When the Nazis occupied Paris in May 1940, Mexico evacuated its embassy and established a diplomatic presence in Marseilles. Gilberto Bosques, Mexico’s Consul-General to France at the time, was instructed by president Lázaro Cárdenas to save as many people as he could. The Mexican diplomat leased a castle, the Castile Reynarde, to do just that. Bosques and his staff launched a breathtaking humanitarian mission, issuing more than 45,000 exit visas to Europeans, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion, fleeing Spain’s Franco, Germany’s Hitler, and Italy’s Mussolini. This mass exodus—thousands boarded ships in the port of Marseilles bound for Casablanca (Morocco) and from there to Veracruz (Mexico)—only ended when the Nazis stormed the Mexican embassy compound and arrested Bosques, his family, and forty-three Mexican diplomatic personnel, holding them as prisoners of war.
The Grand Hall of the Ibero-American Institute (Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut). A podium stands in front of a backdrop featuring the Aztec calendar flanked by red banners with swastikas. The Institute’s Director, Wilhelm Faupel, addresses spectators assembled for the opening of an exhibition. Those present include General Hans Speidel and Gilberto Bosques, Mexico’s Consul-General to France.
Faupel. Willkommen! Bienvenidos! Bem-vindos! Bienvenue! As the Director General of the Ibero-American Institute, I am your host! It is my distinct privilege to welcome you this evening to the ceremony to inaugurate this exhibition of pre-Hispanic art. “Aztec: Power Through Strength” marks the most comprehensive exhibition of Aztec art anywhere in Europe. It is fitting. The Ibero-American Institute is today the largest depository of information on the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world outside the Ibero-American community of nations. This, too, is fitting. The Third Reich is a friend of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. (Faupel motions his audience closer with his hands.)Glücklich zu sehen! I’m happy to see you! Gather closer! Here we are not strangers! Here, we are new friends and old intimates! This Institute’s very existence is evidence that as Germany regains its rightful standing in the world under the leadership of Der Führer, this Institute will be a beacon of friendship and a cultural embassy to the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations. Mein Damen und Herren, Damas y Caballeros, Senhoras e Senhores, Mesdames et Messieurs! Germany’s destiny is greater than the continent of Europe! And I can think of no more exhilarating evidence of our strengthening relations with Latin America than the graciousness of Mexico to lend this bold, powerful, and compelling assemblage of objects on view here tonight. These spectacular works of art underscore the belief that it is strength from which power is derived. This evening the fleeting troubles of Europe are banished, best left outside. This evening, there is only but art and beauty, friendship and cordiality, the laying of the foundation for what lies ahead! Indeed, this exhibition reminds us of wisdom of the ancients: It bears to remember that the Aztecs, centuries ago, created an Empire through military power and economic dominance. It was only then that were able to subjugate inferior nations and bring unto them the peace that comes from order, security, and obedience. Wir sagen to each of you, I promise this exhibition will not disappoint! Glücklich zu sehen this evening as we celebrate the beauty and power of these astounding works of art. When you think of the Aztecs, I want you to reflect on the undeniable truth that security is found in strength and it is strength that secures one’s homeland. On behalf of the Third Reich, Mein Damen und Herren, Damas y Caballeros, Senhoras e Senhores, Mesdames et Messieurs, you are all welcome to our home and homeland! Todos son bienvenidos a nuestra casa y patria! Todos vocês são bem-vindos a nossa casa e terra natal!(The assembled audience wanders about, looking at the various works of art. Faupel makes his way from the podium and heads over to Speidel and Bosques. The men are talking quietly, each holding a glass of wine.)
Speidel. This is a remarkable exhibition, General Faupel. It is no wonder that Der Führer thinks you would make an excellent envoy to Franco in Spain!
Faupel. General Speidel! You embarrass me with such speculation! I am a simple museum director only interested in advancing the knowledge necessary to empower the German nation to action! Politics are beyond my aspirations!
(The men laugh. A waiter approaches and Faupel reaches for a glass of wine.)
Speidel. It is a source of pride to see how effortlessly this magnificent Institute has now established the foundation for Germany’s future relations with the most promising nations in the world. (Speidel turns to Bosques and then looks at Faupel.) General Faupel, this is Gilberto Bosques. Herr Bosques has been named Mexico’s envoy to France. He and his family are spending a few months in Berlin before he takes his post in Paris.
Faupel. Welcome to Germany, Herr Bosques! Without your government’s gracious gesture of friendship most of the pieces in this exhibition would not be here! Germany is grateful to you and your nation! (Faupel pauses as he sizes up Bosques. He smiles, looking over to Speidel before addressing Bosques.) How long will you be in Berlin?
Bosques. It is my intention to remain here for several months. My wife, María Luisa, has relations here and my daughter, Laura María, my eldest child, is fascinated by Museum Island. She is taking courses in German studies at the Altes Museum, as well as studying the sculptures at the Bode Museum.
Faupel. That is splendid, Herr Bosques. Tell your daughter that the Pergamon Museum is my personal favorite—she should not miss it! How long are her studies at the museum?
Bosques. Ten weeks. She is enrolled in a ten-week program. But we plan to stay in Berlin for five months. There may be another course she is thinking of taking that concludes days before we are scheduled to leave Berlin. My entire family is excited about being in Berlin, General Faupel. And once our time here has concluded, then I will take my post in Paris.
Faupel. It is superfluous of me to say that I am at your disposal; that is a given. Then again, that you know General Speidel, well, what more can I offer that he has not already?
Speidel. General Faupel, you are too kind!
(Faupel places his hand on Speidel’s shoulder as he leans toward Bosques.)
Faupel. Herr Bosques, General Speidel is modest to a fault. The good general was a commander in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. This marked the first time that tanks were used in warfare—and despite the outcome of that Battle, General Speidel conducted himself honorably. He is a war hero!
Bosques. Yes, I am aware of that, General Faupel. But it is good to hear it acknowledged by others who respect this great man. The truth is, I have never known Hans to be anything less than a principled and courageous man, General Faupel.
Faupel. On that observation you will find me in complete agreement, Herr Bosques!
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. H. Freiherr Rüdt von Collenberg-Bödigheim, Germany’s ambassador to Mexico, is present.
Rüdt von Collenberg. The Third Reich is a friend of Mexico, Mr. President. And your government’s cooperation in making the exhibition at the Ibero-American Institute a success is evidence of Mexico’s affinity for Germany.
Cárdenas. It is our position to work for understanding among the community of nations.
Rüdt von Collenberg. Of course. (Rüdt von Collenberg pauses for a moment.) I have been asked to inform you, Mr. President, that Der Führer was given a private tour of the exhibition by the Institute’s Director General Wilhelm Faupel. Der Führer was astounded by the power of the Aztec sculpture and he expressed his desire to come to Mexico when it is opportune.
Cárdenas. It’s a pleasure to learn that Germans appreciate Mexico’s cultural heritage. It truly is.
Rüdt von Collenberg. Good! That is precisely the point the Third Reich wishes to impress upon Mexico. We have more in common, our nations, than at first may appear. Der Führer is working diligently and without rest to restore Germany to its rightful place among the community of nations. It is our hope that Mexico, also, take its proper place on the world stage. If I may be bold, Mr. President, it is not necessary to point out that in the same way that the Treaty of Versailles was a conspiracy by France and Britain to humiliate Germany, we see America’s actions toward Mexico as a campaign to subjugate the great Mexican nation.
Cárdenas. Go on, Mr. Ambassador, speak with liberty.
Rüdt von Collenberg. Thank you, Mr. President. I will. (Rüdt von Collenberg clears his throat and straightens his posture.) In many ways our nations face the same challenge: to rise above the humiliation to which we have been subjected by arrogant neighbors, narcissistic nations, each with an inexplicable sense of entitlement. In Germany’s case, I reiterate how the Treaty of Versailles exacted hardship and humiliation of unimaginable proportion upon the great German nation. And in Mexico, it is not necessary for me to enumerate the many slights and affronts of the Americans and the disdain with which those arrogant Yankee Doodle Dandies hold Mexicans. It caused great consternation in Europe when FDR had the audacity to appoint Josephus Daniels as ambassador to Mexico! To think that FDR would send an imperialist who was responsible for the American invasion and occupation of Veracruz to Mexico City! Nothing less than a slap in the face to the great Mexican Nation! Outrageous arrogance! (Rüdt von Collenberg pauses for effect, then speaks with more confidence.)Have you been to the United States of late? I have endured the misfortune of stepping on American soil recently, Mr. President! And I never cease to be appalled by the savage nation that it is! Entire classes of people are discriminated against. Did you know that blacks are not allowed to dine in public restaurants or make use of public facilities? It is a nation whose laws are founded on racism designed to discriminate against and humiliate the most vulnerable members of American society. Segregation is slavery by another name. That’s what it is!
