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Johnson, Dwight A. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 51, Number 1 (Oct. 1949)

Stiles, Peg Gunderson
A letter,   pp. 36-37


Page 36


/1
4ett~er
* Peg GUNDERSON Stiles, '45, in
Europe with her husband and the
German Youth Activities program,
gives fellow alumni a revealing
glimpse of the Occupation.
    IN A LAND where the American
  cigarette is King, the key to the
  wealth of Midas is a soldier's PX
  card and his mail order house
  catalogue. The Black Market, like
  a malignant disease, gets into
  everyone's blood, including that of
  the occupying forces.
  This is just a tiny facet of life
in Germany as seen by a '45 Badger
who knows an untold tale of Ger-
man youth education, displaced per-
sons and communistic influence. Peg
Gunderson Stiles, a former Wiscon-
sin Union House committee chair-
man, recently wrote her impressions
to her friend, Mrs. Helen Jefferson,
former student committee advisor at
the Union and now in charge of
room reservations. At the request
of the Wisconsin Alumnus, Mrs.
Stiles wrote a second, more com-
plete story for her fellow alumni.
  Much of the writer's two years in
Central Europe has been devoted to
the German Youth Activities pro-
gram (GYA), an essential project
always in a critical state because it
lacks trained workers.
  "GYA," to the author, "is one of
the most important missions of our
Occupation for here we contact to-
morrow's leaders." Trained workers
are its greatest need, and only a
few workers "aware of the concepts
of sociology and psychology and in-
terested in the welfare of others
could do wonders ...
  Today, "the GYA officer is often
the one who cannot efficiently fill
another post."
  The program    involves working
with the German children, teaching
them our games and songs, and as-
sisting with sewing and English
classes, library and puppet groups.
Mrs. Stiles' doctor-husband has also
sponsored discussion groups.
  Younger children were "extremely
responsive," she, writes. "To have an
American lady visit their sewing
36
classes is a great thrill, and in re-
turn for being taught 'Oh How
Lovely is the Evening,' they'll keep
one's house in flowers for an entire
summer.
  "The German youth is much like
the American. They hum tin pan
alley tunes and have picked up
'OK' . . . they are interested in
'What Makes America Run.' On the
other hand they are still fundamen-
tally influenced by Nazi teachings;
they hesitate to take the initiative
and to think for themselves.
  "Germany is as ripe mentally for
a dictator now as she was in 1937.
  "One cannot talk about the word
democracy and have it mean any-
thing-the children must experience
it themselves. The boys actually told
me they thought the word itself was
so overused that it was scoffed at by
many Germans. The children want
desperately to learn more about
America and to know. what is the
truth, yet they do not know to whom
to turn.
  "GYA runs into opposition from
the German side as well as from the
American. Since the Hitler Youth
program   took children from   the
home and taught them that the State
was of prime importance, many par-
ents fear that GYA will also lessen
parental influence. Again, I've heard
the boys say their friends will have
nothing to do with GYA for 'when
the Russians come' they will be pun-
ished just as the Nazis are being
punished today.
  "Bavaria is predominately Cath-
olic and it is difficult to arouse in-
terest among Catholic groups with-
out them feeling we are trying to
undermine the Church. Many chil-
dren believe that 'all Americans are
atheists.'
  "In general, German parents still
endorse corporal punishment in the
schools. Open criticism of Ameri-
cans and American policies is not
uncommon. One German child com-
plained to me that her teacher told
the class 'all Americans are bad.'
Another teacher would administer
physical punishment and    a  low
grade to any student who had vis-
ited the GYA over the weekend.
Teachers in our village had a terrific
hold on students, even dictating ex-
tracurricular activities s u c h as
which children could go to the eve-
ning movies with their parents."
  On the heels of Nazi teachings and
war devastations, now faced with
little hope for the future, the morale
and the morals of the Germans have
suffered-reports our Badger corre-
spondent.
  "Disillusioned young girls find de-
light in going with the victorious
heroes from the land, of milk and
honey, our GIs. The rewards are
great since many of the Frauleins
can get to the 'States' by marrying
a GI. Promiscuity is rampant and
the demoralizing effect of the Frau-
leins on our occupation forces is
keenly felt."
  On displaced persons, Mrs. Stiles'
ideas have changed since leaving the
States two years ago.
  "Many are of excellent character,
and we know of some who will make
excellent, American citizens. On the
other hand many are the biggest
black marketeers and leaders of
counterfeit rings. 'They have not
done serious work for so long that
they no longer know how,' said one
native friend."
  Recently the Stiles family moved
to Austria where they found "the
situation much different and the re-
lationship between the 'occupying
powers' and the people on a different
basis. Living in Vienna is not too
unlike a measles quarantine, com-
plete even to 'the Red irritations.'
  "As High Commissioner of Aus-
tria, our American General Geoffrey
Keyes is doing one of the most con-
scientious and effective jobs on the
continent. His work toward better
Austro-American relationships, his
generous support of welfare activi-
ties and military abilities truly make
him a man of whom America can be
proud."
        W1WCONSIN ALUMNUS


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