Viereck, George Sylvester, 1884-1962

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1884-12-31
Death 1962-03-18
US
German, English

Biographical notes:

Contains correspondence from Margaret H. Viereck, wife of George S. Viereck.

From the description of Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1914-1941. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155895116

George Sylvester Viereck was a leading pro-German propagandist in America from before World War I to World War II. He was a nationally known poet, journalist, and novelist.

From the description of Translations from the English [into German] of some of the poems of George Sylvester Viereck, and carbon letter to Upton Sinclair, 1910-1937. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 39245631

Author and editor.

From the description of Literary manuscripts of George Sylvester Viereck, 1955. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83754145

George Viereck: poet, novelist, journalist, biographer, and pro-German publicist; biographer of Edward M. House; in March, 1942 convicted of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act and sentenced to prison.

From the description of George Sylvester Viereck papers, 1924-1938 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702169142

"George Sylvester Viereck," http://www.anb.org (accessed September 27, 2006). Biographical information derived from the collection.

German-American poet, writer, and propagandist, George Sylvester Viereck, was born December 31, 1884, in Munich, Germany; died March 18, 1962, in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Prior to World War I, Viereck enjoyed some literary fame as a poet. His German heritage became a focal point of his prolific and varied career as a poet, propagandist, interviewer, essayist, playwright, and novelist, and he publicized his pro-German sentiments in a variety of self-run periodicals during World War I and World War II. Viereck maintained that bias due to his political activities prevented publication and fair reception of his work.

After the war, Viereck continued to write: in addition to his journalistic activities for the Saturday Evening Post and his work for his own periodical, Viereck published a study of propaganda, Spreading Germs of Hate (1930) and The Strangest Friendship in History: Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House (1932). Viereck also became known for his interviews with famous contemporaries, many of whom he numbered among his personal friends, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, George Bernard Shaw, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein.

World War II renewed Viereck’s propagandistic activities; he wrote and worked for the German-American Economic Bulletin and helped found Today’s Challenge in 1939. Viereck’s public defense of Nazism and many of its policies during this period led to his arrest in October 1941 for violation of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. In 1942, Viereck was convicted and sent to prison, only to be released a year later when the Supreme Court overturned the decision. Yet in 1943, Viereck was again convicted and imprisoned until 1947. His incarceration inspired many poems and a memoir, Men Into Beasts (1952).

Viereck maintained that bias due to his political activities prevented publication and fair reception of his work; however, many of his poems were printed in Samuel Roth’s American Aphrodite .

Viereck’s literary pursuits also included plays and novels. With novelist Paul Eldridge, Viereck penned a trilogy of novels based on the theme of the Wandering Jew: My First Two Thousand Years: The Autobiography of the Wandering Jew (1929); Salome, The Wandering Jewess: My First Two Thousand Years of Love (1930); and Invincible Adam (1932). Viereck’s other fiction includes The House of the Vampire (1907) and The Nude in the Mirror (1953). Viereck died March 18, 1962, in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Eric Posselt was born in 1892 in the northern mountains of Bohemia. He attended the University of Prague, settled in New York working various jobs in theatre, on Wall Street, and in the publishing field. In 1950, Posselt edited a collection of Christmas stories entitled, The World’s Greatest Christmas Stories . His work appeared in print in both the United States and Germany.

Era Posselt (Zistel) was an author and personal friend of George Sylvester Viereck. She has published work in the The Saturday Evening Post .

From the guide to the George Sylvester Viereck letters to Eric and Era Posselt, 1941–1962, 1955–1957, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Doenecke, Justus D.. "George Sylvester Viereck." American National Biography Online. http://www.anb.org (accessed September 27, 2006). Biographical information also derived from the collection.

