Maiden House Speech 1947
Congressman Richard Nixon attacks a suspected American spy.
Maiden House Speech by Congressman Richard Nixon
February 18, 1947
Mr. Speaker, on February 6, when the Committee on Un-American Activities opened its session at 10 o'clock, it had by previous investigation, tied together the loose end of one chapter of a foreign-directed conspiracy whose aim and purpose was to undermine and destroy the government of the United States. The principal character of this conspiracy was Gerbert Eisler, alias Berger, alias Brown, alias Gerhart, alias Edwards, alias Liptzin, alias Eisman, a seasoned agent of the Communist International, who had been shuttling back and forth between Moscow and the United States from as early as 1933, to direct and master mind the political and espionage activities of the Communist Party in the United States.
When Eisler appeared before the committee, he did not come as a grateful political refugee who had enjoyed a safe haven in this country from war-ravaged Europe during the period of World War II; he came instead as an arrogant, defiant enemy of that government and promptly manifested his disrespect by refusing even to be sworn before the committee. His manner and attitude was one of utter contempt.
Two other conspirators and comrades of Eisler, Leon Josephson and Samuel Liptzin, who were subpenaed to appear, did not appear; Josephson contended by telegram that 2 days was not sufficient notice for him to come from New York to Washington, and Samuel Liptzin informed the committee by telegram that he could not appear because he was at the bedside of one very dear to him. It is no wonder that Eisler refused to talk and Josephson and Liptzin did not respond to the subpenaes, because the committee, through its own investigators, had obtained documentary evidence which linked these three individuals with several very serious violations of federal statute.
The committee also had present qualified witnesses who were prepared to unmask the subversive activities of Eisler and his co-conspirators.
I think I am safe I announcing to the House that the committee will deal with Mr. Josephson and Mr. Liptzin at a very early date, and that subsequent hearings by the committee will reveal the detailed operations of Gerhart Eisler. There are a number of witnesses scheduled to be heard by the committee on this case.
I should like to read at this time from a report by J. Edgar Hoover on the activities of Gerhart Eisler:
It is of particular significance to note that through the investigation of Gerhart Eisler it has been ascertained that he is identical with an individual previously known as Edwards, who, from approximately 1933, until approximately 1938, was the representative of the Communist International to the Communist Party, U.S.A. by virtue of which position he was responsible for and instrumental in the determination of American Communist policy and the control and the direction of American communist operations.
Eisler's primary contacts since his arrival in the United States have been important Communist functionaries, many of whom are strongly suspected of involvement in Soviet espionage operations.
The entire pattern of Eisler's activities since his arrival in June 1941, as previously summarized, is one of apparent evasion and duplicity coupled with clandestine but no less important activity. He has been in constant contact with important Communist functionaries and has been frequently in touch with individuals identified as or strongly suspected as being Communist functionaries and has been frequently in touch with individuals identified as or strongly suspected as being Soviet espionage agents. In addition, as noted in greater detail above, Eisler was for many years an important representative of the Comintern. During a recent interview, Gerhart Eisler unequivocally denied his activities as outlined above, which denials obviously were false and unfounded.
How, Mr. Speaker, I would like to give the House some of the facts concerning Eisler. He was born in Leipzig, Germany, February 20, 1897. He started his Communist career in Austria when he helped organize the Communist Party I that country. He then transferred his activities to Germany and shortly thereafter was transferred to Moscow, where he was trained to be an agent of the Communist International, or a "C.I. Re;.," as they are referred to in Communist Party Jargon. At the Lenin School in Moscow, he was schooled in revolutionary tactics, in espionage, sabotage, and other methods and tactics which serve the Communist revolutionary program. He was assigned to the American Commission of the Comintern to prepare himself for his future duties in America.
