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The Rapp-Coudert Committee - Prelude to McCarthyism

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“Now if your dog had rabies you wouldn’t clap him into jail after he

had bitten a number of persons—you’d put a bullet into his head, if

you had that kind of iron in your blood. It is going to require brutal

treatment to handle these teachers….”

-- Frederic Coudert, NY Republican Senator (New York Times, June 3, 1941)

I had always known that Robert J. Morris, the "grandfather of McCarthyism"

had cut his eye teeth on the Rapp-Coudert Committee (1941-1942) and I knew

that Boris Brasol and Adrian Arcand (the Canadian Fascists and pro-Nazis)

were involved with The Coudert Brothers Law Firm in New York City.

And yes, before Anastase Vonsiatsky went to jail (1941 or 1942) he was also

involved with Brasol, Arcand, the Bund and other ex-Czarists who were pushing

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion from the very early days.

But did I ever link the possibility of The deMohrenchildts using Coudert

Brothers law offices to come over here courtesy of the Paris, France office of

The Coudert Brothers? No. Even though I knew that deMohrenschildt

reported to Vonsiatsky according to Charles Higham in American Swastika.

Did I ever know that William F. Buckley, Jr. asked Fred Coudert to run

his campaign for Mayor of New York City in 1965. No way, Jose!

Coudert's father had also run for Mayor of New York City at one time.

I had references to Brasol, Coudert and Arcand, courtesty of John Roy

Carlson in Under Cover and perhaps The Plotters, too, in my manuscript

but could only speculate that Ron Gostick learned his craft from Brasol

and Arcand in Canada. Now I am positive of that. Were they both

alive in 1963 to cheer and clap and celebrate? Not sure.

The Rapp-Coudert Committee was all about Robert J. Morris and the

arch-Catholic anti-Communist Coudert brothers however but I could not

help but cite the fact that Richard Condon in The Manchurian Candidate

linked together almost ALL of these Coudert Committee hangers-on into

the JFK Assassination 22 years later. No anagrams, just facts.

Seems it was Boris Brasol who gave Ulius Amoss the idea about

"Leaderless Resistance" adopted by Louis Beam and the radical right.

Who invented McCarthyism in 1941?

(1) Robert J. Morris

(2) William F. Buckley, Jr.

(3) Anastase Vonsiatsky

(4) Dr. Revilo P. Oliver (Birch Society)

(5) Arcand and Brasol the Canadian Nazis and ex-Czarists

(6) Rev. Gerald L K Smith

(7) Perhaps George deMohrenshcildt

Man, that Richard Condon was good. And boy did he know his stuff.

I hope that Greg Parker and Robert Howard can firm up their speculation

that BOTH deMohrenschildts used Coudert Brothers' Paris office to

get into the United States. George's brother was later convicted for

being a Nazi Spy and George reported to Vonsiatsky, THE Manchurian

Candidate. And George was Lee Harvey Oswald's mind controller.

(I can hear poor Bill Kelly moaning already.... Sorry, Bill. Moan away.)

And even Richard Giesbrecht ran into a bunch of these characters or

their philosophical progeny in Winnipeg, Canada on 2/13/1964.

(1) "Tsar" Anastase Andrevitch Vonsiatsky (AAV) which is 11-22 by the way A=1 A=1 V=22

(2) Dr. Revilo P. Oliver (Birch Society) who made speeches about the trip to Canada

(3) Arcand and Brasol the Canadian Nazis via their friends Gostick and Walsh and Eric D. Butler from Australia

(4) Rev. Gerald L K Smith himself - that unprincipled ruffian (LOL) and xenophobe

(5) Andrij Melnyk of OUN/M and Spas T. Raikin (ABN) who greeted the Oswalds

(6) References were made to Wickliffe P. Draper and The American Mercury, too

Man oh man oh man alive. Case Closed.

But read on... and please add more.

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The Rapp-Coudert investigations and the subsequent Board of Higher

Education trials lead to the dismissal, non-reappointment or

resignation of over fifty faculty and staff at CCNY-the largest

political purge of a faculty in the history of the US. CCNY loses many

outstanding teachers; most never work in academia again. The purge

ends when the US enters World War II as an ally of the Soviet Union in

the fight against fascism.

The techniques pioneered by the Rapp-Coudert Committee -- private

interrogations, followed by public hearings for those individuals

named by the committee's "friendly" witnesses -- become the model for

the McCarthy investigations of the 1950s.

“The reign of terror that this investigation unleashed in the city

colleges is part of the history of the early 1940s in New York. It has

well been described as a dress rehearsal for the McCarthyism of the

1950’s on the national scene.”

