Who ranks higher in the hearts of Americans than George Washington, Steve Jobs, or Santa Claus? Abraham Lincoln, of course. With a 91% approval rating according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, Lincoln remains our most beloved American hero. In light of a find this week in the Hoover Archives, it seems that Lincoln held a special place in German hearts as well.
The Louis Lochner collection contains an original play by Hermann Lüdke depicting the life of Abraham Lincoln. Published in Berlin in 1928, the play, like the recent Steven Spielberg film, shows the president grappling with his cabinet over the issue of slavery. Although the play offers no insights into the life of Lincoln, it does render an interesting view of a German’s romance with America during the interwar period. In a letter accompanying the play, Lüdke describes to an American friend why he chose Lincoln as a subject:
“A few years ago I saw a picture of Abraham Lincoln…Extremely moved by the profound melancholic earnestness of these features I could not set myself free of them…I saw before me a man wholly dejected by the cares of his country, the father of his people, who felt the great responsibility resting upon him in the innermost of his heart.”
Lüdke’s admiration for America survived even World War II. He served as a medical doctor with American forces in Germany in 1946.