German-American author George Sylvester Viereck was born December 31, 1884, in Munich, Germany; he died March 18, 1962, in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Prior to World War I, Viereck enjoyed some literary fame as a poet. His German heritage became a focal point of his prolific and varied career as a poet, propagandist, interviewer, essayist, playwright, and novelist, and he publicized his pro-German sentiments in a variety of self-run periodicals during World War I and World War II. Viereck maintained that bias due to his political activities prevented publication and fair reception of his work.

After the war, Viereck continued to write: in addition to his journalistic activities for the Saturday Evening Post and his work for his own periodical, Viereck published a study of propaganda, Spreading Germs of Hate (1930) and The Strangest Friendship in History: Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House (1932). Viereck also became known for his interviews with famous contemporaries, many of whom he numbered among his personal friends, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, George Bernard Shaw, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein.

World War II renewed Viereck's propagandistic activities; he wrote and worked for the German-American Economic Bulletin and helped found Today's Challenge in 1939. Viereck's public defense of Nazism and many of its policies during this period led to his arrest in October 1941 for violation of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. In 1942, Viereck was convicted and sent to prison, only to be released a year later when the Supreme Court overturned the decision. Yet in 1943, Viereck was again convicted and imprisoned until 1947. His incarceration inspired many poems and a memoir, Men Into Beasts (1952).

Viereck maintained that bias due to his political activities, which prevented publication and fair reception of his work; however, many of his poems were printed in Samuel Roth's American Aphrodite .

Viereck's literary pursuits also included plays and novels. With novelist Paul Eldridge, Viereck penned a trilogy of novels based on the theme of the Wandering Jew: My First Two Thousand Years: The Autobiography of the Wandering Jew (1929); Salome, The Wandering Jewess: My First Two Thousand Years of Love (1930); and Invincible Adam (1932). Viereck's other fiction includes The House of the Vampire (1907) and The Nude in the Mirror (1953). Viereck died March 18, 1962, in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

John Thomas Head was born in Ringgold, Georgia. George Sylvester Viereck called Head "a person stepping straight out of the Renaissance. A modern Leonardo Da Vinci," for his wide range of interests (F1 June 13, 1955). Head attended a preparatory school in Chattanooga, and in 1951 obtained a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in philosophy. Head received his Ph.D. from Emory University and remained there as a professor of philosophy. In 1955, Head was in charge of small non-profit theatre group, and in addition to directing, Head also wrote his own plays.

From the guide to the George Sylvester Viereck correspondences with John Thomas Head, 1929–1956, 1955–1956, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

German-American poet, playwright and journalist.

In English and German.

From the description of George Sylvester Viereck miscellaneous papers, 1903-1960. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754867110

Biographical/Historical Note

German-American poet, playwright and journalist.

From the guide to the George Sylvester Viereck miscellaneous papers, 1903-1960, (Hoover Institution Archives)

George Viereck: poet, novelist, journalist, biographer, and pro-German publicist; biographer of Edward M. House; in March, 1942 convicted of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act and sentenced to prison.

George Sylvester Viereck - poet, novelist, journalist, biographer, and pro-German publicist - was born in Munich in 1884. Today, Viereck is remembered chiefly as one of the most prolific and articulate advocates of Deutschtum in America during the first half of the 20th century. Viereck's pro-German writings and activities during World War I led to his verse being dropped from many anthologies and his name being dropped from Who's Who. But by the late 'twenties his work (particularly his political essays and 'psychobiographical' studies) was back in fashion, and he became a regular contributor to many nationally circulated magazines. A man of mercurial temperament, unbounded vanity and energy, Viereck loved to consort with celebrities of all kinds on both sides of the Atlantic. He conducted numerous interviews with the great and near-great which were first published as articles and then collected in book form.

