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George Sylvester Viereck Papers

 Collection
Identifier: msc0099

Scope and Contents

The George Sylvester Viereck papers are comprised of incoming and outgoing correspondence, drafts of magazine articles, numerous newspaper clippings and magazine articles, several photographs, and indictments and briefs relating to Viereck's trials. Viereck's correspondents include many New York literary figures and major political personalities of the United States and Europe.

Dates

  • 1896-1959

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

George Sylvester Viereck was born in Munich on December 31, 1884, and was brought to this country at the age of eleven. His father, a Socialist refugee, was active in the United States in lecturing and organizing German societies. George Viereck's first book of poetry, Ninevah and Other Poems, was published in 1907. He also wrote Strangest Friendship: Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, and, with Paul Eldridge, My First Two Thousand Years: The Autobiography of the Wandering Jew, Salome, the Wandering Jewess, Glimpses of the Great, among other books. In September 1915 he married Margaret Edith Hein. They had two sons, Peter and George. They later divorced when Viereck was jailed during World War II. When World War I broke out, Viereck was already fairly well known for his verse, which appeared in both liberal and conservative periodicals. In 1912, he wrote "Few poets have met with more instant recognition that I. I have given a new lyric impulse to my country. I have loosened the tongue of the young American poets." Later he came to believe that poets could not thrive in America, and at the age of twenty-seven, decided to write no more. He said that his temperament was more dynamic than aesthetic, and once proclaimed the Brooklyn Bridge a more remarkable achievement than the best sonnet. He first came under attack for pro-German leanings as editor of the magazine Fatherland in 1914. When the United States entered the war, he changed its name to The American Monthly and turned its teachings against war in general. He urged that the objections of German-born Americans against shedding their relatives' blood be respected by having them serve in some other capacity than as soldiers in the trenches. The Author's League, the Poetry Society, and other organizations expelled him, but after the war's emotions died down he began to appear again on lecture platforms. In 1931, he returned to writing the poetry he had once forsworn. Before World War II he was a correspondent for a Munich newspaper and a free-lance writer for American magazines. He once described himself as doing what he could to better relations between the United States and Germany. On the walls of his Riverside Drive study in New York he had photographs of Hitler, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, and Kaiser Wilhelm. All three, he said in an interview, had been his friends. "But I am no longer on speaking terms with some of them," he added. In 1929 he had written of Hitler, "This man, if he lives, will make history." Viereck was arrested in New York in October 1941 on charges of withholding from the State Department information about his pro-German propaganda activities, but the Supreme Court reversed this conviction on the grounds that he was not compelled to report his activities "except as an agent of a foreign government." During and after World War II, Viereck served three years and ten months in the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. He began his term of one to five years on July 31 after an appeal to the Supreme Court failed. He was released May 17, 1947. His son George was killed in Italy while serving with the U.S. Infantry on the Anzio beachhead. His older son, Peter, once received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. George Sylvester Viereck died at Mount Holyoke Hospital on March 18, 1962, at the age of 77. From Publisher's Weekly, April 9, 1962 and New York Herald Tribune, Wednesday, March 21, 1962.

Extent

3.25 linear feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Poet, novelist, journalist, and publicist for pro-German causes. Correspondence, drafts of magazine articles, photos, clippings of newspaper and magazine articles, typescripts of poems in German and in English, notebooks and pamphlets, a psychiatric report, legal documents, statements in court, and related material.

Method of Acquisition

Most of the collection (boxes 1 to 5) was purchased from George A. Van Nosdall in 1962; a further two boxes (6-7) were added as a gift from H. Keith Thompson in 1981.

Related Materials

Microfilm: Correspondence with Oswald Garrison Villard and George E. Woodberry. Originals at Harvard University, Houghton Library. Gift of Neil M. Johnson. Located in Main Media Services, film 29925.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5921
319-335-5900 (Fax)