His first assignment as a Comintern agent was in China in 1928, and then in 1933 he was sent to the United States to take over. From 1933 until the late thirties, he was the mysterious but supreme authority on communist activities in the United States. Because his activities were carried on secretly, it was necessary that he use many aliases. It was also necessary that he return to Moscow at regular intervals to get the latest party line and instructions, and so in 1934, when he needed a passport to return to Moscow, he obtained one through the application which I hold here in my hand. This application has been reproduced and is contained in the committee's hearings, and I suggest that every Member, at his convenience, study it, because it will give you an insight into the fraud and intrigue which is employed by the Communists agents to carry on their work.
Now the handwriting on this application, according to the questioned documents experts of the Treasury Department, is that of Leo Josephson; the name on this application is that of Samuel Liptzin the picture on this application is that of Gerhart Eisler; the signature of the identifying witness, Bernard A. Hirschfield, is also in the handwriting of Leon Josephson. In fact so far as the committee has been able to determine, there is no such person as Bernard A. Hirschfield. The passport was issued to Eisler in the name of Samuel Liptzin on August 31, 1934. He sailed on the Berengaria in 1935 for Moscow on passage which was paid for by the Communist Party of the United States.
He returned to the United States and used this passport again in 1936, when he again went to Moscow. Bear in mind, however, that the passport application made no reference to his going to Russia. Also bear in mind that while Eisler was the keyman on Communist affairs in the United States, he was known only to the top functionaries. The committee produced a number of other documents relating to Eisler's activities during the thirties, and heard considerable testimony to the effect that he was operating in the United States, during the thirties. This becomes important when you learn that on June 14, 1941, when Eisler arrived at Ellis Island as a so-called political refugee form France, he swore before a special board of inquiry at Ellis Island that he had never been to the United States before. He swore that he had never been married, although the facts show him to have been married twice before he entered the United States.
When that board asked him the following question "Are you now or have you ever been a member of any communist organization?" his answer was "No." When he was asked, "Were you ever sympathetic to the Communist cause?" his answer was "No." He even denied under oath that he had a sister, even though that sister was at that time residing in New York. Eisler has been in the United States since June 14, 1941. All during the war period eisler was the commissar for communist activities in the United States. When he wrote articles he was "Hanns Berger." When he sat I on secret Communist meetings he was "Edwards," and when he traveled he was "Brown." Under the name of Julius Eisman he was being paid regular sums by a Communist-front organization known as the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee committee, and from other Communist sources.
From the story I have related briefly today we can see the type of man we are dealing with. For those members who are interested in looking into the matter further. I recommend a reading of the full transcript of the testimony before the committee.
There is a tendency in some quarters to treat this case as one of a political prisoner, a harmless refugee whom this committee is persecuting because o his political belief, and who is guilty only of the fact that he happens to have a different political faith than the members of this committee. For that reason, I believe the story of his activities is important. It is a story replete with criminal acts against the United States, forged documents, perjury, failure to register as an alien agent. It is a story of a man described by his own sister as an arch terrorist of the worst type -- a man who was clearly linked by the testimony with members of the Canadian atom-bomb spy ring, a man whose only reason for being in the United States was to tear down and destroy the Government which furnished him refuge during the war years.
This is the man who showed such contempt for a committee of this House. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run on many of the criminal acts of Gerhart Eisler. It seems most pertinent to ask where were the agencies of our Government responsible for enforcing the immigration and naturalization laws when the statute was running on the Eislers, the Josephsons, and the Liptzins.
The SPEAKER: The time of the gentleman from California has expired.
Mr. THOMAS: Mr. Speaker, I yield three additional minutes to the gentleman from California.
Mr. NIXON: I think that every Member of the House is in substantial agreement with the Attorney General in his recent statements on the necessity of rooting out Communist sympathizers from our American institutions. By the same token I believe that we must all agree that now is the time for action as well as words. The Members of this House have probably had experience in dealing with the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice. The rules of that Service are extremely strict. For example, I have a specific case in my district, of a teacher of French at Pomona College, California, whose permit has been revoked because she did not report a change of employment to the Service: yet Gerhart Eisler was able to go freely in and out of the United States from 1933 until the present time with relatively no difficulty. It is significant to note that in 1943 the Immigration and Naturalization Service changed his status from that of alien in transit to alien for pleasure. In that status he had the complete run of the country. It would certainly seem that an investigation should be made of the procedures and the personnel responsible for granting such privileges to dangerous aliens of this type. Certainly no stronger case could be made for the proposition that there is no place in the Federal Service in positions so closely related to the security of the United States, for governmental employees who follow the Communist line or any other line which advocates the overthrow of our Government by force and violence.
