Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Foreigner in Our Midst

"Busy As Bees" by Robert Satterfield for Cleveland News/N.E.A., January 25, 1918
Occasioned by the Cleveland Indians' decision to ditch their Chief Wahoo logo (sort of), I was considering a Spyback Saturday post for today about some dicey cartoons I drew in the '80's about a racist team mascot; but I see that I've already done that one.

So, with so much emphasis in Donald Joffrey Trump's State of the Union address on equating undocumented immigrants with rapists and murderers, I opted instead for these cartoons illustrating the 1918 version of anti-immigrant hysteria.

Back then, the bêtes noires (or schwarze Bestien if you will) were the Germans.
"Fenced In!" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, January, 1918
In this instance, the fear was not entirely unfounded. A number of sensational acts of German sabotage against the U.S. were splashed across the front pages during January, 1918. One of the 65th Congress's first acts after returning from their Christmas vacation was to pass the Sabotage Act, making destruction of property or interfering with the production or shipment of military supplies a federal offense. The law targeted not only German spies and saboteurs, but also antiwar union activists, particularly the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

"Where He Can Be Kept Out of Mischief" by Jay "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, January, 1918
In January, counterintelligence agents of the U.S. Army's Corps of Intelligence Police used one of their informants, an Austrian immigrant to Mexico, to apprehend one such saboteur.
In January 1918, the CIP learned that Altendorf was accompanying one Lothar Witzke from Mexico City to the U.S. border. Witzke was a 22-year-old former lieutenant in the Germany navy, who alternately went by Harry Waberski, Hugo Olson and Pablo Davis, to name just a few of his many aliases. He had long been under CIP surveillance as a suspected German spy and saboteur. During the trip from Mexico City, Witzke had no suspicion that his companion was an Allied double agent taking note of Witzke's every move and indiscretion. At one point, a drunk Witzke let slip bits of information that Altendorf quickly passed on to Butcher. Specifically, Altendorf informed the CIP that Witzke's handlers had sent him back to the United States to incite mutiny within the U.S. Army and various labor unions, conduct sabotage and assassinate American officials.
On or about Feb. 1, 1918, Butcher apprehended Witzke once he crossed the border at Nogales, and a search of Witzke's luggage revealed a coded letter and Russian passport. Capt. John Manley, assistant to Herbert Yardley in the Military Intelligence Division's MI-8 Cryptographic Bureau in Washington, D.C., deciphered the letter, revealing Witzke's German connections. The letter stated: "Strictly Secret! The bearer of this is a subject of the Empire who travels as a Russian under the name of Pablo Waberski. He is a German secret agent." 
"Wharf Rats" by Robert Carter in Philadelphia Press, January, 1918
Also in January, naval intelligence officers caught one Walter Spoermann, clad in an American army uniform, attempting to blow up a magazine at an airfield under construction in Newport News, Virginia. Authorities seized boxes from Spoermann containing "letters, cards, clippings from German newspapers and German books, and glasses and jugs" according to newspaper reports and leading to the arrests of Spoermann's brother and several other German immigrants. That documents found with Spoermann named some New York City women as his associates occasioned banner headlines in the Big Apple, conjuring fears that Tod und das Mädchen had teamed up.

(Men of German heritage in the U.S. were required to register at their local post office, to carry their registration card at all times, and to report any change of address or employment; the same restrictions did not yet apply to women. That oversight would be fixed in April, 1918.) 
"Speed the Parting Guest" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, January, 1918
But I guess Witzke, Spoermann, and all the others had little to fear from the United States legal system, at least according to New York Evening Telegram cartoonist Sidney Greene. While we hadn't built Gitmo yet, Leavenworth and Sing Sing were available.

Okay, seriously: there were internment camps for German-Americans at Hot Springs, North Carolina; Fort Douglas, Utah; and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Greene, however, seems to have believed German saboteurs were being sent to another facility entirely.
"Coddling Them" by Sidney Joseph Greene in New York Evening Telegram, January 17, 1918
Well, I suppose some of those tennis camps can be mighty rigorous.

No comments:

Post a Comment