and in most cases we
could find a common basis of understanding. In the
course of time some of the Norwegians, Frenchmen and
Netherlanders were among the best friends I made in the
United States. In Europe, under less fortunate external
conditions, this might not have been achieved.
COLLEGE LIFE with its variety of student activities was
full of fun as well as work. I particularly remember
the annual "Pushcar Race" as it was striking example to
me of the liberal atmosphere existing between the people
and government officials.
At the invitation of the students, the governor of the
state of Michigan, G. Mennen Williams, acted as starter
in some of the races. It was wonderful to see how the
youthful governor made humorous speeches to the crowd
of students and participated in every kind of fun.
Although the funniest car built by the students was
actually a parody on "Soapy Williams" (the governor's
nickname), he did not resent it in the least. I could
scarcely imagine how a German minister-president would
have behaved in the same situation.
Along with other foreign students I had the opportunity
to visit some small country schools, farms and a dairy in
Clinton County, Mich. At night we were guests at Farm
Bureau meetings in St. Johns, where we lectured on our
respective countries.
Again and again I was surprised at the interest in
foreign countries showed by the "man in the street" and
by school children. It was of particular significance to me
1hat in each discussion in which I participated many
people asked questions and stated their opinions frankly.
This is in pronounced contrast to the behavior of
most Germans, who feel restrictions against speaking
their thoughts in public. This is particularly true among
SEPTEMBER 1950
;rohe,
, hop
?ring
nstitt
he c
27
German young people. In Germany, the
youngsters are afraid they may appear
ridiculous in the eyes of the older people
present. This is, of course, chiefly *due to
a defect in the German educational system.
In some respects the German educational
system seems to me to be superior to the
American system, particularly as far as
scientific standing is concerned, but Ger-
mans do not put enough emphasis on
"education for life." Among American
students I often found an astonishing
ignorance in the field of general education,
ignorance of history, geography, literature,
languages, etc. - subjects which are con-
sidered very important in German higher
I author of  eoucation.
es to finish   Many a freshman or sophomore in col-
studies at  lege was not even too well acquainted
ite of Tech-  with his mother tongue, and I, a foreigner,
was sometimes asked by my American room-
mates how to spell common English words. But the vast
majority of all these people had a well developed per-
sonality. They were going to be good citizens and were
not restricted by worn-out conventions.
My trip to Florida showed me large sections of the
country. However, I felt that my experience would not
be complete without having seen and studied the western
states. Hence I decided to interrupt my studies and take
the regular summer vacation. Having received a scholar-
ship for an International Service Seminar sponsored by
the American Friends Service Committee to be held at
Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Ore., I planned to
combine extended trips through the northwestern, western
and southwestern states.
H ITCHHIKED FROM East Lansing to Chicago, where I
stayed for two and a half days. I found this city very
interesting and very American. It was the only place in
which I found wealth and poverty, beauty and ugliness
in such close proximity. It was fascinating and depressing.
There was the splendid business section-and only a
few blocks further I found myself in the middle of a slum
areawhich lookedworse to me than anythingIhad seen be-
fore with the exception of some Negro sections in the South.
There was one thing which disturbed me more than the
unpleasant view of the miserable houses as it seemed to
express a discriminatory attitude toward the poorer part
of the population. While the streets were kept in ex-
cellent condition in the business and wealthy residential
sections, the city administration apparently did not take
much care of public property in the slum area.
Dirty streets and broken road surfaces contributed
considerably to the depressing atmosphere. Certainly
Chicago is not the only city in the world where this can
be observed, but in no other place have I found the
contrasts and extremes so pronounced.
All this made Chicago appear to me in a kind of de-
moniacal light-very "American," as Europeans are in-
INFORMATION BULLETIN


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