Cárdenas. It is interesting you mention this, Mr. Ambassador, because I have become concerned over reports that in Germany, unfortunately, the same thing appears to be happening. In the United States blacks are, by law, limited in their civil liberties. But in Germany the same is happening to German Jews, is it not?
Rüdt von Collenberg. That is a lie! It is propaganda by Germany’s enemies, Mr. President! It is nothing but propaganda!
Cárdenas. Is it? Is it propaganda, sir?
Rüdt von Collenberg. Of course it is! The Third Reich is not anti-Semitic. Why, if that were the case, then explain the MS St. Louis?
Rüdt von Collenberg. Mr. President, if the Third Reich were anti-Semitic, then the more than 900 Jews aboard that ship, the MS St. Louis, would have been given sanctuary by any reasonable nation. No civilized country could turn its back on people seeking asylum from a nation that was engaged in “ethnic cleaning” or some such similar atrocity, could it? But the simple fact that the United States and Canada both denied Captain Gustav Schröder the right to make port and have his ship’s passengers disembark is proof that neither the United States nor Canada believe that German Jews face any kind of hostility from the Third Reich. That fact alone is irrefutable evidence that the United States and Canada know full well that German Jews seeking asylum have no basis for making such claims! These accusations of anti-Semitism are nothing but lies and slander against Germany! It is malicious propaganda designed to defame the Third Reich before the eyes of the world community.
Cárdenas. So all these reports are false?
Rüdt von Collenberg. Of course they are! The Third Reich poses no threat to Jews in Germany or Jews anywhere—and anyone who claims otherwise is lying.
The Bosques residence. Three school-age girls are doing their homework. Laura María and her schoolmates, Rosa Cohen and Elisabeth Mann, sit at a table. Bosques enters the room.
Laura María. Papá! You are home!
(Laura María dashes over to her father and embraces him by the waist.)
Bosques. I see you are doing your studies. Don’t let me interrupt you and your friends.
Laura María. Yes, this is Rosa Cohen and that is Elisabeth Mann. We’re in the same classes at the Museum.
Bosques. Fräulein Rosa, Fräulein Elisabeth, welcome. Laura María, is your mother home?
Laura María. Yes, Papá. She’s in the study with María Teresa and Gilberto Froylán.
Bosques. Very well, then. I will leave you three young ladies to your studies.
Adolph Hitler’s office. Wilhelm Faupel and Hans Speidel are present with Der Führer. Hitler appears preoccupied and paces. Faupel looks at him quietly, with a respectful air. Speidel stands near Hitler.
Hitler. General Faupel, again, you have outdone yourself. The exhibition of Aztec art at the Ibero-American Institute is a remarkable achievement. I congratulate you and your staff.
Faupel. Thank you, my Führer. Your praise humbles me.
Hitler. I am going to say once more what I have been saying for the last few years—and General Speidel can confirm this is so! Mexico itself is the best and richest country in the world with the laziest and most dissipated population under the sun. Indeed, Mexico is a country that cries for a capable master. It is being ruined by its government. With the treasure of Mexican soil, Germany could be rich and great! Why do we not tackle this task? I cannot see a future without enlisting strategic countries in Latin America. What is your opinion, General Speidel?
Speidel. I agree. I have become convinced that there are many men, well-prepared and up to the task, to bring order to Mexico, my Führer. I regret, however, that their efforts are undermined by the masses of the Mexicans, illiterate peasants who have little love of learning.
(There is a pause.)
Hitler. It is amazing to me. One moment one is contemplating the astounding cultural achievements of the Aztec, of the Maya, of the Olmec … and then one is confronted by the reality of the existence of multitudes of ignorant peasants who don’t even know it was their ancestors who built vast empires. That fact alone is of monumental terror. It is complete horror to see a people so degraded. To think, when the Spanish arrived in Mexico … the indigenous peoples could no longer read or write their own script … They had become savages living among the ruins of their civilizations—except for the Aztecs.
Speidel. The struggle to edify today’s masses is not lost, my Führer. There are men in Mexico, such as José Vasconcelos, who continue to work to create an educational system, on a national level, dedicated to teaching the Mexican masses. I have confidence that nation can achieve great things—and forge a strategic partnership with Germany.
Faupel. And of course there are other countries where progress is further along, such as Argentina in South America. That country is far less … encumbered … than Mexico.
Speidel. “Encumbered” you say?
(Hitler waves his hand, as if to dismiss Speidel’s comment. Hitler then addresses the men by their first names, an indication of intimacy and trust.)
Hitler. Hans, we know what Wilhelm means. It can be said openly: Argentina had almost no indigenous peoples. It is a vast, empty land ready for settlement by the capable and superior races of men. In terms of geography, I was astounded at the figures—which were, Wilhelm?
Faupel. Yes, my Führer. Argentina is more than a million square miles, more than seven times the size of Germany. Most of the country is unpopulated.
Hitler. See that, Hans? Argentina is seven times larger than Germany. And Brazil is how many times larger than Argentina?
Faupel. More than three times as large, my Führer. Twenty-five Germanys can fit in Brazil.
Hitler. We shall create a new Germany there in South America. We shall find everything we need there. We shall not land troops like William the Conqueror and gain Brazil by force of arms. Our weapons are invisible ones.
Faupel. As requested of me, my Führer, I have sent my wife to Venezuela. Enemies of the Third Reich continue to spread propaganda against Germany. My wife’s mission is to put a human face, a feminine face, on the image of Germany and this government.
Speidel. No doubt this will facilitate that Venezuelan oil keeps flowing to fuel the Third Reich’s economic and military ascendance, Wilhelm.
Faupel. Of course! That’s how friendship is repaid.
Hitler. Yes. Friendship is forged through economics and culture. Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela. These are the four principal countries in Latin America that deserve our attention.
Faupel. My Führer, Mexico’s envoy to France was present at the opening of the exhibition. Gilberto Bosques is in Berlin for a few months. Herr Bosques and General Speidel are friends.
(Hitler turns to Speidel.)
Hitler. Bosques? You are a friend of Herr Bosques?
Speidel. Yes, my Führer.
Hitler. Excellent. We have to win him over, Hans. We have to win him to our side. Mexico must become allied to our cause. If we have Mexico, we will have the whole of Latin America.
Speidel. Yes, my Führer, but the key to Latin America is Spain. And the key to Spain is our alliance with Francisco Franco.
Hitler. Yes, yes, I agree. It’s the sentiment Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring expressed. How did he phrase it in his editorial? Yes: “Spain is the key of the two continents. Only Spain’s final victory can preserve for the Spanish-American countries true Spanish culture and tradition.”
(Hitler turns to Faupel and places his hands on Faupel’s shoulders.)
Hitler. To ensure that Germany can forge an inviolable alliance with Spain, Wilhelm, I want you to be Germany’s envoy to Franco.
Faupel. My Führer! You honor me!
Hitler. I trust you completely and I respect you capabilities.
Faupel. I shall not disappoint the Third Reich!
Hitler. You have never failed to meet my expectations, Wilhelm. I have complete confidence in you.
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. U.S. Ambassador Josephus Daniels is present. Daniels, a man almost eighty years old, walks with the help of a cane which he uses to support his weight even while sitting.
Daniels. I want to thank you, Mr. President, for granting me this meeting. Our governments must work closely together, especially in light of the developments in Europe which are of mounting gravity.
Cárdenas. Yes, a unified approach is more prudent, Ambassador Daniels, even if we do differ on policies.
Daniels. I like to think we’ve moved beyond the unpleasantness occasioned by the nationalization of the oil industry, Mr. President. While we still believe it was an ill-advised decision, the way your government seized the American and British oil company properties. … While we don’t agree with your decision, we respect your government’s policies since we respect Mexico’s sovereignty as a nation. Americans are more … understanding … than the British, Mr. President. We’re neighbors and neighbors need to be friendly with each other. We always do well to keep that in mind.
