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Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

The April 27, 2014, broadcast of the CBS news show “60 Minutes” included a segment entitled “Saving the children.”   It recounted the efforts of Nicholas Winton, a British citizen, to save almost 700 Czechoslovakian children, mostly Jewish, from the Nazi German occupation.

Correspondent Bob Simon interviewed Mr. Winton, who is now 104 years old.  During their discussion, Simon asked Winton if he had approached countries other than England to accept children.  Winton replied that he wrote to the United States, but that America would not accept any of the children.  Simon explained that Winton wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and received a reply from the U.S. embassy in London explaining that the U.S. was “unable” to help.

Winton’s letter is now in the National Archives, the agency responsible for preserving the permanently valuable records of the U.S. Government.  The White House referred it to the Department of State for action shortly after receipt.  It was ultimately filed in the Department’s primary file on the issue of refugees displaced by persecution and war in Europe.

Nicholas Winton to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Nicholas Winton to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Included in the file with Winton’s letter is the documentation of the Department’s limited follow-up.  The Department took two steps:

First, it forwarded a copy of the letter to George L. Warren, Executive Secretary of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees.  The Department suggested that organizations represented by the Committee might be interested.

Theodore C. Achilles, Chairman to George L. Warren, Executive Secretary

Theodore C. Achilles, Chairman to George L. Warren, Executive Secretary

Second, it sent the U.S. embassy in London a copy of the letter with the instruction to acknowledge receipt of the letter and “to advise him that the United States Government is unable, in the absence of specific legislation, to permit immigration in excess of that provided for by existing immigration laws,” but that the letter had been forwarded to the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees since it was possible that private organizations might be of help.

Despatch No. 749 to the American Ambassador, London

Despatch No. 749 to the American Ambassador, London

Source: All documents come from File 840.48 Refugees, 1930-39 Central Decimal File (National Archives Identifier 302021), Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State, National Archives, College Park.  The entirety of the “840.48 Refugee” file is on rolls 19-70 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M1284: Records of the Department of State Relating to the Problems of Relief and Refugees in Europe Arising from World War II and Its Aftermath, 1938-1949.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

The unpaid internship program at the National Archives gives undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to experience actual archival work, under the guidance of an experienced archivist.  Selected candidates work in the either the processing or reference sections on various projects that expose them to primary documents, customer service, and holdings maintenance.  This academic term, three students were selected to learn about the National Archives first hand.


Spring 2014 Interns Mary Kendig and Chris Carter (Adam Shery not pictured)

Spring 2014 Interns Mary Kendig and Chris Carter (Adam Shery not pictured)


Chris Carter (Master’s Student in Library Science at the University of Maryland College Park)
“I am an intern in Records Services at the National Archives in College Park.  Before starting work in January, my experience was in smaller archives without the large quantities of records found here at the National Archives.  I knew describing the records here in College Park would be like nothing I had done before and so I was eager to learn what I could from my co-workers here at the National Archives.  Along the way I provided accession-level description for the records of the United States Army, Pacific, the Department of Education, and the Forest Service, learning to describe these records for the benefit of researchers.  I learned to look through the folder titles for catalog-compliant titles and through the contents of the folders for creating organizations, not always an easy task.  While browsing these records I came across access and use restrictions, learning the intricacies of FOIA and how it affects user access of the records.  I have already learned a lot in my two months here, and I continue to look forward to learning more here at the National Archives in College Park.”

Mary Kendig (Sophomore in History at the University of Maryland College Park)

“As an intern, I would shadow different archivists as they helped researchers locate records with finding aids in the research room.  Eventually, after learning how to locate records and use the archival database system, I was able to help individuals myself.  When I was not working in the research room, I answered emails and letter requests regarding the military textual records.  This job allowed me to work through the stacks and the physical records of the archives, which I enjoyed thoroughly.  Requests ranged from asking for copies of OSS Files to locating soldier’s Silver Star or Purple Heart General Orders.  It was overwhelming for me to hold original military documents.  Some of my favorite documents included radio transmissions and war criminal records.

