Identification card issued to Roland Velz on April 10, 1933. — Courtesy of the Velz family.

October 10, 1933

American Citizens Attacked

Roland Velz was one of several American citizens assaulted by Nazi storm troopers or German mobs in 1933.

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Roland Velz, American citizen attacked, George Messersmith, William Dodd, Edwin Dakin, Edward Dahlberg, Ludwig Klauber, Nathaniel Wolff, Julius Fuchs, Henry Sattler, Max Schussler, Leon Shaff, Solomon Friedman, Philip Zuckerman, Walter Orloff, Daniel Mulvihill, H.V. Kaltenborn

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On October 10, 1933, an American citizen, Roland Velz, was beaten by Nazi storm troopers for neglecting to salute a passing Nazi procession.

In 1933 alone, American embassies and consulates reported at least 36 individual physical attacks on American citizens in Germany. Uniformed Nazi brownshirts or German mobs beat Americans—tourists, businessmen, and expatriates living in Germany for work or marriage—or effectively kidnapped or arrested them. The attacks were almost all unprovoked or for such “offenses” as failing to salute the German flag, for taking photographs, or for failing to submit to extortion.

On March 14th, US Consul George Messersmith reported to the State Department on the early attacks: “It is interesting to note that all of the above Americans are Jews with the exception of Mr. Dakin.  The Consulate General is satisfied that in every one of these cases the attack upon the persons and homes of these Americans was unprovoked and brought about through the assumption that they were Jews. It is not believed that the attacks were made upon them as Americans or as foreigners, but on the grounds that they were Jews.” Messersmith and other members of the embassy staff—as well as consulates throughout Germany—protested these attacks vigorously to the German government.  

In his report to the State Department, Messersmith also expressed his appreciation of American press coverage of the attacks, believing that such coverage might result in moderation by the Nazis. Nonetheless, abuse of Americans—particularly of Jews—continued, and the embassy sent affidavits and reports on attacks to the State Department almost daily for the next month.

Attacks on Americans occurred largely in March and April 1933, then trickled off, only to peak again in August, notably with a widely reported attack on Dr. Daniel Mulvihill on August 15th after he refused to perform the Hitler salute. Among the many incidents reported were attacks on Ludwig and Jean Klauber on March 10th and Edward Dahlberg on March 11th, Philip Zuckerman on July 16th, Rolf Kaltenborn (the son of American newsman H.V. Kaltenborn and a non-Jew) on September 1st, and Roland Velz on October 10th .

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Typically, daily newspapers reported news the morning after it occurred. However, some papers were printed in multiple editions, including evening news. If you are using an evening paper, begin your search on the same day as the event being researched.


October-November 1933: News articles, editorials, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and political cartoons regarding the assault on Roland Velz.

March-November 1933: News articles, editorials, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and political cartoons regarding attacks on American citizens in Nazi Germany. See the description above for several precise dates.

Bibliography

Dodd, William E., Jr. and Martha Dodd. Ambassador Dodd's diary, 1933-1938. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1941.

Larsen, Erik. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin. New York: Crown, c2011.

Metcalfe, Philip. 1933. New York: Perennial Library, 1989.

Nagorski, Andrew. Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazis Rise to Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

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