Cárdenas. Well, it’s prudent for you to accept the things you cannot change. Otherwise you might worry yourself such that you end up with an ulcer. We wouldn’t want that, would we? Besides, Royal Dutch/Shell and Standard Oil of New Jersey were compensated—they were paid the value of their properties as they themselves appraised those properties on their official tax declarations.
(The men laugh politely.)
Daniels. The expropriation of oil industry and the “symbolic” compensation paid would not be the source of an ulcer, Mr. President. But I will confide that our differing opinions on Spain do keep me awake at night.
Cárdenas. They do? Why would that be?
Daniels. They do precisely because it is unfortunate that we are supporting opposite sides in Spain’s civil war.
Cárdenas. Mexico’s position is of neutrality. We neither interfere in any nation’s internal affairs—a policy your nation cannot even begin to try to comprehend—nor do we back one side or another.
Daniels. That’s not entirely accurate, Mr. President, if I do say so—and I feel that our working relationship is such that it merits a frank discussion.
Cárdenas. Of course. You can speak freely, Ambassador Daniels.
Daniels. The American position is that we do support Franco’s Nationalist party. What concerns us, however, is that your government offers clandestine assistance to the Spanish Republicans while publicly maintaining neutrality. Let’s be clear about the situation in Spain, Mr. President. Franco’s Nationalist defeated the Spanish Republicans. It is just as well: the Spanish Republicans included Communists, socialists, and all manner of leftist malcontents. Quite frankly, only idiots like Ernest Hemingway could sympathize with the Spanish Republican cause and now that Franco is firmly in control, we have to be realistic. In the spirit of realism, Mr. President, your government’s claims of neutrality are not credible. There are those in Washington who see the expropriation of oil, the establishment of a national health care system, and your support for the defeated Spanish Republicans—Communists and socialists included—as evidence that you are moving towards a socialist model for Mexico.
Cárdenas. Our nationalist policies aside are not that far different from the New Deal programs your own country implemented to get out of the Great Depression, Mr. Ambassador. And so, I repeat that we do not take sides in the disputes taking place in Europe. Mexico is neutral! But, Mr. Ambassador, I remind you that Mexico’s neutrality cannot be misconstrued as remaining passive while Fascism works to destroy democratic regimes!
Daniels. Democracy is a fluid political understanding and a malleable institution. What concerns Washington is your government’s efforts to continue to support Spanish President Manuel Azaña. He will be the last Spanish Republican president—and it would be unfortunate for Mexico to be on the losing side of history once Franco consolidates power.
Cárdenas. The United States cannot possibly welcome a Fascist takeover of Spain!
Daniels. No, but the United States cannot remain on the sidelines and see the Spanish Republicans turn Spain into a Communist state. Remember, sir, whenever you say “Spanish Republican” what Washington hears is “Communist.” I cannot emphasize that point enough to you, Mr. President. For Washington, “Spanish Republican” is the same thing as “Soviet Bolshevik.”
Cárdenas. Then Washington is mistaken, Mr. Ambassador. The Spanish Republicans are democrats, not Communists.
Daniels. That is a naïve assessment, Mr. President. And you are not a naïve man.
Cárdenas. Ambassador Daniels, let me be clear about this. FDR is a Yankee Doodle Asshole. He has always been an asshole and he will always remain an asshole. Relay that message to him, from me, replacing “Yankee Doodle Asshole” for whatever diplomatic phrase the State Department deems appropriate. But do convey this message to him: Mexico will aid the Spanish Republicans and we will do whatever we have to do to protect the physical safety of Spanish President Manuel Azaña. We will not fail to act to protect democracy anywhere when it is threatened by murderous thugs intent on imposing a Fascist regime on any nation.
(Daniels looks amused at the reference to Roosevelt.)
Daniels. Yankee Doodle Asshole? That’s a new one to me, charming in its own way, Mr. President. I’m going to have to see about how that description is best relayed to FDR, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. You do that, Ambassador Daniels. I’m sure you can find a way to express the sentiment in other words. And I want to thank you for making the time this afternoon to come all the way here to see me.
Daniels. There’s no need to thank me, Mr. President. It is always a pleasure to speak with you. And one more thing: FDR will not break diplomatic relations with Spain—and the United States regrets your government’s announced decision to sever ties with Madrid if Franco’s Final Victory prevails. Franco is in de facto power now and he is the man with whom we will do business.
Cárdenas. I understand. But I hope you understand that our foreign policy is based on principles, not political expediency.
Daniels. FDR. A Yankee Doodle Asshole. Eleanor would love that.
The Bosques residence. Laura María and her schoolmates, Rosa Cohen and Elisabeth Mann, sit at a table doing their homework assignments. Rosa Cohen sports a yellow Star of David on her lapel. Bosques enters the room.
Bosques. Well, I see that the three musketeers are busy doing their afternoon studies.
Laura María. Three musketeers? You’re funny, Papá.
Elisabeth Mann. I wish my father had your sense of humor, Herr Bosques!
(Bosques notices the yellow Star of David and approaches the girls. They are busy coloring on drawing paper.)
Bosques. What is this?
Laura María. Our teacher told us that Jews in Germany now have to wear them.
Rosa Cohen. It’s the Star of David, Herr Bosques. My parents told me that Jews in Poland had to wear them after Germany liberated Poland for Germans.
Bosques. Is that so?
Elisabeth Mann. Our teacher says it is necessary for us to know who is a Jew and who is not, isn’t that right?
(Bosques approaches Rosa Cohen and he traces the outline of the yellow Star of David with his finger.)
Rosa Cohen. It’s called Judenstern.
Bosques. Is it?
Laura María. Do you think we will have to wear a yellow cross to let people know we’re Christian?
Bosques. I don’t know, Laura María.
Elisabeth Mann. Well, we’re getting ready, because it might happen. (Elisabeth Mann hands him one of the papers the girls were coloring. It shows an outlined cross colored in yellow.) Here, Herr Bosques. All we will have to do is cut it out and pin it to our lapels!
Bosques. Easy as that?
(The girls continue drawing, oblivious to the implications of what is going on.)
Rosa Cohen. Yes! Then we will be alike!
(Bosques walks over to the telephone. He removes a small address book from his breast pocket and he dials a number. In a moment more, he speaks.)
Bosques. Hello, Fräulein Gretchen? This is Gilberto Bosques. Yes, I’m fine—and so is my family. Thank you for asking, Fräulein. Is General Hans Speidel available? Oh, he is indisposed. Yes, I see. I understand. May I leave a message for him? May you tell the General to contact me at his earliest convenience? I do appreciate it, Fräulein. Oh, excuse me? Oh, yes, yes, of course: Heil Hitler!
The German Embassy. General Wilhelm Faupel and General Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, Commander of the Ground Element of the Condor Legion, Germany’s military unit aiding Franco, are meeting.
Faupel. It is encouraging to see that Franco’s Final Victory over the Spanish Republicans is now complete! History will note that Franco is indebted to both Germany and Italy for this victory.
Ritter von Thoma. You are right about that point. Military history was made during Operation Rügen. The bombing of Guernica opened a new phase in warfare. We should be proud of our achievement!
Faupel. However unpleasant it may have been to bomb civilians, it has now been shown that the efficacy of targeting civilian populations both demoralizes the enemy and accelerates Franco’s Final Victory. Henceforth, regardless of what international agreements may state, the targeting of civilian populations will be something that will not raise an eyebrow and in due course it will become the norm going forward..
Ritter von Thoma. I agree that the psychological impact of killing women, children, and old men is nothing more than, shall we say, a form of collateral damage that governments are now prepared to accept.
Faupel. Yes, it’s delightful to see how militaries continue to advance and improve ways of killing noncombatants as a means of extending political control. The superiority of this strategy is not in question any longer, but it must fine-tuned! It is the public relations factor in the political equation that troubles me. How does a government sell the killing of civilians to their own civilian population?
Ritter von Thoma. That should not concern us, Wilhelm. Future policy can wait. What matters to me is the present course of events. In my estimation, it’s a matter of weeks before Franco consolidates his political and economic control over Spain in its entirety, no?
