Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Today -100: October 22, 1919: Of industrial conferences, war crimes, and the sound of German gutturals

The industrial conference is not going well. All proposals for collective bargaining and for arbitration of the steel strike are voted down. I’ll spare you the details, but the employers’ representatives are being total dicks. Which should mean the conference ends in disarray but it’s saved, for now, by a letter which Pres. Wilson totally wrote himself to Secretary of Labor William Wilson. Sec. Wilson doesn’t read it out, but makes it known that the letter exists and he’ll deploy the 600-word missive if anyone steps out of line.

Pres. Wilson, we are told, wrote (dictated) that letter against the advice of his doctors, and is now totally tired out (I assume the letter was actually written by First Lady Edith Wilson).

The French are demanding that 600 Germans be tried for war crimes, including Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria,

accused of being the first army commander to use poison gas. Rupey says he will never surrender.

The French claim to have foiled a plot for an uprising in Alsace on November 9th, timed to coincide with a Communist uprising in Germany.

NY Mayor John Hylan bans the Star Opera Company’s performance of German opera, so the theatre was dark last night. The company appeals to the state Supreme Court, where the city argues that the ban is proper because the peace treaty hasn’t been signed. The performance was to have been Albert Lortzing’s Zar und Zimmermann, a comic opera. The American Legion Weekly says “it might be said simply that we do not like the sound of German gutturals. The trouble with German opera in German is that our mind hears not the theme so much as the shrieks of the Lusitania’s dying. Its measured cadences picture not tender human emotions, but a firing squad marching at the goose step upon defenseless women and children. If it conjures up sequestered sylvan glades, we see lying thereon the moaning victims of poison gas.” Everyone’s a critic.

The NYT says the Germans have only themselves to blame for the hatred brought on by their “obstinate defiance of American opinion” in trying to sing in German.

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