My exciting internship at the National Archives II truly affected my college experience.  It enabled me to work with military records and implement the information I learned in my college history courses. Due to my experience, I plan to enter the archival career.  I would recommend the National Archives to every student as an internship program.  Even if one is not interested in the military, general history, or civilian records, there are other opportunities at the Archives; these opportunities include human resources, accounting, business administration, and basic labor positions.  The atmosphere is ideal for beginning and advanced interns because all the employees are pleasant and well qualified.  Regardless of the atmosphere and the experience, working at NARA II is just plain fun.  It’s rare to find a college internship that’s enjoyable and truly engages your educational goals; the National Archives fits both criteria.”

Adam Shery (Master’s Student in History at Monmouth University in New Jersey)

“My spring 2014 internship at NARA has been a very meaningful and educational experience.  While working on Dr. Tina Ligon’s processing team, I have engaged in a great deal of research, description, and catalog entries.  All of this has increased my knowledge of NARA’s work and the practice of archival science. I have long considered archival research to be where history starts, and NARA is a great location at which to be starting my career.”

To learn more about the unpaid internship program, please visit the Archival Internships page on

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park. This blog post is derived from an article published on the web site “American Diplomacy: Foreign Service Despatches and Periodic Reports on U.S. Foreign Policy”

An essential aspect of the U.S. foreign policy program, especially since the 1930s, is the use of cultural representatives abroad. Having major musicians perform overseas under the auspices of the U.S. government is a major component of the cultural program. Planning for such events did not always proceed smoothly. In June 1974, the attempt to arrange for one such event led to a unique bureaucratic response, if not the specific performance itself.

In late June 1974, the U.S. embassy in the Philippines informed the Department of State of the impending inauguration of a new folk art theater, part of a cultural complex on Manila Bay. The embassy reported that while the Philippine Government had invited ministers of culture from a number of friendly countries, and the embassy expected several “significant” attendees, the U.S. had not received such an invitation because it had no cabinet level equivalent.

The embassy further reported that the noted pianist Van Cliburn had agreed to perform concerts on July 3 and 4, just a matter of days away. In order to give Cliburn an official imprimatur, the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs requested that the U.S. designate the performer as a “special cultural representative” or similar title. The ambassador, William Sullivan, noting that Cliburn was a “local favorite,” endorsed the idea, writing that “This strikes me as an easy and painless gesture for the U.S. Government to make in order to earn a useful return of Philippine appreciation.” Given the timing, however, he noted that the issue needed to be resolved quickly. [1]

The Department’s same-day response was short: “Regret any USG designation or special title representing USG would require Presidential appointment.” [2] At the time, President Nixon was traveling in the USSR.

The embassy responded the next day with a telegram filled with frustration. Referring to his earlier message, Ambassador Sullivan acknowledged recognizing that formal designation for Cliburn required a Presidential appointment. “That is why I sent Ref A to Washington.” He also noted that some designations did not require outside approval and could be handled “expeditiously.” Furthermore, Sullivan explained, he assumed that communication with the President was possible even though he was in the USSR and that White House staff knew how to make such arrangements and that the Department could “take the limited initiative to accomplish the designation.” He closed with “Please advise soonest result of mountainous labors directed toward this musical mouse.” [3]

The Department responded the same day with a list of requirements that had to fulfilled for White House consideration of the proposal. First, was the need for an official invitation from the Philippine government to the U.S. government requesting the designation of a Presidential representative (but not naming any specific person). Upon receipt of that invitation, the Department indicated that it would pursue the matter “vigorously” based on the initial rationale and any further justification the embassy wished to provide. In addition to the invitation, the embassy was told to provide information on dates; related events, such as presentation of credentials; who from other countries was expected to attend; inclusion of spouse, if appropriate; other noteworthy aspects of the opening of the new folk art theater; and whether Cliburn’s already-planned presence was as an official guest of the Philippine government and if his performances were commercial or non-commercial in nature. The Department’s message closed “We have your interests at heart.” [4]

In response to the Department’s instruction, the embassy responded with this telegram:

1974 Manila 07657, June 27, 1974, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979, Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State, NAID 654098

1974 Manila 07657, June 27, 1974, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979, Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State, NAID 654098.  The document in the central file contains no drafting information, but a retired Foreign Service Office with personal experience working with Ambassador Sullivan told me that it reads like a telegram he would have written.


