Murrow at the Institute of International Education (IIE), 1932-1935

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Murrow as Assistant Director of Institute of International Education (IIE), 1932-1935

Edward R. Murrow writing about the unwillingness of CBS staff to volunteer for IIE, 1957In 1957, a resigned Murrow commented wrily about youngsters in radio and television not wanting to volunteer for IIE's new public relations committee.

Four years earlier, he summarized his own work for IIE and the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars in the 1930s as follows:

"In 1932, while considering an offer to go to China for a West Coast lumber company, was offered and accepted position as Assistant Director, Institute of International Education. This organization was jointly financed by Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundation, and was a sort of unofficial educational embassy, bringing foreign students to this country on fellowships, sending Americans abroad, arranging exchange professorships, publishing monographs on equivalence of degrees, etc.
Late in 1933 became, without pay, the Assistant Secretary of the Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars. During the next two years handled all correspondence and financial affairs for this committee of distinguished educators. We raised and spent something of the order of a million-and-a-half dollars - brought to this country nearly a hundred German scholars who had been displaced by Hitler. It was the most personally satisfying undertaking in which I have ever engaged, and contributed more to my knowledge of politics and international relations than any similar period in my life."
Edward R. Murrow, Outline Script Murrow's Career, December 18, 1953

Both documents barely hint at Murrow's longstanding commitment to and volunteering for IIE up to his death in 1965. They also barely reveal how his years at IIE and the Emergency Committee had been the perfect training ground for him to become the analytical, international, and well-connected broadcaster with a neck for summing up people and issues; work that firmly placed him in the Eastern Establishment, in U.S. and international government circles, and among the leading academic and political figures of his time in Europe and the U.S. It gave him an early appreciation of what Hitler's rise to power would mean for democracy, academic freedom, and Jews, and the work further exposed him to radio broadcasting at CBS for which Murrow had already organized and hosted radio programs as president of NSFA.

Induction into the Establishment: IIE and Stephen P. Duggan

Stephen Pierce Duggan, one of three IIE founders in 1919, had met Edward R. Murrow when the latter had been president of the National Student Federation of America, an organization co-founded by Duggan's older daughter in 1926. Duggan was a professor emeritus from the College of the City of New York where he had founded the departments of politics, education, and adult education. But he was also a lifelong reformer and peace activist who strongly believed that education and international contacts can foster understanding and peace. In his capacity as first president of IIE, Duggan managed to establish non-immigrant student visas, for example, without which the 1921 Immigration Act would have rendered international student exchanges impossible.

In the winter of 1931/32, Duggan hired Murrow as assistant director of IIE, which, at the time, was largely funded by the Carnegie Foundation. While Duggan set policy, traveled and lectured nationally and in Europe, Murrow's task was to run the office, evaluate programs and potential lecturers, give speeches, analyze foreign educational systems, write memoranda, travel, and organize various national and international projects.

A member of the Council of Foreign Relations and on the editorial board of its publication, Foreign Affairs, Duggan invited Murrow into his family and introduced him to the important clubs, institutions, and the Eastern Establishment. Murrow soon became the youngest member of the Council of Foreign Relations, probably the most influential foreign policy body outside of the U.S. State Department and, in those years, backed liberally by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The British counterpart to the Council was the Royal Institute of International Affairs also called Chatham House in London, UK. Murrow gave a talk at Chatham House on 'The International Aspects of Broadcasting' to British diplomatic and broadcasting circles in the fall of 1937. John Coatman, BBC's head of news, introduced Murrow to the closed meeting at Chatham House. Its director general was Sir Ivison Stevenson Macadam (1894-1974) who was a friend of Murrow's from his international travels as president of NSFA. Macadam himself was a co-founder and former president of the British National Union of Students.

Murrow and the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars, 1933-1935

In January 1933, Hitler became chancellor of Germany. On May 10, 1933, German students burnt tens of thousands of books. In response, in May 1933, 21 heads of U.S. universities and colleges founded the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars. The committee pledged to assist German scholars, who had been dismissed because of their politics or religion, in finding academic employment in the U.S. Stephen Duggan became its first secretary and second chairman and Edward R. Murrow its first assistant secretary, a position he would hold until 1935. For these first two years, IIE delegated Murrow to work mostly for the committee. Housed in IIE's office building, the committee eventually came to assist 335 scholars out of approximately 6,000 applications over the next 12 years.1 Murrow's tasks in the first two years included finding positions and funding for applicants, arranging logistics, visas, negotiating with governments not the least of which were reticent U.S. consular offices abroad, interviewing candidates, and trying to help refugees with their daily difficulties.

Invitation by Stephen Duggan for a dinner of former members of Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, 1948To carry out this work, Murrow needed to be up to date on issues, international politics, and the situation unfolding in Europe. He had to collect, assess and condense extensive information and analyze it, he had to work as administrator, speak, and write reports. He was called upon to assess particular circumstances and individuals for lectureships, keep up an extensive correspondence, and make and maintain contacts with such scholars as Albert Einstein, Emmy Noether, Reinhard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Alfred Cohn, Martin Buber, Thomas Mann, Felix Friedlander, and Harold Lasky among others.

Of the approximately 100 scientists placed during Murrow's time as the Emergency Committee's assistant secretary, approximately half were German citizens of Jewish confession. The remaining scholars were of other religious or atheist background. According to Murrow's own estimate, almost 98% of the funding paying for individual salaries and stipends came from Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee or Jewish private financiers. Edward R. Murrow's Albert Einstein Commemorative Award acceptance speech in 1957
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The Committee's European counterparts were the Academic Assistance Council in England and the International Student Service (ISS), a student organization in Geneva that assisted in organizing the emigration of young people. Its general secretary, Dr. Walter Maria Kotschnig, was another friend of Murrow's he had met during his years at NSFA, and they stayed close for years to come. The two collaborated rescue efforts between ISS and IIE. When the Austrian born Kotschnig had to emigrate with his wife to the United States because of his political views, Kotschnig ended up working for the Emergency Committee and later served as IIE trustee from 1947 to 1952. Soon Kotschnig published several books, taught at a number of colleges, participated in the foundational conferences for the United Nations, and eventually worked for the U.S. government in various international organizations.

Only twenty two years later did Murrow publicly talk about his work for the Emergency Committee in his acceptance speech for the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, New York (see page 4/5 of speech).

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1 The committee's name was changed to the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars when Germany began its military occupation of other countries.