Raymond H. Geist

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Raymond H. Geist
Raymond Geist.jpg
Raymond Herman Geist

(1885-08-19)August 19, 1885
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
DiedFebruary 28, 1955(1955-02-28) (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationAmerican Consul and First Secretary of the United States embassy in Berlin

Raymond Herman Geist (August 19, 1885 – February 28, 1955) was the American Consul and First Secretary of the United States embassy in Berlin from 1929 to 1939.[1][2] Geist has been recognized as Diplomat Savior by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, which advocates for the recognition of Holocaust rescuers.[3] However, one academic researcher has asserted that Geist largely acted to block the granting of visas to Jewish immigrants between 1933 and 1939, in line with the policy adopted by U.S. Foreign Service Officers in Germany at the time.[4][5][6] A 2019 book about Geist found that "Geist was doing what he could (which, as a consular officer, was not much) to liberalize America's scandalously tight visa regime for Jewish refugees, help as many German Jews as possible."[7]


Geist was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1885. He was student at Oberlin College from 1906 to 1909, and received a bachelor's degree from Western Reserve university in 1910.[8] He received a master's degree in 1916 and a Ph.D. degree in 1918, both from Harvard University.[8][9] Geist died in Los Angeles on February 28, 1955.[10][11] Geist was also a closeted gay man.[7]

Diplomatic career[edit]

In 1921 he entered the United States Foreign Service, serving first in Buenos Aires, and then in Montevideo and Alexandria before being posted to Berlin in 1928.[8][12]

Midway through his career at the Berlin consulate, Geist was directed to refuse a visa for Albert Einstein, based on allegations of Einstein being an active communist.[13][14] The refusal caused an outcry in the United States and was later rescinded.[15][9]

While in Berlin, Geist cultivated a number of high-level contacts within the Nazi party, including personal contacts with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich.[16][17][1] Geist notified his superiors on several occasions of the conditions for Jews in Germany.[18] Following Kristallnacht, he warned the Assistant Secretary of State George S. Messersmith in a private letter in late 1938 that Jews in Germany were being "condemned to death".[19][20] The next year, in May 1939, he repeated his warning, saying that the Jews of Germany would be doomed if aggressive action was not taken to rescue them.[20]

Geist has been credited with helping Jews and anti-Nazis to emigrate from Germany during 1938–1939, including Jews and others who were under imminent threat of deportation to concentration camps.[21] However, between 1933 and 1939 the four U.S. Foreign Service Officers in Germany, including Geist, denied 75% of visa requests by German Jews and filled only 40% of immigration quotas from Germany, in a concerted effort to limit Jewish immigration.[22] As late as April 1939, Geist wrote in a letter to a colleague that the consulate should continue limiting the issuance of visas to German Jewish applicants.[23] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum seems to take issue with that view of Geist, as they describe Geist as "responsible for issuing tens of thousands of visas to German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. He became convinced that Nazi officials were pursuing a goal of 'annihilation of the Jews,' but his warnings were largely ignored in Washington. ... By juggling the number of visas available to various consulates, he was able to make full use of the 27,370 slots in the quota for the first time during the Nazi era in the fiscal year 1938–39."[24]

Geist returned to the United States on October 9, 1939, several weeks after the outbreak of World War II.[25] Following the war, Geist testified and provided an affidavit at Nuremberg on his knowledge of Nazi operations.[26][27]


Geist received the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit from the German Federal Republic in 1954.[10][12]

Depictions in media[edit]

Geist was portrayed by actor Vincent Kartheiser in Genius, the 2017 National Geographic TV series on Einstein's life, where Geist is noted for "having issued over 50,000 US visas during his tenure to Jews escaping Nazi persecution in Germany" before the credits for Episode 8,[28] though some, such as American historian Rafael Medoff, questioned the accuracy of the series' portrayal of Geist with respect to both his direct involvement with Einstein and his subsequent issuing of visas for Jewish refugees.[29][30]