Faupel. That presumes that the vanquished will no longer be a factor in this nation’s life. I’m not convinced of that. Reports confirm that thousands of defeated Spanish Republicans, under the leadership of José Sanjurjo, are fleeing Spain and entering France by crossing the Pyrenees. Of course it’s easy to say that it matters not; France will soon be under German control and this Spanish Communist filth will be then apprehended. But this presumes that the whole of France will be under Hitler’s command—and that the defeated Spaniards are not able to flee. Our intelligence suggests that Mexico has offered diplomatic protection to Spanish Republican President Manuel Azaña. Franco has actively sought his repatriation back here to Madrid. Vichy France knows where he is, but the Mexicans refuse to hand him over. More than that old politician, what concerns me—and should concern all of us—is the meddlesome Mexicans. Why are they giving asylum to wanted men?
Ritter von Thoma. The Mexican problem should be easy to solve. One stray bomb over the Mexican embassy should settle the matter, wouldn’t you say?
Faupel. If it were only that easy, but it is not. Franco remains furious that Mexico provided arms to the Spanish Republicans. And he is furious that Mexico has broken off diplomatic relations. And everyone wants to know: Where did Mexico’s diplomats go? I suggested to Der Führer that the Mexicans diplomatic staff in Spain could be arrested and taken as prisoners of war. He agreed, but now: Where are the Mexicans? Where in Spain are they?
Ritter von Thoma. Are they hiding in Madrid? Could they have made it to Barcelona? Might they have crossed to Morocco?
Faupel. The fact is that, in the mayhem of Franco’s Final Victory, no one knows. … Except …
Ritter von Thoma. Except?
Faupel. Except Bosques, Mexico’s Consul-General to France. He would know these things. I met the man in Berlin. Charming gentleman. He knows Hans Speidel. Bosques is still in Berlin, I believe, but he is scheduled to take his post in Paris shortly.
Ritter von Thoma. Should he be approached?
Faupel. Perhaps he should be watched.
Ritter von Thoma. Sounds reasonable.
Faupel. See what I mean, how things evolve? Military dominance can only offer so much; it is human intelligence that still is the great unknown in these affairs.
Ritter von Thoma. Could Mexico’s diplomats in Spain have escaped to France?
Faupel. I’m not sure. If had been up to me, we would have bombed all these troublesome diplomatic embassies long ago.
Ritter von Thoma. That would have prevented thousands of Spanish Republicans from fleeing to Mexico. Our intelligence has confirmed that thousands boarded the Sinaia, Ipanema, and Mexique passenger ships and arrived in Veracruz. Italian intelligence indicate two other vessels have also been used to help these fugitives flee.
Faupel. We have to put an end to this. It must end. And promptly.
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. H. Freiherr Rüdt von Collenberg-Bödigheim, Germany’s ambassador to Mexico, is present.
Rüdt von Collenberg. It is with concern that I express my government’s disappointment in Mexico’s conduct, Mr. President. It would seem that while the Third Reich is a friend of Mexico, Mexico is not a friend of the Third Reich.
Cárdenas. I don’t understand how such an opinion could be formed. Please, elaborate.
Rüdt von Collenberg. Although differences in political views are to be expected, Mexico’s undermining of Franco’s Final Victory in Spain has raised concern in Berlin.
Cárdenas. Franco has not expressed displeasure to us.
Rüdt von Collenberg. How can he? Mexico has severed relations with Spain!
(Cárdenas smiles politely.)
Cárdenas. I suppose we have.
Rüdt von Collenberg. This is a serious matter, Mr. President. It is serious because it has consequences on how the relationship between Germany and Mexico evolves during these crucial times.
Cárdenas. Any change in relations would be at Germany’s initiative, not Mexico’s.
Rüdt von Collenberg. Mr. President, in the same way that Europe, today, faces challenges, so does Mexico face its own set of challenges. One of the greatest challenges is maintaining the sale of exports to generate revenue for Mexico’s national development.
Rüdt von Collenberg. The Third Reich’s purchase of Mexican oil is not guaranteed, especially when Mexico seeks to undermine Spain, which is one of Germany’s allies.
Cárdenas. It is true that we are not as wealthy as other nations, Mr. Ambassador. But I do know that oil, as a commodity on international markets, is greatly valued. This is especially the case during wartime. If the Third Reich is contemplating cancelling signed agreements for the purchase of our oil, rest assured that we will find other nations willing to purchase our oil. In this instance, Germany needs Mexico more than Mexico needs Germany. (Cárdenas stands. The ambassador follows suit.) Remind your government that our oil is for sale, but not our foreign policy.
The Bosques residence. Bosques and Speidel are meeting.
Bosques. Thank you so much for coming to see me, Hans.
Speidel. Of course, Gilberto! I regret that with security clearance protocols now in place, it’s difficult to have you come to my offices.
Bosques. It’s understandable given the circumstances.
Speidel. These are, indeed, challenging times.
Bosques. Hans, I know you don’t have much time, so I will be brief. I am concerned about the policies of this current government in Germany. Specifically, I have to confess my alarm at the racial policies I see enacted.
Speidel. Racial policies? I don’t understand what you mean? The Third Reich’s energies are concentrated on building up the German nation, not concerned with questions of ethnic groups.
Bosques. I wish I could believe that, Hans. What I have been seeing—and what occurred last November when that pogrom was carried out by Sturmabteilung paramilitary personnel—is terrifying. A few days ago, a schoolmate of my eldest daughter was wearing a yellow Star of David with the word “Jude” written on it. What is the purpose of this if not to single out and humiliate a people?
Speidel. I don’t know what you mean, Gilberto.
Bosques. Hans, you can’t be blind. Unless you spend all your time at your office, how can you not see what is taking place on the streets of Berlin? It’s been less than five months that my family and I have been here and the changes are noticeable. I’ve asked around and I’ve done research. The hostility against German Jews accelerated after Kristallnacht!
Speidel. Kristallnacht? That was nothing more than zealous young men who went on a youthful rampage after Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat, was killed by Herschel Grynszpan. It was not directed at Jews as a people! It was an unfortunate case of guilt by association—it happened that the killer was a Jew! And the response was terrible—but these acts were committed by misguided young men, not under the orders of the German government! I assure you, Gilberto, that the Third Reich is not anti-Semitic.
(Bosques grows angered and tries to control himself, speaking slowly and deliberately.)
Bosques. I have looked into the matter, Hans. The police stood by and allowed for the beating of Jews and the destruction of their property. On occasion the police even participated in those violent acts. This is state-sponsored violence against one specific group of Germans. It terrifying to me as it should be to you. It is not what Germans should expect of their government—and it is certainly not what the world community expects of Germany. (The men pause and look at each other. There is an awkward moment between them.) Hans, don’t let your love for Germany blind you to the faults of your government.
Adolph Hitler’s office. Wilhelm Faupel is present.
Hitler. Reports from Mexico are infuriating, Wilhelm. Could I have been mistaken? Could I have believed what I wanted to believe instead of seeing the truth for what it was? Is Mexico worth the effort? Why is Cárdenas so resistant to our overtures?
Faupel. It pains me, my Führer, to see this disappointment. It defies logic why Cárdenas would use his diplomats in Europe to undermine Franco and question your leadership.
Hitler. What’s Cárdenas if not some half-breed. Half European, half Indian. It is evident he has the vices of the white man and the savagery of the Indian. What can we expect? What can Germany expect of a mongrel nation of half-breeds?
Faupel. Mexico aside, our efforts in Argentina and Brazil are prospering, my Führer. And Venezuela has guaranteed a supply of oil. Not all is lost in Latin America.
Hitler. I’m not saying Mexico is a lost cause. But it is infuriating. More than oil, Mexico is geography. Its proximity to the United States makes it vital. (Hitler paces in silence as he ponders. Faupel looks down, silent.) There is no alternative. Our agents in Mexico must work to foment civil war. We must rid ourselves of Cárdenas and his stupidity. Take notes, Wilhelm. Our objectives in Mexico must be to insure political control of that nation for the Berlin-Rome Axis. We need to use Mexico as our principal base of operations to undermine the Allies and the United States. I am convinced it is only a matter of time when the Americans will become involved in Europe. We need to use Mexico as the vanguard for ideological penetration of Latin America, which includes propaganda to defame and discredit the United States. This is a priority.