In 1929 Viereck wrote a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post based on his personal experiences during World War I, which Harold Laswell later described as "one of the truly basic contributions to the study of propaganda." It was, indeed a surprisingly fair and balanced account, later reprinted as a book under the title Spreading Germs of Hate; and - to quote at some length from the pertinent sections of the recent biography by Niel M. Johnson (George Sylvester Viereck, University of Illinois Press, 1972, pp. 153-163) - one of

...The two newfound friends first met on October 14, 1929, in New York. According to Viereck, Colonel House told him that he was the "last person in the world" whom he would have suspected of being the author of these articles. He was astonished that anyone so closely connected with the war could be so impartial.… With House's encouragement, Viereck proceeded to draft into book form his series of articles, and Horace Liveright agreed to publish it. Colonel House contributed a preface to the book, in which he complimented the author for his calm and fair treatment of the subject while at the same time refusing his concurrence in all of the author's opinions and conclusions.

While the foregoing project was underway, Viereck began to work with Colonel House on other plans. In January, 1930, he obtained House's consent to take part in a dialogue on freedom of the seas to be recorded by Fox-Hearst Movietone Corporation…Later that month, Viereck asked the Colonel for a letter of recommendation in preparation for a possible speaking tour of the country as proposed by the manager of a New York lecture bureau. House obliged with a statement that Viereck's "knowledge of public men and events throughout the world will give what you say the stamp of authority, and will enlighten our people." He pointed further to Viereck's unique range of contacts with notable leaders and with the events of World War I and its aftermath...In February he proposed to House, who was planning a trip to Europe, that if he met Paderewski perhaps he would suggest to the Polish leader the possibility of Viereck collaborating with him on an autobiography, as had been done with Empress Hermine and as he proposed to do with House, "if you are willing."

Viereck's suggestion that he collaborate with House in writing the latter's memoirs remained dormant for several months. Finally, in October, 1930, House proposed that Viereck write an account of his association and friendship with Woodrow Wilson. Viereck readily agreed and asked House for access to unpublished information. He also told his subject that the project could occupy only part of his time, since he had "to keep the wolf from the door, which in the present state of business and the stock market, is no easy task."

...It must have occurred to him that his work on House's memoirs need not be a financial sacrifice, but might be a source of gain. More than that, as he confided th House in mid-October, 1930, "there is a certain poetic justice in this, that I, who had been one of the most bitter enemies of Woodrow Wilson, should be selected by you and by fate to tell the true story resting in the lines and between the lines of your correspondence."

Viereck designed a thorough plan of research for the first authorized account of House's relationship with President Wilson. Most important, of course, was his ready access to House and his ideas and materials which he hoped would shed a new and clearer light upon a most crucial period in American history. In the course of his research on this project he also consulted with former Central Power ambassadors, Dumba and Bernstorff, various members of Wilson's cabinet, Wilson's secretary Joseph Tumulty, Sydney E. Mezes (chief of the Inquiry, the body established by the President to prepare data and advice for the peace conference), Justice Charles Evans Hughes, Washington correspondent Louis Seibold, Professor Charles Seymour, and Frances Denton, the Colonel's secretary. Shaemas O'Sheel served as a research assistant. It is notable that Viereck did not obtain impressions from British or French political and diplomatic personnel - indicating his pro-German orientation, presumably.

In spite of his known inclinations, Viereck's account was not as biased as one might have expected. The restraining hand of Colonel House undoubtedly helped moderate his predispositions, but Viereck himself appeared to have become broader and more rational in his outlook. Working diligently on the manuscript in 1931, Viereck finished it in 1932. In that year it was published by Horace Liveright, titled The Strangest Friendship in History: Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House.

...In 1931 Viereck found a journalistic market for his House-Wilson account. Editor (Charles) Fulton Oursler, his friend of several years, agreed to serialize this work in abbreviated form in Liberty magazine. Accordingly, it was published in ten installments from February through April, 1932. Up to that time Viereck had authored less than a dozen articles in this magazine, but within the next six years he contributed more than fifty articles for this journal, which had a total circulation of more than 2,000,000 copies each week. It became his chief source of income, netting him $8,000-10,000 per year.

With Viereck's encouragement and assistance, Colonel House also composed several articles on contemporary issues that were published in the magazine between 1933 and 1935. Liberty paid Colonel House $500 for each article and in addition remunerated Viereck with about one-third of that amount.

