The Hugo Achugar Papers have been recently described and are open to students and researchers.
Hugo Achugar (1944-) is a Uruguayan literary critic and prolific writer of poetry and essays. He has held teaching positions at universities in both Latin America and the United States, including Universidad de la República, Uruguay; Universidad Católica, Venezuela; Northwestern University; and Dartmouth College. He currently serves as a member of the Emeritus Faculty at the University of Miami. Some of Achugar’s better-known works include Ideologías y estructuras narrativas en José Donoso, 1950-1970, a literary essay on the works of José Donoso; Hueso Quevrado (cuaderno de la Bahía), a collection of poetry; and Falsas Memorias: Blanca Luz Brum, a fictionalized account of the life of Blanca Luz Brum.
The collection consists of manuscripts, photographs, clippings, and journals, all forming a record of Achugar’s professional career. Included are correspondence, notes and research files, lecture and conference materials, and poetry. The collection also includes Achugar’s personal library, which will soon be cataloged.
The highlight of the collection is the series of articles and drafts, comprised of drafts of both published and unpublished essays, poetry, and fiction. For some works, there are multiple drafts written at different points in time, allowing researchers to follow Achugar’s writing process. For example, in the series exist various drafts, notes, and preparatory materials for Hueso Quevrado, representing Achugar’s process from research to draft to revision.
By Jennifer Brcka, Processing Archivist for Special Collections
In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938, the German Reich initiated a campaign against that nation’s Jewish citizens. The Seklers, a Viennese family, were victims of these actions, and later, of the Holocaust. The Hildegard Sekler Collection, a recent archival acquisition by Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections, records the family’s story through a series of letters and documents.
The collection consists of over 400 pieces of correspondence generated surrounding the separation of Leopold and Toni Sekler from their daughter, Hildegard. Most relate to Hildegard’s flight from Austria at the age of sixteen, and chiefly date from the years between 1939 and 1945. The bulk are personal letters and postcards sent to Hildegard by family, friends, and her tutor. A body of official correspondence with governmental and aid agencies has been preserved here, as well. More than 100 documents and personal papers are also found within the collection. These range from official records relating to Leopold’s career in the Vienna Finance Ministry to, less formally, Hildegard’s homework assignments, school notes, and essays.
This group of personal documents includes Leopold and Toni Sekler’s passports. In August of 1938, the German authorities enacted the Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names. This order required Jews with non-Jewish first names to formally add “Israel” for males and “Sara” for females to their legal names. The Seklers were forced to comply. Three slips noting the name changes for each remain inserted in Leopold Sekler’s Passport. Following a similar pronouncement aimed at identifying Jewish citizens, Toni Sekler’s passport was stamped with a red “J”.
Letters illuminate desperation the family felt in the months that followed. Leopold Sekler appealed to Switzerland and the United States to obtain visas for the family to emigrate. His requests were met with delays and little success. Undeterred, he sought out directories and wrote to a handful of New Yorkers, strangers with the Sekler name, whom he hoped might provide support for a visa application. Replies from a Constance Sekler express frustration over past experiences with the Consulate in Vienna, as well as with her own limited resources. Empathetic, though unable to assist, she wrote, “Whether or not we are related isn’t of great importance because I am just as much interested in your welfare in any event.” A Jack Sekler, living in the Bronx, was able to offer support, though a quota system placed the Sekler family on a waiting list, and ultimately prevented their seeking asylum in America.
In January of 1939, a letter from the Welfare Headquarters of the Jewish Cultural Society advised that it had secured passage to England for Hildegard. At age 16, she quickly fled, unaccompanied, to London where she lived in a youth hostel. A wave of letters from her parents and concerned family and friends soon followed. Many capture the bleakness of the situation for those who remained in Austria. A March 14, 1939 letter sent by Trude Mesuse states (in German), “Furthermore, your father wants you to know, if he writes “ich” like this at the end or the beginning of a sentence, you ought to pay attention to this sentence and think about it, because it will have a particular meaning he can’t express clearly writing from Vienna. And you should be careful when you write, too.”
Many letters express the love and concern of parents separated from their only child. In a letter (in English) from her father on June 1, of 1940, he asks his “Dear Hilde” to, “[…] stay in the garden as long as possible and to sleep by open windows. You had better to speak only English, at home too. It would be better for all big girls. The German language you will not forget, I am sure. The conversation is the most important and the best mean to learn a language, believe me, I know it by experience.” By 1941, sending correspondence to countries at war with Germany was prohibited, and Leopold used the Red Cross Message Service to send his daughter greetings on her nineteenth birthday.