Fauple. Is that all?
Hitler. No. We must ensure that a civil war in Mexico proves such that it distracts the United States and occasions the expenditure of American political, economic, and military capital. And finally, if Mexico continues to prove to be an obstacle to the Third Reich, then we will have the U-boats torpedo Mexican tankers and vessels in international waters. If Mexico will deny Germany of oil, then we shall sink their fleet.
The Bosques residence. Laura María and her schoolmate Elisabeth Mann sit at a table doing their homework assignments. Bosques enters the room.
Bosques. Laura María, your mother asked me to see if you’ve packed all your things. We leave for Paris the day after tomorrow.
Laura María. Yes, Papá. I’m almost done! But I’m going to miss my friends.
Elisabeth Mann. What am I going to do? All my friends are leaving me!
(Bosques smiles and walks over to reassure the girls.)
Bosques. We will be back—and you can come visit us in Paris with your parents, Elisabeth. Besides, you and Rosa are good friends; you’ll keep each other company.
Elisabeth. No, that’s not the case, Herr Bosques!
Bosques. What do you mean?
Elisabeth. Rosa and her family left!
Bosques. Left? Where?
Laura María. They went away on trains, Papá.
Bosques. Trains? What trains?
Elisabeth. Our teacher told us that Rosa and her family are Jews. And she told us that Jews are not really German, so they had to leave.
Laura María. That’s right—Rosa had to leave on trains going east. But we’re going on the trains that head west—that’s where Paris is. Paris is west and to the south of Berlin.
Elisabeth. And Rosa went somewhere east.
Bosques. Where east?
(Laura María shrugs her shoulders. She looks at Elisabeth.)
Elisabeth. We don’t know, Herr Bosques. Our teacher didn’t tell us where she went.
Laura María. Probably where Jews come from, right? Where do they come from? What’s their homeland?
Adolph Hitler’s office. Wilhelm Faupel is meeting with Der Führer.
Faupel. Our intelligence confirms that Spanish Republicans are escaping Europe with the assistance of Mexico, my Führer.
Hitler. What are the Mexicans doing? Aren’t they supposed to be a neutral country?
Faupel. In theory, they are neutral. In practice, that’s a different matter. Cárdenas has ordered Mexican diplomats throughout Europe to grant exit visas to Spaniards fleeing Franco. In some cases diplomatic immunity is being granted to key Spanish Republican officials, which I find to be a travesty, a complete perversion of international law. I do not believe Germany can stand by and do nothing, my Führer.
Hitler. Yes, you are right, Wilhelm. Mexico does complicate matters. But in terms of strategy, a few hundred—or even thousand—political refugees cannot stand in the way of our larger political vision. The fate of the individual is secondary to our greater policy, Wilhelm. Don’t ever forget that the individual can always be sacrificed for a grander political purpose. We must never forget that for the Fatherland, any single individual is dispensable. The sacrifice of millions for the glory of Germany is an acceptable proposition to me. We cannot let a country like Mexico frustrate our designs …
Faupel. Are we to do nothing to stop Mexico?
Hitler. No, we will not stand by. There has to be a response, but it has to be strategic. For now, we will do intelligence gathering before we take reprisals against Mexico. We must have extensive surveillance on the activities of Mexican diplomats throughout Europe. We must also monitor the movements of Mexican tankers shipping oil to support the Allies. We have to be prudent about our activities; for now, we cannot risk breaking diplomatic relations with Mexico. We need to have a means of sending our agents to Mexico City for our intelligence operations throughout North America. We need Mexico City for our spies to have access to enter the United States. I don’t have to tell you that half our diplomatic staff in Mexico is Gestapo.
Faupel. Excellent, my Führer. Also, I should advise you that Mexico’s new Consul-General to France, Gilberto Bosques, takes his post next week in Paris.
Hitler. Let the Gestapo know. They already should.
A classroom at the Atles Museum. Jolanda Huber sits at her desk. There is a knock at the door.
Huber. Come in.
(The door opens. Bosques enters.)
Bosques. Good afternoon, Fräulein Jolanda.
Huber. What a surprise, Herr Bosques. Welcome, please come in!
Bosques. I’m sure you know that we will be leaving for France shortly.
Huber. Yes, I know. I have to tell you that Laura María has been an excellent student, Herr Bosques. She will be missed by her friends—and also by me. Your daughter is a wonderful girl.
Bosques. I know she has made very strong friendships in the few months we have been in Berlin. I hope that these are friendships that will last a lifetime, Fräulein. So it was a disappointment when I learned that one of her friends, Fräulein Rosa—Rosa Cohen—had left. She and her entire family moved out of Berlin without notice, I was told. Is this true?
(Jolanda Huber’s demeanor stiffens.)
Huber. Yes, the Cohens left, Herr Bosques. Why should that concern you?
Bosques. I had just hoped that Rosa and her family would be able to attend a small party we are throwing to say goodbye to Laura María’s classmates and our friends in Berlin.
Huber. Well, the Cohens are not here and they won’t be able to attend. That is obvious, Herr Bosques. But Laura María was very popular. I’m sure there are many true German classmates that will be able to attend; Rosa won’t be missed, I’m sure of it. Why would any Jew be missed at a farewell event for your German friends and colleagues, after all?
Bosques. You are mistaken. Rosa will be missed, that’s why I’m here, Fräulein. Do you know where they went? If they’re not too far away, perhaps Rosa might be able to attend. My post affords me with a chauffeur who can drive to the Cohen residence, provided they are not too far from Berlin.
Huber. I believe they left Germany itself, Herr Bosques. That is what I have been told.
Bosques. Left Germany? Why would they leave their country so abruptly? It doesn’t make any sense.
Huber. Well, Herr Bosques, the Cohens were not true Germans; they were Jews. Who can makes sense of the thoughts in a Jew’s mind? I can’t. Can you?
Bosques. Forgive me for insisting, but isn’t it possible to be German and a Jew? In Mexico it’s possible to be a Mexican and a Jew.
Huber. Yes, well, our countries are different, Herr Bosques! In Germany there is Kneipekultur, and not in Mexico! In Mexico there are pyramids, and not in Germany! Every country is different, Herr Bosques. Yes, countries are indeed different. That’s what makes each culture so exciting—the differences in how people live and see the world.
Bosques. Forgive me for insisting. I’m just a bit surprised that, as you say it, Germany is now seeing the world in a way that excludes her Jewish citizens.
Huber. Herr Bosques, I am a simple teacher. I am a patriotic German woman who loves her country and is doing her best to comply with my civic duties. These polemics you raise are beyond my responsibility or concern. The only thing I know is that Germany is finally rising above the humiliation we endured since the First World War and we have capable leaders who are making the Fatherland great once more.
Bosques. I do not doubt the resolve of your government. But I am trying to understand why Jews would be no longer be considered Germans—and then start to disappear from Berlin. Taken by trains traveling east, I was told?
Huber. What concern is it of yours, Herr Bosques? You are a foreigner—a guest—in Germany. These policies, designed to restore German pride, are internal matters that concern Germans alone! None of this has anything to do with you, Herr Bosques. (Huber pauses, then smiles.) I repeat once more that the Cohens should not concern you in any way. Also, it would be prudent not to question a nation’s policies, especially when you are leaving my country in a matter of days.
Bosques. I apologize if I seem to be meddling in Germany’s internal affairs, Fräulein.
Huber. But you are! You most certainly are! Why are you challenging me this way, sir? The only thing I know—which I support—is that Der Führer is working to defend the lives of innocent Germans!
Bosques. You realize, Fräulein Jolanda, that when you express yourself in that manner, you are implying that Jews are neither fully German nor entirely innocent.
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. He is speaking to Juan de la Torre, an aide from the Foreign Relations Ministry, Relaciones Exteriorers.
De la Torre. Bosques has arrived in Paris, Mr. President. He has been installed as Consul-General to France.
Cárdenas. Good. What was his assessment of Germany? The situation there?
De la Torre. Bosques reports that he confirmed that Germany is moving against its Jewish citizens. Germany is also targeting Catholic priests who have come to the defense of Jews. Bosques reports that there are indications that Germany has taken actions against individuals with genetic defects and other disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome, Spina Bifida, and homosexuality. Unconfirmed reports indicate that these individuals are being subjected to euthanasia. He also expressed concern that ethnic minorities were being targeted for deportation in the nations neighboring Germany.
