"I Must Be a Part of This War": A German American's Fight against Hitler and Nazism

"I Must Be a Part of This War": A German American's Fight against Hitler and Nazism

"I Must Be a Part of This War": A German American's Fight against Hitler and Nazism

"I Must Be a Part of This War": A German American's Fight against Hitler and Nazism

Synopsis

Kurt Frank Korf's story is one of the most unusual to come out of World War II. Although German-Americans were America's largest ethnic group, and German-Americans - including thousands of native-born Germans - fought bravely in all theaters, there are few full first-person accounts by German- Americans of their experiences during the 1930s and 1940s. Drawing on his correspondence and on oral histories and interviews with Korf, Patricia Kollander paints a fascinating portrait of a privileged young man forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1937 because the infamous Nuremburg Laws had relegated him to the status of "second-degree mixed breed" (Korf had one Jewish grandparent). Settling in New York City, Korf became an FBI informant, watching pro-Nazi leaders like Fritz Kuhn and the German-American Bund as they moved among the city's large German immigrant community. Soon after, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in Germany as an intelligence officer during the Battle of the Bulge, and as a prisoner of war camp administrator. After the war, Korf stayed on as a U.S. government attorney in Berlin and Munich, working to hunt down war criminals, and lent his expertise in the effort to determine the authenticity of Joseph Goebbels's diaries. Kurt Frank Korf died in 2000. Kollander not only draws a detailed portrait of this unique figure; she also provides a rich context for exploring responses to Nazism in Germany, the German-American position before and during the war, the community's later response to Nazism and its crimes, and the broader issues of ethnicity, religion, political ideology, and patriotism in 20th-century America.

Excerpt

During the summer of 1999 I was called to the office the History Department chair, Professor John O’Sullivan. He had a box of documents on his desk from the World War II period. He explained that they were to be donated to the Special Collections division of our library. The donor, K. Frank Korf, wished us to look them over and assess their value. As John and I examined the documents, we were impressed by their diversity: they included records of an inmate at the concentration camp at Flossenbürg, along with Korf’s military records. We wished to know how Korf had collected them. We asked to talk to him about them, and he agreed.

We met K. Frank Korf and his wife, Rita, in their Boca Raton apartment. Korf was in his ninetieth year. He was diminutive and stooped, and he walked slowly and with difficulty. But his memory was remarkably clear, and his wit made the visit very enjoyable. The more John and I talked to Korf, the more fascinated by him we became. With Korf’s permission, John and I began to work on a book on Korf’s life and accomplishments. Thus began a series of weekly interviews that extended over one year. At the end of nearly every interview, Korf said, “I now have something for you.” He would get up, shuffle into his office, and pull out several folders full of documents. The more we interviewed Korf, and the more we examined his documents, the more John and I realized that we had stumbled upon a veritable treasure trove.

But three months into the project, events took an unexpected turn. John was diagnosed with cancer. As he recovered from sur-

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