UMass assists local visit of German officials

July 27, 2004

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By Patrick J. Callahan

Seven leading members of the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) will meet with three local residents on Wednesday, July 28, at noon at the Lathrop Community, 100 Bassett Brook Dr., in Easthampton. The visit of the German officials, who are in Boston to attend the Democratic National Convention, was arranged by the Department of German Languages and Literatures, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Washington, D.C. The SPD is the party of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has served as the country’s leader since 1998.

Brief interviews and photo opportunities are available before noon or after 3 p.m. of the day of the meeting.

The three local residents, Erich and Hilde Schmidt of Easthampton, and Gerard Braunthal, emeritus professor of Political Science, were active in the SDP in Germany prior to the Nazi takeover in 1933. Erich Schmidt, 93, was youth secretary of the SDP, and was a member of the anti-Nazi resistance group, New Beginning, until his arrest by Nazi authorities. He was mistakenly released and fled to Switzerland and France then eventually came to the United States. Hilde Schmidt, 90, was also a member of the underground resistance organization and was incarcerated in Berlin’s Moabit prison. She was released for lack of evidence then escaped Germany and joined her husband in France.

Braunthal, of Amherst, was part of a social-democratic family living in Berlin leading up to the Nazi seizure of power. He has published widely on postwar and contemporary German politics, including, "The German Social Democrats Since 1969: A party in power and opposition."