  1. ^ a b United States. Office of Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality (1946). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. ^ Helmut Genschel (1966). Göttinger Bausteine zur Geschichtswissenschaft. Musterschmidt-Verlag.
  3. ^ conVistaAlMar.com.ar. "Dr. Raymond Herman Geist". The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  4. ^ Bailin, Barbara L., "The Influence of Anti-Semitism on United States Immigration Policy With respect to German Jews During 1933–1939" (2011). CUNY Academic Works.http://academicworks.cuny.edu/cc_etds_theses/262
  5. ^ Zucker, Bat-Ami. In Search of Refuge: Jews and US Consuls in Nazi Germany, 1933–1941. London; Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2001.
  6. ^ "Einstein TV series distorts Jewish refugee issue".
  7. ^ a b "A Gay American German in Hitler's Berlin". 23 December 2019.
  8. ^ a b c The Department Of State. Register of the department of state. pp. 132–. ISBN 978-5-88042-309-5.
  9. ^ a b J. Robert Moskin (19 November 2013). American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service. St. Martin's Press. pp. 419–. ISBN 978-1-250-03746-6.
  10. ^ a b "Portrait of Dr. Raymond Herman Geist. – Collections Search – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum". collections.ushmm.org.
  11. ^ "Full text of "Oberlin Alumni Magazine"". archive.org. Oberlin College. 1955.
  12. ^ a b Richard Breitman; Alan M. Kraut (1987). American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933–1945. Indiana University Press. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-253-30415-5.
  13. ^ Fred Jerome (17 June 2003). The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist. Macmillan. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-1-4299-7588-9.
  14. ^ Denis Brian (24 June 2005). The Unexpected Einstein: The Real Man Behind the Icon. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-71840-6.
  15. ^ James G. McDonald (25 April 2007). Advocate for the Doomed: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1932-1935. Indiana University Press. pp. 35–. ISBN 978-0-253-02797-9.
  16. ^ Rochelle L. Millen (September 1996). New Perspectives on the Holocaust: A Guide for Teachers and Scholars. NYU Press. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-0-8147-5540-2.
  17. ^ Kenneth Weisbrode (2 November 2009). The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats Who Forged America's Vital Alliance with Europe. Da Capo Press. pp. 19–. ISBN 978-0-7867-4630-9.
  18. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2002). The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined. Indiana University Press. pp. 180–. ISBN 0-253-21529-3.
  19. ^ Gulie Ne'eman Arad (2000). America, Its Jews, and the Rise of Nazism. Indiana University Press. pp. 202–. ISBN 0-253-33809-3.
  20. ^ a b Baumel Judith Tydor Laqueur Walter; Walter Laqueur; Judith Tydor Baumel (2001). The Holocaust Encyclopedia. Yale University Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 0-300-13811-3.
  21. ^ "The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  22. ^ Bailin, Barbara L., "The Influence of Anti-Semitism on United States Immigration Policy With respect to German Jews During 1933–1939" (2011), p.4. CUNY Academic Works.
  23. ^ Bailin, Barbara L., "The Influence of Anti-Semitism on United States Immigration Policy With respect to German Jews During 1933–1939" (2011), p. 59. CUNY Academic Works.
  24. ^ "Raymond Geist - Americans and the Holocaust - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum".
  25. ^ "U.S. Consul General in Berlin reports to President Roosevelt. Washington, D.C., Dec. 1. Raymond H. Geist, U.S. Consul General in Berlin, leaving the White House". 1939.
  26. ^ Hermann Göring; International Military Tribunal (1948). Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945 – 1 October 1946: Proceedings. The Tribunal. ISBN 9780404536503.
  27. ^ Towiah Friedman (1997). The First 3 Days of the Trial Against the Major German War Criminals in Nuremberg, November 1945: 20th November, 1945 to 1st December, 1945. Institute of Documentation in Israel for the Investigation of Nazi Wars Crimes.
  28. ^ "The 10 Best Scenes from National Geographic's Genius". 14 June 2017.
  29. ^ Medoff, Rafael (June 20, 2017). "Einstein TV Series Distorts Jewish Refugee Issue". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  30. ^ Goldberg, Sarah (June 20, 2017). "What 'Genius' Gets Right—and Wrong—About the Jewish Einstein". Moment. Retrieved June 11, 2019.