Published in The Athens Observer, p. 5 (May 25, 1995).
Author: Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law.
In 1916 Jane briefly was the lover of writer Joseph Conrad. A 1991 biography of the famous novelist written by Jeffrey Meyers devotes one chapter, two appendices, a bibliography, and numerous footnotes to the fascinating life of Jane Anderson.
In 1917 and 1918 Jane lived in Paris at the luxurious Hotel Crillon, next to the American Embassy, where she associated with high-ranking military and diplomatic officers, moved in the highest circles of government, and was suspected by some of being a German spy.
After 1922 Jane spent most of her time in Europe.
In 1934 in Seville Jane married Eduardo Alvarez de Cienfuegos, a gigolo and professional gambler claiming to be the Marques de Cienfuegos. Jane also converted to Roman Catholicism from Protestantism, and shifted her political allegiance to the far, even fascist, right.
On Sept. 23, 1936, while covering the Spanish Civil War as a pro-Franco war correspondent, Jane was seized by Loyalist forces in Madrid. She was imprisoned under inhuman conditions, harshly interrogated, and sentenced to death by a revolutionary tribunal. After being forced to watch other prisoners tortured or executed, Jane was released in mid-October as a result of the intervention of the U. S. State Department, which spirited her back to the United States. Miraculously, Jane had escaped the firing squad by an eyelash.
Historian William G. Schofield writes that Jane's horrible experiences in Spanish prison forever destroyed her extraordinary beauty. "She had entered prison as one of the beautiful women of Spain. When she came out she was haggard from scurvy and badly scarred by rat-bite. Her face was deeply lined. Her eyes carried a gleam that was near insanity and near terror ..."
A friend who saw Jane after Anderson's release "said that Jane was big and fat and pop-eyed ... [S]he had degenerated into a cold, soulless creature completely without feeling or consideration for others. It was very evident that she used drugs. How supremely awful!" Jane's drug abuse consisted of excessive use of barbiturates, which had first been prescribed for her to treat shell-shock acquired when as a war correspondent in 1916 she visited the soldiers at the battlefront in their trenches.
When Jane began to abuse alcohol is unknown. However, there are indications that even before the Spanish Civil War alcohol and drugs had wrecked Jane's legendary pulchritude. In 1934 or 1935 an old friend agreed to meet Jane in a London hotel. The friend went and found Jane and was shocked at what he saw, later writing: "[A]long the corridor came, not the lovely creature I had known, but a raddled, blowzy woman, very, very drunk. A tragic sight." A photograph taken of her in the early 1930's shows, according to one scholar who has seen it, that "Jane has completely lost her beauty and become a dumpy matron."
In the entry in his diary for Oct. 21, 1939, the infamous Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels mentioned Jane Anderson favorably, and on May 10, 1941 Jane had an official meeting with Goebbels. From April 1941 until March 1942 and occasionally in 1944 Jane Anderson, who was referred to as "the Georgia Peach," broadcast Nazi propaganda via short wave radio from Berlin to the United States. Her programs on German State Radio's U. S. A. Zone were designed to justify Nazi aggression and to weaken the American war effort by dividing Americans.
There is an excellent account of Jane Anderson's work for Nazi Germany in John Carver Edwards' book Berlin Calling: American Broadcasters in Service to the Third Reich, published in 1991. (Edwards is a University Archivist at UGA.) He believes Anderson had a "commitment to nazism ..."
Jane's radio program was broadcast two or four times a
week. Each broadcast began and ended with the inane slogan, "Always
remember progressive Americans eat Kellogg Corn Flakes and listen to both
sides of the story," while a band played a tune called "Scatterbrain"!
On the program Jane lavished praise on Adolf Hitler, once referring to
him as "an immortal crusader, a great lover of God," and asserting that
Hitler "had reached to the stars"!