--Abraham Edel, The Struggle for Academic Democracy, 1990

The main focus of the Rapp-Coudert Committee becomes City College, the

largest and most famous of the city’s public colleges.

harrygottlieb William Canning, an instructor in the history department

appears before the committee and names over fifty staff and faculty at

CCNY as CP members. CCNY has at least three informers, including Oscar

Zeichner, a history instructor and Annettte Sherman Gottsegen, a

clerk. In this illustration, William Canning is depicted as a puppet

being manipulated by an evil giant, and is encouraged from the

sidelines by the Ku Klux Klan, bankers, and a college administrator.

friendlywitness Annette Sherman Gottsegen testifies against John

Kenneth Ackley, the CCNY registrar.

harrynoblewright Acting City College President Harry Noble Wright

assists the Rapp-Coudert Committee in its investigation of City

College faculty and staff by submitting a list of potential CCNY


headline President Wright suspends eleven CCNY professors and staff

members for allegedly giving false testimony to the Rapp-Coudert

Committee when they deny Communist Party membership during hearings.

rcccnyfaculty Suspended CCNY professors attend a peace strike in

Lewisohn Stadium on April 23, 1941, one day after their suspensions.

Seated left to right are David Cohen, librarian; Samuel Margolies,

librarian; Walter Neff, psychology; Saul Bernstein, biology; John

Kenneth Ackley, registrar; and Morris Cohen, chemistry instructor.

Standing, left to right are Louis Balamuth, physics ; Jesse Mintus,

registrar’s office; and Sidney Eisenberger, chemistry.

trialbhe John Kenneth Ackley, CCNY Registrar, is first to be formally

tried by the NYC Board of Higher Education’s trial committee.

Individuals named by two witnesses before Rapp-Coudlert as CP members

are either terminated by Acting President Wright, resign under

pressure, or are dismissed after trials.

louislozowick “Wright is Wrong."



Immediately following the furor over Bertrand Russell and during a

period of heightened anti-communism, state legislators in Albany

decide to create a joint legislative committee, the Rapp-Coudert

Committee (1940-42) to examine the extent of “subversive activities”

in the state’s schools and colleges.

The Rapp-Coudert Committee holds private hearings from September 1940

through December 1941. More than five-hundred public college faculty,

staff, teachers and students are subpoenaed and interrogated about a

wide range of political activities, including Communist party

membership. People called before the committee are encouraged to

reveal the names of colleagues who also participated in such


The Committee believes that democratic reforms achieved by the College

Teachers Union can be used by the Communist party to “capture” CCNY

and eventually to impose “democratization” at the Board of Higher


“Now if your dog had rabies you wouldn’t clap him into jail after he

had bitten a number of persons—you’d put a bullet into his head, if

you had that kind of iron in your blood. It is going to require brutal

treatment to handle these teachers….”

-- Frederic Coudert, NY Republican Senator (New York Times, June 3, 1941)

Egleson The first act of the Rapp-Coudert Committee is to subpoena the

membership lists, financial reports, and minutes of meetings from the

New York Teachers Union and the College Teachers Union.

subpena A subpoena is issued to the College Teachers Union on January 27, 1941.

Mervin Jules Students, mainly members of the American Student Union,

are subpoenaed to appear at private hearings of the Rapp-Coudert

Committee. They are told to disclose their political activities, name

other students, and report on their professors. Students are not

allowed to have either their parents or a lawyer present at these


William Gropper College faculty and staff as well as public school

teachers are subpoenaed to appear at private hearings of the

committee; they, too, are denied the right to legal counsel. If two

informers accuse an individual of Communist party membership, that

individual is called to testify in public hearings.

Appointment Denied: The Inquisition of Bertrand Russell

Thom Weidlich. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1999, 223 pp.

Reviewed by Stephen Leberstein

In February 1940 The City College of New York offered the preeminent

British philosopher Bertrand Russell a position as professor in its

philosophy department. City College, the proverbial "Harvard of the

Proletariat," was then a hard-pressed municipal college whose fame

stemmed more from the ferment and accomplishments of its burgeoning

student body than from its faculty or administration.