Cárdenas. Where? To where are these peoples being deported?
De la Torre. Bosques has not been able to find out, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. Let him know that he should use Paris for intelligence. I want to know what is taking place in eastern Europe.
De la Torre. What about the Spanish Republicans?
Cárdenas. Political asylum for anyone fleeing Franco continues as our foreign policy. Bosques should have complete freedom and discretion to issue exit visas to anyone.
De la Torre. Very well, Mr. President.
The Mexican Embassy. Bosques and Speidel are in a reception room.
Bosques. Hans! It seems like it was only a few months ago we were in Berlin!
Speidel. That’s because it was a few months back when we bid farewell, Gilberto.
Bosques. What brings you here to Paris? Especially during the extraordinary events that are taking place?
Speidel. A promotion. I am now the Chief of Staff of the Military Commander in France.
Bosques. I don’t know if I should be happy for you or not, Hans. It sounds ominous to be honest. (Bosques becomes serious.) What has taken place this month is an outrage, Hans. It is an act of aggression by Germany that is without precedent. Germany may call it the “Battle of France,” but the outside world considers it the “Fall of France”! When the U.K. evacuated the British Expeditionary Force it changed things dramatically. I do not know what Germany’s intentions are, but I have to tell you, Hans, that the Mexican diplomatic presence in Paris is alarmed—and our very presence in France is now tenuous.
Speidel.That’s why I am here, Gilberto. We understand how the occupation of France looks to the outside world, to neutral nations, to those who are misinformed, but I want to reassure you that Germany remains a friend of Mexico. There is no need for Mexico to sever relations with the new French government Germany is organizing.
Bosques.Hans, it is not reasonable to believe that Mexico will recognize any new government established as long as German troops occupy Parisian streets. President Cárdenas will simply not recognize this—let’s use the correct word, Hans—invasion. German has invaded France.
Speidel.Gilberto, keep a level head. Cárdenas is a lame-duck president. Aren’t there elections this year in Mexico? His successor is to take office in December, isn’t that right?
Bosques.Yes, that’s correct, Hans.
Speidel.Perhaps Mexico’s new president, once he takes office, will see things differently.
Bosques.Do you expect that a new president will not see Germany’s invasion of France for the invasion that it is? I would not place my hopes of such a dramatic shift in my country’s policy.
Speidel.In life, stranger things have happened, Gilberto. Let your government know that my visit to you today underscores Germany’s commitment to maintaining friendly relations with Mexico. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to return to my office. This morning I am expecting instructions from Berlin.
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. He is speaking to Juan de la Torre, an aide from the Foreign Relations Ministry, Relaciones Exteriorers.
De la Torre. Mr. President, Gilberto Bosques has sent a flurry of communiqués about the situation in France. We are trying to establish a call to him to clarify some points.
Cárdenas. Is the situation as grave as we have been led to believe?
De la Torre. It appears that the German ambassador to France has no influence or authority. It is the German Military Commander Otto von Stülpnagel who has complete power in France.
Cárdenas. How so?
De la Torre. He controls the border between Germany and France, effectively rewarding the French who cooperate by allowing food, clothing, and medicine to enter. He can also seal the border to punish the French who resist Germany’s occupation.
(A Presidential aide enters the room.)
Aide. We have Bosques on the line, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. Pass the call through. (The aide exits and in a moment the telephone on the president’s desk rings.) Bosques, what is the situation? … An internment camp? Where? In Drancy—a northeastern suburb of Paris? For Jews? Scores of camps are planned throughout France? … A second German offensive is in the works? The Fall Rot—a massive military operation—is weeks away?
De la Torre (whispers.) We have to evacuate to the south, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. Bosques, listen to me. We have to evacuate all our diplomatic personnel out of Paris. Last year we evacuated our embassy in Madrid when we broke relations with Franco. I want you to start the evacuation from Paris quickly. To where? To the south, to the south of France. We will communicate shortly about where you and the staff will go.
The German Military Command. Military commander Otto von Stülpnagel and Chief of Staff Hans Speidel are meeting.
Von Stülpnagel. Have you seen the orders, Speidel?
Speidel. I have, General.
Von Stülpnagel. Your thoughts? Your honest thoughts?
Speidel. If I may ..
Von Stülpnagel. Yes, speak your true mind.
Speidel. Speaking as a hero of First World War whose loyalty to Germany and the German people cannot be questioned, I must tell you that I am concerned that these instructions are so draconian, especially how these directives affect the civilian population.
Von Stülpnagel. I, too, have misgivings, Hans. I will say this for your ears only. No one else! (There is a pause as the men look at each other.) Hans, I am afraid that Berlin is intent on implementing certain policies directed at specific groups of individuals. Have you looked at the list of measures? Have you considered the organizational task in implementing these policies?
Speidel. How is it all to be carried out? The Service du Travail Obligatoire, this Obligatory Work Service? How are we going to impose a curfew—or distribute an Ausweis only to those authorized to be out at night? Why are Jews now required to wear a yellow badge on their persons at all times? How are we going to restrict their use of the Paris metro? It will be a massive undertaking to think that all French schoolchildren will have to learn the “Maréchal, nous voilà!” in less than a month. If we arrest all the Spanish Republicans in France, that will overwhelm the prisons in the country, that’s how many Spanish refugees have swarmed France.
Von Stülpnagel. I’m at a loss. Der Führer called me back into active service, ending my retirement, to administer Austria’s Wehrkreise XVII after the occupation of Poland. However reluctant, as a good German, I complied with my duty to serve the Fatherland. But with these orders we have received this morning? As a Christian, I am offended. As German, I am outraged. … I am at a complete loss over what is happening in Berlin. This set of instructions, Hans, is an entirely different creature. This is not the kind of thing imaginable in the Germany I knew as a child.
Speidel. These, however, are our orders, Otto.
Von Stülpnagel. That’s what terrifies me. These are our orders.
The Mexican Embassy. Bosques and Rabbi David Feuerwerker are in a reception room.
Bosques. Rabbi Feuerwerker, I’m delighted to meet with you today.
Feuerwerker. I must confess I was astonished to receive word that you wanted to see me, General Consul Bosques.
Bosques. When I was told you were in Paris, I knew you were the right person to contact. I feel I already know you; my uncle also studied at the Sorbonne decades back, where he received a Diplomé de Langues Sémitiques anciennes. Isn’t that your degree, as well?
Feuerwerker. Yes, it is. (Feuerwerker pauses, unsure of the purpose of the meeting.) I must confess I am still not sure why you wanted to speak with me. What are we to discuss? Surely not the origins of the Aramic and Syriac languages!
Bosques. With my uncle you could! But Rabbi Feuerweker, what I want to discuss with you has nothing to do with antiquity, but everything to do with what is happening in the world today. Rabbi Feuerwerker, my government has made the decision to assist anyone who is persecuted in Europe for their religious beliefs. Until now, Mexico has been granting diplomatic protection and issuing exit visas to Spanish Republicans fleeing Franco. Our criteria are now far, far broader than that, however.
Feuerwerker. How broad, General Consul? How broad are Mexico’s criteria?
Bosques. As broad and diverse as humanity itself.
Feuerwerker. All of humanity?
Bosques. Rabbi Feuerwerker, Mexico is prepared to issue an exit visa guaranteeing safe passage to any Jew who arrives at any of our diplomatic posts in Europe. As the rabbi of the French Departments of Corrèze, Creuse, and Lot, please let everyone know that Mexico will not turn anyone away. My government will be evacuating its diplomatic staff from Paris in a matter of days and I have been informed that we will establish a diplomatic presence in the Marseilles area. When we are fully operational, we will issue exit visas to anyone. Anyone. This is the same policy as my Portuguese counterpart, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, has adopted. Aristides, the Consul-General of Portugal in Bordeaux, declared that from now on he was giving everyone visas and that as far as he was concerned, there are no nationalities, races or religions. That is our position as well. There are no restrictions on who will be granted exit visas by the Mexican diplomatic post in Marseilles. Rabbi, Europe’s Jews are not alone. They have Aristides in Bordeaux and they have me in Marseilles.
Feuerwerker. And from Marseilles, how will Jews exit France?