Further correspondence within the collection convey the uncertainties of life in London during the Blitz. Hildegard studied in London with a tutor, Dr. Judah Simon Goller, who wrote her frequently. In an undated letter he mentions two children, mutual acquaintances and also displaced minors, who had recently left London to be reunited with family. He muses, “So the twins have gone, and we are short two more. Please God, [may] they reach their parents in safety and soon forget all their sorrows, and remember sometimes the little joys they shared with us. I wonder what’s the good of telling me not to worry about the children when there’s a raid on? I just can’t help it.”
Hildegard continued, unsuccessfully, to seek a means for her parents to flee Austria. In October of 1942, Leopold and Toni Sekler were deported to Theresienstadt, a transit and labor camp. From there, the couple were transported to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944. Neither survived. Hildegard married her tutor, Dr. Goller, in 1960. She remained in London until her death in 2008.
Through materials largely in German or English (and occasionally in French), the Hildegard Sekler Collection presents a unique view of the Anschluss and its aftermath, unaccompanied child refugees of the Holocaust, wartime experiences in London, and personal histories of prisoners of Theresienstadt. The collection (MSE/MD 6408) is open for research in Rare Books and Special Collections, and a detailed finding aid can be found online.
Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
Wednesday, August 22 at 3:00pm | “The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia.” A public talk by Jeff Peachey (Independent Book Conservator, New York City). The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.
Friday, September 7 at 1:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Illustrated Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition” by David Plunkert (artist and illustrator for The New Yorker). Operation Frankenstein is a semester-long series of interdisciplinary events taking place at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s novel.
Next week the university will confer the 2018 Rev. Paul J. Foik Award posthumously on David Dressing, who was Hesburgh Library’s Latin American Studies Librarian from 2011 through 2017. We’d like to mark the occasion by highlighting a remarkable collection David purchased jointly with the American History Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC). It is an assemblage of pen and ink caricature drawings and watercolor paintings that show scenes captured by travelers to Latin America and the United States during the middle decades of the nineteenth century.
John Bateman (b. 1839) was a young Englishman from a wealthy, landowning family in Staffordshire when he traveled to the United States and Latin America around 1860. He created a series of drawings in ink of scenes he observed along the way, to which he added wry descriptions. An example, shown here, from June 1860, depicts Bateman’s version of a vulgar American—a gun-toting, spitting, overly-familiar buffoon who complained about the new Republican Party’s opposition to slavery’s extension in the west. The young traveler created a funny and alarming image of American political affairs a few months before Lincoln’s election in 1860 and the start of southern secession. Bateman made caricatures like this one as he traveled through Central America and the Caribbean.
Even more intriguing, however, is the fact that Bateman’s collection includes a second group of visual works: a handful of watercolor paintings signed simply, “G.U.S.” They date from between 1838 and 1840 and depict Central and South American people and scenes.
Highlighted here are three vivid paintings of veiled women of Lima, Peru. One is depicted kneeling in church, another is shown from the back, and the third is in the typical tapada pose, her head veiled, mysteriously and coquettishly revealing a single eye. Each wears the traditional saya, an overskirt showing the feet and ankles, and manto, a thick veil secured at the waist and raised to cover the face. The latter was popularly used, even among married women of Lima, as a prop with which to flirt.
G.U.S.’s paintings are reminiscent of those by the famous mulato painter of Lima, Pancho Fierro. Albums of Fierro’s drawings were marketed to tourists in Lima from the 1840s to the 1860s, so G.U.S. could have known Fierro’s work and incorporated it into his own pieces.
The presence of G.U.S.’s paintings in the Bateman collection raises intriguing connections for further study of related items held in Special Collections. We hold a copy of the French painter, A. A. Bonnaffé’s “Recuerdos de Lima” album (1856), which he sold to tourists and which features the tapada of Lima. More elaborate and detailed than the small depictions by G.U.S., these wonderful images highlight even more flirtatious poses, including a woman (shown here) who intentionally drew the viewer’s attention to her exposed and slender ankle.
The Bateman collection and Bonnaffé album are just two examples of David Dressing’s thoughtful and expert acquisitions for RBSC over nearly a decade. His work has made an enduring contribution to research, teaching, and scholarship at Hesburgh Libraries and the field of Latin American Studies.
Last week’s blog post described an important collection about the Carlisle Indian School, a boarding school that was part of a federal educational program that opened many similar institutions and lasted through the twentieth century. Thanksgiving often evokes a benign story of starving New England Pilgrims saved by generous Native Americans. Records from the Carlisle Indian School, however, highlight a dark colonialist story of Pilgrims and Indians that the school asked its students to portray on stage.
By 1909 Carlisle students had begun performing a theatrical version Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” as part of the school’s week-long commencement celebrations. The school staged the play for large public audiences at the school and in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Adapted as The Captain of Plymouth, it was a comic opera by Seymour S. Tibbals and Henry C. Eldridge, published in 1904.