City could not boast of many faculty members of Russell’s stature, or

notoriety, in 1940. The college’s facilities were as inadequate as its

faculty for a day-session student body that had exploded by

two-and-a-half times in the preceding decade. Supplies were hard to

come by, much of the teaching was done by part-time "tutors" getting

by on Depression wages, and administrators were notable for treating

the students as "unwashed masses." In City’s entering class of 1938,

fewer than a quarter of the students’ parents had been born in the

United States, and 80 percent of the student body was thought by one

critic to be "of Jewish background." The students were the restive

proletariat of their time, and their teachers, many of them fairly

recent alumni of the college, were not far removed from that

condition. To have someone like Russell teach at City would have been


Russell’s appointment became the bête noire of an assortment of

enemies, most of them on the political right. Churchmen, embittered

Tammany Hall politicians, the Hearst press, and others waged a holy

war to defend the morals of New York youth from the lascivious,

deviant, radical foreigner. The battle took on aspects of a comic

opera. Mrs. Jean Kay, the wife of a Brooklyn dentist, sued the

college’s governing body, the city’s board of higher education, to

stop the appointment on the grounds that Russell urged his students to

break laws against premarital sex, that he was morally unfit for the

job, and that he had not passed a civil service exam. Her daughter

Gloria, she argued, might suffer from his influence if she enrolled as

a student at City. Although women were not eligible for admission to

City in 1940, and Gloria had not applied, Judge John McGeehan rushed

the case to trial, ignoring procedural motions. The case was often

front-page news while Byzantine political machinations were at work in

the dark recesses of City Hall, in the cathedral offices of the

Catholic cardinal and the Episcopal bishop of New York, and in Wall

Street law firms. Within eight months, the offer to Russell was

withdrawn and the City’s youth were saved.

Thom Weidlich’s book explores this episode in the history of New York,

and of academic freedom, relying on a wealth of archival material and

some personal interviews with surviving participants. A journalist,

Weidlich set out to rescue the case from oblivion as a "scoop," as he

aptly titles his introductory chapter. Weidlich’s interest in his

scoop, however, seems almost antiquarian when he concludes that the

"event had little long-term repercussions." Instead, he sees it as a

story about morals and also as one with moral: that "revealed religion

and democracy don’t mix." While this volume puts the Russell case

before us again, and greatly contributes to our understanding of how

this broadside attack on public higher education and academic freedom

happened, it misses the broader political context in which it


Hounded for his pacifism and afraid for his children’s safety when war

threatened, Russell took refuge in the United States at the University

of Chicago in 1938. Russell thought Chicago "beastly" as a city and

university president Robert Hutchins a neo-Thomist. At the end of the

year, he left for the University of California, Los Angeles, but he

needed to earn more money than UCLA paid him to support his three

young children. When City College offered him a post with the

then-princely salary of $6,000 a year, Russell accepted.

News of Russell’s coming to City College caught the attention of

William Manning, the Episcopal bishop of New York, who had long

vilified Russell as immoral and unpatriotic (Manning himself was

British). Manning began the attack on Russell, calling on all the

churches In his bishopric to rouse their parishioners in opposition.

The Hearst press quickly took up the case, possibly because Russell

had offended Hearst by giving up the column he wrote for him and,

perhaps worse, by turning down an invitation to San Simeon, Hearst’s

California castle. Then came the Tammany Hall politicians thirsting

for revenge at the administration of New York mayor Fiorella

LaGuardia, whose reforms had cost them influence and jobs, including

the presidencies of the two largest municipal colleges, City and

Hunter. Finally, Francis Spellman, who had recently become the

archbishop of New York and cardinal, joined the fray.

At times, the Russell affair was comical because of the hyperbole of

the press or the bumbling of the Tammany judge who rode roughshod over

the law to convict Russell of unfitness to teach in the public

colleges. But the story is also tragic, because it shows how fragile

was the defense of academic freedom and how vulnerable public colleges

were to political reactions. In depriving Russell of his teaching

post, his enemies also clearly chilled the climate for the kind of

untrammeled inquiry that academic freedom is meant to protect and

deprived City College students of his teaching (although not Gloria

Kay, who never finished high school).

Russell’s offer of a post at City College resulted directly from the

reform of the municipal colleges championed by the New York College

Teachers Union, which in 1938 succeeded in making tenure statutory and

in putting control over hiring and curriculum in faculty hands for the

first time. After LaGuardia won the mayoralty in 1933, he began

replacing Tammany appointees to the board of higher education, and by

1938 the board had begun to serve as a buffer to protect the municipal

colleges from political interference (for how brief a moment no one

could then foresee). The role of faculty governance in the Russell

case, and how it emerged, is a development not fully explored in this


The Russell case soon reached the New York legislature, where state

senator John Dunnigan of New York City denounced it as an example of

the "ungodly and un-American ways" of those in charge of New York’s

schools, and pressed the legislature to authorize an investigation. In

response, the legislature resolved to condemn the Russell appointment,

after which Dunnigan introduced another resolution calling for a

"sweeping investigation" of the public schools. Dunnigan explained to

the New York Times that many "prominent educators" had been forced to

retire "for the reason that their philosophy has not been in accord

with the Godless, materialistic theories of those now governing the

New York school system." The legislature voted to authorize the

investigation under the auspices of the Assembly Committee on School

Finance and Administration chaired by assemblyman Herbert Rapp, with a

special subcommittee on subversion in New York City headed by state

senator Frederic Coudert.

