Liga Pro Cultura Alemana en Mexico

I am heavily indebted to Fritz Pohle for most of the Gutmann information.

Fritz Pohle, "Das Mexikanische Exil," 1986, J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung p.83-85

Heinrich Gutmann emigrated to Mexico from Germany shortly after the Reichstag fire of February 1933 and the book burnings of May 1933. In Germany he was an editor of a tabloid Tempo for the publishing house Ullstein. He later claimed to be an editor of Vorwärts, which was Traven's early publisher, but Pohle seems to doubt this, or have no independent confirmation. In Mexico he became known for his photos of Mexican life that he published in "Life", "Fortune", and other American magazines.

In 1935 Gutmann joined as photojournalist the organization "League de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios" (LEAR). LEAR was at first a communist cultural organization that saw itself closely allied with Russia, but as the decade drew on it became more widely based supporting the program of Cardenas and more diverse politically generally supporting anti-fascism. Gutmann became a principal of the organization. Gutmann developed a relationship with Joseph Freeman , the American communist "New Masses" editor. In 1936 Gutmann organized an exhibition by the German artist Joseph Albers. Otto Ruhle was one of the attendees. At that time Ruhle was an employee of the Ministry of Education, tasked with reforming the schools.

Gutmann became friends with the Undersecretary in the Ministry of Education, Luis Chavez Orozco. This and his other activities brought him to the attention of the Nazi government's official delegation, who reported back to Berlin that Gutmann repeatedly used the Ministry of Education to make trouble for them in the secondary schools, presumably by countering Nazi propaganda.

In 1937 Gutmann founded the publisher, "Editorial Masas". Early that year Gutmann went with Lazaro Cardenas as photo-journalist on one of his travels through the country in support of agrarian reform. Cardenas granted Gutmann and Joseph Freeman an interview in Acapulco (Traven's hometown at that time) on his domestic program and support for the Spanish Republic. Gutmann published this under the title "Lazaro Cardenas - The Country Teacher of Mexico." A few months later Gutmann expanded this and published it under his new Editorial Masas imprint as "Lazaro Cardenas - Visto por tres hombres" ("Cardenas - as seen by three men") a portrait of Cardenas with his own photos and written contributions by Joseph Freeman and Luis Chavez Orozco.

Fritz Pohle, "Otto Rühle in Mexiko", in "Alternative Lateinamerika, Das deutsche Exil in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus", Karl Kohut, Mühlen, Vervuert Verlag, 1994, p. 133

In late 1935 Otto Rühle appeared in Mexico. He had accepted a job with the Cardenas Ministry of Education to develop new programs for the schools. Rühle was a German communist who broke early with the Russian Bolsheviks. He was a founder with Karl Liebknecht, Franz Mehring and Rosa Luxemburg of the German Spartacist League which evolved into the German communist party, the KPD. He was never a Stalinist, but a lifelong Marxist.

The 1934 election of Lazaro Cardenas was Mexico's move to the left. According to Pohle, p. 134, -

"...the educational system and the Ministry of Education itself became the stronghold of the Left under the Cárdenas administration in the following years. It was not only the influence of the most radical politicians from ruling party and trade unions that was decisive here. The Communists, who supported the reform despite initial reservations, were also strongly represented. The new state textbooks were filled with revolutionary pathos, the schools sang the "Internationale" and raised the red flag next to the national flag. Special importance was given to the government's school and literacy program in rural areas. The land teachers were effective propagandists of agrarian reform and an important factor in the organization of peasants. So they became a symbol for the entire reform policy of the regime. It is no coincidence that the German exile Heinrich Gutmann published an interview with the president under the significant title of Lázaro Cárdenas - the country teacher of Mexico. But they also became martyrs to the regime: hundreds of them were murdered in the thirties by clerical fascist gangs and the private militia of the landowners."