Bosques. The details are still being worked out, but Mexican flag vessels will depart for North Africa. From there, ships bound for Mexico will set sail.
Feuerwerker. Why? Why are you doing this?
Bosques. Why? Because we have no choice—Mexico is not prepared to turn its back on Europe.
Adolph Hitler’s office. Wilhelm Faupel is present. Faupel hands Hitler stacks of exit visas guaranteeing safe passage to Mexico.
Hitler. How many? How many of these documents are being issued? How many?
Faupel. We have intercepted a few hundred, my Führer, which leads me to believe that thousands are being issued.
Hitler. Why are the Mexicans doing this? Why are they issuing exit visas to Spanish Republicans? Why are they allowing French, German, and Austrian Jews to escape? Have they lost their minds?
Faupel. There is no action that we can take against Mexico that would not violate international law, my Führer. If we violate their diplomatic rights, Mexico might declare war on the Third Reich.
(Hitler pauses for a moment.)
Hitler. Have you identified targets? Mexican ships?
Faupel. Yes. The SS Potrero del Llano and the SS Faja de Oro are the two Mexican tankers more vulnerable to attack, my Führer. These vessels seldom sail with naval escort.
Hitler. I want those vessels monitored. I want to know their movements on the high seas.
The Mexican Embassy. It is late evening. Bosques stands outside, escorting a family of four. They are Jews, wearing the yellow badges now required. A Nazi officer, Cort Schuster, approaches.
Schuster. It is curfew. Where are your Ausweis?
Bosques. I am a diplomat, Corporal.
(Bosques produces his identification papers. Schuster examines them and returns the papers to Bosques.)
Schuster. And these? These four … Jews? Are they Mexican diplomats as well?
Bosques. They are under my protection. They have exit visas and are under the protection of the Mexican Republic.
Schuster. Exit visas? (The father hands over his visa to the officer.) “The bear holder’s presence is required immediately on official business in Mexico City. Safe and uninterrupted passage is requested of all competent officials.” (Schuster laughs.) What urgent matter does Mexico have with these Jews?
Bosques. Corporal, I request you allow us to be on our way.
(Schuster says nothing but points to the oldest child, motioning him forward. Schuster takes out his pistol, places it to the boy’s temple and fires. The child falls; his mother screams and rushes forward. Two Mexican diplomats pull her back and the father embraces her. The younger child clutches his father’s leg in fear.)
Schuster. That’s not the kind of exit I think you intended when you issued this visa, is it? (German soldiers in the background laugh.) That is what I think of Mexico’s diplomatic protection and your asinine exit visas. (The family is terrified and Bosques motions to the diplomats to move back into the embassy compound with the Jews.) I won’t shoot the other three Jews because my men are not prepared to drag the corpses of swine through the streets of Paris tonight. Back inside and if you dare violate curfew without an Ausweis I will shoot you, Herr Diplomat! I wonder if your chest is immune diplomatically to German bullets.
(German soldiers laugh.)
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. H. Freiherr Rüdt von Collenberg-Bödigheim, Germany’s ambassador to Mexico and Juan de la Torre are both present.
Cárdenas. Mr. Ambassador, I am speechless at the recent events in Paris.
Rüdt von Collenberg. With all due respect, Mr. President, when I was summoned here, I was a bit puzzled. The incident described involves France, not Germany.
Cárdenas. Do you want me to believe the fantasy that Philippe Pétain is in charge of France—and not merely Hitler’s puppet? The Germans rule Vichy France, sir!
Rüdt von Collenberg. I insist, Mr. President, France is an autonomous republic. What occurs within France is the responsibility of the French government, not Germany.
De la Torre. Mr. Ambassador, our Consul-General in Paris reports that it was a Corporal Schuster who shot a Jewish child in his presence. This child was in possession of an exit visa issued by the Mexican embassy in Paris.
Rüdt von Collenberg. I have no knowledge of any of this!
De la Torre. The family in question has safely arrived in Mexico, Mr. Ambassador. They are able to provide eyewitness accounts of what transpired.
Rüdt von Collenberg. I am sure they are able to provide eyewitness accounts. That’s to be expected if they were present! That’s what being an eyewitness means, does it not? But what, precisely, are they witnesses to? I submit they are witnesses to events that occurred in Paris, France and as such they are witnesses to events that properly belong to French authorities to investigate, not German officials. The German presence in France is benign and simply exists at the request of French officials who need assistance given the insurrection taking place.
Cárdenas. Am I to understand that you disavow any knowledge of these events, Mr. Ambassador?
Rüdt von Collenberg. Mr. President, I want to impress upon you and your government that the Third Reich is the friend of Mexico. I want to reassure you that whatever may or may not have occurred involving a possible German officer in Paris—at night—is something that, from unsubstantiated reports, I find alarming.
Cárdenas. I repeat: Am I to understand that you disavow any knowledge of these events, Mr. Ambassador?
Rüdt von Collenberg. I only know what I have been told. But I have to admit that what I have been told here by you, now, contradicts other set of facts coming from Berlin.
Cárdenas. Which are?
Rüdt von Collenberg. Which are fundamentally different from the facts enumerated to me by your officials, Mr. President. What can be said with certitude is that here we are in Mexico and I am Germany’s envoy to the Aztec capital. So why are we discussing an incident that took place in Paris? I remind you, Mr. President, that France has nothing to do with either Mexico or Germany—nor should it.
De la Torre. What happens in France has nothing to do with Mexico or Germany, Mr. Ambassador?
Rüdt von Collenberg. What happens between Berlin and Mexico City is all that concerns me—and the Third Reich. However, as long as I am here, Mr. President, if I may be so bold, I would like to convey my nation’s concern about what we perceive to be your government’s unwillingness to see its true interests. And to act to protect Mexico’s true interests.
Cárdenas. How are we being shortsighted, Mr. Ambassador?
Rüdt von Collenberg. This alleged incident centered on the exit visas Mexican embassies throughout Europe continue to issue. I am at a loss to understand why Mexico is so intent on issuing exit visas to Spanish Republicans, Jews, and ethnic minorities—random individuals who just walk in off the street into a Mexican diplomatic mission anywhere in Europe. How does Mexico benefit from having hoards of inferior races and politically misguided malcontents emigrate at will? Is Mexico prepared to be overrun by Communists? Is Mexico going to allow synagogues to compete with churches on public squares? Where is this to end? We are alarmed at the very idea that Mexico will undermine its future by allowing itself to become a vast depository for multitudes of inferior races of humanity and hoards of Jews. The Third Reich would regret it if Mexico’s future were undermined by misguided policies made on emotion—emotion derived from defamatory propaganda spread by the enemies of Germany. These exit visas? Mr. President, these exit visas will be the ruin of Mexico!
The Mexican Embassy. Bosques and Speidel are in a reception room. Speidel is nervous, pacing the reception room.
Speidel. Thank you so much for seeing me, Gilberto!
Bosques. Of course, Hans, I’m always here for you. What’s wrong?
Speidel. I don’t even know how to say this, Gilberto.
Bosques. Then just say it.
Speidel. How could I have been so blind? How could I have been so wrong?
Bosques. What’s the matter, Hans?
Speidel. You were right, Gilberto. I was willing to see only what I wanted to see.
Bosques. In terms of what?
Speidel. Hitler! He’s mad! He will bring ruin to Germany!
Speidel. I have always been a good, proud German. I have always believed we were a great nation—but how could I have been so stupid not to see where this man is leading us? How could I have not seen the measures taken day by day—and connected the dots. The orders I received from Berlin … (His voice trails off. Bosques pours a glass of water and hands it to him. Speidel drinks and places the glass down.) Military Commander Otto von Stülpnagel and I are in agreement over the extremism now defining the Third Reich. I, as well as Otto, have always been in agreement with those aspects of Hitler’s policies that were aimed to return Germany to its proper place as a world power. But this? The orders that were sent from Berlin—they spell out racial policies that defy belief.
Bosques. What? What are your orders?
Speidel. I cannot divulge them, Gilberto. But in the same way that Franco implemented the Final Victory in Spain, Hitler is intent on carrying out the Final Solution throughout Europe.
Bosques. Final solution? What is that?
