Mr. Molotov is Photographed at the White House

John McCrea was personally involved in arranging for the photograph of President Roosevelt and Vyacheslav Molotov, the minister of foreign affairs of the Soviet Union, in the president’s office. McCrea vividly described how he managed to find a photographer to take the picture and still preserve the secrecy of Molotov’s visit.

Molotov visited the United States in June 1942. He came to meet with President Roosevelt to discuss Lend-Lease aid and the opening a second front in the war. The visit was top secret, and Molotov traveled incognito under the name of Mr. Brown. On his last morning in Washington, Molotov went to the White House to say his goodbyes to the president. From here McCrea takes up the story.

 

[Mr. Molotov] was accompanied by his bodyguards, a tough-looking three or four, who were carrying sidearms, much to the distress of the Secret Service chaps on duty. Mr. Molotov presented this group to the President.

Shortly before Mr. Molotov’s arrival at the White House, the President called me on the telephone, and here is about the way it went. “Mr. Brown will be in my second floor study in half an hour. I want a picture made of this event. Get a photographer from the pressroom whom you can trust. Bring him upstairs and have him stand by to photograph our meeting on signal.”

“I recognize the secrecy connected with this occasion, Mr. President. I know no photographers in the pressroom, let alone one who could be trusted. And this being Saturday morning, there may not be any photographers in the pressroom anyway. But rest assured, Mr. President, I will have a photographer here when you give me the signal.”

I immediately rang up Captain Leland Lovette, the head of the Navy public relations office. I told him I wanted a photographer at the White House at once. Lovette replied that he only had one photographer on duty, and at that moment, he was in the outer office of the Secretary of the Navy, standing by to photograph the Secretary awarding a Navy Cross to someone who had distinguished himself during the Pearl Harbor raid.

“Leland,” said I, “grab that guy, get him and his equipment in a taxi, and send him to the northwest gate of the White House. Do this at once. I will meet him there and give him his instructions. This is an urgent assignment, and under no circumstances are you to question the photographer as to its nature. Do you understand?” Leland replied that he did.

I met the photographer at the Pennsylvania Avenue northwest gate. We walked up the gravel drive to the White House. As we came through the front door, the chief usher, Howell Crim, said that the President wished to see me at once. On the way up to the second floor, I briefed the photographer. “After the photographs are taken, you are to return to your laboratory, develop your film, make no prints, and bring the film to my office on the second floor of the Navy Department, front corridor. You are not to volunteer any information as to the nature of this assignment, nor answer any questions about it. Captain Lovette, your chief, has been similarly instructed by me in this matter.”

The photographer and I went directly to the President’s study. The President introduced me to “Mr. Brown.” The pictures were quickly taken. I sent the photographer back to the Navy Department in my Navy-chauffeured Pontiac and returned to the President’s study. Shortly afterwards, I took off with the official party for the Anacostia Naval Air Station where a Russian plane was ready to fly Mr. Molotov and his associates back to Russia.

The photograph was released by Steve Early, the president’s press secretary, after Molotov had arrived back in the Soviet Union

World War II, Krakow and Beethoven (2)

op-74

(The opening Adagio of the 1st movement of Beethoven’s op. 74 string quartet, “the Harp,” in the composer’s hand.)

The story of Krakow’s Beethoven manuscripts begins before WW II in Berlin. At that time, the Prussian State Library in Berlin held the world’s greatest collection of original autograph music manuscripts, including those of the most important works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and many other great composers. In 1941, after Allied bombs started to fall on Berlin, the library began divide up its collections and evacuate parts to various mines, monasteries, and castles in safer parts of Germany. Boxes of manuscripts by Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Mendelssohn and others were sent to Lower Silesia, and ultimately hidden at a Benedictine abbey in Grüssau. As the war progressed, the abbey escaped bombing by the Allied powers and destruction by the Soviet forces that invaded Silesia towards the end of the war.

In July 1945, after the end of fighting in Europe, a group of Polish librarians and museum officers were engaged in a search for looted Polish cultural treasures in areas abandoned by the Germans. At Grüssau, the few remaining monks at the abbey informed them about the musical treasure hidden there. The monks were aware that Soviet soldiers stationed nearby were pilfering anything of value, and they thought the manuscripts would be safer in Polish hands.

In the summer of 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met in Potsdam, Germany, to negotiate terms for the settlement of the war in Europe. At the Potsdam Conference, Poland’s western boundary was redrawn to the west of its pre-war location. As a result, Lower Silesia became part of Poland. (One repercussion of this change was that German towns in the area acquired new Polish names, to the great confusion of anyone trying to understand local history and geography. Thus, Grüssau, Germany became Krzeszów, Poland.)

In 1946, the manuscripts were quietly transferred from the abbey at Krzeszów to Krakow. They were held in secret and eventually deposited in the Jagiellonian University Library . My recent visit to Poland was to study Beethoven’s op. 74 string quartet, known as “the Harp.” The autograph score of the Harp was one of the manuscripts brought to Krakow. Other Beethoven manuscripts in the group included portions or complete scores of the 7th, 8th and 9th Symphonies, several of the late string quartets, and sketchbooks.

Even after the Jagiellonian Library acquired the manuscripts, few inside Poland (and no one outside) knew of their existence and whereabouts. The custodians kept them in secret for decades because of mistrust of the Soviet Union, which essentially controlled Poland’s government until 1989, and Poland’s inability to obtain cultural reparations and appropriate compensation from the Soviet Union and East Germany for wartime cultural losses.

News of the manuscripts’ existence reached the outside world through a Polish musicologist in the late 1960s. Even so, the Polish government did not acknowledge possession of the manuscripts until 1977. In that year, Poland signed a treaty of friendship with East Germany and returned seven scores to Berlin (including Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Mozart’s The Magic Flute). Although the transfer was characterized as a goodwill gesture, it may have actually been war reparations forced on Poland by East Germany.

Since then, there have been a series of negotiations between Poland and East Germany, and later unified Germany, about the return of the rest of the music manuscripts to Berlin. However, Poland has refused to act without further repatriation of Polish cultural objects and adequate reparations for Polish cultural losses during the war. The last negotiations took place in 2000. The manuscripts remain in Krakow, and the old wartime disputes persist.

Sources

Włodzimierz Kalicki, “Manuscripts found in the Jagiellonian.” Gazeta Wyborcza (Warsaw, Poland), March 30, 2010 (translation by Gazeta Wyborcza).

Marek Sroka, “The Music Collection of the Former Prussian State Library at the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków, Poland: Past, Present, and Future Developments,” Library Trends 55. no. 3 (Winter 2007) (“Libraries in Times of War, Revolutions, and Social Change,” edited by W. Boyd Rayward and Christine Jenkins), pp 651-664.