Collection Favorites: Scrapbooks

Read about the Josiah P. Marvel scrapbook, in which Marvel compiled Nazi bureaucratic documents from his time traveling through Nazi occupied France during the summer of 1940.

Posted on April 6, 2016

A page from the Josiah P. Marvel scrapbook

By Kara Flynn

While it seems crass to say that this item is one of my "favorites," it was certainly interesting to discover. I’m writing this month about the Josiah P. Marvel scrapbook, in which Marvel compiled Nazi bureaucratic documents from his time traveling through Nazi occupied France during the summer of 1940.

Josiah Philip Marvel (1896-1959) was born on April 17, 1896 in Richmond, In., the son of Charles Marvel and Amy Johnson. During the summer of 1940, Marvel traveled throughout Nazi occupied France visiting prisoners of war through his work with the American Friends Service Committee. Marvel collected the documents he was issued as he moved through Nazi occupied France that summer, and compiled them all in his scrapbook, which was later donated to Haverford College’s Quaker & Special Collections. Documents include permissions from Nazi commanders in France, as well as from The Hague and Brussels. The certificates essentially allow Marvel and his companion to travel by car through France during the summer of 1940 for specific, limited periods of time. Each certificate is then signed by a Nazi commander, and stamped with the emblem of the German reich, which featured an eagle holding a wreath in its talons, with a swastika in the center. While it is clear that the certificates meant serious business, Marvel and his fellow AFSC traveling companions were somewhat protected from the Nazi occupiers in France. For example, the first certificate included in the scrapbook closes with: "The vehicle may only be used for the purpose mentioned.  Abuse will be severely punished, a seizure on the part of the armed forces may not take place." The volume also includes a map of the location of prison camps, and a printed booklet on the National Work for Infants.

I was at first shocked to learn that members of the American Friends Service Committee, as Americans, had been allowed to move throughout Nazi occupied Europe, but as it turns out, the American Friends Service committee was extremely active in providing relief in Europe throughout both World Wars. The organization was founded in 1917 during World War I to give young conscientious objectors ways to serve without joining the military, as military action goes against Quaker principles. During WWI, members drove ambulances, ministered to the wounded, and stayed on in Europe after the armistice to rebuild war-ravaged communities. In fact, we have the photo album of one such member, James A. Babbitt, a doctor who volunteered with the AFSC in France during WWI, in the collections as well!

Because of the involvement of the AFSC in relief work in Europe prior to World War II, the Nazis treated the Quakers with respect and permitted them to continue welfare activities in southern France during the occupation. This explains why members of the AFSC, like Marvel, would have been allowed to move throughout Nazi occupied France during the summer of 1940, and why, despite the warning on Marvel’s certificate that "abuse would be severely punished," the military was limited in what they could do, i.e.: "a seizure on the part of the armed forces may not take place." During WWII, Quaker workers helped refugees escape from Hitler's Germany, provided relief for children on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, provided aid and food to refugees in occupied France, and provided aid to victims of the London blitz. During 1941 and 1942, the AFSC helped to transfer  Jewish children from homes and refugee camps in southern France to the United States under the auspices of the US Committee for the Care of European Children. For their relief work during both WWI and WWII, the AFSC, along with British Quakers, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.

The Josiah P. Marvel Scrapbook provides an opportunity to learn about the relief work done by the AFSC during WWII, and highlights the broader history of Quaker international relief work in general.