Speidel. It matters not, at least not right now. What is imperative is for you to understand—and tell the world—that not all Germans are in agreement with the policies being delivered to German officials throughout Europe. And the only way to ensure that you will be able to tell the world is if you leave Paris at once.
Speidel. The Mexican embassy has been under surveillance by the Gestapo. They know about the exit visas you have been issuing. Within a matter of days the government of Philippe Pétain will break diplomatic relations with Mexico and the Gestapo will seize your embassy compound.
Bosques. Are you sure about this?
Speidel. How many diplomats are in Paris?
Bosques. Twenty-one—twenty-one diplomats and dependents. Yes, that’s the entire staff assigned to Paris.
Speidel. Does that include your wife and three children?
Speidel. So the total number of Mexicans is twenty-five.
Bosques. Yes, that’s the entire group.
Speidel. Gather everyone up. Tomorrow night you have to leave. I will arrange for a bus to drive you out of Paris and south—you will be safe on the Mediterranean coast.
Bosques. Is this absolutely necessary? I need to consult Mexico City.
Speidel. There is no time, Gilberto. The Fall Rot military operation is days away—a week or so at most. Tomorrow night it has to be.
Bosques. Fine, Hans. We will be ready. My staff is going to be up all night shredding documents—but we will be ready tomorrow.
Speidel. Nine in the evening, Gilberto.
(Speidel moves to exit the room.)
Bosques. Tomorrow night, Hans. We will be ready.
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. He is speaking to Juan de la Torre, an aide from the Foreign Relations Ministry, Relaciones Exteriorers.
De la Torre. We received an alarming message from Bosques in Paris via the Swiss embassy, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. What has happened?
De la Torre. Bosques informs us that due to circumstances—information disclosed to him—he is ordering the evacuation of the Mexican embassy in Paris tomorrow evening.
Cárdenas. What precipitated his decision?
De la Torre. He indicated reliable information that the Gestapo was preparing to seize the embassy within a matter of days.
Cárdenas. Has he been instructed where to go?
De la Torre. The Swiss have informed him that they will provide sanctuary until we are able to establish a diplomatic post in Marseilles. That should be a matter of weeks at most.
Cárdenas. What about our diplomats from Madrid?
De la Torre. They managed to flee Spain through Andorra and remain in hiding in Perpignan, France. All eighteen of them.
Cárdenas. Instruct them to travel to Marseilles, where they will meet up with Bosques.
De la Torre. Very well, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. Evacuating Paris? What is unfolding in Europe, De la Torre? These events defy disbelief.
The Mexican Embassy. Bosques and Speidel are standing outside the Embassy. There is a bus. Mexican diplomats are boarding. Luggage and boxes are being loaded. A German corporal, RolfFleischer, stands by the bus. Speidel walks over to Fleischer.
Speidel. Unteroffizier Fleischer, this is the pass that will grant you exit from Paris when you reach the barricades we Germans control. Once you are safely out of the city, drive to Lyon. It should be no more than six hours. Refuel, rest for no more than half hour, and continue to Marseilles. You are not to stop for any reason. General Consul Bosques will provide instructions on where to drop him off. Once you have done so, rest for six hours, and then return to Paris immediately. Immediately. Understood?
Fleischer. Yes, General Speidel.
(Speidel pats Fleischer on the shoulder. The corporal boards the bus. Bosques approaches Speidel.)
Bosques. It has come to this, Hans.
Speidel. Never would I have thought things would unfold in this manner.
Bosques. What are you going to do? Now that you know?
Speidel. Foremost, I am a patriot—
Bosques. —But you are also a human being. This humanitarian effort to assist me and my staff in fleeing Paris is evidence of that!
Speidel. I will see what can be done from within the corridors of power in Berlin, but who can tell how this will all end?
Bosques. I want to thank you again, Hans.
Speidel. Not until you are in Marseilles, Gilberto. Then you can thank me, but not until then. I know Mexico remains technically a neutral country in this conflict—but that doesn’t mean that your diplomatic status will be respected should you be stopped. Have arrangements been made for you and everyone once you reach Marseilles?
Bosques. Yes. The Swiss have facilitated a place for us. We expect to have an operational embassy within two weeks. Once we open our doors, we will see what we can do to assist anyone purely on humanitarian grounds.
Speidel. I am confident you will be successful, Gilberto.
(The men look at each other. They embrace briefly. Unteoffizier Fleischer starts the engine. The last of the Mexican diplomats board the bus.)
Speidel. Auf Wiedersehen, Gilberto.
Bosques. Adios, Hans.
The Presidential Palace. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas sits at his desk. He is speaking to Juan de la Torre, an aide from the Foreign Relations Ministry, Relaciones Exteriorers.
De la Torre. Our diplomats and their dependents have left Perpignan, Mr. President. They are well on their way to Marseilles.
Cárdenas. And Bosques?
De la Torre. The Swiss report that they left Lyon after refueling. They should be in Marseilles already.
Cárdenas. Have we established contact with him?
De la Torre. We expect to establish telephone communication any moment, Mr. President. We are standing by for a secure telephone call.
Cárdenas. It is clear to me that we have to be more proactive in our humanitarian efforts. We cannot sit by and do nothing. We will need more passenger ships from the looks of the crisis in Europe.
De la Torre. If we do secure additional vessels, we will need to make different arrangements with Morocco. Right now, our vessels leave the Port of Marseilles headed for Cassablanca. From there, ships depart for Veracruz. The problem is that, as the war in Europe intensifies, the port of Casablanca is operating a full capacity. Tangier is too dangerous for our ships. The other viable port is at Essaouira. Any other port further south along the Moroccan coast is too close to the Canary Islands—and Franco’s navy could intercept our ships.
Cárdenas. Has FDR given us an answer about our leasing passenger ships?
De la Torre. Not yet, Mr. President. The Americans are not enthusiastic about your call for the evacuation of continental Europe.
(A Presidential aide enters and interrupts the men.)
Aide. Gilberto Bosques in on the telephone from Marseilles, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. Yes! Yes! Pass the call. (The aide exits and in a moment the telephone on the President’s desk rings. Cárdenas answers the phone.) Bosques! Are you alright?
Bosques. Yes, Mr. President, we made it safely to Marseilles.
Cárdenas. What is your situation?
Bosques. It seems ill-advised to establish a consular presence in Marseilles proper in my opinion, Mr. President. The city is in much turmoil. I suggest renting a castle on the outskirts of Marseilles, a place that has ample grounds and gardens in the event we need to establish temporary tents for housing refugees.
Cárdenas. Tents? Tents, as in a refugee encampment?
Bosques. For lack of a better description, Mr. President, that is precisely the situation in the south of France. It is a humanitarian crisis.
Cárdenas. What do you need from me?
Bosques. Safe passage for these Europeans who are under siege.
Cárdenas. You have my word on that. Right now we are sailing passenger ships from Marseilles to Morocco and transferring them onto ships bound for Mexico.
Bosques. How many? How many passengers can we accommodate?
Cárdenas. Don’t worry about that—for now. Help as many people as you can. Please remind me of your staff. Who do we have there to assist you in southern France?
Bosques. I am accompanied by Luis I. Rodríguez, Isidro Fabela, Narciso Bassols, Alfonso Reyes, and Daniel Cosío Villegas. All are capable and experienced diplomats, Mr. President.
Cárdenas. Good—get to work, Gilberto.
Bosques. Mr. President, one more thing. I met with Rabbi David Feuerwerker. I asked him to let it be known that any Jew could avail himself to us for an exit visa. I mention this because hundreds of Jews—some from as far away as Lithuania and Ukraine—have contacted Swiss diplomats asking when our consulate in Marseilles would be open.
Cárdenas. It’s that dire? What is happening in Europe? What madness has taken over?
Bosques. How many, Mr. President? How many?
Cárdenas. How many what, Gilberto?
Bosques. How many exit visas am I authorized to sign?
Cárdenas. Gilberto, you do what you have to do. You save as many people as possible. You issue all the exit visas that you can. I want you to save as many people as you can. As many as you can.
This Ibero-American Institute was created when Ernesto Quesada’s gift of his 82,000 volume library to the State of Prussia, Hermann Hagen’s library of 25,000 scholarly works, and the 10,000 books transferred here from Hamburg’s Latin America Studies collection were brought together under the auspices of a single institution during the Third Reich
 Hitler’s dialogue is based on historical documentation.