But the reforms began in 1934 were theoretical and not clear directions for implementation. Rühle had studied with psychologist Alfred Adler and had published in 1911 a child psychology text. Rühle began studying the system and within a few months began to suggest reforms. Pohle says the Cardenas government was polarized and weakened by the effort and withdrew the more utopian elements towards the end of the six-year administration. Ruhle was just one element of the entire Education reform and most of his proposals were probably not implemented. Ultimately education is inseparable from labor, and labor was represented by the CTM and the committed Stalinist Vicente Lombardo Toledano. Rühle was a critic of Stalin and the Soviet education system. The powerful Lombardo opposed Rühle's reforms. The subject was put to rest when Rühle publicly sat in judgement on Trotsky's mock trial to counter Stalin's show trials, and publicly signed the finding that Trotsky was innocent of Stalin's verdict in absentia. Rühle left the Ministry of Education in 1938.

Alice-Rühle-Gerstel memoir of Trotsky in Coyoacan during the 1937 Dewey Commision counter-trial Link to "No Verses for Trotsky"

Pohle, Das Mexikanische Exil, p.86

Gutmann hosted Ernst Toller in Mexico for an extended visit in 1937. Toller was best known as a left wing German playwright. For six days in 1919 he was President of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, the failed Munich government which Ret Marut a.k.a. B. Traven supported and caused him to flee to Mexico to avoid execution for treason. Toller was imprisoned for 5 years, released, and later his citizenship revoked, then expelled by the Nazis in 1933. In November 1937 he came to Mexico from his exile in the United States. He gave a lecture at the Palacio de Bellas Artes on the 20th anniversary of the Russian October Revolution organized by the CTM, Lombardo's labor union. Dignitaries included Lombardo and the Mexican Communist party leader. Toller had been one of the signers of the 1936 Paris call for a German Popular Front, which was the unifying idea pushed by communist parties all over the west that all the German left, in fact all non-Nazis of every country, should ignore their differences, semantic and real, and together under one banner oppose the German Nazi threat. Toller was well known. El Maestro Rural, the magazine of the Ministry of Education, had published a year earlier an excerpt from his autobiography recently published in Spanish. Toller was in Mexico as a guest of LEAR.

Toller: "At the beginning of this year, I'm sitting in Paris at a table with men who once fought passionately, Catholics and Communists, socialists and liberals, trade unionists and freelance writers, men from abroad and, at mortal danger, had come from Germany. They were all united in one and the longed-for goal of creating a Germany of freedom, peace and justice. ...They had united, as we do today, in the German Popular Front."

The German Nazi emissary in Mexico made a statement that Toller was no longer a German and could not speak for Germans.

Toller's visit and speeches apparently motivated an effort by Heinrich Gutmann to attempt to set up an organization in service to the German Popular Front in Mexico. A more modest plan evolved to promote a German Cultural League. In March 1938 a group known as "Liga Pro-Cultura Alemana en Mexico" formed with a non-partisan charter under the management of Heinrich Gutmann. Recognizing the implicit threat of German national emigres recognizing themselves as representing German culture in defiance of Nazi demands, the League published a list of 21 prominent Mexicans who designated themselves as a "comite protector." These were government, union and LEAR members. The first event was a series of lectures starting in April 1938 under the title "La verdadera cultura alemana." The first speaker was Lombardo Toledano who would speak on the true German culture embodied by Johann Goethe. All of the speakers were Mexican.

From the introduction to the first lecture series - "...In the manner of a charlatan, National Socialism declares that only I determine what culture is, and I reserve the right to decide whether what was honored as culture in past times can really be described and appreciated as such. [. , .] In the mouth of a German National Socialist, the expression "true German culture" therefore has a double meaning: it asserts the distinction between a culture that is true and one that it is not..."

"If we, the German-speaking anti-Nazis united in the League Pro-Cultura Alemana en Mexico, put this series of lectures under the title "True German Culture" we do so in the sense of challenging our enemies. We want to show that true German culture - and that means German culture - has nothing in common with that false doctrine, that arrogance and that totalitarian madness. And we want to prove that every true culture is the common good of all peoples, despite their peculiarities and particularities."