There are no further telegrams relating to the matter in the Central Foreign Policy File in the National Archives. Since the embassy admitted defeat, it seems likely the subject was dropped.

[1] 1974 Manila 07539, June 25, 1974, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979, Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State. All the telegrams cited can be viewed on-line through the web site under the heading of “Diplomatic Records.”

[2] 1974 State 136706, June 25, 1974, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979, Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State.

[3] 1974 Manila 07594, June 26, 1974, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979, Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State.

[4] 1974 State 138046, June 26, 1974, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979, Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State.

Today’s post is written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver

“This is only one more step in our national disintegration, a loss of respect for things sacred to our history. This guardianship has been entrusted to you and it’s high time you did something about it.”

It was August 1959 and an issue which the National Park Service thought it had resolved 11 months earlier erupted once again as angry citizens across the country were under the impression that the final scene in North by Northwest had actually been filmed on Mount Rushmore. Even though 2014 marks the 55th anniversary of the film’s premiere, this saga can still be seen in a general correspondence file for the Mount Rushmore National Monument within our Record Group 79 National Park Service (NPS) holdings here at the National Archives at Denver (National Archives Identifier 651765). Entitled “A-9027 Motion Picture North by Northwest,” the folder includes correspondence from NPS officials, MGM studio officials, politicians, and the general public that all comes together to detail an interesting bit of Hollywood history right here in our region.

As with any good Hollywood drama the story begins earlier, in this case the summer of 1958. Charles Coleman, the North by Northwest location manager, wrote the NPS inquiring about permits to film on Mount Rushmore. He lobbies hard in the letter, adding near the end that in regards to the plot of the film, “we sincerely believe it will be symbolically and dramatically satisfying to the people of the United States that this great National Memorial, standing there in all its granite glory, becomes the very stumbling block of those who would undermine our country.” Inquiries were made to the NPS Region 5 Director for his experiences when Alfred Hitchcock filmed at the Statue of Liberty (for the film Saboteur, 1942) and the reply was positive, leading the Region 2 Assistant Director to opine that “we think we can take Mr. Coleman at his word when he says he will treat the memorial with the utmost respect.” Russell Apple, park historian, was not so sure. Noting that a similar filming proposal at the Lincoln Memorial caused several cabinet members and congressmen to “raise hell,” he worried that “similar foolishness at MR [Mount Rushmore] would bring a storm of criticism on NPS heads.” There were going to have to be conditions.

Filming Proposal from MGM, 1958

Filming Proposal from MGM, 1958

Before filming on location in September 1958 an agreement was struck between the NPS and MGM. The intent was clear. No scenes of violence were to be shown on the sculpture or the talus slope, the area below the sculpture, or with those areas in the background regardless if done on location or a studio mockup. Within days of filming, however, concerned citizens alerted by newspaper articles began writing the NPS regarding the use of Mount Rushmore in the film. “Just who does the English director Alfred Hitchcock think he is that he can send another Englishman running up and down Lincoln’s face?” “Are you going to allow these crazy Hollywood producers to desecrate our National Park?” The NPS patiently replied to these letters with the details of the studio agreement and sought to assure the citizens that the film would treat the monument tastefully. In October 1958 Charles Humberger, the former superintendent of Mount Rushmore, and Don Spalding, the acting superintendent, flew to Los Angeles to meet with Hitchcock and his staff to further discuss these concerns. MGM pressed for use of the monument as a background in the violence scenes but were flatly denied. MGM then proposed to use the monument as a background but out of focus. Once again the request was shot down with Spalding and Coleman reiterating the NPS position that the filming and ultimate editing could not lead viewers to “believe that violence occurred on or near the sculpture, talus slope, or public use area.” They pointed out that a mockup of the area could be used as long as the characters only move through and no violence occurs. The studio apparently relented and agreed as Humberger and Spalding returned to South Dakota reporting that they “held the line very well indeed.” Four months later MGM wrote to Leon Evans, the new superintendent of Mount Rushmore, to confirm how the NPS wanted the credits acknowledgement to read. Everything seemed to be on track, until that is the agency screened the finished film.

