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A phonograph record against Hitler

In 1936, several hundred copies of a very special phonograph record reached the German Reich by sea. It was released under the pseudonym “Dr. Franz Forster” and contained an approximately two-minute speech written by the resistance fighter Willy Eichler on the occasion of the Reichstag elections on 29 March 1936. The speech warned against Adolf Hitler, German rearmament and a possible war starting in Germany, and was intended to encourage those who were resisting within Germany. The speaker of the recorded text was Otto Pfister.

 

Otto Pfister was born in Munich, but left Germany in 1920 at the age of 20 to move to Rome. There he witnessed the rise of fascism under Mussolini and therefore moved on to Paris, where he met the German Eva Lewinski. She had been a member of the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund (ISK) since 1927. In 1932, she took part in sending out newspapers and leaflets against Hitler and the National Socialists. In 1933, Eva and her brother Erich, a committed lawyer who represented anti-fascists, fled to France. Together with other members of the ISK, they ran a restaurant in Paris that served as a meeting place for Nazi opponents.

 

Otto Pfister and Eva Lewinski became a couple and were active anti-fascists in exile for years. One of the activities was the producing of small phonograph records containing anti-Nazi information which were then distributed in Germany.

 

In May 1940, Otto Pfister was arrested by German troops in Luxembourg as a supposed French citizen and interned for several months in a prisoner of war camp in Silesia. Eva Lewinski was interned in the Gurs camp in southern France in 1940. After her release, she flew across the Pyrenees to Spain and Portugal. From there she reached the USA by ship. With the help of Eleonore Roosevelt, the wife of the then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eva was able to organize a visa for Otto Pfister, who also flew across the Pyrenees to the USA. Shortly after his arrival, the couple married in New York. Eva Pfister continued to support the resistance against National Socialism, Otto Pfister joined the US army. Both lived in the USA until their deaths.

 

In 2020, the descendants published a double biography of their parents. A copy of the disc recorded by Otto Pfister is now in the Federal Archives in Berlin.

 

Silke Struk

Further reading/links
  • Tom, Kathy and Peter Pfister, Eva and Otto. Resistance, Refugees, and love in the time of Hitler (West Lafayette 2020).
  • Eva Lewinski’s diary and other documents are available online via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM): “Eva and Otto Pfister papers”; https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn628595

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