The Ministry of Education provided the prestigious Palacio de Bellas Artes for the speeches. The ambassador of the Spanish Republic, which had not fallen yet, sat in attendance. Alfred Miller wrote for the New York "Deutsche Volksecho" - (p91 - Pohle "Exil")

"For the first time, the league made its public appearance on April 23. Dr. Vicente Lombardo Toledano, Mexico's greatest labor leader, spoke about Goethe. The lecture took place at the Palacio de Bellas Artes and was broadcast to the whole country through the government's radio station. - The hall was as crowded as possible only in Mexico. Every standing room, even the hallways were crowded with listeners, and hundreds of people had no way to find room in the hall. Countless Germans, Austrians and Mexicans were present, and the German (Nazi) legation was 'represented' by five people..."

The lectures were presented at weekly intervals. The second was on the German poet and writer Heinrich Heine, who famously said, Where they burn books, in the end they will also burn people. Other topics were forbidden music and banned authors (burned books), which discussed specific writers in exile such as Nobel winner Thomas Mann. The last topic of the first series was on economics, specifically the German economists, Hegel, Marx and Engels. There were musical performances between speeches and the entire series was broadcast on government radio stations.

On May 17, 1938, the LPC organized a memorial service for Carl von Ossietzky in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Ossietzky was a German pacificist who received the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize as a prisoner in a German concentration camp and died as a prisoner on 4 May 1938.

Later in 1938 two more lecture series were given that were more political and less cultural. Many of the speakers were significant political figures who held office in the government or were high up in the ruling party or unions. By hosting in the Palacio, and broadcasting on government radio, it gave the definite appearance that the government was promoting the Liga Pro Cultura Alemana. The highlight of all the lecture series, Pohle says, were the talks given by the charismatic Lombardo Toledano.

Kießling, Wolfgang, "Brücken nach Mexiko", Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1989, p.243

"In the summer of 1938, the league self-published its first publication in 5,000 copies. The brochure "La Verdadera Cultura Alemana" contained more than 100 pages of the texts of the previous cycle of lectures. The stenographic transcriptions were by Esperanza Lopez Mateos, sister of the Mexican President, from 1958 to 1964, Adolfo Lopez Mateos."

Kießling is the primary reference that later authors have used to say that Esperanza Lopez Mateos was the stenographer for the first LPC series. Pohle does not have it that I can see. Since Kießling does not credit a source, I assume he is looking at the original 1938 publication and seeing her name credited in print. There are 5 copies of the book in North America shown in WorldCat. This agrees with Gabriel Figueroa's quote.

Poniatowska, Elena, "La Mirada que Limpia, Editorial Diana, 1996, p. 83

"I knew the teacher Lombardo Toledano by means of Esperanza, who was his collaborator and she went to all the conferences, meetings and acts that he participated in, to transcribe his speeches. He had a lot of respect for her, because Esperanza was a militant with much confidence, who had worked all her life in the social field. The relationship with her connected me to Lombardo, and he began this way to ask me to participate in the production of several documentaries and movies."

In the same book, -"Esperanza managed a small publisher with her mother, Editorial Masas, S.C.L. later called Compania General de Ediciones, S.A. in a small house at 30 Donceles."

Henry Schnautz wrote in a letter in 1941 that Esperanza had been a high level secretary in the Education Ministry for 5 years. The SEP, Secretaria de Educacion Publica, loaned many resources to the LPC, the Liga Pro de Cultura Alemana. If she was the official stenographer for the entire German culture series, that is likely when Gutmann hired her to run the Editorial Masas office. Both organizations, Liga Pro and Editorial Masas, used the same post office address and both were started by Heinrich Gutmann.

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Guthke, Karl, "B. Traven, the Life Behind the Legends", Lawrence Hill, 1991, p.321

Heinrich Gutmann, Traven says in 1952, was "the first to circulate the mischievous Traum-Traven-Marut story and directly upon his arrival in Mexico he published extensive articles about it (surely to introduce himself in the most positive light at the same time), and also told this story to every newly arrived emigre."

Gutmann would probably have been interested to know what Ernst Toller had to say about Ret Marut in December 1937. Toller and Gutmann had a month to discuss past and future during Toller's trip to Mexico. Ernst Toller had been President for six days of the Bavarian Republic in 1919 in Munich and Ret Marut was a member of the propaganda committee. Erich Muhsam, later murdered by the Nazis, another member of the revolt and personally known to Marut, speculated in the 1920s that Ret Marut was now writing under the name B. Traven.