... Liberty magazine agreed, apparently in 1934, to a similar financial arrangement for the projected publication of Houses's memoirs. Viereck had persuaded House to begin the autobiography, with his assistance. The first two installments of the draft were completed in 1934. It appears that in the first phases of the project Viereck suggested how the material should be arranged and then edited and revised the drafts prepared by House... Some of the subsequent installments, however, were prepared by Viereck and reviewed and, where necessary, reworked by Colonel House. For reasons not discernible in their correspondence, in 1935 House appeared to lose interest in the project. In July Viereck complained to him that he still had not seen his diary, and he regretted that House had elected not to amplify or revise the thirteenth installment which Viereck had based entirely upon Seymour's Intimate Papers. He still lacked information, too, on House's career since the war. Meanwhile, he confided to Frances Denton that Farrar and Rinehart were no longer interested in publishing the book; he attributed this in part to the Colonel's keeping himself too anonymous and being too reticent. Under Viereck's prodding, House cooperated in the preparation of the final installments, but the manuscript was not completed until early 1936.

In the meantime, Liberty magazine postponed indefinitely its plans to publish the memoirs, although it had paid advances to both of them.

...Finally, in early 1937 Colonel House decided to repurchase publication rights from Liberty for his memoirs, for which he paid the journal $10,000 - presumably the amount that had originally been paid him. Viereck, in turn, decided to reimburse the magazine for the "larger part" of what it had paid him on the projected series. At the same time he told House that he was under the impression that the North American Newspaper Alliance would be permitted to publish them, but nothing came of it. Viereck expressed his disappointment, but he said he would rather forfeit his monetary interest in the memoirs than lose "one particle" of House's friendship. The memoirs remained unpublished and were subsequently donated to Yale University. Charles Seymour later reviewed them and stated that they were based almost exclusively on The Intimate Papers of Colonel House, which he had prepared in the 1920's. He concluded that they did not add objective evidence, but reflected Colonel House's feelings after his memory had been refreshed, and that they also showed Viereck's influence as the ghost-writer. [Note by Charles Seymour, November 12, 1954, attached to MS of Memoirs of E. M. House MSS.]

The lack of publishers' interest in the memoirs and House's decision to repurchase his literary rights chilled their friendship, but in July, 1937, House responded willingly to Viereck's initiative in renewing their old amity. Viereck told House that he still looked upon him as "more or less a Father Confessor." At the former's request, House reviewed and praised the final manuscript of Viereck's book, The Kaiser on Trial . On October 5, the two met for the first time in a long while; it also turned out to be their last meeting. The next day Viereck wrote Colonel House that he was "deeply touched" by the latter's tribute to his book. Soon thereafter House's health began deteriorating; after a final attack of pleurisy he passed away in March, 1938.

In the late 'thirties Viereck once more emerged as a spokesman for the German (in this instance, Hitlerite) "cause" in America and fought vigorously on the side of the isolationist, anglophobe, and Nazi pressure groups in this country. This time his uncritical devotion to the Fatherland cost him dearly, and he emerged with his professional reputation totally ruined and his private and family life in tatters. In March 1942, Viereck was convicted of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act; and despite a couple of mistrials and numerous appeals he was fined, sentenced to prison, and received a parole only in 1947. He died at Holyoke, Massachusetts in March 1962.

From the guide to the George Sylvester Viereck papers, 1924-1938, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Propaganda, German
  • Publishers and publishing--History--United States--20th century--Sources
  • World War, 1939-1945--United States
  • Poetry
  • World War, 1914-1918--United States
  • Propaganda, German United States
  • Publishers and publishing--History--United States--20th century
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • German literature
  • Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Literature
  • Neutrality

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Journalists
  • Editors

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States Neutrality. (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States Foreign relations Germany. (as recorded)
  • Germany Foreign relations United States. (as recorded)