Gen. Julius Klein Explains Origin of the Germania Broadcast


General Julius Klein, brother to William L. Klein, describing in 1952 how 25 years earlier he had to travel to Washington D.C. and meet with Sec. of Commerce Herbert Hoover and Hoover aide, John [William] P. McCracken, in order to get permission to produce on radio the "first foreign language hour in America".  He also discusses the circumstances of the Germania Broadcast's first time on the air in 1927.


Gen. Julius Klein Explains Origin of the Germania Broadcast (10/3/1952)

So instead of telling you a lot of jokes, I thought I’d try to interpret to you as one who had a lot to do with production, show business, newspaper business -- one who has also been a warrior on the field of battle -- how I look at this 25th Anniversary.  And I’m going to conclude with a little description, as my brother suggested, of the first German Radio Hour in Chicago.

I was interested chiefly to become a producer not because I thought I was a good producer -- I never was one -- but as all you know courting my little girl here who finally came to Chicago and played on the very same stage where we had our 25th Anniversary tonight.  I had a special stage built -- a special stage for ‘Dreimaederlhaus’ -- a special stage was built on the Orchester Hall’s podium twenty-five years ago to play ‘Dreimaederlhaus’. 

Angelo Lippich as Schubert and Lena Holstein as Hannerl; Roberts played the Flush [sp?].

[Someone from audience says ‘Trill’].

Who played the Flush again?

[Discussion in audience.  Someone mentions ‘Max Fledermaus’]

So right on the same stage that play was produced in Chicago.  The thing was sold out.  We had to call the police.  It was a great, great production.  And that very week -- or week before or two weeks before -- I started that German Radio hour.  Way out on the northern side -- above a furniture store.  Where you didn’t have all the modern facilities of today.  You had no script.  You did everything yourself.  Everything was extraneously.  I had a sing society there.

And there was Lena Holstein and Angelo Lippich; and we had our first German Radio hour.  And kept it up a little while; and of course it cost me a fortune.  And it went into thousands and thousands of dollars twenty-five years ago.  How my brother was able ever to make a business out of it and keep it alive, is one of the great miracles of the ages.  But he kept it alive and he did a terrific job.

Now we have streamlined everything.  And we have seen tonight --

[Woman from Audience: “Did you forget about Washington”.]

I beg your pardon?

[Woman from Audience: “About Washington”.]

We have streamlined everything and we have seen tonight what could be done.  But the most important historical event has not been told tonight.  And I think the annals of the history of the Germania Broadcast ought to explain it much better.

When I went to the people -- the owners of the radio station and suggested a German Radio Hour, they were in favor of it.  And finally when I was ready to present the German Radio Hour, I was told, ‘You can’t do it because the Hour is in a foreign language and it’s got to be in English’.

Well, I know if I have a German Radio Hour in English, we defeat the purpose.  And they wouldn’t give me permission -- because the Commerce Department had no such precedent. 

I went to Washington to see Mr. [Herbert] Hoover who then was the Secretary of Commerce.   And radio was in charge was Assistant Secretary John [William] P. McCracken. 

I remember the scene like yesterday.  I had my appointment with Mr. Hoover.  He was that time in charge -- the Commerce Department in those days controlled radio broadcasting just like aviation.  You had no FCC.

I went in to see Hoover and told him we want to start this German broadcasting in Chicago and we were stopped.  He sent for McCracken.  He says, ‘how could you start a German radio hour?  A lot of people will tune in, they won’t know what the hell you’re talking about.  It’s very unfair to our listeners to impose on them the German language which they don’t understand and I think it shouldn’t be done.”

So I turned to McCracken and Mr. Hoover and I said, “We publish German newspapers in this country.  We publish Yiddish newspapers.  We publish newspapers in every language.  We present opera in Italian and French and German.  Under the constitution you have a right in this country to read or write or speak any language you want.  And you know very well if this case goes to the Supreme Court, you must permit the German language or any other foreign language on the radio.

And we got the letter -- it must be someplace (maybe it’s in my file) -- authorizing WIBO -- I think that was the name of the station -- it was Nelson Brothers.  Is that correct?

[Audience : “Correct”.]

WIBO -- authorizing them to conduct a weekly German radio hour.  And that was the first foreign language hour in America.  That paved the way for all other foreign language hours in the United States.

So they have accomplished something constructive which is of great interest and of great help to mold the melting pot of America.  And what little part if any, and I’ve surely haven’t done much, I had to do with this was gratifying.

But the greatest thing I got out of the show business, you all know, is my darling little wife.

Now, having conducted this hour for twenty-five years -- having men like my brother and Sonderling and, now this young fellow, Gerstenberg carry on -- is something I’m proud of.

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