Traven's first public alliance with Esperanza Lopez Mateos was his first authorized spanish translation, Puente en la Selva, (The Bridge in the Jungle) in spring 1941. No one in Mexico City after that date would have been unaware that Esperanza was working with B. Traven. Traven for the first time in any of his books includes an introduction, a dedication and not just a translation credit but Esperanza gets her own logo and likeness on the title page. The introduction is written to denounce previous spanish pirate versions and without naming him publications owned and controlled by Lombardo Toledano. The named and denounced translator, Pedro Geoffroy Rivas, had in 1938 translated a selection of texts of Marx and Engels from French to Spanish for Editorial Masas. He subsequently translated "La Rebellion del los Colgados" (The Rebellion of the Hanged) and "La Rosa Blanca" (The White Rose). These were serialized (according to Traven) in Lombardo's magazine El Popular and published by Editorial CIMA under the name Bruno Traven.

From the Puente introduction by Traven - "His first name is not Bruno, name given to him by the communazis to whom the generous governments of Mexico and Argentina have given refuge. The author has no connection with these people, does not share their ideas or creeds..."

But Traven does have a connection with them - Esperanza Lopez Mateos. If Esperanza is an activist, it is hard to understand how her activism differs from Lombardo Toledano, who is strongly promoting German communists and probably behind or at least aware of the publication of Traven's work in spanish. Esperanza's association with Lombardo as well as the leftist Education ministry also promoting German marxism pre-dates her association with Traven. Whoever coined Bruno probably did so as a humorous way to blow Traven's cover. And it worked. Out he comes. Esperanza is working at Editorial Masas for Gutmann publishing marxist titles. Traven's new translator and business partner could hardly be any closer to the very people he is denouncing.

German communists had come to Mexico as a last resort in many cases. The U.S. would not allow known communists to find a home there. Lombardo Toledano had welcomed them with open arms. Jose Revueltas called him "el jefe marxista mexicano en los anos cuarenta" (chief mexican marxist in the 40's) (qtd in zogbaum: Encounters in Exile) Lombardo associates himself closely with Otto Katz. In Mexico he went by the name Andre Simone. Katz was one of the most successful Soviet agents of the 20th century. In 1944, it was reported in Variety in the U.S. that Esperanza was translating "Watch on the Rhine" into Spanish. "Watch" was an academy award winning movie based or inspired not on the life but on the hero tales of Otto Katz during his Hollywood anti-nazi era a few years before. Katz was one of the last to feel Stalin's sting in 1952.

Traven cannot take credit for the curious phrase "communazis" but he is an early user of it. He is hurling back an insult at those who outed him as Bruno. The German communists were expelled by the Nazis. Nazis burned their literature and outlawed their organizations. Their lives in Germany were in danger. Through most of the 1930s during the rise of Nazism, communists outside of Russia played almost entirely on their value to the west as principled anti-nazis. Two main events in the later 1930's began to test allegiance to Stalin's brand of communism and in fact wither the ranks - the Stalin show trials which were fantastic and unbelievable on their surface, and biggest of all, the Hitler-Stalin pact. If a communist could dance around those without publicly doubting his faith, there was not much difference between a nazi and a communist, both are unprincipled, as J Edgar Hoover reasoned and himself used the term.

Traven is distancing himself, at this time, 1941, from communists, and Germans, though they are his old comrades. He does not want to be known by them or be under their banner. The leftist Cardenista sexenio had turned to the right with the election of Avila Camacho in 1940. The protection and warmth German communist emigres felt under Lombardo was replaced with FBI agents reading their mail and opening dossiers on them. The noxious foreigners act required non-interference in local politics. Traven is trying to stay out of sight and unaffiliated.

Esperanza wrote to American publisher Knopf under Editorial Masas letterhead in August 1939 asking about film rights for Rebellion and Bridge. According to the official B. Traven history, that is the beginning of their relationship.

(pretty good til the last 4-5 paragraphs, needs a little work at the end)