While the soldier Miles Standish and the Pilgrim John Alden are both interested in a young Pilgrim, Priscilla, Standish is captured by a band of Pequot Indians. The Pequot princess, Katonko, frees Standish on his promise to marry her. Standish quickly reneges on Katonko and takes bloody revenge on the Pequots. The story ends when the Pilgrim leader, Elder Brewster, discovers Standish’s breach of promise to Katonko and insists that Standish marry her, which allows Priscilla and Alden to wed.
The play is both silly (anachronistically, Standish refers to the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller, and the anti-alcohol icon Carrie Nation) and deeply and openly racist. Katonko and Indians in general are characterized as “the very beginning, as it were, of the race problem” and the play advocates for racial segregation, a position seemingly at odds with the educational and social goals of Indian boarding schools like Carlisle, which worked to assimilate Native Americans into white America.
The play capitalized on popular demand during the first decades of the twentieth century for entertainment featuring Indians. Presumably Tibbals and Eldridge intended whites to be cast in both the European American and Indian parts. Carlisle students, however, were required to play both roles: the young people cast as settlers had to act white, while those cast as Native Americans had to play white-constructed versions of savage Indians.
Carlisle’s founder, Richard Henry Pratt, understood the promotional powers of photography and he used manipulated images to argue for the success of his program to “civilize” Indians. Using before-and-after photographs, Pratt contrasted the traditional clothing and hair styles of newly arrived children with the cropped hair, neat uniforms, and photographically lightened skin of new students. When The Captain of Plymouth was staged, school officials continued to use Pratt’s methods to promote the school. As seen here, the carefully organized studio photographs of cast members enhanced the whiteness of Pilgrim cast members in contrast to their fellow actors who played Indians.
The Alfred W. Ramsey papers document a dark part of United States history and uncover what must have been bewildering experiences for young Native boarding students, far from their homes and families.
 Louellyn White, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation: Lincoln Institute and Carlisle School,” in Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamation, Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose, eds., (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Pr, 2016), 111.
 Quotation from Tibbals and Eldridge, The Captain of Plymouth, 21. White, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation,” 114-15.
 White, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation,” 111-12.
 Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose, “Introduction,” in Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamation, Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose, eds., (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Pr, 2016), 8-9.
We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in recognizing the rich histories and traditions of Native Americans during this National Native American Heritage Month.
In January 1909 Alfred W. Ramsey (1883-1955) accepted a provisional appointment as business teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was formally hired in March following a satisfactory result on his Civil Service examination. Ramsey was charged with organizing a business department at the school, to complement its trade and academic programs. He resigned his position effective 1 November 1910, apparently disillusioned with the Indian Service and the school.
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, as part of a government project designed to “kill the Indian, save the man.” In Ramsey’s day it was overseen by the Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior. Carlisle became the model for 25 government Indian schools, founded on the premise that Native Americans could be equal to European Americans, provided they assimilate into European American society and culture. While the school removed Native American children from poverty and provided them with a free education, it also encouraged children to abandon their native cultures.
The Alfred W. Ramsey Papers, acquired by RBSC in 2014, include a wealth of material from Ramsey’s time at Carlisle. Among the manuscripts are examples of student writing and typing exercises; copies of addresses by Carlisle administrators (especially superintendent Moses Friedman) and commencement speakers; school mission and policy statements; and essays on character and behavior with a bearing on Indian education. Some of this material would have been generated as a consequence of Ramsey’s teaching (including instruction in typing), but much of it was the result of his de facto status as clerical assistant to Friedman. There are also two memory books preserved by Ramsey, with questionnaires filled out in manuscript by 79 different Carlisle students.
The printed matter includes a broad selection of items from the Carlisle Indian Press; printing was one of the trades taught at the school, and Edgar Miller, the program’s superintendent, was a particular friend of Ramsey’s. Included are runs of school periodicals like the weekly The Carlisle Arrow and the monthly The Indian Craftsman (later titled The Red Man). There are also pamphlets, programs, broadsides, dance cards, and other ephemera.
Photographs include panoramas of the Carlisle campus and a number of group portraits of the student cast of the comic opera “The Captain of Plymouth”—the subject of next week’s blog.
The Cristero Rebellion (La Cristiada) (1926-1929) was a major uprising by Mexican Catholics against the violently anti-clerical presidential administration of Plutarco Elías Calles. Together, the Cristero Rebellion Martyrs photo album and postcard collection include some 73 photographs, many of them portrait-style prints of individuals executed under authority of President Calles. These images, and others like them, document the persecution of clerics and lay devotees who protested against the closure of churches and restrictions on the exercise of faith during the Calles era. They were also collected by devout Catholics during and after the Cristero Rebellion and served as reminders, or even relics, of the courage demonstrated by the Mexican faithful in the face of persecution.