The Rapp-Coudert Committee helped pioneer the repressive techniques

that Joseph McCarthy later made famous. The problem, as Coudert saw

it, was a "liberal" permissiveness, a tolerance for the subversive

ideas of faculty and governing boards. In the absence of laws

proscribing "subversives," the faculty had to be persuaded to police

itself and the board persuaded to fire those who were identified as

dangerous. Within a year, the Rapp-Coudert Committee elicited the

denunciation of over eight hundred public school teachers and college

faculty members, pressured the board of higher education to adopt new

rules compelling its employees to testify before legislative

committees or face summary dismissal, and succeeded in having over

fifty faculty and staff (not to mention many more public school

employees) fired on charges that they belonged to the Communist Party

and had refused to name names for the investigating committee. The

Russell case was hardly an isolated affair without long-term

repercussions, as Weidlich sees it.

Seen in this larger context of the attack on public higher education,

the Russell case raises two significant questions that Weidlich does

not address. Weidlich blames the mixture of religion and democracy for

denying Russell his City College post, but it was not the "public at

large," as the author argues, that condemned Russell, but rather

powerful interests in politics, the press, the churches, and elsewhere

that shaped public opinion. Why was it so important to these interests

to trammel public higher (and lower) education? Was it a growing

working class, a largely immigrant student population enrolled in the

public colleges, political radicalism among students and faculty

threatened by the Depression, fascism, and war, or a progressive

teachers’ union? All of these factors might have made control of the

public colleges a crucial issue in this period.

The second question raised by the Russell case but not addressed by

Weidlich is why the public colleges were so vulnerable to attack, and

why such natural defenders of academicfreedom as the AAUP failed to

stave off the attacks. The AAUP’s general secretary, Ralph Himstead,

for example, asked the chair of the board of higher education to "keep

in mind the implications of the factor of academic freedom which is

apparently involved in this situation." Himstead telegraphed LaGuardia

in March 1940, pleading with him to intervene in the case:

This message is to express the hope that you will use your

influence to make sure that in consid-ering protests members of the

Board of Higher Education will be guided by the principles of freedom

of thought and inquiry which in democratic countries are regarded as

essential to scholarship and to [the] welfare of higher education.

Himstead wrote to the mayor again in April, this time urging him to

use his influence to persuade the board to appeal Judge McGeehan’s

decision to try the case. In the same month, the AAUP’s governing

Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging the same course of

action on the mayor. All these efforts were to no avail.

When we seek to understand why the defenders of academic freedom were

ineffective, some factors suggest themselves: the weakening of the

political Left in the period of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact,

the mounting attack on labor, and the opportunism of reformist

liberals such as LaGuardia in striking the Russell "line" from the

city’s budget, or the board chair in succumbing to the pressure of the

Rapp-Coudert Committee.

Instead of exploring these larger questions, Weidlich turns the

Russell case into an epistemological issue about the nature of truth.

He leaves academic and political issues to other scholars. But, in the

meantime, he has rendered a valuable service by rescuing the Bertrand

Russell case from an ill-deserved oblivion, and has powerfully

suggested its relevance to our present situation, especially in public

higher education.

Stephen Leberstein teaches history at the City College Center for

Worker Education and is a member of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic

Freedom and Tenure.

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Frederic René Coudert Jr. (May 7, 1898 - May 21, 1972); born, died in New York City) was a Representative from New York.

Coudert attended Browning and Morristown Schools in New York City, then graduated from Columbia University in 1918 and from its law school in 1922. He served as a first Lieutenant in the 105th United States Infantry, 27th Division, with overseas service, in 1917 and 1918.

In 1923, Coudert was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in New York City. He served as the assistant United States attorney for the southern district of New York in 1924 and 1925.


Coudert was unsuccessful as a Republican candidate for district attorney of New York County in 1929, but was a delegate to the Republican State conventions from 1930 to 1948 and the Republican National Conventions from 1936 to 1948. He was a member of the State Senate from 1939 to 1946 and was elected as a Republican to the Eightieth and to the five succeeding United States Congresses (January 3, 1947 - January 3, 1959; was not a candidate for the 86th Congress). He continued his practice of law in New York City, and was also a member of the State Commission on Governmental Operations of New York City from 1959 to 1961.