It is essential as Members of this House that we defend vigilantly the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But we must bear in mind that the rights of free speech and free press do not carry with them the right to advocate the destruction of the very government which protects the freedom of an individual to express his views.
The resolution before the House today proposes a very simple and direct question. By adopting the report of our committee concerning an obvious contempt, this House can put Mr. Eisler out of circulation for a sufficient period of time for the Department of Justice to proceed against him on more serious charges.
Mr. THOMAS: Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from New York.
Mr. MARCANTONIO: Mr. Speaker and ladies and gentlemen of the House, I recognize there is very little anyone can say here that will at this time dispel the hysteria which has been worked up over this case. However, there are certain fundamental truths which are inescapable and which time and events will bring to bear more and more forcibly on the minds of the American people. The first is that when you tear away all the innuendos, the opinions of personal enemies, as well as the propaganda in certain sections of the press, neither this record, nor any other record, will ever show that at any time has this defendant engaged in any activity aimed at the violent overthrow of the Government of the United States. You cannot get away from that. You can say he is a Communist -- true.
But you cannot say there is any concrete evidence anywhere that he has ever engaged in any activity supporting any action for the violent overthrow of the government of the United States. His only activity has been that of a militant anti-Fascist. Ironically, the anti-fascist is on trial while pro-Fascists are at liberty to applaud and demand his persecution. If he has violated any statues with respect to the immigration laws, that is not a matter for us to decide. We are still living in a country of law and order. That is a matter for the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury to pass upon.
I would like to deal at this time with two phases of this question -- the first is whether or not there is a willful contempt of the committee. That is a legalistic phase and one which I admit is relatively unimportant. I call to the attention of the members of the House page 3 of the committee hearings, and I read as follows:
The CHAIRMAN: Mr. Eisler do you refuse again to be sworn?
Mr. EISLER: I have never refused to be swown in. I came here as a political prisoner. I want to make a few remarks, only 3 minutes, before I be sworn in, and answer your questions, and make my statement. It is 3 minutes.
Mr. THOMAS: Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. MARCANTONIO: My time is limited, but I yield to the gentleman.
Mr. THOMAS: I want to add to the gentleman's remarks that the statement that Mr. Eisler wanted to make in 3 minutes consisted of 20 legal-size pages of paper.
Mr. MARCANTONIO: Still and all, I do not think that he was guilty of contempt when he offered to answer all questions. The argument between Eisler and the committee was one of procedure. Of course, technically, the committee had the right to establish its own procedure and insist that the witness follow that procedure laid down by the committee. But we are dealing with contempt and we must consider the question of willfulness, to determine whether or not contempt was committed. This was not willful contempt when the witness states, "I want to answer questions but I ask you to permit me to make a statement first and then I will be sworn in and then I will answer questions." Under the circumstances, the committee's insistence on its procedure was unreasonable and this is the decisive factor in this case.
Mr. MATHEWS: Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. MARCANTONIO: In just a moment, I have only about two more minutes. I decline to yield, Mr. Speaker. I want to continue my argument. So that here we do not have a case of willful withholding of information on the part of a witness. The witness was ready to answer questions. He so stated. He simply asked the right to read a statement. I do not think that witness should be blamed for it. Let us look at the circumstances under which he was brought before the committee. All of the evidence indicates conclusively that the witness was ready and willing to come before the committee and had made arrangements to come before the committee. All of a sudden, at the request of the gentleman from New Jersey, chairman of the committee, this man was picked up and brought before the committee as a prisoner.