WHM: Personal Accounts Exercise Question 2 - ?



Be the Historian!

How does the form of the personal account influence content?

Read the following two texts and then look at the commentary.


Letter from Mark Kistler to his cousin, Aleta Kistler Dresden, March 20, 1939

Dear Aleta,

Another American and I left Frankfurt on the 5th of March. We went as far as Bayreuth by train, and then we started to bike. The weather was not particularly favorable, but nevertheless we managed to get somewhere. We spent two interesting evenings in Eger and Karlsbad. In Eger we saw Wallenstein’s (of Schiller fame) home. Karlsbad is world-famous for its natural baths. From Karlsbad we went through some more Sudeten backwoods until we came to Czech territory and Prague.

On the first day in the Czech capital all was calm and peaceful, but the next day things began to happen. In the evening we saw many street riots between Czechs and German students. Some were all bloody and several were knocked unconscious. The next morning we went to see the old Town Hall and while there we heard a lot of noise, looked out of the windows, and there were the Nazi troops in trucks, tanks, motorcycles, wagons, etc. At first the Czechs got sore, blocked the streets, shook their fists at the troops, sang their national anthem, but when they saw more and more German troops pouring in, they saw their cause was hopeless and went back to their work. On the following day there was a large military parade.

Prague is a beautiful city with close to one million inhabitants. The Czechs treated us fine and envied us being Americans. Prague has a touch of America—you see American cars, gasoline, radios, machinery, and movies. We saw two American movies in the English language here. It seemed like home. After six days in the fair city our money got dangerously low, so we decided to scram. However, all train service was cut off and we were also told that the frontier was closed. We hopped on our bikes and all went fine until we came to the border. The officials did not want to allow us to go farther, but finally, after seeing our American passports and being convinced that we had no Czech money on which to live, they let us pass.

From the border to Dresden we had to cross the Sudeten mountains. At one stage we had to push our bikes uphill for 10 kilometers. I felt like giving up the ship, but finally we reached the top and coasted downhill again. By the way, we rode on the left hand side of the street going to Prague, and returning we obeyed the signs which said “Rechts fahren.” In Bohemia we saw many wandering gypsies. They live in wagons-on-wheels drawn by an old shaky horse.

I hope you are fully recovered from your illness by now. In Prague I caught the sniffles although I am in running order again. On the fifth I met Betty by accident in the Wuerzburg Bahnhof. She was on her way to Italy with two other Americans. Seydlitz wrote me a card yesterday. He is vacationing in Austria.

That would be great if you would come to Switzerland this summer. I’ll hang around till late July or beginning August. Don’t worry about war. America wouldn’t be involved right away at any rate and with an American passport you are always safe. My love to Dickinson.

Your cousin, Mark

Three American Diplomatic Dispatches

860F.00/691: Telegram
The Minister in Czechoslovakia (Carr) to the Secretary of State
PRAHA, March 17, 1939-11 p. m.
[Received March 17; 11:40 a. m.]

51. In recapitulation of my several telegrams of the last few days permit me to review as follows the present situation in this area.

Bohemia and Moravia have been occupied by German military forces. They have been declared by the Reichs Chancellor to be a protectorate of the Reich and to constitute a part of greater Germany. According to this same declaration their head of state must enjoy the confidence of the Reichs Chancellor, and their foreign affairs and military protection are taken over by the Reich. German military and civil authorities have assumed administrative power in the provinces. The Czechoslovak Foreign Office has been closed.

The Reichs Chancellor is reported to have accepted the request of the Slovak President that he take Slovakia under his protection.

Indirect reports from Ruthenia, which is now completely cut off from Praha indicate that that province is partially occupied by Hungarian troops and that there are no authorities left who could be considered as representing the power of the Czechoslovak State.

There are consequently no officials of the Czechoslovak Government to which I am accredited with whom I can maintain relations for the protection of the interests of the United States and its citizens.

In these circumstances I respectfully request instructions in regard to my future course.

860F.00/690a: Telegram
The Acting Secretary of State (Welles) to the Minister in Czechoslovakia (Carr)
WASHINGTON, March 17, 1939- 6 p. m.

15. At the press conference today I issued the following statement of the position of this Government toward recent developments in Czechoslovakia: The Government of the United States has on frequent occasions stated its conviction that only through international support of a program of order based upon law can world peace be assured.

This Government, founded upon and dedicated to the principles of human liberty and of democracy, cannot refrain from making known this country’s condemnation of the acts which have resulted in the temporary extinguishment of the liberties of a free and independent people with whom, from the day when the Republic of Czechoslovakia attained its independence, the people of the United States have maintained specially close and friendly relations.

The position of the Government of the United States has been made consistently clear. It has emphasized the need for respect for the sanctity of treaties and of the pledged word, and for non-intervention by any nation in the domestic affairs of other nations; and it has on repeated occasions expressed its condemnation of a policy of military aggression.

It is manifest that acts of wanton lawlessness and of arbitrary force are threatening world peace and the very structure of modern civilization. The imperative need for the observance of the principles advocated by this Government has been clearly demonstrated by the developments which have taken place during the past three days.
We hope that you may be able to make this available to the Czechoslovak press and that the latter may find a way to give it publicity.


860F.00/692: Telegram
The Minister in Czechoslovakia (Carr) to the Secretary of State
PRAHA, March 18, 1939- 6 p.m.
[Received March 18- 2:55 p.m.]

52. Your No.15, March 17. The entire press here is under strict German control, the Gestapo is everywhere and it would be virtual suicide for anyone to publish the statement unless indeed it first appeared in Berlin press.


Now read these documents with commentary