Coudert was the campaign manager for William F. Buckley, Jr. during his unsuccessful run for Mayor of New York City and he also hired a young attorney by the name of Robert J. Morris to help ferret out suspected Communists in the New York City School System in 1940 and 1941. Morris later went on to be the General Counsel on the Senate Subcommitte used by Senator Joseph A. McCarthy during the heyday of McCarthyism and was later credited by Whittaker Chambers with accomplishing most of what Senator McCarthy was incorrectly credited with in Morris' New York Times Obituary. Coudert was considered to be one of the early originators of the Red Scare tactics used successfully by Robert J. Morris during the McCarthy era and by Rev. Gerald L. K. Smith during the Hollywood Blacklist campaigns shortly after World War II.

Coudert proposed very radical, almost paranoid-delusional solutions to what he perceived to be justifiably serious concerns about what Communist-inspired high school teachers or College professors could accomplish by preaching Communist dogma:

“Now if your dog had rabies you wouldn’t clap him into jail after he had bitten a number of persons—you’d put a bullet into his head, if you had that kind of iron in your blood. It is going to require brutal treatment to handle these teachers….”

-- Frederic R. Coudert, NY Republican Senator (New York Times, June 3, 1941)

The Coudert Brothers law firm was considered to be the first truly International Law Firm ever created. Their Paris, France office was their liaison into the Russian Czarist expatriate community and they helped many emigres come into the United States including George deMohrenschildt, who later welcomed the Oswalds (Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina Oswald) into the expatriate former Czarists in the White Russian community of Dallas petroleum geologists who had been exiled from Communist Russia after the Russian Revolution. They also hired Boris Brasol, another former Czarist and an anti-Semite, who was an expert in Russian law. Brasol helped Coudert translate "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" from Russian anti-Semitic and anti-Communist forgeries into English and published them and later distributed them through Henry Ford via the Dearborn Independent. Other clients of the Coudert Brothers included the would be "Tsar" Anastase Vonsiatsky who later was convicted for violation of The Espionage Act of 1917 and served 5 years in the Springfield, Missouri Federal Penitentiary between 1942-1945. Brasol's leader was Adrian Arcand, the notorious Canadian Nazi sympathizer, who was described by John Carlson in Undercover (1943) as "The Canadian Fuhrer" in his non-fiction New York Times best seller for 1943. Arcand made a speech at a German American Bund rally in New York City in 1937 also attended by both Anastase Vonsiatsky, James Wheeler-Hill and Boris Brasol where they were roundly booed and jeered. Arcand, an import leader in the pro-Nazi movement in Canada, was later arrested and jailed for his pro-Nazi hate related activities, inspiring the concept of "Leaderless Resistance" used so successfully later by Major Ulius Amoss of the OSS and later by Louis Beam and others in the American radical right wing extremist movements.

One of Coudert's best clients, Anastase Vonsiatsky was featured in "The Russian Fascists - Tragedy and Farce in Exile" by Prof. John J. Stephan published by Harper, Row (1979). Vonsiatsky's headquarters were in Harbin, Manchuria (then Manchuoko during the Japanese occupation) from the 1920's until the 1950's. Vonsiatsky's Russian and Japanese associates in Manchuria helped to train the Kamikaze pilots at the end of World War II with programmed conditioning using Manchurian Candidate styled training.

Many of Coudert's exiled clients also lived in Harbin, Manchuria at one time, which had over 100,000 exiled former Czarist supporters living out their diaspora there including George deMohrenschildt, whose wife Jeanne was actually born there. George deMohrenschildt and many other former Czarist pro-Fascists including Vonsiatsky, Boris Brasol and Adrian Arcand were assisted by The Coudert Brothers law firm in gaining entrance to the United States or Canada from their Paris, France or Baku offices which contained the largest petroleum reserves in the world and were once owned by the Czarists before the Russian Revolution. The Coudert Brothers operated what was referred to as the White Russian version of Nazi Ratlines for decades. Coudert Brothers also represented Lukoil, the Russian National Oil Company when it went public proving that their attitude about Communism could be easily swayed by financial incentives.

By 1959 Richard Condon in the novel and the movie version of The Manchurian Candidate included references to: William F. Buckley, Jr., Anastase Vonsiatsky, Rev. Gerald L K Smith, Adrian Arcand, Robert J. Morris and Gen. Douglas MacArthur all of whom interacted with the Coudert Brothers law firm in New York or Paris at one time or another in their controversial careers.

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