Despite the agreement, scenes of violence were indeed filmed on Mount Rushmore mockups and further violent scenes used Mount Rushmore as the background. Stating that there was no intention to stop MGM from showing the film, on July 9 the NPS pressed to “make the record clear on what the agreement provided and who failed to live up to it.” On July 28, the film’s official release date, a formal protest was lodged by the Acting Secretary of the Interior requesting that the NPS acknowledgment in the film credits be removed. There was little else the NPS could do as yet another wave of angry correspondence arrived to the agency. Reflecting on the whole affair, NPS Assistant Director Hillory Tolson wrote in August 1959, “The crass violation of its permit by the company was enlightening, as well as distasteful, and will be useful in guiding us in future negotiations over motion picture permits.”

The most prescient voice in the file is that of F.C. Christopherson, editor of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. As the sole letter in favor of the film, Christopherson argued that he saw nothing derogatory toward the monument and even went on to add that “obviously this picture is worth its weight in gold to Rushmore from a publicity viewpoint.” Fifty-five years later, as North by Northwest has slipped into the canon of classic film, the only outrage left over the inclusion of Mount Rushmore in it seems to be in this lone correspondence file in our collection.

Letter from South Dakota Senator Mundt to NPS Director Wirth, offering to enter the North by Northwest correspondence into the Congressional Record

All documents referenced and quotes come from RG 79 Records of the National Park Service, Accession NRG-079-99-174, “General Correspondence, Mixed, Mount Rushmore National Monument A-7619 to C-34,” NAID 651765

Today’s post is written by Chris Naylor, Director of Textual Records for Research Services, Washington DC.

The Nazis and their collaborators engaged in widespread and systematic confiscation of art and cultural property between 1933 and 1945 through various means including theft, coercion, and forced sales. These activities resulted in the displacement of millions of items of cultural property. During and after the war, the Allies undertook major efforts to identify and restitute the property to its rightful owners. In recent years, the international community has recognized the critical need to ensure access to relevant archival materials dispersed across institutions throughout the world in order to facilitate provenance and claims research to ensure looted art and cultural property is identified and returned to the rightful owners.

On May 5, 2011, the National Archives launched the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property, which is a collaboration of national and other archival institutions with records that pertain to Nazi-Era cultural property. These archival institutions, along with expert national and international organizations, are working together to extend public access to the widely-dispersed records through this single internet portal that links researchers directly to the digitized records and online finding aids of the 18 participating institutions. The Portal enables families to research their losses; provenance researchers to locate important documentation; and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period. This collaborative project was established to fulfill the objectives of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the 2000 Vilnius Forum Declaration and the 2009 Terezin Declaration, particularly to make all such records publicly accessible.

The Portal links researchers to archival materials consisting of descriptions of records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property that was stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost during the Nazi era. These records, which are in many different languages, include Nazi documentation, governmental records from 1933 onwards, inventories of recovered artworks, post-war claims records and auction house and art dealer records. Cultural property documented in these records ranges from artworks to books and libraries, religious objects, antiquities, archival documents, carvings, silver and more.

The records that are available on the Portal from the U.S. National Archives (NARA) document the activities of several U.S. Government agencies involved in the identification and recovery of looted assets, including the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and U.S. occupation forces in Germany and Austria. The materials also contain captured German records regarding the seizure of cultural property, such as the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) albums, card file, and related photographs. The records have been described in NARA’s online catalog. Many of the records have additionally been digitized and made available for free online by our partner (Holocaust Era Assets records). Records that have not yet been digitized are available for research at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

These records were created or received by the U.S. Government during and after World War II as part of its investigations into cultural assets that were looted or otherwise lost during the war. Many of the records available through the Portal highlight the work of the U.S. Army Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFA&A), commonly known as the “Monuments Men.” In total, the records of the U.S. National Archives that can be found through the Portal include over 2.3 million pages of documents, and they are available for your research today.